Nikkor DX kit lens group test: 18-55mm vs 18-70mm vs 18-135mm vs 18-200mm VR - Quality

Quality

Enhanced Digital Camera Resolution ChartTo measure and compare the resolving power of each lens using the Nikon D80, we photographed the Enhanced Digital Camera Resolution Chart with each lens set to a focal length of 35mm and an aperture of f8. The D80 was set to Aperture Priority, Large Fine JPEG mode and its Optimise Image parameter set to Normal. All four lenses were tested within moments of each other under identical lighting conditions.

The crops are taken from the original images, saved as High Quality JPEGs in Photoshop CS2 and presented here at 100%. Each number represents 100 lines per picture height (lpph), so a figure of 20 means a resolution of 2000 lpph.

 

In terms of horizontal resolution, the DX 18-70mm edged ahead of the pack to deliver the best result here of 2200 lpph, although the budget DX 18-55mm was impressively only a fraction behind with 2175 lpph. The DX 18-135mm and DX 18-200mm followed with 2150 lpph each.

Moving onto vertical resolution, the DX 18-70mm once again came top of the group with 2200 lpph, with the DX 18-55mm falling to match the DX 18-135mm and DX 18-200mm with 2150 lpph.

While there are measurable differences between these lenses and a leading result for the DX 18-70mm, the relative closeness between their scores means it’s fair to say none of these lenses seriously compromise the D80’s resolving power. Also note the higher contrast result from the DX 18-55mm under identical lighting conditions. Finally note when equipped with a 50mm f1.8 lens set to f4, the D80’s horizontal resolving power can be increased by a fraction to 2225 lpph – see our 10 Megapixel DSLR group test.

 

Nikkor DX 18-55mm II f/3.5-5.6
Using Nikon D80
Nikkor DX 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5
Using Nikon D80
2175 lpph, DX 18-55mm II at 35mm, f8, 100 ISO
2200 lpph, DX 18-70mm at 35mm, f8, 100 ISO
Nikkor DX 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6
Using Nikon D80
Nikkor DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR
Using Nikon D80
2150 lpph, DX 18-135mm at 35mm, f8, 100 ISO
2150 lpph, DX 18-200mm at 35mm, f8, 100 ISO
Nikkor DX 18-55mm II f/3.5-5.6
Using Nikon D80
Nikkor DX 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5
Using Nikon D80
2150 lpph, DX 18-55mm II at 35mm, f8, 100 ISO
2200 lpph, DX 18-70mm at 35mm, f8, 100 ISO
Nikkor DX 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6
Using Nikon D80
Nikkor DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR
Using Nikon D80
2150 lpph, DX 18-135mm at 35mm, f8, 100 ISO
2150 lpph, DX 18-200mm at 35mm, f8, 100 ISO

Nikkor DX kit lens group test corner sharpness comparison

 

Enhanced Digital Camera Resolution ChartTo measure and compare the corner sharpness of each lens using the Nikon D80, we photographed the Enhanced Digital Camera Resolution Chart with each lens at its shortest and longest focal lengths using various aperture settings. The D80 was set to Aperture Priority, Large Fine JPEG mode and the Optimise Image parameter set to Normal. All four lenses were tested within moments of each other under identical lighting conditions.

The crops are taken from the lower left corner of the chart and presented here at 100%. The wide angle crops which show a slightly larger area of the chart are due to minimum focusing distances forcing us to shoot from a little further away. No crops have been resized.

 

Zoomed-out to their widest focal lengths and with their apertures fully open, the budget DX 18-55mm shows the weakest result of the group, although the DX 18-70mm isn’t far behind. Both lenses require stopping down beyond f8 to deliver a sharp result in their extreme corners when zoomed-out to 18mm. The situation is much better for the DX 18-135mm and DX 18-200mm, although due to closest focusing distances, both lenses had to be tested from slightly further back – hence the larger area in their crops. Both of these lenses exhibit some coloured fringing in their extreme corners even when stopped right down, but at least the details are relatively sharp.Zoomed-into their longest focal lengths, the budget DX 18-55mm actually delivers one of the best results here, although to be fair, it also has the shortest optical range of the group. Both the DX 18-70mm and DX 18-135mm suffer from softness in their extreme corners when zoomed-in and set to most apertures here. The DX 18-200mm delivers a pretty good result considering its long optical zoom range, and while there’s some coloured fringing at the wider apertures, this reduces as the f-number increases and the details remain relatively sharp throughout.

