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Conclusion - Pros

  • Huge 11.1x focal length range, ideal travel lens
  • Decent build quality - much better than Nikon's 18-55mm kit lens
  • Very effective vibration reduction system, at least 3 stops benefit
  • Excellent fast, silent autofocus with manual override
  • High image quality in the normal to short telephoto range, and good at 200mm

Conclusion - Cons

  • Pronounced distortion across much of the range
  • Extremely soft at 135mm
  • Rather average close-up performance
  • Zoom creep

Overall conclusion

Just occasionally, the old cliches are still the best, and with the 18-200mm VR the phrase 'jack of all trades, master of none' springs immediately to mind. It's a lens which delivers somewhat flawed results over its entire zoom range; where it's sharp, it has heavy distortion, and when that distortion comes under control at the long end, it loses sharpness. Its close-up performance is reasonable, but not spectacular, and overall it will likely be outperformed optically by a cheaper combination of standard and telephoto zooms. So for a certain type of photographer interested mainly in absolute image quality, this may well cause it to be regarded as nothing more than an expensive snapshot lens.

But to dismiss the 18-200mm VR based purely on its optical quality is to miss the point quite fundamentally. The whole idea of such a lens is to allow the photographer to travel light and never miss a shot while changing lenses, or indeed not to have to risk water or dust entering the camera in adverse conditions. So what you do get for your money is a hugely flexible zoom range which can handle the vast majority of photographic opportunities, coupled with excellent autofocus and vibration reduction systems. And all of this is wrapped up in a relatively compact package, with build quality which feels solid without being excessively heavy. It really is a lens you can leave on your camera all day long and scarcely miss a shot, and it has to be said, this makes it a lot of fun to use.

So when all is said and done, we have to understand that superzooms are essentially about making some optical compromises to provide the broadest possible range in a single lens, and it's up to each individual to decide whether those compromises are acceptable. I wouldn't recommend the 18-200mm to someone whose primary interests were either architecture or wildlife, for example, but for the photographer who wants to shoot a little bit of everything and not have to change lenses, it's more than fit for purpose. Ultimately this is probably as good a superzoom as money can buy, so as long as its limitations are recognised and understood, it has to be recommended.

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Build quality 8.0
Ergonomics & handling 8.0
Features 9.0
Image quality 7.0
Value 7.0

Recommended (with reservations)

Recommended

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Samples Gallery

There are 26 images in the samples gallery. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.

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Nikon 18-200mm f3.5-5.6G VR DX Review Samples

26 images • Posted 28th January 2008 • View album
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