sjkip's reviews

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

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Handy size and weight, good focal length range, sharp enough for normal use, good value.
    None of any significance

    I bought this lens as a walkabout companion for my 55-300. I have sharper...and heavier...lenses for better resolution at all ranges, but this one is nice for grab-and-go on my D7100 and D3300.

    First the pros. It's light and the focal range is handy, dovetailing perfectly with the 55-300. Resolution color rendition and dynamic range are quite good, and the latest-generation VR is very impressive. The price is right, particularly if you buy a refurbished one, as I did, and I like the collapsing button to carry it comfortably in my pocket. It's a better lens than I expected, and I'll use it more than I thought I would.

    The cons are mostly nitpicking. It's an entry level lens and can't be expected to perform at the level of my more expensive zooms. The difference is noticeable, but the results are plenty good enough for what it is. Focus is noticeably slow. But it does focus accurately, which is a lot more important.

    reviewed May 26th, 2016 (purchased for $100)
  • Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S Nikkor

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Excellent resolution, color rendition and image stabilization. Instant autofocus in most situations.
    A bit heavy. High price. Worthless tripod collar.

    I previously rented and tested Nikon's other enthusiast super-tele zoom, the 200-500, and you can see my review on this site. I was almost ready to buy one of those, but eventually decided to buy this one instead. For me, the 80-400 offers all the benefits of the 200-500, with less of the burdens.

    The 200-500 is long, heavy and poorly balanced. This one is much lighter, more compact and far better balanced. Image quality is identical, as are instant autofocus and superb, fast image stabilization. What I lose in the 400-500mm range, I more than make up for in the 80-200mm range. I.e., this is a much more versatile lens for me and others who only shoot birds and animals some of the time, but also want to shoot architectural detail and a lot of rock formations and other landscapes at varying distances.

    Also, the clumsy 200-500 begs for a tripod or at least a monopod. This one is comfortably hand-holdable. So it's a fundamental choice. If you want to shoot birds and other wildlife most of the time and are willing to use a tripod or at least a monopod, buy the 200-500. If you want to be able to reach way out there but want flexibility in focal length and don't want to use a tripod or monopod, buy this one, especially if you can find a good used one, as I did. After an extensive search, I paid, for an example with no discernible defects, almost exactly what a new 200-500 would have cost.

    The pros are the same with this one as with the 200-500 except that you lose the 400-500 range. But you gain in greater focal length flexibility and not having to use a tripod, even for keeper shots at slow shutter speeds. The 200-500 can do that, too, but your arm gets tired pretty quickly with that one. Not with this one. Image quality all the way out is just as good as with the 200-500 I tested. It's just 400mm versus 500mm.

    But there is a price to pay. The 80-400 does NOT work with Kenko teleconverters, even the otherwise great Teleplus Pro DGX 300 1.4x, which works fairly well with the 200-500 I rented and very well with every one of my own Nikon lenses...but not with this one. I don't know why this lens is designed not to mount on the Kenko TC, but it doesn't.

    So if using a TC on a super zoom is an important priority, you have two choices: buy the Nikon 1.4x TC, as I did, which works just fine on this 80-400, or buy a Nikon 200-500mm lens. If you do use the Nikon TC with this lens, you'll discover that you have to close down the aperture to f/8 (i.e., net f/11) for best results. This isn't the TC; it's the lens itself, which is optimized for f/8...i.e., f/11 with the TC. No problem with autofocus, because the focusing sensor "sees" f/8, so my D7200 AF is fine with that.

    Here's another con, perhaps minor: The 80-400 is a complex lens, and there's a definite learning curve involved. It's not the five switches; just set them and forget them. Mostly it's how to hold the lens, set exposure - I do everything stick-shift, including spot focus - frame the image and shoot smoothly. It took me awhile to master it. Unless you have plenty of experience with super zooms, it's going to take practice and persistence to find your comfort zone with this lens. Focus is super critical, especially at 400mm, due to total lack of depth of field, even at f/8.

