Nikon 18-105mm VR
Nikon 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 VR. Roll mouse over to zoom. enlarge. I'd order it at Adorama, Amazon or Ritz. It also comes as a kit with the D90. It helps me keep adding to this site when you get yours through these links, thanks! Ken.
NEW: Package Discounts March 2010
September 2008 More Nikon Reviews
Ideal Uses: General-purpose plastic zoom for use on DX digital cameras.
Not for: Film or FX cameras.
The plastic-mount 18-105mm VR is a decent enough general-purpose lens for people who are in the price range of the D90 with which it is kitted, but for $400 ($300 in a kit with the D90), I'd rather buy something else.
The photos are nice and sharp most of the time, but if you're looking closely, the 18-105mm is Nikon's fuzziest lens in the corners at 18mm. Even the $100 18-55mm is better.
For $400, you could buy either of the excellent 18-55mm kit lenses which are sharper at 18mm (VR or non-VR, your choice), and with the money left over, buy the professional 50mm f/1.4 AF-D or 50mm f/1.8 AF-D for use in low light, all for the same price or less than the 18-105mm.
The only DX midrange zoom I like less than this 18-105mm is the non-VR 18-135mm, which is also overpriced.
Everything works perfectly on every DX digital Nikon.
Forget it for film, because you'll get black corners, and it's silly to use it on an FX camera because you'll only be using the middle of your very expensive sensor.
See Nikon Lens Compatibility for details with your camera. Read down the "AF-S, AF-I," "G" and "VR" columns for this lens. You'll get the least of all the features displayed in all columns, since "G" (gelding) is a handicap which removes features.
2004: 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5, metal mount. It has no VR.
2005 November: 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR, metal mount.
2006: 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6, plastic mount. It needs VR but doesn't have it.
2008 January: 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 VR, metal mount.
2008 August: This 18-105mm VR, plastic mount, is announced.
All are still in production as of September 2008
Specifications with commentary top
Gobbledygook, Nikon 18-105mm DX VR.
Name: Nikon calls this the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR.
AF-S and SWM: Silent Wave (focus) Motor.
G: Gelded for cost-reduction and removing compatibility with older cameras.
ED: ED Glass.
IF: Internal Focusing. Nothing moves externally when it focuses.
VR: Vibration Reduction.
Focal Length: 18-105mm, which on a DX camera gives angles of view similar to what a 28-150mm lens gives when used on an FX or 35mm camera.
Close Focus: 1.5 feet (0.45m).
Maximum Reproduction Ratio: 1:5.
Hard Infinity Focus Stop? No.
Focus Scale: No.
Depth-of-Field Scale: No.
Infra-Red Focus Index: No.
Diaphragm: 7 rounded blades. Stops down to f/22 at 18mm and f/38 at 105mm.
Aperture Ring: No.
Tripod Collar: No.
Filter Thread: 67mm, plastic. Does not rotate.
Size: Nikon specifies 3.5" (89mm) extension from flange by 3.0" (76mm) diameter.
Weight: Nikon specifies 14.8 oz. (420g).
Hood: HB-32 plastic bayonet, included (at least in Japan).
Case: CL-1018 pouch, included.
Introduced: 27 August 2008, along with the D90.
Shipping Since: Mid-September, 2008 (USA).
Price (2008): $399, USA; 249€ Europe. ($300 as a kit with the D90).
Nikon 18-105 and plastic mount. enlarge
The 18-105 VR works as expected, but it's soft in the corners at 18mm if you're looking.
If you're a serious photographer who worries about corner sharpness for landscapes, pass on the 18-105mm. Most people would never notice.
Nikon 18 105 controls. enlarge.
AF isn't that fast. It's not a speed demon like the pro AF-S lenses.
Manual focus is easy: just grab the focus ring at any time. You don't need to take the A-M switch out of Auto.
The 18-105 has the usual complex barrel distortion at 18mm, and pincushion distortion throughout most of the rest of the range, of modern wide-ratio zooms.
Distortion at 18mm (DX camera).
Distortion at 50mm (DX camera).
This can be corrected for critical use by plugging these figures into Photoshop CS2's lens distortion filter. These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.
© 2008 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.
The ergonomics are great. Nothing gets in the way of great pictures.
Focus is easy to override, and the zoom range is well spread out.
