Nikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor

 
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10-20mm $297
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Nikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Review -- Now Shooting!

Updates
07/18/2017: Field Test & Gallery Images added

 

Nikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR AF-P Field Test

Nikon's new $300 ultra-wide zoom impresses for the price

by Jeremy Gray | Posted 07/18/2017

Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
20mm (30mm equiv.), f/8.0, 1/500s, ISO 720.
Click for full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
Introduction

The new Nikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX lens joins the Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED DX AF-S lens in the company's ultra-wide angle zoom lineup for DX (APS-C) DSLRs. While the new 10-20mm zoom doesn't have as bright an aperture range, nor does it offer the same zoom versatility, it also costs nearly $600 less and includes Nikon's new AF-P autofocus technology, which promises quick and quiet AF operation. For just over $300, you may not expect much by way of optical performance, but don't let its price fool you, the Nikon 10-20mm VR lens proved to be impressive in the real world. Let's take a closer look...

Key Features and Specs
  • Ultra-wide-angle DX (APS-C) zoom lens
  • 15-30mm equivalent focal length range
  • 3.5 stops of Vibration Reduction (VR) performance
  • Uses Pulse Motor technology for quick, quiet autofocus performance
  • 14 elements in 11 groups, including 3 aspherical elements
  • 0.8 feet (0.22 meters) close focus distance
  • 8.2 ounces (230 grams)
  • 72mm filter thread
  • Costs just under US$310
Build Quality and Handling

Construction and Feel

Weighing in at 8.2 ounces (230 grams), the new Nikon 10-20mm AF-P lens is quite lightweight. It is 2.8 inches (73 millimeters) long with a maximum diameter of 3 inches (77 millimeters) with a 72mm filter thread. The lens does change its length slightly as you work through the zoom range, but the difference between its shortest and longest length is small, about half an inch (10 millimeters). In case you're wondering how the 10-20mm lens compares in weight to its faster, more versatile sibling the 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5, the new 10-20mm lens weighs exactly half that of the 2.4x zoom.

Nikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review -- Product Image

The 10-20mm lens is well-balanced and feels well-constructed given its price point. It is not a weather-sealed lens nor is there a rubber gasket around the lens mount, but it still feels solid and should stand up well to most typical shooting conditions. It is constructed using plastic, which helps keep the weight down, but that does mean it's not as robust as more expensive, heavier-duty Nikon lenses.

Nikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review -- Product Image

At the end of the day, many shooters would opt for a lighter, less costly lens than one with weather-sealing and a heavier, more rugged construction, so I think that Nikon made some good decisions with the design of the new 10-20mm lens.

Rings and Switches

The Nikon 10-20mm VR AF-P lens has no switches on the barrel itself, which affects compatibility with some Nikon cameras. More on that later. The zoom ring is a little over an inch wide (about 30 millimeters) with much of it being covered with a textured rubber grip.

Nikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review -- Product Image

The zoom ring rotates nicely and has painted on markings at 10, 12, 14, 16 and 20 millimeters. It takes minimal rotation to go from 10 to 20mm, which I like, as it means it's easy to go from the widest to the longest focal length quickly and without repositioning my fingers on the lens. I don't like the focus ring as much as it is very narrow, less than a quarter of an inch (about 6 millimeters), and doesn't have a lot to grip aside from ridges on the plastic. There also isn't any focus scale, which while disappointing, is pretty standard for a lens at this price point.

Overall

Overall, the build quality of the Nikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX lens is good for the money. The focus ring is an area of weakness and for $310, it's unreasonable to expect rugged, weather-sealed construction. The Thailand-made lens is lightweight, and the zoom ring feels nice, so those two important boxes are checked.

Optical Quality

Optical Construction

The Nikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G lens has 14 elements in 11 groups, including 3 aspherical elements. This is the same number of aspherical and total elements as the 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G lens, but the more expensive optic includes a pair of ED elements. With that said, the 10-20mm does include Super Integrated Coating, to help reduce interior reflections and improve color reproduction.

Sharpness: Nikon 10-20mm AF-P DX lens struggles at its extremes

The Nikon 10-20mm lens is quite sharp in the center of the frame across the entire focal length range, but at the wide end and when shooting wide open in particular, the performance drops off quickly as you move away from the center.

Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Sharpness Test Image
10mm (15mm equiv.), f/4.5, 1/500s, ISO 100.
Click for original image. Click here for the RAW file.

Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Sharpness Test Image
10mm (15mm equiv.), f/4.5, 1/500s, ISO 100.
100% crop from the center of an unedited JPEG. Click for original image. Click here for the RAW file.

Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Sharpness Test Image
10mm (15mm equiv.), f/4.5, 1/500s, ISO 100.
100% crop from a bit above the center of an unedited JPEG. Click for original image. Click here for the RAW file.

Stopping the lens down does help dramatically, although performance at the very edge will never be great at 10mm. On the other hand, at 15mm, performance is impressive even when shooting wide open across much of the frame.

Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Sharpness Test Image
15mm (22.5mm equiv.), f/5.0, 1/320s, ISO 100.
Click for original image. Click here for the RAW file.

Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Sharpness Test Image
15mm (22.5mm equiv.), f/5.0, 1/320s, ISO 100.
100% crop from the center of an unedited JPEG. Click for original image. Click here for the RAW file.

Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Sharpness Test Image
15mm (22.5mm equiv.), f/5.0, 1/320s, ISO 100.
100% crop from the top left corner of an unedited JPEG. Click for original image. Click here for the RAW file.

At 20mm, performance worsens again - the extreme ends of the lens have issues - because the entire frame takes on a somewhat soft, blurry look. It isn't bad, it's just softer than at 15mm. On the plus side, performance is more consistent across the frame at 20mm than at 10mm.

Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Sharpness Test Image
20mm (35mm equiv.), f/5.0, 1/250s, ISO 100.
Click for original image. Click here for the RAW file.

Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Sharpness Test Image
20mm (35mm equiv.), f/5.0, 1/250s, ISO 100.
100% crop from the center of an unedited JPEG. Click for original image. Click here for the RAW file.

Overall, the lens is not very sharp at 10mm or 20mm but it performs very well at 15mm. In any case, the lens is still quite impressive considering its price.

Vignetting

At 10mm, there is considerable corner darkening (vignette), especially when shooting wide open, and the falloff persists throughout the entire aperture range. By the time you get to f/11, you're beginning to have to deal with diffraction, and the drop in vignette is so minimal that I don't think it's worth worrying about in any event. Plus, it's not hard to correct for in post-processing. At 15mm, the situation improves and at 20mm, it's even better. At both 15mm and 20mm, you can get rid of most of the vignette by stopping down.

Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Falloff Test Image
10mm (15mm equiv.), f/4.5, 1/640s, ISO 100, +1 EV exposure compensation.
Vignette test image. Resized JPEG image. Click for original image. Click here for the RAW file.

Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Falloff Test Image
15mm (22.5mm equiv.), f/5.0, 1/500s, ISO 100, +1 EV exposure compensation.
Vignette test image. Resized JPEG image. Click for original image. Click here for the RAW file.

Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Falloff Test Image
20mm (30mm equiv.), f/5.6, 1/800s, ISO 100, +1 EV exposure compensation.
Vignette test image. Resized JPEG image. I am unsure why the camera metered 20mm test images differently. This happened on a few occasions during general testing with this lens. Click for original image. Click here for the RAW file.

Aberration and flare: A lot of chromatic aberration near the edges

Chromatic aberration is a problem for the Nikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR AF-P lens, particularly when shooting wide open at 10mm. As you work your way toward the edges of the frame, and I don't mean very far from the center, CA is quite noticeable when viewing uncorrected files. The camera (a D500, in this case) does correct it a little with the in-camera processing, but not by much. The situation is a little better at 15mm but it gets poorer again at 20mm, particularly with respective to purple fringing around high contrast details.

Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Chromatic Aberration Test Image
10mm (15mm equiv.), f/4.5, 1/500s, ISO 100.
100% crop from the left edge of a RAW image processed with Adobe Camera Raw default settings. Click for the original JPEG image. Click here for the RAW file.

However, flare is handled very well by the 10-20mm lens. I struggled to introduce lens flare in most situations, which is great for such a wide lens. Overall, the chromatic aberration prevention leaves quite a bit to be desired, but the handling of flare is impressive and I think that generally, it's a good lens. When you make a lens this compact and affordable, there will be some compromises to be made optically.