    The other two cons are:

    1. the poorly designed tripod collar. I don't use a tripod, but it doesn't even serve as a secure carrying handle, as the one that comes with the 200-500. I initially packed it away, as most people probably do, but then did find one use for it: If securely mounted on the lens, upside down, it does allow me to pick up my D7200 with lens attached, with one hand, without fear of dropping it all. Following someone else's suggestion, I now turn it at a right angle to the line of sight, to place a finger or two under it while I press the shutter release, to counterbalance the movement from my "trigger finger." That does steady it.

    2. the price. It's a very complex and, therefore, expensive lens. Being made in Japan instead of China, as the 200-500 is, undoubtedly adds even more to the cost of production. I would never have considered buying one at even a refurbish price, which is far higher than a new 200-500. But as I say, I found this one - a USA model 80-400 AF-S G - at the same price as a new 200-500. So I grabbed it.

    Another "semi-con" is that the lens has to be autofocus fine-tuned to insure precise focus, which is critical with this lens (and probably also the 200-500) at its maximum focal length. This is because of diminishing depth of field, which shrinks with increasing focal length. But AF fine-tuning is not as hard as "experts" say it is. I did it by shooting a Venetian blind cord 25 feet away and comparing image resolution with different settings. Shooting a slanted ruler works very well, too. I'm now amazed at the difference with AF fine-tune on and off.

    I've now tested it on three DSLRs, a D7100 DX and D610 FX, both of which I've sold, and now my two D7200s. It works superbly on all three cameras. I like that no-AA look of D7100/D7200 images, so I prefer the images I can capture with my present D7200s a bit more than I did with the D610. Also, with the D7200 in 1.3x crop mode, I get very sharp images at net 533mm (800mm FX equivalent), and in crop mode with my Nikon 1.4x teleconverter, the images are almost as sharp at net 728mm (1092mm FX equivalent). Autofocus capture on my D610 was just a bit slower with the TC and the 80-400 at 400mm. But it all works perfectly on my D7200, if DX is your preference, as it is mine. Oddly, with the D7200, this lens at 400 doesn't seem to require AF fine tuning with the TC, but benefits from -5 offset without it.

    Yet the bottom line is still as simple as this: What do you want to do with a super-tele? Do you really need a super-tele? Can you live with virtually no depth of field, which results in varying levels of focus across the image, even of a distant peak, when the lens is cranked out to 400mm? And would you be bothered by the various effects of even minor atmospheric dust, haze and/or glare?

    These basic consideration will decide it, and the rest will just fall in place.

    reviewed May 6th, 2016 (purchased for $1,380)
  • Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED DX VR II AF-S Nikkor

    8 out of 10 points and recommended
    Cheap, fast autofocus, excellent VR, very sharp, small and handy when collapsed.
    Hard to hold steady because it's so light; not terribly sharp at 200mm

    I used to have the earlier 55-200 VR lens, but gave it to my granddaughter, because it was so light that even with VR it was hard for me to hold steady enough for good images. This one turned up at a good price, so I decided to buy one to use with my little D3300 as a knockabout companion to the 18-55.

    My first task was to compare it with my 55-300 VR. So I took identical shots on the D3300 and D7100, at 55mm, 100mm and 200mm, with and without a Kenko 1.4x DGX TC. If there's a resolution difference in any identical pair, between the 55-200 VR II and 55-300 VR, can't readily see it. I'd say that resolution on both cameras at all overlapping focal lengths, with and without TC, is virtually identical.

    The good news is that this lens has much faster autofocus than the 55-300, and somewhat better VR. I don't know where all of these "4+ stop" figures come from. But both lenses have good VR, and the 55-200 VR II is a little better. From a seated position, indoors, I was able to get keepers at 1/5 and 1/3 second. They aren't astonishing crisp, but they're completely acceptable, and that's a slow hold.

