nikkor 18-200 ???

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by dan_long, May 20, 2009.

  1. I have always avoided lenses with this much focal length range as they have historically been a compromise of handy versus sharp. I have handled this lens but not used it. I have seen reference to this lens being a compromise as far as quality, and just want a few basic opinions on its sharpness and quality throughout its range. I have also avoided zooms with this much range because of the internal physical gyrations the mechanism goes through, and whether or not they suffer a short useful life because of this.
    I don't need suggestions as to other lenses to try, as that is not my question here. I just want to know, thumbs up or down on this lens as either a walking around travel type lens or as a one lens shoots all wedding solution. I have about 32 nikkors that range from brand new to 1964 vintage, i.e. I tend to keep stuff, and don't like to spend money on something that is disposable.
    Thank you all in advance.
  2. OK as a walking-around lens, but not not the sharpest. However, as an amateur I'm quite happy with the results and have taken many tack-sharp photos with it. But it's obviously a compromise given the enormous zoom range.
  3. Mine is 3 years old and still works like new. It's not "disposable" by any stretch. It is not nearly as well built as other lenses, for sure, but the sharpness through it's range is just fine... depending on the purpose.
    Put simply... like most good lenses, at f8 or f11 throughout most of its range it's going to look the same as any other good lens. At 8 x 10 or smaller (or even 11 x 14 if the shot is good), it will look the same as any other good lens.
    If you pixel-peep, you will definitely see that it is not as sharp as something like a 50mm f1.8, but it is indistinguishable in REAL-WORLD applications from similar products like an 18-70 or 16-85, etc...
    It's not fast enough to shoot weddings though, at least not professionally. You gotta have f2.8 zooms or fast primes for that. It is, however, an AMAZINGLY great walk-around lens, and stays on my camera most of the time.
    I know you don't want other suggestions (which seems odd to me... so I'll ignore that for just a moment), but imho, if I were buying today, I'd get the 16-85 for several reasons. No lens creep, 16-18 is actually more useful to me than 85-200 on a walk-around lens (unless you're printing huge, you can crop in on the 85mm setting after you shoot and get similar results), better sharpness, a little less money, and lower distortion. The 16-85 wasn't available when I needed a lens like this for my Alaska vacation (in 06).
    That said, I was so happy with the 18-200 and pretty much never encountered a situation where it wasn't all I needed for that trip. And I carried a TEENY camera bag with just that and an SB600 and a 50mm f1.8 (for just in case "low light" photos... I don't think I used it for one single photo that I loved from the trip, the 18-200 took all of them...)
  4. A thumbs up for me and as Bob says, a perfect walk-around lens. If you want to travel light and not miss shots while changing lenses, this is one to consider. Once stopped down the IQ is actually very good for a lens with this range.
  5. Just a comment: There is a major difference in requirement for a "walk around lens" and a lens for certain aspects of composition. While you may get sharp images at f8 to f11 you will not be able to separate e.g. a single person from the background by a shallow DOF at these f-stops.
    There is nothing wrong to use a lens for casual shooting (my aunt Ellen in front of the Eiffel tower and see how sharp it is). But this is different for other shootings. The freedom in composition offered by a pro glass to use it wide open often makes the difference for an image that stands out of the crowd of "sharp" images.
  6. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    If a lens isn't sharp at f8 and f11, you might as well throw it into the trash. But the 18-200 is intended for "walk around" more casual hand held shooting. Why would anybody be all that concerned about how sharp it is anyway? It certainly will give you fine images for web viewing, e-mail attachment, 4x6 prints and some occasional 8x10s (as long as you know how to use a camera properly).
  7. Walter writes [While you may get sharp images at f8 to f11 you will not be able to separate e.g. a single person from the background by a shallow DOF at these f-stops.]
    Walter, this is not really correct. a 50mm f1.8 lens stopped down to f8... will have exactly the same depth of field as the 18-200 at 50mm and stopped down to f8, or a 17-55 f2.8 stopped down to f8... etc...
    The difference in depth of field comes when you need to REALLY isolate something from a background... for instance, I love shooting my 50mm f1.8 at f2 or f2.8, which I obviously can't do with my 18-200 as it doesn't open that wide at any length.
  8. Thank you all again. Based upon the opinions, it probably is not for me.
    Peter, I am curious about your comment about weddings. I have been shooting weddings for over 35 years, and a lot of it was done with 6x6 or 6x7 stuff that certainly was not high speed glass. With the exception of a few outdoor weddings and the occasional perfect available light shot, all the weddings I have taken involve flash. Today that is usually iTTL and I doubt many of my lenses end up shot wide open at a wedding, regardless of their maximum aperture.
  9. I've got the 18-200 and have been very satisfied with its performance. But like another poster, If I was doing it again I would get the 16-85 Nikkor which is a mittle sharper and I hardly ever shoot at more than 100mm anyway.
  10. Dan: if you don't mind the variable aperture that is inevitable with lenses in this class, it's an ideal walk-round lens. The tremendous range is, of course, its primary appeal. But if you understand its nature, you can get a lot of utility out of it. I have much more specialized lenses for any number of uses, but the 18-200 is the one that camps out on the camera for all grab-and-go shooting. I like normal to short telephoto primes, ultrawides, fast pro zooms, macros and whatnot for the specific jobs they're designed to do. But I've never been dissapointed by the 18-200 when I've used it within its (quite broad) comfort zone.

