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Nikkor AF-S DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 G VR Gordon Laing, January 2009
 
 
 

Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR verdict

The Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR is a classy budget kit lens which puts many rival models to shame. The 3x range and f3.5-5.6 focal ratio may be unremarkable, but with both SWM focusing and VR facilities, it’s a step above most models for the money.

The SWM focusing may not be as quick and quiet as premium Nikkor lenses, but it’s still quicker and quieter than most kit lenses, while the VR facilities really do allow you to effectively handhold shots at much slower shutter speeds than normal. Crucially it brings anti-shake facilities to budget Nikon kits at a time when rival DSLR bodies are available with built-in stabilisation.

In terms of build and optical quality, you shouldn’t expect miracles from a lens at this price, but both are remarkably good for the money. It may have plastic construction, but feels relatively solid without any creaks or play in moving parts. The optical quality may not have been quite as good as the earlier DX 18-55mm II in some of our tests, but it still comfortably out-performs many kit lenses on other systems.



Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR


So is the DX 18-55mm VR the ideal general purpose lens for Nikon owners on a budget? Yes and no. If it comes subsidised in an affordable kit, then it’s a great choice, and anyone in the market for a budget Nikkor zoom will happily pay the small amount extra over its predecessor for the VR facilities. But its higher price brings it closer to some alternatives, so how does it compare if you have a little more to spend? We’ll start though with its predecessor.


Compared to Nikkor DX 18-55mm II

 
Nikkor DX 18-55mm II
 

The new Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR will almost certainly replace the earlier DX 18-55mm II as the standard kit lens in Nikon’s future bundles, but there are still reasons why some may prefer this older model. Most obviously it’s cheaper and in our tests it also out-performed the DX 18-55mm VR in some respects – especially in terms of corner sharpness when zoomed-in and focused on distant subjects.

Of course the big difference is the lack of VR on this older lens, and this will steer many buyers to the new model even if the optical quality isn’t quite as good. If you’re simply after the cheapest general purpose zoom for a Nikon DX format body though, the DX 18-55mm II is still a great choice and stands as a benchmark of how to build affordable kit lenses. See our Nikkor kit lens group test for more details.


Compared to Nikkor DX 18-70mm

 
Nikkor DX 18-70mm
 

The Nikkor DX 18-70mm offers much more than just an extra 15mm over the basic Nikkor kit lenses – it’s a step-up in every respect. The build and optical quality are superior, the maximum aperture when zoomed-in is brighter, the auto-focusing is a little quicker, the end section doesn’t rotate, there’s a proper manual focusing ring and it comes with a lens hood. The only thing it doesn’t have is VR facilities to combat camera shake.

Depending on where you shop, the price difference between it and the DX 18-55mm VR can be as much as double, or as little as 25% extra. Those on tighter budgets may reject it when sold at its higher prices, but if you find a good deal, it represents a compelling option and is also a perfect match for a twin lens solution with the 70-300mm VR. See our Nikkor kit lens group test for more details.


Compared to Nikkor DX 18-135mm

 
Nikkor DX 18-135mm
 

The Nikkor DX 18-135mm costs around 25 to 50% more than the DX 18-55mm VR when bought separately. It’s the longest official kit lens on the market, boasting two and a half times the reach of standard 18-55mm models when zoomed-in. While not up to the build quality or focusing speeds of the DX 18-70mm, the DX 18-135mm is superior in both respects to the DX 18-55mm models. The front section also doesn’t rotate which is good news for users of polarising filters and it additionally comes supplied with a lens hood.

The DX 18-135mm does however suffer from greater geometric distortion whether zoomed-in or out, and without VR you have to watch out for potential camera shake when zoomed-into an equivalent of over 200mm. That said, it’s a good option for anyone wanting a longer range and a step-up in build quality. See our Nikkor kit lens group test for more details.

Also consider: Nikon certainly isn't short of general-purpose DX-format lenses. More recent models also worth considering are the Nikkor DX 18-105mm VR (the standard bundle for the Nikon D90), and for those with higher budgets, the Nikkor DX 16-85mm VR and of course the classic superzoom, the Nikkor DX 18-200mm VR. Look out for a review of the Nikkor DX 16-85mm VR in the future.


Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR final verdict

There’s certainly plenty of options for anyone wanting a general purpose lens for a Nikon DX format DSLR, and that’s before even considering third-party models. So if you’re buying a new lens, there’s a lot to weigh up. The new DX 18-55mm VR brings vibration reduction facilities to the table at a very affordable price, but you may still prefer to go for something that’s longer or better built, even if it costs more and doesn’t have VR.

If you are on a tight budget though, the DX 18-55mm VR has a great deal going for it, including relatively quick and quiet SWM focusing and the afore-mentioned anti-shake facilities. If you simply want a general purpose option with VR at the lowest price point, this is the lens for you.

The DX 18-55mm VR is also a recommended option when bought as part of a new Nikon DSLR bundle, such as the D60 kit – and long term it’s almost certainly going to become the standard entry-level Nikkor kit lens. It is however important to note the earlier DX 18-55mm II can out-perform it optically in some respects, so think carefully if you’re upgrading from this model. You may be better off making a bigger jump to something like the DX 16-85mm VR, the DX 18-200mm VR, or a complementary model like the DX 55-200mm VR telephoto zoom.

Ultimately while the older DX 18-55mm II still gives excellent innings, the new DX 18-55mm VR performs very well for the money, offering compelling features and respectable quality that puts many rival kit lenses to shame. It’s certainly a good time right now for Nikon DSLR owners on a budget.




Good points

VR effectively combats camera-shake.
Relatively quick and quiet SWM focusing.
Compact and light.
Good performance for the money.

Bad points

Front section rotates when focusing.
Basic manual focusing facilities.
Doesn't come with lens hood.
Previous Mark II lens better in some tests.




Scores

(relative to DX kit lenses)
 

Build quality:
Optical quality:
Specification:
Value:

Overall:

15 / 25
18 / 25
17 / 25
21 / 25

71%
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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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