    More good news relates to use of the lens with the Kenko 1.4x TC. It works great. In fact, I'd say that this lens, at 200mm + Kenko TC, i.e., net 280mm, is sharper than the 55-300 at 280. But then the resolution of the 55-300 drops off fairly rapidly above about 200mm. I don't use it above about 210.

    Another nice feature is that the lens collapses. This means that I can walk around with the D3300 and this one or the 18-55 on the camera, with the other in my pocket.

    The bad news is that this lens is so light, especially on the little D3300, that it's hard to hold steady, especially in a breeze. Good VR can only go so far if the camera/lens combination is being blown around. So I wouldn't use it in anything like a gusty wind, especially out at 200mm....with a TC.

    Because it's an inexpensive made-in-China lens, the mount is plastic. That might bother some people. But in 48 years of taking pictures, I've never broken a lens mount. But I guess it happens.

    All in all, for the price it's really hard to beat. I'm glad I have it and plan to use it a lot with my D3300.

    reviewed September 15th, 2016 (purchased for $147)
  • Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR DX AF-S Nikkor

    8 out of 10 points and recommended
    Lightweight, useful focal length range, good resolution, inexpensive
    Resolution drops off fairly rapidly above 200mm

    I bought this as an inexpensive backup for my 70-300, and was surprised at how close its performance is to the bigger lens. I will now use it almost exclusively with my D7100 and move the 70-300 to my D610 bag.

    My first comparison, of course, was with the 70-300. I took dozens of pairs of shots of a distant mountain on a clear day to see where this lens begins to lose resolution relative to the 70-300. At 200mm it's very difficult to see any difference. At 250 the 70-300 is only slightly sharper. At 300, there is a difference, but not really very much.

    This lens works perfectly on the D7100 in ordinary mode, crop mode, with a Kenko 1.4x teleconverter and even with the TC in crop mode. The only problem encountered as I reached those extreme focal lengths was holding the camera steady enough to avoid slight shake, which is easy to mistake for lack of resolution. I think most of the lack of sharpness at very large net focal lengths is movement, possibly mirror slap, rather than any great deficiency in the lens' optics. The 70-300 does somewhat better at these long focal lengths in this respect, simply because it's a heavier lens and, thus, steadier to hold.

    I also tried the lens on my D610 in DX mode. It works perfectly with and without the 1.4x Kenko TC, which also autofocuses perfectly, as it does on the D7100. That surprised me. I knew it would autofocus on the D7100 with the TC, but didn't expect almost identical results with the D610 in DX mode. This suggests, to me, that the lens produces images with excellent contrast across the frame.

    My 2.0x Kenko TC works on both cameras, but it doesn't autofocus, and holding steady enough to get really sharp images at these very long net focal lengths is difficult. I don't use a tripod, but that might help here. As usual with that particular TC, there is definite image degradation over the sharp 1.4x TC

    Autofocus is a bit slow, as it is with a lot of these "older" lenses, like the 70-300 and even the 18-140. So it's probably not the best tool for rapidly moving wildlife and sports shots, as the reviewers point out. But it does work well enough for almost all static subjects, except that it searches for focus at long distance subjects if there is any haze in the air. It does eventually find focus, especially if I help by manually focusing and then letting autofocus do the rest.

    Manual focus works better than the reviewers seem to indicate. Yes, I have to switch from AF to M. But once it's switched in, the narrow focus ring is smooth enough to obtain focus that is very nearly as good as when I use autofocus on the same subject. But, again as the reviewers point out, this is an autofocus lens, with manual only really useful to use initially to help find autofocus at long distances.

    My next series of tests involved driving to and wandering around a local Spanish mission. These tests, with my D7100, were not comparisons, per se. But I have taken so many earlier shots at the same locations with several lenses that I tend to remember the earlier results. My principal purpose, though, was not comparison but just to see what the lens does with a variety of subjects and its full range of focal lengths, with and without the Kenko 1.4x TC and in or out of crop mode.

