18-200 VR DX Lens review

Nikons 18-200 VR DX lens(Amazon Link) promises everything, and it delivers in an ok fashion. 

I have to admit that I haven’t bought this lens so I don’t have the normal many hours of experience using it that I have with most of the other lenses I review on this site. I have used Tamrons 18-200 and returned it. The images I have seen from the Nikon lens remind me of this tamron lens, one photo clerk told me that Nikon was using Tamron to design the optics, but I highly doubt it. This lens seems like a better sharper version of the Tamron. Too Good to Be True? 

Yes, it is. or is it? Depends what you are looking for. This lens makes a fantastic “walking around” lens, it covers 85% of the focal range that you use as a tourist or on a trip to the zoo or family outing. Since digital sensors are a pain to clean it’s nice that you don’t have to switch lenses, plus it saves weight and hassle. This is a BIG bonus if your family or other traveling companions are constantly bugging you to get moving and quit fiddling with the camera. It’s also nice with weight, the Tarmac backpack that carries my traveling camera stuff weighs in at over 30 pounds. If you are going hiking, or just walking around all day this is more weight than I want to haul, often when traveling I put on my 18-70dx lens, which offer comparably image quality. But what about the pictures 

This lens provides great but not spectacular quality. This is to be expected in this level of lens. It’s a bit slow for sports or action photography, it’s wide range means that by the laws of physics you will get some distortion at each end. This distortion isn’t too bad considering, on your average shot you probably won’t notice unless you go looking for it. Which is an important thing to remember, most people will look at your picture and judge it based on content, not whether straight lines bow by 2 degrees in the corners. 
Vibration Reduction 

Vibration Reduction, indicated by a “VR” designator is Nikons latest invention in lens design. An element in the middle of lens actually floats and is moved based on the input from gyroscopes. Nikon claims that you can hand hold up to 2-3 f-stops greater that you normally can. This means that if you can normally hand hold 1/60th of a second, you should be able to handhold 1/15th of second or so with the VR turned on. I’ve found that in this way it’s not that great. I always go by the 1/focal length is the slowest shutter speed you should use rule. It works pretty well for me. So at 200mm this would be 1/200th of a second. With the VR turned on I find I can hand hold down to maybe 1/60th. It’s not a perfect thing. It’s more of a helper. If I were to take 10 pictures at 200mm without VR at 1/60th of a second I might get 5 good pictures and 5 with unacceptable blur, with VR turned on I may get 8 good and 2 bad. So it increases you probability of success, but is not 100%. 
DX form factor 

This lens uses the DX image circle, which means it’s meant only for digital cameras. This is fine if you never shoot film anymore, which is true for most people these days;however, since Canon and Kodak have some full frame sensors, I have to think that Nikon will go this way in the future. A Nikon representative told me once that he thought that if Nikon went to a full frame dSLR in the future, that they would offer a high speed cropped mode using a DX sized portion of the sensor. This would make sense as they already offer a high speed cropped mode in the D2X, which uses less of the sensor in the middle of the sensor. This would protect your DX lens investment in the future, although maybe with a lower megapixel count. Keep in mind that it is just pure speculation right now about a full frame sensor from Nikon; however, if the market demands it, and the 25mp sensors of the future may as well, I would expect to see them.

Good price for a good lens, it’s super-wide zoom range and light weight make it an ideal traveling companion. The VR helps offset the larger f-stop range of the lens. 

Slower lens, not as sharp as the 28-70 + 80-200 combo (of course it’s half the price of even one of these lenses.) 
Bottom Line: 

This is great walk around lens, when I have an extra $600 laying around I will probably pick one up. The VR is useful but not a life saver. The sharpness is good but not great throughout the range. I wouldn’t take this lens on a job, but for general travel photos and family shots this is an A+ lens value.