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Nikon 18-55mm VR
© 2012 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specs   Performance   Recommendations

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Nikon 18-55 VR

Nikon 18-55mm VR (52mm filters, 9.3 oz/263g, about $180). enlarge. If you find this review helpful, getting yours from any of these links to Adorama, Amazon or B&H Photo Video helps me keep adding more to this site. Thanks! Ken.


June 2012, October 2011, April 2008      Nikon Reviews   Nikon Lenses   All Reviews

NEW: 18-55mm VR II.

Nikon D3200 Sample Image

French 75 Bistro. 18-55mm VR at 18mm, f/16 at 1/40, Nikon D3200 at ISO 100. Original full-resolution file.


Introduction       top  

Intro   Specs   Performance   Recommendations

This $180 Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens is a winner. It works perfectly. There isn't much it can't do well. For under $200, this could be the only lens you'd ever need. In some very subtle ways its optics can outperform the more expensive 16-85mm VR and 18-200mm VR lenses.

This 18-55mm VR focuses closer than either of the more expensive lenses, weighs less, is smaller and has less distortion at the long end. So there.

The 18-55mm VR has superb optics in a plastic mount for light weight and low cost. What you lose for paying less than one-third the price is durability, instant manual-focus override and zoom range.

Its diaphragm works perfectly on my D3 at 11 frames per second.

Guess what? If you destroy this 18-55 VR after the five-year USA warranty expires, buy a another new one and you're out a total of not much more than half the price of the 18-200 VR or 16-85 VR. It's not likely to break with normal use: I've made 10,000 shots or more with my non-VR 18-55mm pictured below.

The worst thing is you might break the mount and drop an expensive heavy camera like the D2Xs if you pick them up by grabbing the lens. (no problems with lightweight cameras.)

The 18-55mm VR feels perfectly matched to the weightless D40, D40x, D60 or D80. It doesn't feel bad on my D3, either. It's light but solid. The zoom ring is damped perfectly.

This 18-55mm VR is the same as the ridiculously good 18-55mm II kit lens, with the addition of Vibration Reduction (VR). I'm addicted to VR, since with VR I can shoot without a tripod even in the dimmest light. VR helps make remarkably sharper photos when hand-held between 1/4 and 1/30 second.

This VR version is a tiny bit bigger than the non-VR 18-55mm II, and weighs two more ounces (60g). This 18-55mm VR is still featherweight and tiny.


18-55mm noon-VR and VR

Nikon 18-55mm AF-S II and this Nikon 18-55mm VR.



This is a DX lens, which means it works perfectly on every DX digital camera from the D40 through the D300, and from the D100 and D1 through the D3.

It will work great on the D3, but it seems a bit wasteful of most of the D3's large sensor.

On film, it will give black corners at focal lengths shorter than 24mm, but almost works OK at 24mm and longer on film as does the original 18-55mm II. If you're a hacker like me and want to use this on older film cameras, see more at Nikon Lens Compatibility. This is an AF-S, a G and a VR lens.


Nikon 18-55mm VR

Nikon 18-55mm VR.


Specifications       top  

Intro   Specs   Performance   Recommendations

Nikon 18-55mm VR

Nikon 18-55mm VR: no shortage of reading material!



B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

Ritz Camera

I personally suggest Adorama, Amazon, Ritz, B&H, Calumet and J&R. I can't vouch for ads below.


Nikon calls this the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR.

    AF-S: Quiet focusing with a silent wave motor (SWM).

    DX: Only works on digital cameras, usually gives black corners on film.

    G: No aperture ring. Only works on cameras newer than about 1992.

    VR: Vibration reduction, rated for three stops improvement.

Oddly, no mention of magic ED glass, but Nikon still rates the sharpness as the same to slightly better than the 18-55mm II ED.

All this and more explained in greater depth on my Nikon Lens Technology page.


Focal Length


Used on a DX camera it gives the same angle-of-view as a 28-85mm lens gives on a 35mm film or FX digital camera.

See also Crop Factor.


Maximum Aperture

f/3.5 - 5.6.



11 elements in 8 groups, including one hybrid aspherical element. A hybrid aspherical element is a glass element to which a thin aspheric plastic film is glued. This lets this $200 lens perform like a $2,000 lens. Nikon has been doing this for a decade, and their other lenses that use this technology are wonderful.



7 blade rounded.

