Best (affordable) upgrade option for the Nikkor 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR kit lens?

Started Jan 8, 2013 | Questions
Suwanavi
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Best (affordable) upgrade option for the Nikkor 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR kit lens?
Jan 8, 2013

What is the best (affordable) zoom upgrade option for the Nikkor 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR kit lens?  (I'd like to get the new 18-300mm later but need a more affordable option for now.)  I will be shooting with the D5200 and enjoy nature, wildlife, and landscape photography.

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Tyym
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Re: Best (affordable) upgrade option for the Nikkor 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR kit lens?
In reply to Suwanavi, Jan 8, 2013

Your 18-55 is a fine lens, but I have to say... if you can find one this inexpensive, get the 18-200 VR.  I found one over the weekend for $275.00...that price included a tune up/calibration at the Nikon service center.

I guess a question for you is...what's your budget and what do you want to do with the lens?

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tksiva
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Re: Best (affordable) upgrade option for the Nikkor 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR kit lens?
In reply to Suwanavi, Jan 8, 2013

The 18-200mm VRII covers wide range but at the price of some softness and CA's. The best could be 18-105, or 16-85 or 24-120 f/4 but you loose upto 9mm at the wide end.

Choice is yours.

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Catallaxy
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Re: Best (affordable) upgrade option for the Nikkor 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR kit lens?
In reply to Suwanavi, Jan 8, 2013

What do you want more:

1. A lot more reach?  - then add a tele zoom like the 55-200 VR, 55-300 VR or 70-300 VR.

2. Need more subject isolation? - then something with a fast aperture like the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8

3. need a more flexible focal range for fewer lens changes? - then something like the 18-105 VR

4. Need faster focusing? - sorry this is harder without getting other things too. The 18-105 VR or Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 will be faster focusing, but will also give you other benefits.

5. Better build quality? - This one is easy, just about anything is going to get you better build quality.

Just an exercise to help you think about what benefits you want the new lens to bring to your photography. And you might even be surprised to discover that a small flash unit or a prime might round out your kit better than another zoom.

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007peter
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keep 18-55 kit, just add a cheap $250 Nikon 55-300mm VR
In reply to Suwanavi, Jan 8, 2013

I would avoid the ridiculous and awful optic of 18-300mm VR.  Its plague with severe barrel distortion, vignetting, and poor corner sharpness.  Why not just keep the 18-55mm VR kit lens, then add a cheap $250 Nikon 55-300mm VR lens.  This way you cover from 18mm ~ 300mm in 2 lens, both lens offer greater sharpness than a single 18-300mm super-zoom.

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ChristianHass
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Re: Best (affordable) upgrade option for the Nikkor 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR kit lens?
In reply to Suwanavi, Jan 8, 2013

For more reach the budget options would be 55-200VR, 55-300VR and 70-300VR in increasing order of cost.

For faster glass the main budget options are the 35mm f1.8G and the 50mm f1.8G.

I have both the 18-55VR and the 18-200VR and I find the 18-200VR softer in the corners, as well as being very front heavy on my D5100.

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mistermejia
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Re: Best (affordable) upgrade option for the Nikkor 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR kit lens?
In reply to Suwanavi, Jan 8, 2013

Suwanavi wrote:

What is the best (affordable) zoom upgrade option for the Nikkor 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR kit lens? (I'd like to get the new 18-300mm later but need a more affordable option for now.) I will be shooting with the D5200 and enjoy nature, wildlife, and landscape photography.

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I used to have the 18-55, very good lens.  The 16-85 is not that expensive, very good upgrade, i keep it on my D7000 most of the time.

