A convenient lens for many scenarios. Quite good with RAW + DXO software.

Started Nov 28, 2017 | User reviews thread
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mmartel Contributing Member • Posts: 649
A convenient lens for many scenarios. Quite good with RAW + DXO software.

Background: I'm a hobbyist, who's been shooting Nikon DX for ~8 years, Nikon CX for ~4 years, various Canon and Panasonic compact cameras and smartphones for 10+ years. Lightroom user for 5+ years, recently switched to DXO Photo Lab. I shoot about 10k photos+videos per year of my family and travels.

I bought this lens to avoid needing to change lenses when shooting outdoor photos (and, to a lesser extent, video) of family and landscapes while traveling, hiking, or doing other activities in the community. This lens is perfectly well suited to such tasks.

This 10-100mm lens paired with my Nikon J5, 18.5mm f1.8, and an extra battery or two, has become my go-to kit for almost any travel and shooting I do outside the house.

Sharpness/general image quality

At first, I was quite negative on this lens, finding it to be softer than hoped/expected at every focal length but especially beyond 40mm. I wasn't seeing the expected better-than-kit-lens sharpness at the wide end ( what the MTF charts show and what I've seen in many forum posts), and I was seeing extremely mushy results beyond 50mm compared to what I'm used to from my 30-110mm lens.

I was convinced either I had a bad copy, or the focal length range required too much of a design compromise. But wow, what a difference a RAW converter with the right lens corrections makes!

It turns out that Lightroom's lens profile for the 10-100 is bad, bad, terrible bad. I recently switched to DXO Photo Lab ... and my whole opinion of this lens transformed. I could actually make out individual blades of grass in soccer fields. Feet and bushes near the edges of the frame were transformed from flat, waxy facsimiles to living, 3-dimensional things. Faces and clothing in the 1/3 to 2/3 field took on more realistic textures, with hair strands becoming visible, clothing textures popping, and so forth.

Surely demosaicing algo differences in the RAW converters, sharpening/presharpening, and differences in noise reduction play a role here. But even putting those differences aside, the basic lens corrections make a stunning difference in photos when viewed at the pixel-level. In my experience with my other cameras and lenses (D5100, 18-55 VRII kit lens, 35mm f1.8 G DX, 10-30mm non-PD zoom, 10-30 PD zoom, 18.5mm f1.8 prime, 30-110mm), I've not observed such a radical difference.

Thus, I highly advise anyone considering this lens to consider RAW + DXO to get the best results. (It so happens that DXO Prime Noise reduction is also unmatched, IMO, at removing noise and leaving detail).

OK, back to sharpness/microcontrast. Personally, I find my copy very good edge to edge in the 10-40mm or so range (only the most extreme corners show any softness). I find the lens acceptably sharp from 40-60mm, with gradual loss towards the edges. And from 60mm-100mm, I find the sharpness/microcontrast acceptable given the convenience.

For comparison, I'd say my copy of the 30-110mm lens is optically better across its entire range, although the advantage is much more readily apparent beyond 60mm. And comparing against my 10-30mm PZ and 10-30mm non-PZ lenses, I'd say I prefer my 10-100 lens in terms of edge-to-edge sharpness/microcontrast in that range (although it does come with way more CA) but they're all fairly close.

Other things worth mentioning.

  • Chromatic aberration. Holy purple fringing, Batman, did they forget a lens coating or something?! You'll get to know what CA is with this lens if you shoot RAW or capture video stills. Very bright white edges against dark shades will get purple CA, guaranteed, virtually anywhere in the frame. Dark edges against a light background often pick up green or purple CA. It's fairly easily managed with software, and maybe it just wont bother you to leave it in. But if it does bother you, it's another step in post and way more prevalent and severe than any other lens I've ever used.
  • Distortion and vignetting. Exhibits a fair bit of both throughout the range. If you shoot JPEGs, in-camera correction does an OK job correcting these automatically, although I think in general the Nikon 1 JPEG engines are by far the weak links in the system, and absolutely don't live up to the sensors or optical quality of the lenses. I shoot RAW and neither distortion nor vignetting bother me personally at all for my subjects and in post-processing. As I mentioned above, though, the lens correction and/or RAW demosaicing algos in DXO do a masterful job with these issues without any effort. I find Lightroom's corrections for this lens to be just fine for vignetting but very poor for distortion correction. The geometry is bad, and impact on image sharpness is bad.
  • Weight/size. I was initially concerned about the weight/balance/size on my J5. There's no denying that the 10-100 is a much more substantial lens than the kit zooms, prime, and even the 30-110 lens, which I also own. However, I mostly tend to shoot two handed and when not shooting carry the camera on a compact-style wrist strap. I haven't found the bulk to be as much a bother as I expected.
  • Build quality. I've only owned "plastic fantastic" lenses as long as I've been into photography. It might have shaped my tastes a bit, as I do sincerely appreciate the weight and cost savings of plastic. This is my first lens that feels made of "real metal and real glass." It's dense, heavy, and feels like it will last forever even if you drop it a few times along the way. That said, I would probably still prefer plastic for its lighter weight and lower cost. But if you're into substantial-feeling lenses, you'll certainly like this one.
  • Stabilization. I find image stabilization to be quite good, but not outstanding, for pictures and videos at the wide end, better at the telephoto end. It's silent and effective.
  • Zoom action/creep. Stiffer than I like, personally, but I am somewhat of a mixed stills/video shooter. I personally can't zoom smoothly when shooting video with this lens, although I can do a better job if I really focus on it. The upside is that the lens doesn't creep at all.
  • Parfocal. As far as I can tell, this lens doesn't lose focus when you zoom, which is especially nice with video.
  • Bokeh quality. Slightly nervous, not really pleasing, IMO. Best case is it's not distracting. If you want fine bokeh, you need another lens and/or system.
  • Instant on/off. As with other Nikon 1 lenses, when you manually unlock the lens, it turns the camera on, which is a nice touch.

Recognizing that all lens designs have tradeoffs, I'd give this lens more stars if if:
- it were sharper at longer focal lengths
- offered faster aperture
- had less distortion
- had less chromatic aberration
- it were more affordable

Still, I do want to tip my hat to the Nikon engineers who worked on this lens. It serves a useful purpose within the system and is quite satisfactory for certain use cases.

 mmartel's gear list:mmartel's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5 Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm F1.8 Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-140mm F3.5-5.6 O.I.S +3 more
Nikon 1 Nikkor VR 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6
Lens • Nikon 1
Announced: Jan 8, 2013
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Nikon 1 J5 Nikon 1 Nikkor VR 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6
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