Stops down to f/22-36.


Close Focus

0.9 feet (0.28m) from the image plane (the back of the camera). This is only inches away from the front of the lens!


Maximum Reproduction Ratio



Filter Threads

52mm, plastic.

Rotates with focus and extends with zooming.


Focus Distance Scale



Depth of Field Scale



Infrared Focus Index



Aperture Ring




2.9" diameter x 3.1 " extension from flange (73 x 79.5mm).

(The non-VR 18-55mm is rated at 2.7 x 2.9" (70.5 x 74.0mm).)



9.280 oz. (263.1g), measured.

Nikon specifies 9.3oz. (265g).

Measured with two real samples, this VR version actually weighs 2.105 oz. (59.7g) more than my 18-55mm AF-S II.



HB-45, included in Japan, but not in the USA.



CL-0815 pouch, included in Japan, but not in the USA.




f/5.6 is too slow. see Teleconverters.


Nikon Product Number

2176, in catalog as of spring 2008.



20 November 2007.


Available Since

December 2007.


  Nikon 18-55mm VR

Nikon 18-55mm VR box.


Performance       top  

Intro   Specs   Performance   Recommendations

AF   Distortion   Falloff   Flare   Color Fringes     Macro    

Mechanics    Maximum Aperture    Sharpness    VR    Zooming


Autofocus     back to Performance    back to top

Nikon 18-55mm VR.

Nikon 18-55mm VR focus and VR controls.

AF Speed

AF speed is passable. It's not very fast, but I've never needed it to be faster for photographing friends and family.

I can't detect any difference between this 18-55mm VR lens and my 18-55mm AF-S II.


AF Accuracy

AF always seems to be dead-on on my D200 and D300. No problems here.


Manual Focus

Manual focus is a kludge. You have to jam the A — M switch to M, and then try to twiddle the front of the lens. If manual focus is important to you, spend three times as much on the 18-200mm VR.


Distortion    back to Performance    back to top

Distortion is the same as the non-VR 18-55mm AF-S and 18-55mm AF-S II.

It has strong barrel distortion at the wide end, and no distortion in the middle and at the long end.

If you have Photoshop CS2, it is trivial to correct the distortion completely.

Plug these figures into Photoshop CS2's lens distortion filter to correct the distortion. These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.

DX at 50' (15m)

© 2008 KenRockwell.com


Falloff (darkened corners)    back to Performance    back to top

I've never seen any falloff with real pictures.

I've made it far more obvious by shooting a gray field and then placing these on the same gray background. This is on a DX camera.










Flare and Ghosts    back to Performance    back to top

Excellent. Modern lenses have pretty much eliminated this. I really have to go out of my way and risk blindness trying to excite this.

Here's a shot directly into the afternoon sun:


Normally exposed; complete image.

Below are images with two stops more exposure. I cropped to show just the bottom 2/3 of each. Each is made with the same manual exposure of 1/500 at f/11, ISO 200, at 18mm. All were run naked (no filters).

The cheapest and simplest 18-55mm AF-S II is the best. This VR version is almost as good. The more expensive 16-85mm and 18-200mm lenses are different: they have veiling flare as well as ghosts.

This will vary with focal length setting and position of the sun or other light sources.

Don't worry about this. I had to go out of my way to get any of these to flare.


Lateral Color Fringes (secondary lateral chromatic aberration)

back to Performance    back to top

It has only the very slightest green-magenta fringing in the corners at the wide end on a D200 or other older camera. It will be invisible in normal use and is better than the 18-200mm VR.

It has none on the newest D300, which corrects for this automatically.

It's the same as the 18-55mm non-VR. Both of these have so little to no corner color fringing that you have to shoot white lawn furniture to see it, and then only on an older camera at the 18mm end.


Macro    back to Performance    back to top

Nikon 18-55mm VR Macro

At closest focus distance at 55mm. (Nikon D3200 set to SMALL BASIC JPG (3,008 x 2,000 resolution), f/8 at 1/250 at ISO 100.)


Nikon 18-55mm VR Macro

Crop from above at 100%. (Nikon D3200, f/8 at 1/250 at ISO 100.)

It's the same as the 18-55mm AF-S II, which is excellent. I focuses as close as a few inches away from the lens and can fill the frame with something as small as 2 x 3" (50 x 77mm).