    Here's one at 18mm in low light, hand-held (VR to the rescue).

    Here's one at 200mm in better light, stopped down a bit (note the glass on the table).

    Here's one at 200mm, in not-so-good light, with the lens wide open.

    Of course I'd get better results with a bag full of lenses... but that defeats the whole purpose of a walk-around lens. I would sorely miss the 18-200 if I didn't have it for this sort of use.
  11. It is certainly useful as a walk around lens as others have stated. Not the best for big prints or portraits. I used mine to shoot the pictures in my gallery of my nephews prom. I had to do quite a bit of sharpening in photoshop. (I can't stand soft eyes in portraits.) I even had mine calibrated by Nikon so it was basically as good as it gets. It is great for travel where you don't want to lug around a bunch of lenses. I took mine on a vacation and it was great. It wasn't available at the time but I would have bought the 16-85 VR if it were. It is nice not having to change lenses all the time. Most people believe it is far more important to get the shot than if it is as sharp as possible. I agree, but I like a sharp lens too.
  12. Dan,
    HUGE difference between focusing "slow" Medium Format lenses on a big piece of ground glass and auto-focusing a slow SLR lens... I've seen guys at my church shoot weddings with slow lenses. It always amazes me that they put up with them... they are a PITA.
  13. Peter:
    I understand. I always use a light that has the focus assist, and I guess none of the lenses are slower than 3.5, so it has not been a problem. That said, focusing on a ground glass finder is terrible in low light. And I spent enough decades manual focusing that even the slowest autofocus is a real joy.
  14. Dan,
    Short answer considering all aspects of this lens and within the scope of your question?
    2 THUMBS UP!
    I've owned this lens for 2 years. Yes, it needs some help that PP has no problem handling.
    Although I shoot professionally and have primes at my disposal, I use this lens quite a bit for many shooting assignments.
    Why? Because I am not interested in cleaning my sensor every few days or carrying 4 or more primes in the bag or 4 camera's slung around my neck.
  15. I was very happy with mine while I had it. It was sharp - but I did shoot it at f/8 or so. However in the long run I had to admit to myself that I wasn't using it at all & sold it as a part deal with my D200. I liked the lens for walk around when I had friends visiting & when I went to Disneyland. But past that I didn't use it at all.