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Buzz Lightyear
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Re: Best (affordable) upgrade option for the Nikkor 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR kit lens?
In reply to Suwanavi, Jan 8, 2013

I had pondering the same conundrum for weeks. I thought that "upgrading" to the 18-85 might be a viable option, but from my research, it seems that other than greater reach, it is not really any better than the kit lens (as far as image quality). Without spending the proverbial "arm and leg" to upgrade to much better glass, there really isn't any viable options for this focal range. Since I wanted and needed more telephoto abilitiy, and my budget was limited, it seemed to me the best option was to keep the kit lens, and look for a decent telephoto. After some deliberation, I opted for the 55-300mm VR lens. If you are careful to use the lens within its optimal aperture and zoom ranges, it is a wonderful, sharp lens. With that addition, I have 18 - 300 mm covered, without the defects inherent with an all-in-one zoom lens.

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vzlnc
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Re: Best (affordable) upgrade option for the Nikkor 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR kit lens?
In reply to Suwanavi, Jan 8, 2013

Actually there isnt a very good alternative to the 18-55 kit lens. All the other 18-XX lenses are also like kit lenses and are not an upgrade quality wise. Infact 18-55 is better bcoz its cheap, and covers the most important part of the range. Tele could be covered by either the 70-300 or 55-300 or 55-200. They are all equal performers with small differences like focus speed, manual override etc. Thats the problem with DX, there arent any options at the wide end. There is the 16-85 which is good, but too expensive and not wide-enough as a wide angle lens. Isnt too much of an upgrade over the 18-XX series. The 17-55 2.8 zooms are huge and expensive, but I think in real use, image quality will not be significantly different. A cheap 35 or 50mm 1.8 for a fraction of the cost will be faster in low light and the 50mm has good bokeh as well.

I think going for a wide angle like Tokina 11-16mm 2.8 will be a very nice addition to ur system. A completely new perspective/focal length not covered by any of the lenses mentioned above. I think putting more money on the 18-55mm range on DX doesnt give much benefit over kit lenses.

Another option is to go for macro lenses, that will open up new avenues for photography. Any of the 60mm, 105mm etc will be good.

Yet another option is the 85mm 1.8. Will be very good for portraits.

I think going for a all in one multipurpose lens like 18-200mm or 18-300mm defeats the logic of an interchangable lens camera. None of those are going to beat the 18-55 + 55-300 quality wise.

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Shunda77
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I don't agree.
In reply to vzlnc, Jan 8, 2013

vzlnc wrote:

Actually there isnt a very good alternative to the 18-55 kit lens. All the other 18-XX lenses are also like kit lenses and are not an upgrade quality wise. Infact 18-55 is better bcoz its cheap, and covers the most important part of the range. Tele could be covered by either the 70-300 or 55-300 or 55-200. They are all equal performers with small differences like focus speed, manual override etc. Thats the problem with DX, there arent any options at the wide end. There is the 16-85 which is good, but too expensive and not wide-enough as a wide angle lens. Isnt too much of an upgrade over the 18-XX series.

I really don't agree with any of that at all, the 16-85 is a much better, sharper lens than the kit 18-55 and it's 24mm equivalent wide angle is definitely very useful, in fact, it is the best walk around nature/landscapes lens on the market. The creative freedom and better image quality of this lens makes it worth every extra penny.

There is no way the kit lens is an equal in image quality to the 16-85vr, just no way.

An 18-55 is just too short and not wide enough for a practical nature/landscapes kit, especially in a 'walk around' context. Even with a tele option added to the kit 18-55, lens changing will drive you nuts.

A far better option is the 16-85vr (or 18-105vr) and then the tele lens as well.

The newer DX cameras appear to really come to life with the 16-85vr, it really is an excellent lens worth every $.

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Shunda77
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Re: Best (affordable) upgrade option for the Nikkor 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR kit lens?
In reply to Buzz Lightyear, Jan 8, 2013

Buzz Lightyear wrote:

I had pondering the same conundrum for weeks. I thought that "upgrading" to the 18-85 might be a viable option, but from my research, it seems that other than greater reach, it is not really any better than the kit lens (as far as image quality).