    Again, I was surprised at how well it does. The images were almost all keepers: good resolution, contrast and color rendition. The only problem, here, is the limited utility at the low end. Since the range begins at 55mm, it's of course impossible to get anything like a wide angle view. So for walkabout, it would be necessary to carry another lens to cover that lower range, which I do anyway.

    In general, I'm completely happy with this lens. It does what it's supposed to do, and does it well. Color rendition and contrast are excellent, and resolution is also very good up to about 200mm and not bad above that. I'm able to hold it steady even at large focal lengths, but frankly the 70-300 is easier there.

    I have now taken many more pictures with this lens on my D7100, specifically looking for difficult subjects and conditions. In most cases, it has been pretty good to about 200 or 210mm, with or without a Kenko 1.4x TC, in or out of crop mode. So up to roughly 400mm DX net it's fine for "normal" subjects.

    But there are two problems using this lens at long focal lengths First, as I said before, it's very hard to hold steadily enough to entirely avoid camera motion without a tripod, which I don't use. But also autofocus with this lens, even at somewhat lower focal lengths, is not perfect on my D7100, except with high-contrast subjects. In hazy situations, I can sometimes manually focus it slightly better than to let the camera spot autofocus, e.g., shooting through mountain haze at long distances, or on other low-contrast subjects, like a band of all-black howler monkeys we ran into in Panama, last month.

    Still and all, though, it's a very useful, low-cost lens...if you patiently tap the shutter button for the best autofocus and hold it very steadily when taking the shot. From about 70 to 140mm, with or without the TC, in or out of crop mode, it's great. I'll get a lot of use from it.

    reviewed February 28th, 2016 (purchased for $210)
  • Nikon 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR DX AF-S Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Instant autofocus and aperture setting for crisp, quick shooting, f/3.8 is useful.
    Overpriced, bad flare toward the sun, resolution softer at 80mm.

    My recommendation is with a caveat. Please read further.

    I compared this lens to my workhorse 18-140 on my D7100 to see if it's worth considering by someone, like me, who is happy with what he has. After shooting hundreds of identical images, I find that the two are essentially interchangeable, with the 16-80 perhaps incrementally better in certain ways. I certainly would not "upgrade" my 18-140 to this lens, as they are so similar in qualities that count, and the price of the 16-80 is still stuck at that introductory gotta-have-it level. Maybe in a year or two, when my 18-140 gets tired after several more thousand pictures and the price of a refurbished 16-80 drops to the "magic" $600 to $700 range, I might consider buying one.

    Here are the specifics of my comparison between the 18-140 and 16-80 with identically shot and cropped images.

    First, the mechanical aspects:

    The 16-80 has the 16-18mm range, which I don't care about, but others might. On the other hand, the 18-140 does have the 80-140 range, which I do care about and others might also. But I have a superb 70-300 VR lens for that "missing range."

    The 16-80 weight is so close to that of the 18-140 that I quickly didn't notice any difference during shooting. But it's shorter and fatter, which means that it fills my "non-clicking" hand better and makes the camera-lens combination feel more solid.

    Because of the latter, it takes odd-sized 72mm filters, which I happen to have, but most people would have to buy.

    The 16-80 has fancy gold rings, which make it look expensive. Some people might care about that, but I certainly don't.

    The focal length ring works more smoothly on the 16-80, but maybe that's because it's new and my 18-140 is a bit tired. But maybe smooth operation is endemic to Nikon's newest lenses.

    Now for the shooting and image comparisons:

    Flare when the camera is pointed near the sun is much worse in the 16-80. In those situations, a hood would be obligatory.

    Resolution at 80mm is softer with the 16-80, but not much, and that's to be expected when one compares the full extension of that zoom with the middling 80mm position of the 18-140. But there's really not much difference, and it's easily ignored.