 

Nikkor DX 18-55mm II f/3.5-5.6
Nikkor DX 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5
Nikkor DX 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6
Nikkor DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR
Nikkor 18-55mm at 18mm f3.5
Nikkor 18-70mm at 18mm f3.5
Nikkor 18-135mm at 18mm f3.5
Nikkor 18-200mm at 18mm f3.5
DX 18-55mm II at 18mm f3.5
DX 18-70mm at 18mm f3.5
DX 18-135mm at 18mm f3.5
DX 18-200mm at 18mm f3.5
Nikkor 18-55mm at 18mm f8
Nikkor 18-70mm at 18mm f8
Nikkor 18-135mm at 18mm f8
Nikkor 18-200mm at 18mm f8
DX 18-55mm II at 18mm f8
DX 18-70mm at 18mm f8
DX 18-135mm at 18mm f8
DX 18-200mm at 18mm f8
Nikkor 18-55mm at 18mm f16
Nikkor 18-70mm at 18mm f16
Nikkor 18-135mm at 18mm f16
Nikkor 18-200mm at 18mm f16
DX 18-55mm II at 18mm f16
DX 18-70mm at 18mm f16
DX 18-135mm at 18mm f16
DX 18-200mm at 18mm f16
Nikkor DX 18-55mm II f/3.5-5.6
Nikkor DX 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5
Nikkor DX 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6
Nikkor DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR
Nikkor 18-55mm at 55mm f5.6
Nikkor 18-70mm at 70mm f4.5
Nikkor 18-135mm at 135mm f5.6
Nikkor 18-200mm at 200mm f5.6
DX 18-55mm II at 55mm f5.6
DX 18-70mm at 70mm f4.5
DX 18-135mm at 135mm f5.6
DX 18-200mm at 200mm f5.6
Nikkor 18-55mm at 55mm f8
Nikkor 18-70mm at 70mm f8
Nikkor 18-135mm at 135mm f8
Nikkor 18-200mm at 200mm f8
DX 18-55mm II at 55mm f8
DX 18-70mm at 70mm f8
DX 18-135mm at 135mm f8
DX 18-200mm at 200mm f8
Nikkor 18-55mm at 55mm f16
Nikkor 18-70mm at 70mm f16
Nikkor 18-135mm at 135mm f16
Nikkor 18-200mm at 200mm f16
DX 18-55mm II at 55mm f16
DX 18-70mm at 70mm f16
DX 18-135mm at 135mm f16
DX 18-200mm at 200mm f16

Nikkor DX kit lens group test purple fringing comparison

To measure and compare purple fringing caused by lens chromatic aberrations and sensor blooming, we photographed a high contrast test chart using each lens set to its shortest and longest focal lengths with the aperture wide open. The crops are taken from the upper left corner of the chart and presented here at 100%.All four lenses perform similarly here, exhibiting a little coloured fringing in their extreme corners whether zoomed-in or out.

 

Nikkor DX 18-55mm II f/3.5-5.6
Nikkor DX 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5
Nikkor DX 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6
Nikkor DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR
Nikon 18-55mm at 18mm f3.5
Nikon 18-70mm at 18mm f3.5
Nikon 18-135mm at 18mm f3.5
Nikon 18-200mm at 18mm f3.5
DX 18-55mm II at 18mm f3.5
DX 18-70mm at 18mm f3.5
DX 18-135mm at 18mm f3.5
DX 18-200mm at 18mm f3.5
Nikon 18-55mm at 18mm f5.6
Nikon 18-70mm at 70mm f4.5
Nikon 18-135mm at 135mm f5.6
Nikon 18-200mm at 200mm f5.6
DX 18-55mm II at 55mm f5.6
DX 18-70mm at 70mm f4.5
DX 18-135mm at 135mm f5.6
DX 18-200mm at 200mm f5.6

Nikkor DX kit lens group test macro comparison

To measure and compare macro performance we photographed a chart using each lens at a focal length and distance which delivered the maximum possible reproduction. The dark lines are 10mm apart and the result is not cropped. Smaller areas are preferred in this test.