My experience with both lenses is that the 16-85vr is a much better lens for image quality, speed, and practicality. You can shoot the 16-85 wide open and still get good results at every focal length, you can't with the kit lens.

Stop the 16-85 down a smidgeon and it is tack sharp at every focal length on offer.

Without spending the proverbial "arm and leg" to upgrade to much better glass, there really isn't any viable options for this focal range. Since I wanted and needed more telephoto abilitiy, and my budget was limited, it seemed to me the best option was to keep the kit lens, and look for a decent telephoto. After some deliberation, I opted for the 55-300mm VR lens. If you are careful to use the lens within its optimal aperture and zoom ranges, it is a wonderful, sharp lens. With that addition, I have 18 - 300 mm covered, without the defects inherent with an all-in-one zoom lens.

I just purchased a 55-300vr to try after agonizing over whether I should have bought the 70-300vr, so far I am extremely impressed with the performance of the 55-300vr, in my opinion it is better over the same range than the 55-200.

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Shunda77
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Re: Best (affordable) upgrade option for the Nikkor 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR kit lens?
In reply to Suwanavi, Jan 8, 2013

Suwanavi wrote:

What is the best (affordable) zoom upgrade option for the Nikkor 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR kit lens? (I'd like to get the new 18-300mm later but need a more affordable option for now.) I will be shooting with the D5200 and enjoy nature, wildlife, and landscape photography.

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There's only two lenses worth looking at in your circumstances.

The budget conscious option is the 18-105vr - an excellent lens for the money.

But if you enjoy landscapes/nature, then you really should seriously consider the 16-85vr, it really is an absolutely ideal lens for your circumstances. The extra wide angle may not sound like much, but in reality it makes a huge difference to landscape composition.

Your 24mp sensor will perform very well with this lens.

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Buzz Lightyear
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Re: I don't agree.
In reply to Shunda77, Jan 8, 2013

Shunda77 wrote:

vzlnc wrote:

Actually there isnt a very good alternative to the 18-55 kit lens. All the other 18-XX lenses are also like kit lenses and are not an upgrade quality wise. Infact 18-55 is better bcoz its cheap, and covers the most important part of the range. Tele could be covered by either the 70-300 or 55-300 or 55-200. They are all equal performers with small differences like focus speed, manual override etc. Thats the problem with DX, there arent any options at the wide end. There is the 16-85 which is good, but too expensive and not wide-enough as a wide angle lens. Isnt too much of an upgrade over the 18-XX series.

I really don't agree with any of that at all, the 16-85 is a much better, sharper lens than the kit 18-55 and it's 24mm equivalent wide angle is definitely very useful, in fact, it is the best walk around nature/landscapes lens on the market. . .

Yes, I can see the advantage of having extra wide-angle and telephoto reach available on the 16-85, however my opinion regarding the image quality of the 16-85 was based on those more experienced than I with evaluating camera lenses.  Maybe you are right, but in my fractured thinking, it doesn't seem practical to me (or maybe anyone else with a limited budget) to pay extra money for a new "walk-around" lens that, according to Ken Rockwell (and others), has an equivalent image quality to the kits lens, but still lacks at least 200mm of telephoto range that I now have by keeping the kit lens and adding the 55-300 lens that I purchased - all for about $200 less than the price of the 16-85 alone!

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Re: Best (affordable) make one a prime...
In reply to Suwanavi, Jan 8, 2013

Whatever you do, make room for one prime, say the 50 1.8G that you could use for portraits (the 85mm 1.8G would be great but that is $500, while the 50 1.8G is 200 (or you could get the 105 2.5 AI for about $200 from such as Adorama or KEH but that one is manual focus and manual metering for anything until the D7000 or D200/ 300 series and above.

Some great suggestions re zooms. A fast (meaning large aperture such as 1.8) prime will allow three things that a zoom will not:

- more sharpness than any zoom except for the most expensive zooms, so for those shots that you want super sharp, you will take off the zoom and put it on

- use in low light

- bokeh and depth of field play, moreso than a zoom

So, whatever zoom (s) you get, I would suggest at least one fast prime at some point.