    Resolution at all other focal lengths is virtually identical, as is contrast. I.e., the MTF charts are essentially correct. I might have seen slightly better contrast with the 16-80, but if it's there, it doesn't amount to much.

    Autofocus, with the 16-80, is amazingly fast, as, probably also, is aperture setting within the diaphragm. Shooting is very crisp and smooth, probably for those reasons. In those respects, the 18-140 is pretty good, but the 16-80 is clearly better.

    Both lenses work well with extension tubes for macro, and autofocus with extension tubes appears to work equally well, except that the 16-80, at 50mm and less so at 80mm, seems to search for focus. The 18-140 finds extension tube focus faster.

    Chromatic aberration seems pretty close. I'd like to say I saw a slight improvement in the 16-80, but that could very easily be my imagination. Anyhow, CA is seldom a problem with wide angle to midrange zooms, and I'm not bothered by it at those focal lengths.

    I only use spot focus, so I didn't test any of the Nikon focus modes with these lenses. Spot focus is very good with both of them, although, as I say, it's faster with the 16-80.

    I didn't compare the lenses with filters, but assume they're the same in all respects.

    At 50mm, maximum aperture with the 16-80 is f/3.8, whereas it's f/4.8 with the 18-140. That, of course, facilitates shooting in dim light. But it's less than a one stop difference, and I have a D610 with higher usable ISO for such situations. So it doesn't make much difference to me. But for one-camera DX people, that seemingly small aperture difference could be very helpful.

    I saw no difference between the two in respect to VR performance. They're both advertised as 4-stop improvement, and whatever it might really be, they held equally steady at slow exposure speeds.

    I didn't test for distortion, as the camera removes most of it automatically, and the rest is easy to remove post-processing. I'm quite sure Nikon will soon release a firmware update to cover its new group of lenses, including the 16-80.

    Vignetting at 18mm is equally faint, hardly noticeable.

    Here's the bottom line: If you have a good Nikon DX camera, like a D7100 or D7200, or perhaps a D7000, and you are looking for a very good wide-angle-to-mid-range zoom, and can afford the stiff price of the 16-80 or can wait until it drops out of the stratosphere, I'd recommend it. But if you want to save some serious money, the 18-140 offers much better bang for the buck. I have no present plan to buy a 16-80, but if my 18-140 falls off a cliff...which is not beyond the realm of possibility, in the kind of shooting I do...and I can find a refurbished 16-80 in the $600-$700 range, yes, I'd buy one. I can always use my excellent 70-300 VR for that 80-140 range the 16-80 lacks.

    reviewed August 22nd, 2015
  • Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR AF-S Nikkor

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Extremely sharp; remarkable VR; excellent contrast and color rendition; reasonable price
    Heavy; long; clumsy

    I would highly recommend this lens to anyone who does what it's designed to do: wildlife photography, distant landscape and architectural detail. It's not too hard to carry, even with the neck strap, although some kind of sling would help. But hand-holding while shooting is tiring because it's so heavy and clumsy. I suppose one can get used to that.

    Zooming is very smooth, but a bit awkward, because it takes a lot of turning to zoom out and in. So I'm not sure it would be the best lens for flying birds or even some sporting events.

    The VR is so good that camera shake is minimal to absent, even in low light. From a seated position, I was able to shoot knick-knacks in my den at speeds of 1/10 second down to 1/3 second! The resulting images surprised me by their sharpness.

    Outdoors, the problem is the lens's length. It's a long, heavy cantilever. So even a fairly light breeze affects it, held out there scanning for pictures. In windy conditions, I found it particularly hard to hold, and image quality suffered.

    So carrying this lens is not the primary problem; one can get used to the weight and odd balance even on a relatively small DSLR, like my Nikon D7100 and D610, with which I tested it. But hand-holding for extended periods, especially in wind or even a fairly light breeze, is tiring.

