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The most versatile camera lens that I use is undoubtedly Nikon's 18-200mm VR II - its impressive range lets me take both wide angle landscape shots and telephoto wildlife close-ups with just one turn of the barrel. Of course, versatility doesn't come cheap in the world of SLR photography, and the 18-200 VR II has a current Amazon price of £619.
The 18-200mm VR is compatible with the majority of Nikon's DSLR cameras, and has a maximum aperture of f3.5 - f5.6. In terms of the macro performance, the 18-200 is surprisingly acceptable - i've found that you can focus in as close as 30mm - this may sound like quite a distance if you're comparing it to a compact camera, but for a non-macro lens, it's actually very good.
Regarding the construction, the 18-200 has a robust build quality, even though the majority of the outer surface is plastic - most importantly the lens mount is metal, and so are the inner workings.
The VR in the lens's title refers vibration reduction - a clever system that stops the majority of wobble brought about due to shaky hands. The VR can be turned on or off via a small switch on the barrel, but I tend to leave it activated for all hand-held shots. The amount of reduction is remarkable, and Nikon's VR system in general is the best i've see of any make.
The zoom ring is comfortable to use with its rubberised grip, and rotates evenly and smoothly through the entire range. The autofocus is quick in the majority of lighting conditions, only marginally slowing (and occasionally searching) when it gets very dark. If you want to manual focus, just go ahead and turn the focussing ring - you don't have to flip a switch first like on most of Nikon's other consumer lenses.
Performance-wise, the lens is very impressive for an all-in-one - the optics are of a high standard (genuine Nikkor lenses usually are), so chromatic aberrations are kept to a minimum. There is evidence of vignetting at the larger apertures, but nothing major and all other deficiencies are so minimal that they're not worth mentioning. In my experience i've found that the lens produces really sharp images throughout the zoom range, which is very pleasing.
As lenses go, the 18-200mm VR II is without doubt in my top three favourites - it's just so versatile that you really won't need to keep switching lenses unless you're keen on working in dark conditions (where a faster lens is better suited). Overall, the lens really is excellent and, dare I say it, well worth the price. If you are looking to spend less money, either opt for the 18-105mm VR (£239.95) or the 55-200mm VR (£136.50) - No, these lenses can't compete with the 18-200's range, but both are good in their own right and cost significantly less.
I received this lens as a birthday present shortly after buying the Nikon D300 (see my other reviews for my take on the D3000), and at the time it was £100 second hand.
So down to business: The 55-200mm lens is a great lens that has delivered well for me so far, I have been impressed by it's quite large focal range and it's number of f-stops (I have gone as low as 3.5 in good light). The lens can be a little heavy at times (especially when attached to the main camera body) and I would probably recommend using a tripod with this lens because of the lack of Vr on the lens. I have taken pictures with the lens without a tripod that have come out well, but where there is low light I have found it's ability to be somewhat hampered. :-(
This lens is a great all round performer and a great addition to any budding amateur photographers kit, and it complements the D3000's 18-55mm AF-s VR DX lens perfectly. These are the only two lenses that I carry in my bag at the moment!
This is a new lens from Nikon, recently announced, although saying that it's actually almost identical to the 'old' 18-200VR, so what is the point of it I hear you cry!
Well, the boast of this lens is that it uses the VRII vibration reduction system, which allows you to hand hold up to 4 stops slower than you would without it, although this always depends on how steady your hands are. However, the old lens I also used VRII, and there have been no changes to the lens elements either, but then this lens was really great to start with so I assume they couldn't really improve it!
So are there any differences? Yes there are, but are these that significant? No not really! Of course the little name plate has been changed to add in a II, and the VR logo is gold instead of red (so you can see that the photo above is the 'old' lens incidentally). The only other change is that there is now a 'zoom lock' at 18mm. Some people complained that when set to 18mm if you tilted the lens/camera forward the lens wood zoom in due to gravity. This problem only seemed to affect some lenses as some zooms were stiff enough not to cause a problem, but it's generally not a problem anyway and how often do you take a photo at 18mm pointing downwards?
The range that this lens offers, 18-200mm (27-300mm equiv on 35mm) or 11.1 times zoom is quite astonishing, and the way in which it performs over all focal lengths is impressive. Perhaps the biggest selling point of this lens is that it can be used to replace up to 4 other lenses that you would usually carry! So that means less baggage, less weight, less time spent changing lenses, less chance of dust getting in your camera, all of which means more enjoyment and more time actually taking photos.
Some people will worry about the sharpness, but I can say that used properly it is a sharp lens. Of course if you try the lens wide open there is going to be some loss of sharpness, especially towards the edges, but, stop it down a couple of stops and the performance is great. If you are worrying about resolution graphs from this lens then stop right there, and ask yourself how often do you really take photos of graph paper? One issue I have had is that my lens seems to be softer on the right edge than the left wide open which can be annoying, but this almost entirely dissapears stopped down. At f/22 the lens will be soft too, but that happens to all lenses, it's called diffraction.
This lens also has incredible close focussing, down to 0.5m, throughout the zoom range. Focussing is also an internal affair, so the lens stays the same size, and the front element doesn't rotate making the use of filters easy. Because of the internal focus, when you get really close 200mm will actually be more like 130mm, but the it focusses so close this outperforms most other lenses anyway! It doesn't really make all that much difference, but I thought I'd include it for fullness. The close focus makes this lens great for flowers, insects, and also people, as you can still photograph them when they try to be rather 'in your face'! I often get slightly annoyed at my £1400 70-200 f/2.8 lens because it won't focus as close as this one does!
Distortion: As lenses go this one does really well at minimising distortion. At 18mm there is some barrel distortion, but it is easy enough to fix this pretty well in photoshop with between +3 and +4 lens correction. At longer lengths there is some pincussion, most noticable at 50-70mm, but again easy enough to correct with about -3 to -4 correction. At 22-24mm there is pretty much no distortion at all.
This lens has been solidly built, has a good weight in the hand. The filter thread at the front is plastic, so take care not to cross thread a filter, but usually this isn't a problem as you'll fit a protective filter when you get the lens and just leave it on there. It is worth getting a decent filter for the front to minimise ghosting.
Coatings: Nikon Super-Intergrated Coating (SIC), same as the original 18-200mm.
Picture angle: 76°-8°
Diaphragm blades: 7 (rounded)
Closest focusing distance: 0.5 m/1.6 ft.
Maximum Reproduction ratio: 1:4.5 (0.22x)
Filter/attachment size: 72mm
Diameter x length: Approximately 77 x 96.5 mm/3.0 x 3.8 in.
Weight:Approximately 565 g/19.9oz, specified.
Supplied accessories: 72mm Snap-on Front Lens Cap LC-72, Rear Lens Cap LF-1, Bayonet Hood HB-35, Flexible Lens Pouch CL-1018.
This is a lens that will do almost everything you need, in one convenient package, and to a high standard of quality. Wide angle, yes, medium telephoto, yes, close up, yes, sharp, yes..... For travel this lens means your baggage is manageable, for weddings/people you'll get photos you'd miss while changing lenses/cameras. You'll hardly ever have to change lenses so you'll get those photos while your mates are head down scrabbling in their camera bag!