If you shoot family groups a lot, the 35 1.8G would do and that is just about $200. If you prefer portraits, the 50 1.8G also $200.

You realise the difference in sharpness primes vs zooms when you crop in a shot, I cropped a shot recently with an old manual focus prime and was amazed at the sharpness and quality of the crop, a heavy crop. It would not have been so with an average zoom.

The overriding factor is  'what do you photograph'? That will decide focal length, aperture and whether prime or zoom.

Enjoy.

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Shunda77
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Re: I don't agree.
In reply to Buzz Lightyear, Jan 8, 2013

Buzz Lightyear wrote:


Yes, I can see the advantage of having extra wide-angle and telephoto reach available on the 16-85, however my opinion regarding the image quality of the 16-85 was based on those more experienced than I with evaluating camera lenses.

My opinion was based on direct experience with both lenses, when I found actual laboratory test data comparing both lenses on the same body, it only confirmed my experience as being accurate.

Basically, I found that I was able to get sharp results in a much wider range of light than I could with the 18-55 kit lens, I was also able to focus faster and more accurately, manual focus override has also proven to be very useful. Manual focus is next to useless on the kit lens. Shooting from a tripod after sunset when manual focus becomes important is extremely difficult with the 18-55 and it is just not wide enough for landscapes.

Maybe you are right, but in my fractured thinking, it doesn't seem practical to me (or maybe anyone else with a limited budget) to pay extra money for a new "walk-around" lens that, according to Ken Rockwell (and others), has an equivalent image quality to the kits lens, but still lacks at least 200mm of telephoto range that I now have by keeping the kit lens and adding the 55-300 lens that I purchased - all for about $200 less than the price of the 16-85 alone!

I purchased my 16-85vr second hand for half the new price.

For me the kit lens was a complete waste of time, it just isn't practical as a walk around nature/landscapes lens, even combined with a tele option. The focal length is just not long enough, too much lens changing simply ruins the enjoyment of this kind of photography.

I found that the 16-85vr added exactly the right mix of image quality and creative freedom, others may find their needs are different based on the subject matter they shoot.

But the OP specifically mentioned nature/landscapes, and if he is serious about landscapes the 16-85vr is simply the best option out there, you simply can not do the same photography or have the same user experience with the kit 18-55.

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JCB123
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Re: Best (affordable) upgrade option for the Nikkor 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR kit lens?
In reply to Catallaxy, Jan 8, 2013

Catallaxy wrote:

What do you want more:

1. A lot more reach? - then add a tele zoom like the 55-200 VR, 55-300 VR or 70-300 VR.

2. Need more subject isolation? - then something with a fast aperture like the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8

3. need a more flexible focal range for fewer lens changes? - then something like the 18-105 VR

4. Need faster focusing? - sorry this is harder without getting other things too. The 18-105 VR or Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 will be faster focusing, but will also give you other benefits.

5. Better build quality? - This one is easy, just about anything is going to get you better build quality.

Just an exercise to help you think about what benefits you want the new lens to bring to your photography. And you might even be surprised to discover that a small flash unit or a prime might round out your kit better than another zoom.

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Catallaxy

To the OP. Catallaxy has summarised the options I would have suggested, but I'll add my 2d worth.

* An advantage of your current lens is its light weight. The 18-55 and 55-200 makes for a very lightweight combination that covers wide angle to telephoto. Hard to beat this for going light.

* The 70-300mm is the best quality option (I am excluding the 70-200 since we are talking about affordable options) Its not cheap but is a lens that will serve you well for many years as you expand your system. This one covers your wildlife photography needs.

* I have the Sigma 17-50 f2.8, where Catallaxy suggested the Tamron. The sigma is excellent, but I have no reason to doubt that the Tamron is not equally good. Either one would give you more options for low light and subject isolation.