It is better than the more expensive 16-85mm and 18-200mm lenses.


Maximum Aperture    back to Performance    back to top

Zoom Setting
Maximum Aperture



Barrel, focus and zoom rings: Plastic.

Markings: Paint. ID plate seems like raised and planed metal.

Lens Mount: Plastic. Be careful!

Ass Gasket (rear dust barrier): No.

Made in: Thailand.

Serial Number: Sticker on bottom of barrel.

USA Version shown by: "US" prefix to serial number.


Sharpness    back to Performance    back to top

Just like the miraculous 18-55mm AF-S II, this little plastic lens is a miracle. It's sharp, sharp, sharp.

Doing direct same-camera, same-subject, same time comparisons, it's the same as the 16-85mm VR, 18-200mm VR and 18-55mm AF-S- II. I compared at at 18mm and 55mm, both wide open and stopped down.

I could go blind trying to see any real differences. Any apparent differences turn out to be variations in focus.

Lens sharpness used to matter with zooms in the 1960s, but today, all Nikon's lenses are sharper than most photographers ability to elicit sharpness from them.


Vibration Reduction at 55mm

back to Performance    back to top

VR really works. I get about two stops of improvement at 55mm compared to my non-VR 18-55mm.

This difference is real when shooting between 1/2 and 1/30 of a second. Between 1/4 and 1/15 second, the non-VR lens gives poor results hand-held at 55mm, while this VR lens delivers perfect tripod-equivalent sharpness most of the time.

By "sharp shots" I mean perfect tripod-equivalent sharpness when viewed at 100%, as shot on a D300 by me. For most uses, one can use much slower speeds. See Why VR Matters for more.

% Sharp Shots
18-55mm VR

18-55mm AF-S II (no VR)



Slowest speed for perfect sharpness 50% of the time  
18-55mm VR

18-55mm AF-S II (no VR)



18-55mm VR improvement over 18-55mm AF-S II with no VR: 2 stops.

Nikon says turn VR OFF on a tripod, but leave it ON on a monopod.


Zooming    back to Performance    back to top

Zooming feels great.

It's perfectly damped with no creep. It feels much better than a lens this cheap has any right to feel.

It's perfectly spaced. It's easier to set a precise composition with the 18-55 than with many of Nikon's fancier zooms.

The filter ring does not rotate as you zoom. It does move in and out, being the shortest at 30mm setting.


Nikon 18-55mm VR

Nikon 18-55mm VR. (note plastic mount)


Recommendations       top  

Intro   Specs   Performance   Recommendations

I'd get one! It's super-sharp, and can give images as good or better than the more expensive 16-85mm and 18-200mm lenses. You lose mechanical durability, not image quality, compared to the more expensive lenses.

I would buy a 52mm Hoya UV filter (a whopping $10 for an excellent filter) to keep on at all times for protection. It's easier to replace a filter than to replace a lens.

I'd get this over the 18-135mm lens any day, and the 18-135mm costs much more.


Do you need VR?

VR is critical for longer lenses, but not in the range of 18-55mm for most people.

Most people who buy this will never get any benefit from VR, however if you're reading this review, you probably are the sort of person who learns his camera and will.

In the range of 18-55mm, VR doesn't do anything unless you take the camera off its green AUTO setting or turn off the flash to get longer shutter speeds in dim light. If you always use a tripod you don't need VR. In these cases, forget this VR lens and get the otherwise identical non-VR 18-55mm to save money.

I live by VR because my best shots are hand-held in fading light. VR is a huge benefit when shooting hand-held at slow shutter speeds from about 1/4 to 1/30 of a second. If you like to shoot interiors and night without a tripod as I do, this lens is for you unless you already have the Nikon 18-200mm VR.

If you want the best possible low-light performance for even less money, consider instead the 50mm f/1.8 AF-D for a whopping $120. It's ten times as sensitive to light due to its f/1.8 versus f/5.6 aperture at 50mm. With the 50mm f/1.8 you'll be shooting at 1/60 of a second at f/1.8 instead of 1/6 of a second at f/5.6 with the 18-55mm VR lens. With the 50mm f/1.8 you'll stop action as well as hand jitter. VR only stops hand jitter. (The 50mm f/1.8 won't autofocus on the D40, D40x or D60 while this VR lens will.)


More Information

Nikon, Japan (in English).


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Thanks for reading!


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