While none of the four can be described as macro lenses, the best result is actually enjoyed by the budget DX 18-55mm, delivering a maximum area of 74x48mm; interestingly this is a similar situation to Canon’s kit lenses, where the budget EF-S 18-55mm delivers a better macro result than many of the upgrade options.

Next is the DX 18-135mm, followed by the DX 18-200mm and finally the DX 18-70mm.

 

Nikkor DX 18-55mm II f/3.5-5.6
Nikkor DX 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5
Nikkor DX 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6
Nikkor DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR
Nikon 18-55mm macro test
Nikon 18-70mm macro test
Nikon 18-135mm macro test
Nikon 18-200mm macro test
DX 18-55mm II at 55mm f8
Max area of 74x48mm
DX 18-70mm at 70mm f8
Max area of 128x86mm
DX 18-135mm at 135mm f8
Max area of 94x62mm
DX 18-200mm at 200mm f8
Max area of 104x70mm

Nikkor DX kit lens group test wide-angle geometry comparison

To measure and compare light fall-off at wide angle, we photographed a white target using a highly diffused custom filter with each lens at its shortest focal length and the aperture wide open. The images were then analysed with Imatest and the full areas presented here at a reduced resolution. Bigger percentages are better.Zoomed-out to 18mm with their apertures wide open, the most noticeable light fall-off comes from the DX 18-70mm. Almost 10% less dark in the corners are the DX 18-55mm and DX 18-135mm lenses, although the best result here comes from the DX 18-200mm; impressive considering it also has the longest focal range.

 

Nikkor DX 18-55mm II f/3.5-5.6
Nikkor DX 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5
Nikkor DX 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6
Nikkor DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR
Nikkor 18-55mm uniformity at 18mm f3.5
Nikkor 18-70mm uniformity at 18mm f3.5
Nikkor 18-135mm uniformity at 18mm f3.5
Nikkor 18-200mm uniformity at 18mm f3.5
DX 18-55mm II at 18mm f3.5
Mean corner fall-off: 52.1%
DX 18-70mm at 18mm f3.5
Mean corner fall-off: 41.5%
DX 18-135mm at 18mm f3.5
Mean corner fall-off: 50.2%
DX 18-200mm at 18mm f3.5
Mean corner fall-off: 62.2%

 

 

Nikkor DX kit lens group test telephoto uniformity comparison

To measure and compare light fall-off at telephoto, we photographed a white target using a highly diffused custom filter with each lens at its longest focal length and the aperture wide open. The images were then analysed with Imatest and the full areas presented here at a reduced resolution. Bigger percentages are better.Zoomed-into their longest focal lengths and with their apertures wide open, the most obvious light fall-off once again comes from the DX 18-70mm, although the DX 18-135mm is right behind it; indeed the darkening in the corners of the 18-135mm is obvious even with the aperture closed to f8, see previous page.

Coming in way ahead of both these lenses are the DX 18-55mm and DX 18-200mm models which exhibit noticeably less darkening in the corners. Once again this is particularly impressive for the DX 18-200mm considering its large 11.1x focal range.

 

Nikkor DX 18-55mm II f/3.5-5.6
Nikkor DX 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5
Nikkor DX 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6
Nikkor DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR
Nikkor 18-55mm uniformity at 55mm f5.6
Nikkor 18-70mm uniformity at 70mm f4.5
Nikkor 18-135mm uniformity at 135mm f5.6
Nikkor 18-200mm uniformity at 200mm f5.6
DX 18-55mm II at 55mm f5.6
Mean corner fall-off: 73.7%
DX 18-70mm at 70mm f4.5
Mean corner fall-off: 55.4%
DX 18-135mm at 135mm f5.6
Mean corner fall-off: 58.5%
DX 18-200mm at 200mm f5.6
Mean corner fall-off: 73.4%
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