Distortion: A moderate amount at 10mm, improves as you zoom in

It is unreasonable to expect a 10-20mm (15-30mm equivalent) zoom lens to perform with zero distortion, particularly at the wide end, but the distortion isn't bad in real-world shooting. At 10mm, there is a fair bit of barrel distortion, as you can see in the imperfect testing shot below. It's not a lab situation, but it illustrates distortion. By 15mm, the situation improves and is better at 20mm.

Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Distortion Test Image
10mm (15mm equiv.), f/4.5, 1/15s, ISO 250, +0.67 EV exposure compensation.
Distortion test image. Resized JPEG image. Click for original image. Click here for the RAW file.

Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Distortion Test Image
15mm (22.5mm equiv.), f/5.0, 1/25s, ISO 720, +1 EV exposure compensation.
Distortion test image. Resized JPEG image. Click for original image. Click here for the RAW file.

Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Distortion Test Image
20mm (30mm equiv.), f/5.6, 1/30s, ISO 1800, +1 EV exposure compensation.
Distortion test image. Resized JPEG image. Click for original image. Click here for the RAW file.

In the Field: Nikon 10-20mm performs well in real-world shooting


Nikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Video Sample
3840 x 2160, 30 frames per second (fps)
Download Original (210MB .MP4 File)

Autofocus: Fast and quiet

One of the big new features of the 10-20mm DX lens is its AF-P autofocus system. The internal focus lens has Nikon's new Pulse Motor (AF-P) system, which relies on stepping motors. The stepping motors provide smoother and quieter autofocus than previous drive system, and the quieter focus in particular makes the 10-20mm lens a good option for recording video. In real world use, the autofocus proved very quiet and quick, so the promise of the AF-P system is certainly realized with the 10-20mm (as it has been with other AF-P lenses I've used).

On the other hand, the AF-P system and the lack of Manual Focus/Autofocus toggle and VR switches on the lens barrel means that the new 10-20mm DX lens is not fully compatible with all Nikon DX DSLR cameras. The lens is fully compatible with the following cameras: Nikon D7500, D5600, D5500, D3400 and D500 (and any newer cameras). With a firmware update, D5300 and D3300 cameras are also fully compatible. Somewhat recent cameras which are incompatible include the Nikon D7000, D5100, D90 and D3200. Cameras older than these models are also, understandably, incompatible. For example, on the D800E (ignoring the cropped image circle), the Nikon 10-20mm will not focus at all, both manually or with AF. It is worth nothing that with the AF-P 10-20mm lens, there is full-time manual focus override, so there is not much need for an autofocus mode switch on the lens.

Close Focus: Not a macro lens, but it's still best to take an extra step back

The Nikon AF-P 10-20mm lens is certainly not a macro lens, but it is still capable of taking fairly close shots. Its close focus distance is 0.8 feet (0.22 meters), and it offers a maximum magnification of 0.17x (1:5.9), which is decent for a wide-angle lens. Tamron's latest 10-24mm lens offers very similar specs with regards to close focus, for example. One aspect of the lens worth pointing out that it is noticeably softer at 20mm when focusing very closely than when shooting at 10mm, as you can see in the pair of test shots below.

Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Close Focus Test Image
10mm (20mm equiv.), f/4.5, 1/20s, ISO 100.
Close focus test image. Resized JPEG image. Click for original image. Click here for the RAW file.

Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Close Focus Test Image
20mm (30mm equiv.), f/5.6, 1/30s, ISO 280.
Close focus test image. Resized JPEG image. Click for original image. Click here for the RAW file.

There is also a quite a bit of falloff in sharpness when shooting at the close focus distance, as you can see in the two shots below. Notice, in particular, when shooting at 20mm the loss in detail, and that there is considerably more fringing than in the 10mm shot. Does shooting at 15mm, for example, help solve the issue and offer something of a balance between the 10 and 20mm shots? Yes, the performance is improved at the close focus distance when shooting at 15mm, but it still shows more fringing than the 10mm shot.

Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Close Focus Test Image
20mm (30mm equiv.), f/5.6, 1/640s, ISO 100.
Close focus test image. 100% center crop from JPEG image. Click for full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

If you want the best optical performance, stepping back even a foot or two beyond the close focus distance helps considerably. Not only are issues with fringing basically eliminated when you aren't near or at the close focus distance, the consistency of image quality across the frame is much better.

Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Close Focus Test Image
20mm (30mm equiv.), f/5.6, 1/800s, ISO 100.
Close focus test image. Slightly further away than minimum focus distance. 100% center crop from JPEG image. Click for full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Image Stabilization: VR works well

The AF-P 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR lens has Vibration Reduction, as is evidenced by its very name. The VR is rated to offer 3.5 stops of image stabilization. I was able to capture some sharp images at shutter speeds as low as 1/5s and 1/6s at 10mm and 20mm, respectively. That's pretty good, although in most cases I'd want to shoot at 1/15s and 1/20s, respectively, because my rate of sharp shots was essentially 100% at those shutter speeds.

Real-world shooting

The Nikon 10-20mm lens performed well in real-world shooting situations. It's not a highly versatile lens given that its zoom is only 2x (in contrast to the 2.4x zoom offered by Nikon's 10-24mm lens) but it delivers consistently good performance, so long as I was not shooting a very close-up subject.

Armed with AF-P autofocus tech, the 10-20mm lens is very quiet and lightweight, which are two aspects I liked a lot. While I am not a big video shooter, the AF-P is very well-suited for recording video. Any Nikon shooters who need an ultra-wide DX lens for video should definitely consider the new AF-P 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G lens.

I've selected a few of my favorite images I captured with the Nikon 10-20mm lens to help illustrate what it can do.

Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
12mm (18mm equiv.), f/5.6, 1/400s, ISO 400.
This image has been modified. Click for original image. Click here for the RAW file.
 
Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
20mm (30mm equiv.), f/7.1, 1/640s, ISO 640.
This image has been modified. Click for original image. Click here for the RAW file.
 
Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
10mm (15mm equiv.), f/7.1, 0.8s, ISO 250.
This image has been modified. Click for original image. Click here for the RAW file.
 
Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
10mm (15mm equiv.), f/4.5, 1/1000s, ISO 100.
Click for full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
 
Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
20mm (30mm equiv.), f/8.0, 1/30s, ISO 1000.
Click for full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
Field Test Summary

Ultra-wide zoom at an ultra-affordable price

What I like:

  • Lightweight and compact
  • Good optical performance
  • AF-P autofocus is quick and essentially silent
  • Built-in VR works well
  • A great value at just over $300

What I dislike:

  • Not a very fast lens in terms of maximum aperture
  • I'm not sure it would stand up to harsh shooting conditions
  • Sharpness performance drops at close-focus
  • Some compatibility issues due to AF-P, but for newer cameras, it is all set

When you're talking about a roughly $300 lens, it can be easy to be too harsh a critic. After all, gear should be evaluated within a context. Looking at just optics, the Nikon 10-20mm is an impressive lens whose image quality far surpasses its price point. Add in the excellent AF-P autofocus system, and this is a slam dunk ultra wide-angle zoom lens for crop-sensor DSLRs. For stills and video alike, the 10-20mm lens is a great addition to any beginner's bag and is worth a look for those considering the much more expensive Nikon 10-24mm lens, which, while offering a bit more zoom and faster apertures, is hard-pressed to top the new 10-20mm lens in terms of bang-for-your-buck.

Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
10mm (15mm equiv.), f/7.1, 1/800s, ISO 400.
This image has been modified. Click for original image. Click here for the RAW file.

• • •

 

Nikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Review -- Overview

(From Nikon lens literature) The AF-P DX NIKKOR 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR -- Ultra-Wide Zoom Lens That's Compact and Portable.

The new NIKKOR 10-20mm is an ultra-wide-angle DX-format zoom lens that opens new perspectives and possibilities for those new to photography, and is ideal for shooting travel and scenery, real estate, large group portraits or vlogging. This new lens combines superior image quality and an attainable price to give consumers wide-angle versatility with a lens that's remarkably compact and lightweight.