    I don't use a tripod, but it shouldn't be necessary with this lens, as the VR is so effective. Image capture...autofocus and aperture setting...is instantaneous, as in most of this year's iteration of Nikon lenses. Because of this, I didn't have to hold it out there for long before shooting. That definitely helps.

    The tripod collar got in the way, so I quickly removed it. I'm quite sure someone will offer a collar with a semi-vertical pistol grip. That would be handy, as perhaps the cradle device that birders use with heavy binoculars and long lenses like this.

    I tested it shooting ordinary things, not test screens: Birds, distant mountains, flowers, etc. It does well on all of these subjects, except flying birds. Zooming is awkward, because of the low "gear ratio." So one would have to spot a bird, set the focal length and stick with that while following the subject.

    Out of curiosity, I tried it with the Kenko 1.4x teleconverter. I have the DGX model, which works superbly on my Nikon 70-300 and D7100: quick autofocus and negligible image softening. With the TC on this 200-500 lens autofocus is not as quick or as precise, on the D7100, and focus is not captured at all on the D610. But the latter, at least, was to be expected. There seems to be an incompatibility between the Kenko TC and this lens, however. I wouldn't recommend the combination.

    I tried using extension tubes, to see if the minimal focal distance could be reduced for extra magnification on closer subjects. Yes, they work, but it takes a lot of them, pushing the whole rig even farther out, to achieve any meaningful result. In other words, this lens is what it is, and is so good within the range of usage for which it was designed that there's no point in pushing it.

    When shooting distant mountains it appears, at first, that contrast at 500mm is sacrificed. But that's because one is shooting through atmospheric haze even on a clear day. With closer subjects, contrast is excellent. So it's just atmospheric effects, which I easily removed in post-processing.

    This lens is even sharper than the 70-300, something I noticed at all subject distances. Anyone with a 70-300, which is already a very sharp lens, will be amazed at the difference.

    I noticed no difference in any important effects...image capture, contrast, sharpness, etc...at any of the focal lengths in its range. I didn't shoot on targets, so I can't comment on distortion, but edges of buildings, stop signs, etc. seemed not to be distorted. Anyhow, distortion is easy to remove, PP.

    The lens definitely produces less chromatic aberration than the 70-300 at longer focal lengths. That I noticed many times.

    Frankly, when I rented this lens, I had no intention to buy it; I just wanted to fool around with it to see what it can do. I must say that I was so impressed that I almost changed my mind and bought it from the rental company, even though I don't often shoot the kinds of subjects it was designed for. It's so much fun to play with that I might yet buy one, as the price is very reasonable, considering what you get. Later, maybe.

    But for someone who shoots a lot of wildlife or architectural detail, who can securely pack it with other camera equipment, I recommend this lens without reservation. It's a great tool! Its sharpness, excellent contrast and color rendition, all the way out to 500mm, plus its remarkable VR...especially at such a reasonable price...is really amazing.

    I would even recommend it to someone who might only use it on a single African or Indian wildlife park tour. It would be worth the modest extra investment to get breathtaking shots.

    reviewed December 6th, 2015
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.8G AF-S Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Extremely sharp, lightweight, nicely priced.
    Not terribly sharp wide open; no VR

    I rented this lens to see if I should buy one for use on my D610 in museums. I don't take portraits or indoor action, nor do I shoot mid-range landscapes unless I'm using a zoom like my 24-85 VR or 70-300 VR. But for the advertised uses, I can only agree with everyone else that it would be the one to buy.

    For museums, however, it's not all that great. The 85mm focal length means I had to move way back from the subject, always watching for people behind me. The results were good, though not better than from my from 24-85. Uniformly, both lenses wide open gave similar resolution at 85mm.

    After shooting 70 pairs of museum pictures, I ran comparison tests on my breakfast table. As I closed down the aperture, I obtained the sharpness everyone else talks about. But without VR, it wouldn't be practical to hand-hold shots with the D610 and this lens in low light, stopped down even to f/4 or so.