    To me it seems it all comes down to how you're shooting & what you need it for. I simply suddenly realized it's not what I need. You seem to have a ton of lenses. Are you sure it's not just NAS.... :)
    Lil :)
  16. I don't know if you have any interest in the video capabilities of the D90/D5000, but I think the 18-200 is great for this application. Big range, VR, and very easy to manually focus. The focus ring is about a centimeter wide, near the camera body, and smooth.
  17. Owned the 18-200 on a D300 for a year and a half now think it's a great walkabout lens. Sometimes wish I had a true macro, sometimes a longer lens sometimes a faster lens, but for 80+% of the shooting I do it is a very versatile, satisfying performer.
  18. steve_g|2

    steve_g|2 Posting to strangers is just a hobby of mine.

    two thumbs up as they say
    and mine does not zoom creep !
  19. Dan, the short answer is the 18-200VR never will compete well against Nikon's pro lenses for sharpness or contrast. However, the pro lenses don't have the range, they are larger and heavier, and they cost substantially more. You are talking about different lenses for different purposes.
    I have said many times I think the 18-200 is the greatest travel lens ever made. The range is absolutely awesome and the IQ really is pretty good. For travel and walkaround, it is a fun lens when you don't want to be weighed down or can't change lenses. But if every pixel counts to you, look elsewhere.
  20. Once you get the hang of this lens, you'll find that it's the perfect walkaround vacation lens. I think most of the people who complain about it want it to be more than that. The temptation with this lens is to make it do things beyond its capabilities. It's easy to expect it to excel in low light and at the widest and longest focal lengths, but that really isn't being fair to what it can do.​
  21. I have had my 18-200 for about a year and a half now. I haven't had any problems with it. The image quality is okay. I have taken some nice shots with it. It is a primary lens for me at the moment because it is a light one lens option for my hiking. I carry my D200, the 18-200, a 90mm tamron macro and a tamron 200-500 with a first aid kit, water and tripod. That brings me up to about the max weight that I can carry for long distances. My major complaints with this lens are that the focus can hunt at times in a very annoying fashion and it just isn't fast enough for some of my applications. I thought about selling it, but I decided not to because it is a great travel lens. I would agree that you need to spend a little time shooting with it to figure out it's limitations. Maybe see if someone has one you can borrow before you buy. I have been pretty happy with mine.
  22. depends what you shoot. i wouldn't use it for landscapes. it does macro type shots well though.
  23. I started with the 18-200 and now use it mainly as my backup lens and for vacation shots where I'm just recording things, not especially looking to create good photographs.
    For me, it has too many optical compromises to keep on the camera most of the time, even after twice having it calibrated/repaired. In particular, the poor edge sharpness (even stopped down) I find bothersome, and I'm always sorry, when I end up using the 18-200 for something I care about, that I didn't take the time to change to a better lens before I clicked the shutter.
  24. I owned this lens for a month and I resold it.
    I do a lot of macro work and landscapes, and I was not happy with it for either one. I didn't like the action when turning it from close in to far out: it took two twists and sometimes the shot was gone by then. For the macro work I like to do, I need f4 or faster, which this lens didn't have when zoomed in. It felt "dark" looking through it compared to my faster lenses. I didn't use the 200mm often enough to make it work for me, though perhaps I might use 200mm more now than I used to. Generally, I can use my 18-35mm wide angle for what I need, or my 28-85mm, or use a macro prime.
    Basically, the $700 I got for it was much better than keeping it.
  25. @Peter
    you are correct indeed. That was exactly my point - you can open a pro zoom lens to f2.8 and this will enable you to have less DOF (in case you want that) than a slow 4-5.6 zoom that can be used open at 200mm at 5.6 but must be used at f8 to get reasonable IQ. So for DOF we compare f2.8 and f8 - quite different.
    Sorry if the way I wrote this was confusing .-) I hope I did not confuse the issue. I certainly did not want to imply the price of a lens changes DOF for the same f-stop and focal length :)
  26. I don't have this lens myself, but have read many posts form folks that are quite satisfied.
    Many consider this a good holiday lens, when you do not want to carry heavy, or empty your familys good-will by changing lenses all the time.
  27. Just $.02 worth here from an amateur, but when I judge a lens I look at what it can achieve when used correctly. A tour through Matt Laur's portfolio tells me I have a benchmark of ability, not lens quality. For the money, which is a huge factor, I personally love the lens, even with the lens creep (I corrected that myself - so not an issue anymore).
