Summary

Highly Recommended awardIf you own (or are buying) a DX-format body and convenience is your number-one priority, but you want it with the least compromise in quality and features, the Nikkor DX 18-200mm VR II should be top of your list. Highly Recommended. Good points: Very flexible and convenient 11.1x zoom range; optical stabilisation with four stops of compensation; quiet autofocusing on all Nikon bodies; decent build quality and zoom-lock switch. Bad points: The most expensive super-zoom for cropped bodies; suffers from zoom creep between 28 and 135mm; suffers from zoom-shrinkage at close range; beaten on price and quality by twin lens solutions.

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Nikkor AF-S DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR II

Real-life sharpness at 85mm - Nikkor DX 16-85mm VR vs DX 18-105mm VR vs DX 18-200mm VR II

Real-life sharpness at 85mm – Nikkor DX 16-85mm VR vs DX 18-105mm VR vs DX 18-200mm VR II

To compare sharpness at a short-telephoto focal length of 85mm, we shot this scene with the Nikkor DX 16-85mm VR, DX 18-105mm VR and DX 18-200mm VR II, using a Nikon D90 body at all apertures.

The D90 was set to RAW to avoid in-camera JPEG corrections; all files were processed in Nikon’s Capture NX 2.2.3 with lens corrections disabled and the default sharpness of 3. VR was disabled on each lens, and magnified assistance in Live View used to confirm the focusing.

The image above was taken with the Nikkor DX 18-200mm VR II mounted on a Nikon D90 body. The lens was set to 85mm f8, and the D90 to 200 ISO. In the samples below, the exposures were identical with each lens and the crops taken from the areas marked with the red squares for presentation here at 100%.

With all the lenses zoomed-into a short telephoto length of 85mm, there’s a surprise result in the corners. The DX 18-105mm VR kit lens delivers a comfortably sharper result than either the DX 18-20mm VR II or the pricier DX 16-85mm VR. We re-tested each lens and rechecked the results, ensuring each lens was focused on the same point and each RAW file converted with the same parameters, but found the same result, at least with our samples of each model.

That said, the DX 18-200mm VR II doesn’t perform too badly here: it manages to avoid any fringing and is only a little soft in the corners, but it can’t help but look inferior next to those great results from the DX 18-105mm VR.

In the meantime, the DX 16-85mm VR suffers from a similar degree of corner softness to the super-zoom at this point, but manages to look noticeably worse thanks to coloured fringing. Remove the latter with correction in-camera or using software later and it looks much better.

Scroll down to the results from the centre and we see a similar story to the previous focal length: as such the three lenses look fairly similar at first glance, but look closely and you’ll notice slightly superior definition from the DX 18-105mm VR compared to the DX 18-200mm VR II and fractionally more still from the DX 16-85mm VR.

Now scroll down beyond the two results tables to see whether the DX 55-200mm VR can redeem itself at this slightly longer focal length, or if you’re not interested in this lens, head straight over to our Nikkor DX 18-200mm VR II 135mm results.

Corner sharpness with all lenses at 85mm

Nikkor DX 16-85mm VR
Corner sharpness at 85mm
Nikkor DX 18-105mm VR
Corner sharpness at 85mm
Nikkor DX 18-200mm VR II
Corner sharpness at 85mm
f5.3 not available
f5.3 not available
f5.3, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO

Centre sharpness with all lenses at 85mm

Nikkor DX 16-85mm VR
Centre sharpness at 85mm
Nikkor DX 18-105mm VR
Centre sharpness at 85mm
Nikkor DX 18-200mm VR II
Centre sharpness at 85mm
f5.3 not available
f5.3 not available
f5.3, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO
Now let’s add the DX 55-200mm VR into the mix to see how it compares…

 

Real-life sharpness at 85mm – Nikkor DX 55-200mm VR vs DX 18-105mm VR vs DX 18-200mm VR II

To compare sharpness at a short-telephoto focal length of 85mm, we shot this scene with the Nikkor DX 55-200mm VR, DX 18-105mm VR and DX 18-200mm VR II, using a Nikon D90 body at all apertures.

The D90 was set to RAW to avoid in-camera JPEG corrections; all files were processed in Nikon’s Capture NX 2.2.3 with lens corrections disabled and the default sharpness of 3. VR was disabled on each lens, and magnified assistance in Live View used to confirm the focusing.

The image above was taken with the Nikkor DX 18-200mm VR II mounted on a Nikon D90 body. The lens was set to 85mm f8, and the D90 to 200 ISO. In the samples below, the exposures were identical with each lens and the crops taken from the areas marked with the red squares for presentation here at 100%.

The first table compares crops taken from the corner of each image at different aperture settings and the second table compares crops taken from the centres of the same images.

At 85mm, the DX 55-200mm VR delivers a better corner result than it did at 55mm, but it’s still not quite as well-corrected as the DX 18-200mm VR II super-zoom. The gap narrows by f8, but at larger apertures the super-zoom enjoys an edge. Again both results are made to look poor next to the DX 18-105mm VR at this particular focal length.

Now let’s see how both the telephoto zoom and super-zoom compare when zoomed-in further in our Nikkor DX 18-200mm VR II 135mm results.

Corner sharpness with all lenses at 85mm

Nikkor DX 55-200mm VR
Corner sharpness at 85mm
Nikkor DX 18-105mm VR
Corner sharpness at 85mm
Nikkor DX 18-200mm VR II
Corner sharpness at 85mm
f4.2, 200 ISO
f5.3 not available
f5.3, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO

Centre sharpness with all lenses at 85mm

Nikkor DX 55-200mm VR
Centre sharpness at 85mm
Nikkor DX 18-105mm VR
Centre sharpness at 85mm
Nikkor DX 18-200mm VR II
Centre sharpness at 85mm
f4.2, 200 ISO
f5.3 not available
f5.3, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO
Now let’s see how the DX 18-200mm VR II measures-up when zoomed-into a mid-telephoto focal length of 135mm.
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