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Nikon AF-S 18-55mm f/3.5~5.6G DX VR Zoom lens

The Nikon 18-55mm DX AF-S Zoom lens f1:3.5~5.6G ED VR lens is a kit lens that comes with the entry-level Nikon DSLRs, such as the D3xxx and D5xxx series. This is a good starter lens, especially for entry-level DSLRs, and even though it's range is more limited than other lenses, it probably covers 90% of most photographers needs. There are two models of this lens, one with - and one without Vibration Reduction. This discussion will be about the more expensive Vibration Reduction version.

Nikon AF-S 18-55mm f/3.5~5.6G DX VR Zoom lens Overview

Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX VR

Specifications
Lens Type: 3x Zoom
Format: DX (APS-C)
Maximum Aperture: f/3.5 to 5.6
Minimum Aperture: f/22
Focal Length: 18mm to 55mm
Autofocus Type: AF-S
Minimum Focus Distance: 0..9ft
Maximum Field-of-View: 28 to 76 deg
Filter size: 52mm
Manufactured: China
Lens construction: Entry Level
Street Price: $199


Alternatives

Overview: This is perhaps one of Nikon's most popular lenses, if only for the fact is it kitted with Nikon's D3xxx and D5xxx entry level DSLRs. In that regard, it is OK for a starter lens, and for some, it may be the only lens they need. However, it's build quality is clearly entry-level, with the plastic mounting ring.

As well, those that buy the higher resolution cameras such as the D3200, D5200, or D7100 may find this lens lacking as it may not provide enough quality to achieve the performance these cameras can achieve. So while it may be sufficient for a starter lens, owner's of these cameras may wish to eventually upgrade to a higher quality lens, such as the fine Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 or Nikon 17-55m f/2.8.

One characteristic of a consumer grade lens is it's relatively slow speed, especially at the upper telephoto end where the maximum aperature is a paltry f5.6. As this is intended to be the most-used lens, the tiny aperture is a significant disadvantage. This is one reason to upgrade this lens to the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 or Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8. These lenses maintains f/2.8 throughout the entire zoom range, which is one hallmark of a better lens.

This lens is AF-S focusing, so that virtually all Nikon DSLRs will work with this lens in autofocus mode.

Testing: Testing was conducted to see how sharp the lens was, as well as how the lens differed in the various focal lengths.

The test was conducted photographing this scene with several lenses at different focal lengths; all using an aperture of f/5.6. The yellow box in the lower right is the cropped area for each photo shown below. While this isn't entirely scientific as one should sample the center and all corners - I don't have that much ambition. This is just a simple test I used to compare my lenses.


Nikon AF-S 18-55mm DX f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm f/5.6.

Nikon AF-S 18-55mm DX f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm f/5.6.

Nikon AF-S 18-55mm DX f/3.5-5.6 @ 35mm f/5.6.

Nikon AF-S 18-55mm DX f/3.5-5.6 @ 55mm f/5.6

Nikon AF-S 18-55mm DX f/3.5-5.6 @ 35mm f/8.

Conclusion: Sharpness across the entire zoom range was fairly constant at f/5.6. except for a blurry area around 35mm. However, at f/8, the blurry area has all but disappeared. Again, this is OK for an entry level lens, but you should be mindful that for maximum sharpness, you should use f/8 whenever possible. This is pretty much standard advice for any lens.

The lens features Vibration Reduction, which aids in slow shutter speed photography. Often you can extend the shutter speed down to 1/15th of a second without the need for a tripod or monopod. It should be noted that Vibration Reduction aids in camera shake - and will not help to keep the subject in sharp focus.


18mm wide angle photo of Philipsburg, St. Maarten

55mm photo of the Freedom of the Seas - Philipsburg, St. Maarten

Summary: While this is not the best choice for the primary lens for your camera, the alternatives are more expensive. This lens would be completely satisfactory if it were intended to be occasionally used (save the plastic mount). However, for the lens intended to be used most often, a slow lens such as this will be difficult to use in low light conditions. If you have to use the lens in low light conditions, try to limit its use to the wider-angle settings as the aperture is significantly larger at the low end. Consideration should be given to replacing the lens with a faster version if you can afford it.