    So, for the thread question - I give a thumbs up!
  28. Dan
    I don't shoot weddings or portraits, so I cannot speak to that. However, I have an array of pro lenses including a 70-200 F2.8 and a 28-70 f2.8. I also have an 18-200 that I bought prior to a trip to Italy last year. I am attaching four photos that were taken with that lens. All shots were blown up to 11.5 x 17 and were just as sharp as at 5x7. I shot low light without flash, bright light and night shots and all were very good with only a little pp for noise (Shot alot of 1600 ISO inside of museums and churches with a D200). I have not tried the 16-85, but from experience in Italy, that would not have been a long enough lens for many shots. It is a great travel lens. Yes, the 28-70 or the 70-200 were faster and better glass, but I did not feel like carrying those two beasts around for two weeks. I attach four images and you can be the judge. I highly recommend it for travel and as a walk around lens. All four were hand-held with VR on. For the money, it is a great lens. Hope this helps.
  29. I had this lens on my lost D300 and I LOVED it. For what it is, a great single lens for walking around taking pictures of anything you see, it's tough to beat. I have the D700 now and I wish so much there was a comparable lens I could use on it. I have the 17-55 and the 70-200, but try lugging those two cannons (no pun intended) around India for 8 hours when it's 104 outside. It's not the sharpest but for my uses, it was fantastic.
  30. Looking at Matt and John's pictures should give you the naswer you need. They are beautiful and very sharp. I have to shudder whenever people ask about the "sharpness" of a lens. The real answer is will this lens create beautiful picures at all of it zoom range and the answer is yes. Thom Hogan (who is hard to please) said "Superzooms shouldn't be this good".
    IMO the only time you will not care for this lens is when you need a faster apature to control depth of field or when you need a pure macro.
    Is it a one-lens wedding solution? These days there is no one-lens wedding solution unless you are looking for "good enough" pictures rather than really well thought out and professionally shot pictures. I am old enough to remember shooting weddings with wierd old cameras. I once shot boxing with a speed graphic. Doctors used to bleed people too but we seem to have moved on, haven't we?
    You say you have 32 Nikkor lenses. Unless you are collecting obsolete paperweights you already have the lenses you need to shoot about anything. So this lens is a special purpose lens. It is the one you take when you want to leave the others at home. There is no better walking around lens at all. The 16-85 might be a quibble but it is short on the long end and not wider enough to make much difference. Some say it is sharper but that too is a quibble. Not enough for humans to see...
    If you are a pixel peeper you will find fault with any lens. And even if you test this lens against the stupid sharp 50mm f1.8 there will be far more difference in how you hold the camera, breathe, press the trigger and select focus than there will be in the difference in glass. If you consider a tripod an essential part of "walking around" (I don't) the VR will help sharpness more than most any glass differences.
    This is not a disposable lens. But if you own 32 Nikkors I am willing to bet some of them are.
  31. All lenses require compromising somehow, somewhere. Apart from DX format, this lens is a damn fair deal with not much compromising. It is not supersmall or light; it is not superfast; it is not superquality. But it has more than acceptable performance in most circumstances. And VR really is a killer app - it really allows this lens to outperform handheld with the right body and decent ISO.
    You referred to weddings specifically: is this the only body/lens you will be working with? It really depends on how you work. If you're the type to work with two bodies, for example, this plus a fast 50 or moderate wide/normal (on DX body or equivalent on FX) would be a great combination. This one will also work and balance well on a smallish body like the D5000. Possibly a medium format or film camera for the critical quality shots. In other words, this lens for just about everything, and a separate body for the uber quality shots you may want. (Not many wedding photographers I know want to change lenses frequently, they'd prefer to have an extra body).
    But really the best way to see is to try one. In terms of handling it with a camera, it balances and focusses quite well - I'd have no concerns about using it in a wedding environment. It is my go-to lens for most shooting or when you're leaving the house and know you have to take a lot of pictures, and you don't know exactly what conditions.
    That said, you specificaly excluded comparisons to other lenses. I've no doubt that there are other lenses, quite possibly in your (very large) extant kit that would also fit the bill. But VR is huge.

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