Your hands will naturally fall on the zoom ring, and not easily hit the focus ring by accident as is a problem with the $1,600 24-70mm f/2.8.
Falloff on DX isn't a problem.
I've exaggerated this by shooting a gray field and placing these on a gray background.
I see no problems with vignetting with standard, or even thick filters. I wouldn't spend more mooney on thin-mount filters, unless you're going to stack them.
The filter ring does not rotate.
There are no lateral color fringes when shot on the D90, which would correct them if there were there.
Macro is fine, letting you fill the DX frame with objects as small as about 3 x 4.6" (8 x 12cm).
Barrel Exterior: Plastic.
Filter Threads: Plastic.
Hood: Plastic bayonet.
Focus Ring: Semi-rubbery, semi-hard plastic.
Zoom Ring: Plastic, rubber covered.
Depth-of-Field Scale: None.
Aperture Ring: None.
Identity Plate: Embossed and planed metal.
Weaknesses: Watch the plastic lens mount; avoid picking up a camera by grabbing the lens since it could break off!
With those caveats, the 18-105 is probably the softest DX lens I've used in the corners at 18mm.
Otherwise, it's sharp all over, so just don't look closely in the corners at 18mm and it looks great.
At 18mm: It's smeared in the corners wide-open, and doesn't get much better stopped down to reasonable apertures. My sample was worse on one side, but not by much.
At 24mm: It's a bit softer, but not smeared, in the far corners wide open. It gets better stopped down. My sample was a little softer on one side.
At 50mm: It's sharp all over at all apertures.
At 105mm: It's sharp all over at all apertures.
At small apertures like f/16 and smaller, diffraction limits performance.
VR (vibration reduction for hand-holding in the dark) is not very good. It only offers one or two stops of real improvement.
By "sharp shots" I mean perfect tripod-equivalent sharpness when viewed at 100%, as shot on a D90 by me. For most uses, one can use much slower speeds. See Why VR Matters for more.
Lowest speeds for perfectly sharp shots 50% of the time
"Real Stops" are how many extra stops I get over shooting without VR. "Marketing stops" is improvement over the old-wives' tale of 1/focal length as a lower speed limit.
Hint: VR improves your hit ratio. It doesn't guarantee that every shot will be sharp. I always shoot at least three-shot bursts at slow speeds so I can pick the sharp shot out of several when shooting handheld at really slow speeds.
Zooming is well spaced, with no part of the range being squashed too close together as many other lenses like the old 18-70mm do.
Nikon 18-105mm. enlarge.
I'd pass on this 18-105mm lens. It's too expensive for what you get. $400 for a plastic mount lens? Not from my wallet, but if you want a light, do-almost everything lens for a DX camera and don't mind the price, this could be your ticket.
I would forget the 18-135mm since it lacks VR.
Personally I love the more expensive 18-200mm VR because it does just about everything. For only about $250 more ($650 total), the 18-200mm VR could be the only lens you ever need.
I prefer both the 18-55mm and 18-55mm VR lenses, which are both sharper and a fraction of the price! I use them when I go on vacation and want light weight. In all honesty, I don't like long lenses. The best photos come from getting close enough, not from throwing more money into a longer lens to shoot from farther away. You can make great portraits with these 18-55 lenses, and geesh, how many head shots do you need anyway? I usually shoot my people pictures at shorter zoom settings than 55mm anyway.
If you insist on soft backgrounds for portraits, none of these zooms does a particularly spectacular job. If you're doing posed portraits, you could use an old manual focus 135mm f/2.8 (about $150 used) or 80-200mm f/2.8 ($900 new) for far better results. See Portrait Lenses for more ideas.
Don't forget the 50mm f/1.8 AF-D and 50mm f/1.4 AF-D, each pro lenses and each much less expensive than this zoom. Each will autofocus on every camera except the D40, D40x and D60, for which you would need the new 50mm AF-S instead.
If I was going to use this as part of a larger pro system, I'd attach a 67->77mm step-up-ring to convert this to today's pro standard of 77mm, and use a 77mm Nikon UV or Hoya UV filter for protection. This is what I really do; I just put on a step-up ring when I get a lens like this and treat it as if it's a 77mm filter thread len as long as I have it.
If you go the step-up route, don't forget a new Nikon 77mm cap.
More Information: Nikon, Japan.
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Thanks for reading!