The 18-55mm VR bears a distinct family resemblance to Nikon's previous version of their kit lens, but feels somewhat better made (a perception which may be due in no small part to the increased weight). The entire external construction, including the lens mount, is made of plastic, but with a higher quality feel than some other kit lenses. The large zoom ring feels very smooth across the range; the only real let-downs are the tiny manual focus ring with its extraordinarily short travel, and the rotating front element which will annoy filter users.

On the camera

The lens is a particularly good match to the lightweight D40/D40x/D60 body series, and even feels well- balanced on the much more substantial D300 body. In everyday use the handling is perfectly acceptable, the main gripe being that manual focus doesn't work very well at all.


This lens features a compact silent-wave motor for autofocus. This is pretty fast and quiet in most everyday situations, although not as refined as the SWM motors found in more expensive lenses such as the 18-200mm VR. The manual focusing ring rotates on autofocus, and Nikon warn against moving it accidentally with the lens set to AF, to avoid damaging the motor. A direct effect of this design is that focus can't be tweaked manually with the lens set to AF.

Focus speed and accuracy is dependent upon a number of variables, including the camera body used, subject contrast, and light levels (Nikon appear to ‘gear down’ focusing speed in low light for greater accuracy). The lens is fast and accurate in most everyday use, and continues to work well even in low light levels.

Lens body elements

The lens uses Nikon's venerable F mount, and communicates with the body electronically via the contact pins. Control of the aperture is mechanical, using a metal lever. The lens mounts by aligning the white dot with that on the body and twisting anticlockwise. Like many lightweight kit lenses, the mount is plastic, but should be perfectly durable in normal non-professional use.
The filter thread is 52mm, and rotates on focusing. This can be a nuisance for photographers who like to use filters such as polarisers and neutral density gradients.

The HB-45 hood clips to the lens just ahead of the manual focus ring. However Nikon don't provide it as standard, which is a shame; I'd argue hoods should always be a standard accessory.
The zoom ring rotates 85 degrees clockwise from wide to telephoto, with markings at 18, 24, 35, 45 and 55mm. The grip is a 23mm wide, and the zoom action one of the best in its class, being smooth and precise. The front element extension is impressively solid, with no lateral play at all.
The manual focus ring is just 4mm wide, and rotates a mere 45 degrees anticlockwise from infinity to 0.28m. It also rotates on autofocusing, so care must be taken not to grip it during use, to avoid damaging the motor.

The focusing action isn't too bad, but the short throw makes precise manual focus difficult (especially noticeable at the 10x live view magnification we use for test charts). There's no distance scale either.
Two small and positive switches on the side of the lens barrel control the focusing and VR systems. However there's no distinction in shape or feel between the two.

Reported aperture vs focal length

Here we show the maximum and minimum apertures reported by the camera at the focal lengths marked on the lens barrel.

Focal length 18mm 24mm 35mm 45mm 55mm
Max aperture
Min aperture