* The 18-105 is a very good lens and has a really useful range of focal lengths. I use this at events when the light is good, and I am not feeling precious about subject isolation. This is a very good lens for casual relaxed general photography.

* You mentioned landscapes. You might want to consider going wider than the 18-XXX zooms. The 16-85 is a good lens and the extra 2mm makes quite a bit of difference. I have the Sigma 10-20mm (The older variable aperture version) I find I don't need fast apertures for scenics, and this lens does very nicely. The overlap with the 17-50 is helpful too. The Nikon 10-24 is another option but more expensive.

I would think in terms of adding three or four of the above over time and for now choose the one which you have the most need for. Then add the others as and when you can afford them.

Regards

John

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nfpotter
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Re: I don't agree.
In reply to Shunda77, Jan 8, 2013

Shunda77 wrote:

Buzz Lightyear wrote:


Yes, I can see the advantage of having extra wide-angle and telephoto reach available on the 16-85, however my opinion regarding the image quality of the 16-85 was based on those more experienced than I with evaluating camera lenses.

My opinion was based on direct experience with both lenses, when I found actual laboratory test data comparing both lenses on the same body, it only confirmed my experience as being accurate.

Basically, I found that I was able to get sharp results in a much wider range of light than I could with the 18-55 kit lens, I was also able to focus faster and more accurately, manual focus override has also proven to be very useful. Manual focus is next to useless on the kit lens. Shooting from a tripod after sunset when manual focus becomes important is extremely difficult with the 18-55 and it is just not wide enough for landscapes.

Maybe you are right, but in my fractured thinking, it doesn't seem practical to me (or maybe anyone else with a limited budget) to pay extra money for a new "walk-around" lens that, according to Ken Rockwell (and others), has an equivalent image quality to the kits lens, but still lacks at least 200mm of telephoto range that I now have by keeping the kit lens and adding the 55-300 lens that I purchased - all for about $200 less than the price of the 16-85 alone!

I purchased my 16-85vr second hand for half the new price.

For me the kit lens was a complete waste of time, it just isn't practical as a walk around nature/landscapes lens, even combined with a tele option. The focal length is just not long enough, too much lens changing simply ruins the enjoyment of this kind of photography.

I found that the 16-85vr added exactly the right mix of image quality and creative freedom, others may find their needs are different based on the subject matter they shoot.

But the OP specifically mentioned nature/landscapes, and if he is serious about landscapes the 16-85vr is simply the best option out there, you simply can not do the same photography or have the same user experience with the kit 18-55.

18mm is plenty "wide enough" for landscapes, and the difference between 16 and 18 is not much.

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toomanycanons
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Re: Best (affordable) upgrade option for the Nikkor 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR kit lens?
In reply to Tyym, Jan 8, 2013

Tyym wrote:

Your 18-55 is a fine lens, but I have to say... if you can find one this inexpensive, get the 18-200 VR. I found one over the weekend for $275.00...that price included a tune up/calibration at the Nikon service center.

I guess a question for you is...what's your budget and what do you want to do with the lens?

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I've had my eye out for an 18-200 VR for over a year now and have never seen one below $500.  That includes Fred Miranda and Craigslist.

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nikkorwatcher
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Re: Best (affordable) upgrade option for the Nikkor 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 VR kit lens?
In reply to toomanycanons, Jan 8, 2013

Cheapest & best quality addition to his kit would be the 55-200 VR.

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Joe Porto
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Re: I don't agree.
In reply to nfpotter, Jan 8, 2013

18mm is plenty "wide enough" for landscapes, and the difference between 16 and 18 is not much.

The difference between 16mm and 18mm on DX is quite a bit. It's nearly the equivalent of 24mm vs. 28mm on FF. The difference is considerable enough that Nikon makes both a 24mm and 28mm f/2.8D lens.

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