    Of course, you can do it. But pushing even the D610 above about ISO 1600 is going to introduce noise. I prefer ISO 1000.

    During my kitchen tests, I observed that my 50mm f/1.8D sharpens up at the same apertures that this one requires. Since the 50 fits conveniently in my pocket, and the 24-85 delivers excellent museum pictures at ISO 1000, I decided not to buy this lens, because I know I wouldn't use it much.

    So while I highly recommend the lens for those who apply it to the purposes for which it was designed...portraits, indoor action and mid-range telephoto...it adds nothing to what most FX shooters probably already have in their bag...or should have.

    reviewed April 21st, 2015
  • Nikon 24mm f/2.8D AF Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Handy size, relatively inexpensive, sharp enough for most real-world usage
    Not terribly sharp wide open; soft edges

    I bought this lens for architectural interiors with my Nikon D610. For such uses, it'll be fine. I can set the ISO high enough that even at f/5.6 or f/8, which is what I would likely use, the exposure would be fast enough for fairly easy hand-hold. So lack of VR won't matter. Since I very seldom shoot outdoor, low light wide angle, the soft edges won't matter, either. I agree with those who say that the lens is not super sharp at less than f/4, especially at the edges, but even wide open, it's adequately sharp, just not as sharp as when it's stopped down to f/4 or, better, f/5.6. For what I paid, I'll get my money's worth with interior shots of ceilings and domes, and along corridors.

    reviewed February 16th, 2015 (purchased for $205)
  • Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR DX AF-S Nikkor

    7 out of 10 points and not recommended
    Impressive focal length range; handy size; saves having to change lenses in the field
    Vignetting at 18mm; not super sharp; focus breathing at 300mm with close subjects; significantly overpriced

    I've now taken hundreds of shots with my Nikon D7100 to compare the A. 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G DX with B. 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G DX and C. 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G FX, chosen best of three in all categories and carefully compared them.

    Here's what I've observed:

    1. There's bothersome vignetting at 18mm with A, notably more than with B.

    2. Focus breathing with A is unacceptable at 300mm from closest focus to about 10 feet; it drops off quickly after that, as well as with lower focal lengths.

    3. At all focal lengths, subjects at 100 feet to several miles away, A and C are identically sharp. If there's any difference at all, I couldn't see it.

    4. Ditto, last in respect to contrast. C is supposed to lose contrast at 300mm. But if it does, so does A. I see no difference. They're both good at 300.

    5. B is much sharper than A with close subjects, i.e., about 6 feet away, at each focal length; with more distant subjects, they're more similar, but B is still sharper.

    6. C auto-focuses more reliably than A at 300m with a Kenko 1.4x teleconverter. It's a matter of f/9 v. f/8; that small aperture difference seems to matter.

    7. Distortion is bad with A at all focal lengths, except from around 24 - 35mm (35 - 50mm FX equivalent). The D7100 in-camera distortion control works pretty well with RAW images from A, but not as well as with B. With A at 18mm, DC isn't very good, so residual barrel distortion needs post-processing.

    Conclusions:

    A. Nikon has tried to do what probably can't be done with today's technology: Produce a lens that is very sharp from 18-300mm with easily controllable distortion.

    B. A seems to be an upgrade of the 18-105 f/3.5-5.6G DX, which is inferior to B. I have owned them both and got rid of the 18-105.

    C. I would only recommend A to someone who doesn't have other Nikon lenses and wants to cover the 18-300mm range with one lens. It's perhaps okay for that. If someone is willing to use B and C, they can be picked up at virtually the same total price, and offer more utility and flexibility. I would not buy it.

    D. Overall, I would rate A at 7.0 on a scale of 10; not even 8, as I think it's drastically over-priced. A USA model, new, should sell in the $600-650 range.

