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 135mm - Nikkor DX 18-200mm VR II vs DX 55-200mm VR

Real-life sharpness at 135mm – Nikkor DX 18-200mm VR II vs DX 55-200mm VR

To compare sharpness at a mid-telephoto focal length of 135mm, we shot this scene with the Nikkor DX 18-200mm VR II and DX 55-200mm VR, 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 135mm 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 rectangles for presentation here at 100%.

At a focal length of 135mm, our test has become a head-to-head between the DX 18-200mm VR II super-zoom and the DX 55-200mm VR telephoto zoom. Will the shorter range of the latter allow it to out-perform the super-zoom at these focal lengths? Let’s find out!

The DX 55-200mm VR kicks-off these results at f5.0, with an aperture one third of a stop brighter than the DX 18-200mm VR II can manage at the same 135mm focal length. The result from the corner isn’t perfect, but we can’t put it into perspective until the DX 18-200mm VR II joins-in at f5.6.

At this point it becomes clear the DX 55-200mm VR is delivering a sharper result in the extreme corners than the DX 18-200mm VR II. Looking beyond the cropped area, this becomes even more apparent. So after a slightly disappointing start at shorter focal lengths, the DX 55-200mm VR is finally showing the benefit of working with a shorter range.

This advantage is also apparent in the centre crops, where fine details are better defined on the DX 55-200mm VR samples, particularly at f8. Now let’s see how both lenses compare at their maximum focal lengths in our Nikkor DX 18-200mm VR II 200mm results.

Corner sharpness at 135mm

Nikkor DX 18-200mm VR II
Corner sharpness at 135mm
Nikkor DX 55-200mm VR
Corner sharpness at 135mm
f5.0 not available
f5.0, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO

Centre sharpness at 135mm

Nikkor DX 18-200mm VR II
Centre sharpness at 135mm
Nikkor DX 55-200mm VR
Centre sharpness at 135mm
f5.0 not available
f5.0, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 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 telephoto focal length of 200mm.

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