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Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5?5.6G VR II Lens Review

Gary Wolstenholme reviews the new compact zoom lens from Nikon, the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5?5.6G VR II.

|  Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II in Interchangeable Lenses
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Handling and Features

Nikon Nikkor 18 55mm VR II Lens (1)

This new standard zoom lens, which has been introduced as a kit with the Nikon D3300 entry-level DSLR sports a compact, collapsible design, Vibration Reduction and silent focusing. On its own, it costs around £230, but most people who end up owning this lens will end up with it as part of a camera kit. In this review, we'll take a look at how it performs.


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Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II Handling and Features

Nikon Nikkor 18 55mm VR II Lens (7)

Collapsible lenses seem to be all the rage at the moment, and the design of this Nikon lens does shave valuable inches off the overall length of the lens when collapsed. A button on the zoom ring releases the lens along with rotating the zoom ring and the process is reversed to fold it back in. Build quality is typical of Nikon kit lenses bundled with their entry level cameras, with high quality plastics being used for all of the construction, including the lens bayonet. The light weight of 195g and compact size make this lens the perfect companion for compact Nikon DSLR bodies, such as the D3300 used for testing.

Auto focus is powered by a silent wave motor, and auto focus speeds are adequate but certainly not lightening quick. Unlike more expensive AF-S lenses manual adjustments cannot be applied at any time via the focusing ring and autofocus needs to be disengaged via the switch on the side of the lens. The manual focus ring is flush to the part of the lens that extends when unfolded and is not damped at all. This can make applying manual focus adjustments trickier than with a smoother, better damped system.

Nikon Nikkor 18 55mm VR II Lens (8)

Closest focus distance is 28cm with AF, and the lens can be focused three centimetres closer in manual focus mode. The 52mm filter thread does not rotate, which should make this lens ideal for use with graduated filters and polarisers.

Nikon's Vibration Reduction II system promises to allow hand-held shots to be taken at shutter speeds slower than would be possible without the technology. So long as the system is given time to kick in properly and images are shot with care, hand held shots at 1/10sec are quite possible at 55mm, which is around three stops slower than the usual rule of thumb would advise.

Nikon Nikkor 18 55mm VR II Lens (5)





Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II Performance

At maximum aperture and 18mm, sharpness falls just short of excellent levels in the centre and is good towards the edges of the frame. Stopping down improves performance across the frame, with peak sharpness being achieved at f/5.6. Here clarity is outstanding in the centre and excellent towards the edges of the frame.

Zooming to 35mm results in a reduction of performance at maximum aperture. Here sharpness is very good in the centre, but can only be considered fair towards the edges of the picture area. Stopped down to f/8, performance at this focal length is much improved. Here sharpness is outstanding across the frame.

Finally, at 55mm sharpness across the frame evens out and it is very good across the frame at maximum aperture. Stopping down to between f/8 and f/11 results in the best performance. Here sharpness is excellent across the frame.






How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D3300 using Imatest.

Levels of chromatic aberrations are well controlled for much of the zoom range, only reaching levels that may cause issues when stopped down beyond f/11 at 18mm. Here fringing exceeds 1.5 pixel widths towards the edges of the frame, which may become visible in harsh crops, or in large reproductions of images.






How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D3300 using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is quite typical for a lens of this range and maximum aperture. At 18mm the corners are 1.7 stops darker than the image centre at maximum aperture. At 55mm the corners are only 0.625 stops darker than the image centre. Visually uniform illumination is achieved with the lens stopped down to f/8 or beyond throughout the zoom range.

Distortion is also quite typical for a lens of this type with 3.98% barrel distortion present at 18mm, which gives way to 0.427% pincushion distortion at 55mm. If straight lines are paramount, you'll be glad to hear that the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, which should make applying corrections in image editing software relatively straightforward.

This lens is quite resistant to flare, and contrast holds up well when shooting into the light. This is a good job, as no hood comes as standard with the lens.

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II Sample Photos


Value For Money

With a pre-order price of around £230, I can't see many people rushing in their deposits, simply because this lens doesn't offer much over a standard kit lens, other than its compact, collapsible design.

Those shopping for a replacement kit lens will do well to pick up one of the previous lenses, while they are still available. At the moment there are several retailers offering them at under £100.


Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II Verdict

As far as kit lenses go, this is one of the better ones. It is more than capable of delivering sharp images, and the compact, lightweight design will make it a perfect travel companion.

There probably isn't enough difference in this lens to tempt existing Nikon 18-55mm lens owners to upgrade, however, that doesn’t mean it is a bad lens at all. Those who do acquire it as part of a kit should be more than happy with its performance.



Nikon DX NIKKOR 18-55mm G VR II Pros

Excellent sharpness for much of the zoom range
Silent focusing
Collapsible design
Good value as part of a camera kit


Nikon DX NIKKOR 18-55mm G VR II Cons

Not the fastest to achieve focus
Performance towards the edges of the frame at 35mm could be better
Seems expensive when not bought as part of a kit



Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Nikon AF
  • Nikon AF-S DX G
Focal Length18mm - 55mm
Angle of View28.5° - 76°
Max Aperturef/3.5 - f/5.6
Min Aperturef/22 - f/36
Filter Size52mm
StabilisedNo Data
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo Data
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus25cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

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StrayCat 17 19.1k 3 Canada
6 Jan 2015 7:14AM

Quote:Seems expensive when not bought as part of a kit

I just bought one brand new for $95.00 US Dollars, and free shipping. Couldn't resist.Tongue

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