Like all NIKKOR lenses, the new AF-P DX NIKKOR 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR provides advanced optical technologies for stellar image quality in any light, whether shooting a sun-drenched coastal vista, tight spaces or the night sky. The lens features the equivalent of 3.5 stops* of Vibration Reduction (VR) performance, to help capture sharp images while handheld or in challenging light. Additionally, it utilizes Nikon's Pulse Motor technology for super-fast and whisper quiet AF operation -- which is especially useful when recording video. The optical formula contains three aspherical elements for excellent image quality with minimal distortion even at the widest focal length.

This is a versatile lens that not only excels at shooting expansive horizons, but also offers a remarkably close working distance that's useful for images or showing up-close details when making product-related videos or how-to content. To get closer to capture small objects with big details, the lens has a close minimum focusing distance of only 8.6 inches (0.22 meters), bringing small objects to life in glorious size.

The AF-P DX NIKKOR 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR will be available in late June for a suggested retail price (SRP) of US$309.95.

* Based on CIPA Standard. This value is achieved when DX-format compatible lenses are attached to a DX-format digital SLR camera and zoom lenses are set at the maximum telephoto position.

Nikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor User Reviews

9.0/10 average of 1 reviews Build Quality 9.0/10 Image Quality 10.0/10
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (24 reviews)
    Very sharp across the frame; useful specialized focal length range; lightweight
    None, except typical plastic construction.

    After a two day rental, I sent it back and decided to buy one. It arrived today, two days later.

    With the rented lens I took dozens of sets of six images each...10, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 20mm...from fixed positions to see which focal lengths render the best composition. With good subjects to begin with...our local mountain canyons, over a mountain lake, at a nearby Spanish mission, gnarly tree branches and roots, and indoors...most of the best are at 10 to 14mm, optimizing, to my taste, at 12mm. The important thing is that this lens does well throughout its focal range, whatever your taste. It's easier to get good final images at the longer end of the focal length range, although more dramatic ones at the shorter end.

    Autofocus is very fast and accurate, but not quite as fast as with the other two AF-P DX lenses I have, although it's faster than any of my AF-S lenses. Yes, you have to have one of the most recent Nikon cameras. But all of these AF-P lenses, including this one, work perfectly with my D7200s. I haven tried it on my D3300 backup camera yet, but I'm sure it'll work fine, just as the other two do.

    With the latest firmware update, shooting .NEF 14-bit lossless compressed, all barrel distortion seems to be automatically removed with Distortion Control ON. At least I can't see any in the converted .JPGs even at 10mm, where you'd expect to see a lot of it. I didn't try turning DC OFF, but who cares? Nikon's latest version of VX-i can read and process DC ON images from a D7200. That's what counts to me.

    As with all of Nikon's latest lenses. VR works so well that I'm able to take perfectly sharp - yes, I looked very closely to nitpick them - hand-held indoor shots at ISO 800, 1/4 second, f/8. Of course, at ultra wide focal lengths it's easier to do that than with a longer lens. But it's nice to have really good VR anyway.

    Ultra wide is not the easiest type of photography to get right, with so many image elements, at different distances, to be reconciled by careful subject selection, camera setting, shooting and processing. Composition, and even the angle at which the camera is held, are critically important. It can easily look like there's poor resolution at the image edges. But careful composition will show that this is more likely technique, e.g., failure to note varying subject focal planes, than the lens.

    But with this lens at f/8, which is the aperture it's probably optimized for and what I usually shoot anyway, resolution is tack sharp in the center and, with careful composition, very good all the way to the edges, even at 10mm. So you have a flexible, efficient tool to work with.

    It probably can't be used as a general walkabout, because most subjects don't benefit from ultra wide. But I've already gotten some dramatic shots down long corridors and over a lake with reed foreground and mountain, forest and cloud backdrop. Such shots take a lot of processing to eliminate blown cloud highlights and too-deep shadows to "look right." Everyone who shoots ultra wide knows what i mean.

    I think that anyone who is familiar with ultra wide will love this lens, as will as those who are willing to climb the fairly steep learning curve to become proficient with it. This is not a lens for those who think they can just go click and produce an endless succession of Wow shots without working at it. Such results don't come easy. But this lens, with careful subject selection, camera setting and composition. and skillful processing, can produce results that are breathtaking.

    And, hey, the price is right. I'm a cheapskate, and I bought one.

    reviewed July 27th, 2017 (purchased for $307)