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Nikkor AF-S DX VR 18-200mm 3.5-5.6G IF-ED review Gordon Laing, June 2006
 
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Nikon Speedlight SB-800
Nikkor 70-300mm VR
Coverage, wide angle with Nikon D2X

All three lenses tested claim to sport the same 18-200mm focal length, but it's always worth putting this to the test. To compare actual coverage we shot the same scene with each lens within a few moments of each other; here the lenses were set to their widest 18mm focal length and the camera was mounted on a tripod to ensure a consistent position.

At first glance the three lenses on test appear to deliver roughly identical wide-angle coverage, but look a little closer and there are subtle differences. The Tamron 18-200mm delivered a fractionally wider view at 18mm than the others, followed closely by the Nikkor, and finally the Sigma.

Nikkor AF-S DX VR 18-200mm 3.5-5.6G IF-ED
Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DC
Tamron AF18-200mm F3.5-6.3 XR Di-II LD IF
Nikkor 18-200mm lens at 18mm
Sigma 18-200mm lens at 18mm
Tamron 18-200mm lens at 18mm
18-200mm at 18mm (27mm equivalent using Nikon D2X)   18-200mm at 18mm (27mm equivalent using Nikon D2X)   18-200mm at 18mm (27mm equivalent using Nikon D2X)


Coverage, telephoto with Nikon D2X

Next up came the telephoto-end of each lens. Again to compare actual coverage we shot the same scene with each lens within a few moments of each other; the lenses were set to their longest 200mm focal length and the camera was mounted on a tripod to ensure a consistent position.

Here all three lenses performed similarly, although upon close examination, the Nikkor's field was fractionally tighter than the others. In practice though it's fair to say all three lenses deliver essentially the same field of views.

Note: both the Sigma and Tamron lenses were fitted with switches to prevent their barrels from extending beyond the 18mm focal length while in transit. That said neither barrels could be described as loose, and it was possible on our test models to zoom-in to 200mm on both, point vertically upwards and not suffer from any creep back down.

Click here for the Nikkor DX 18-200mm VR video tour

The Nikkor lens didn't have a lock, but again could also be pointed directly up when zoomed-in to 200mm without falling back. If you were to zoom to a mid-way focal length on the Nikkor though, such as around the 100mm mark, the barrel can retract or extend under its own weight if pointed directly up or down; we have a demonstration of this in our Nikkor 18-200mm video tour. It can be annoying, but again only really affects the lens when pointed directly up or down from a mid-way focal length, and to be fair, it's par for the course for a lens with heavier internal components.

Nikkor AF-S DX VR 18-200mm 3.5-5.6G IF-ED
Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DC
Tamron AF18-200mm F3.5-6.3 XR Di-II LD IF
Nikkor 18-200mm lens at 200mm
Sigma 18-200mm lens at 200mm
Tamron 18-200mm lens at 200mm
18-200mm at 200mm (300mm equivalent using Nikon D2X)   18-200mm at 200mm (300mm equivalent using Nikon D2X)   18-200mm at 200mm (300mm equivalent using Nikon D2X)





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The unique selling point of the Nikkor 18-200mm lens over the competition is its VR technology to reduce camera-shake. It's the first Nikkor lens to feature the latest second generation VR II, which according to Nikon delivers four stops of compensation, compared to the three stops of the former VR system - and it has to be said the three stops also offered by Canon's latest IS system. Four stops is a significant claim, which if true would allow you to handhold shutter speeds a considerable 16 times slower than normal.

VR is enabled by an on / off switch on the side of the lens, and kicked-into action by a half-press of the shutter release button. To test its effectiveness we shot the same scene zoomed-into 200mm with and without VR enabled.

We personally found VR allowed us to handhold shots taken at 200mm as slow as 1/15 of a second, although obviously it greatly depends on the conditions and your own steadiness. Considering the field of view was equivalent to 300mm, classic photographic technique would recommend a shutter speed of 1/300 to avoid camera shake. Being able to achieve this at 1/15 actually corresponds to four stops of compensation and backs up Nikon's claim. It's an impressive performance.

To illustrate the effect of VR in practice we've presented two crops below of a scene taken with and without VR enabled using a focal length of 200mm and a shutter speed of 1/15. We've cropped the original 4288x2848 images from the D2X to 1680x1120 pixels, then reduced them to 282x188 pixels here. The benefit is clear, and even when viewed at 100%, the shot with VR is perfectly sharp.

Nikkor 18-200mm without VR
Nikkor 18-200mm with VR
Nikkor 18-200mm lens without VR
Nikkor 18-200mm lens with VR
Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 200mm (300mm equivalent). VR disabled.
100 ISO, 1/15th second
  Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 200mm (300mm equivalent). VR enabled.
100 ISO, 1/15th second




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All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2005-2014 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission.

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