exceeds expectations for money spent
Like many here who started using DSLRs, I began with a modest "beginner's" camera. In my case, the D40 with the ubiquitous 18-55mm kit lens which sufficed for many years of basic, amateur usage. Now that I have moved on since, having upgraded to a D7000 and had the chance to use many different prime lenses, I find myself yearning for a decent mid-range zoom that would not break the bank. My main scenario of using the lens would be event photography, where I would be using the lens in tandem with a flashgun (SB-800.) I manage to find my copy of the 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 G ED second hand for 60 pounds, quite the screaming bargain.
In usage, the lens is nice to hold, balancing out my D7000 with the battery grip and SB-800 very nicely. The front of the lens is a 67mm filter thread which does not rotate when focussing, unlike the 18-55mm. This makes the usage of circular polarisers very handy indeed. The front portion of the lens is also more sturdily built, unlike the rather wobbly affair with lesser kit lenses. The lack of VR is not noticeable when I am using the flash as I tend to use a 1/200 shutter speed, fast enough for the flash to help capture any movement. However, I don't miss VR either when shooting in available light, instead I choose to brace myself against something should I wish to have hand-held shots made when the sun sets.
It is a solid-feeling lens, with the zoom and focus rings being nice to touch and conveniently placed. Of course, it is no manual-focus Nikkor in terms of feel, but the zoom has no creep whatsoever, unlike the first 18-200mm VR lens. Image-wise, the lens is a decent performer wide open, with much better performance for close-ups. Stopped down a couple of stops (f/5-6.3), it is very nice and sharp. I have noticed a bit of vignetting but it isn't that obvious so does not bother me too much.
The lens is well-made and given that it is second hand, I am quite happy that there is almost no dust inside the glass from what I can see. That can probably be attributed to the rubber dust seal at the lens mount which is a nice feature that is omitted in some higher-end lenses. The lens finish also matches my D7000, which is quite nice.
All in all, a lens that was built to be used and is a more than adequate upgrade for those on a budget, but still wanting to stick with Nikkors rather than third-party brands.
Some rather obvious lens barrel at the wide end, but nothing that makes me mistake this for a fish-eye lens. It is also reasonably easy to correct this using photoshop, and since I invariably do some post-processing for my best shots I see this as an issue that I can live with without any worries.
AF is usually fast, but it isn't some miracle. Works quickly enough for the usual people shots. I don't have any children, and I don't intend to run around snapping shots of kids anyway.
The only problem I can see is that the 67mm filter ring size is at odds with the rest of my lenses which primarily use 52mm filters. This technically is a non-issue because event photos usually have no need for filters, but if I were to use this for travel photos, I would probably have to shell out for a separate circular polariser.
The lens hood, which was not included in the sale sells for over 13 pounds via amazon. I went for the third-party option which sells for under 4 pounds. Call me a cheap-skate, but I'd happily spend another 4 pounds should the lens hood somehow become damaged, which is highly unlikely.