    E. At 300mm the lens zooms out so far that I'd worry about damaging it with even a slight tap against something out there.

    F. Finally, I rented A hoping to like it and eventually to buy one. I now have no intention to buy one, even when they become much cheaper, which they will when the news spreads.

    reviewed March 5th, 2015
  • Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR AF-S Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Handy size and focal length range; not too expensive
    Much sharper on DX camera than FX.

    Based on limited careful experimentation, thus far, on my Nikon D610, this lens has been a real disappointment. My old-fashioned 28-105D is far sharper on this camera and even provides not-bad macro without an extension tube, which is required with the 24-85 to focus close enough for any kind of macro work. The 24-85 has VR, but with a relatively noise-free ISO range up to about 2500 on the D610, that doesn't make much difference. If I knew what I know now, I wouldn't have bought it.

    I've now been able to test this lens extensively in the field, mostly in museums in Berlin and Moscow. I've modified my initial impression somewhat. It's actually a pretty good lens for museum shots with my D610. It could be sharper, but I'm generally happy with the hundreds of museum images I've now taken.

    It still doesn't seem to be very good for outdoor shots. I can't explain it, but resolution seems not as good with shots at normal landscape ranges as indoors closer to the subject. I find that my 18-140 DX lens does a better job outdoors, with the D610 in DX mode, than the 24-85. I'll keep the lens, but will only use it for museum and other indoor photography.

    I sold the D610 and the 24-85 lens awhile back, now. I didn't like the image quality on that camera. Then I read that on a DX camera, it's much sharper. So I bought another one and tested it on one of my D7200s. I was surprised at how sharp it is on that camera at f/5.6, probably more so even than my 18-140 at f/8. So I recommend this lens more for a good DX format camera than for a relatively inexpensive FX model. I'll use it as a travel walkabout with my other D7200.

    reviewed December 29th, 2014 (purchased for $267)
  • Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor

    8 out of 10 points and recommended
    Low price, useful focal length, large aperture
    Soft at f/1.8

    This is not a notably sharp lens, compared to other Nikon primes. It's usable, at f/1.8, but only produces fully acceptable images when stopped down to f/2.8 or f/4. But it's so inexpensive that everyone with a Nikon DSLR should probably have one, and in very low light situations, like dimly lit museums, it generates acceptable images where other Nikon primes might be unusable.

    reviewed January 17th, 2014 (purchased for $125)
  • Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR DX AF-S Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Fairly small and handy, super sharp
    Somewhat limited focal length range

    Despite the limited focal length range, this lens is a versatile one for general purposes outdoors or even in museums with fairly poor light. The latter is because the VR works well enough that one can shoot through a small aperture for depth of field, and still be able to hand hold at ISO 1000 or less. All you need in a kit is this one, a good macro and a longer zoom, like the 70-300 VR.

    reviewed October 5th, 2013 (purchased for $600)
  • Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR AF-S Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Good long zoom range and plenty sharp for most purposes.
    Fairly long, so hand holding must be steady in wind. 250-300mm is notably less sharp.

    This is probably all most people need for birds, game and distant scenery. I have used it with the surprisingly distortion-free Kenco 1.4x teleconverter, giving me an effective focal length of 420mm with 630mm FX equivalent when used with my DX cameras. With a very steady hold, even out at 300mm, and even with the Kenco teleconverter, the results are completely satisfactory, although focus is a bit slow with that setup as AF must search at f/8. But this will allow you to capture images that seem almost impossible to get. The trick is very steady hold and shutter release squeeze.

    reviewed October 5th, 2013 (purchased for $560)
  • Nikon 60mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Micro Nikkor

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Shockingly sharp and distortion/CA free. Can be used with FX or DX
    None.

    This is the only macro anyone probably needs, whether with FX or DX. You can get in close for bug's eye views and use it handily for ordinary scenery and flower shots. Despite what some reviewers say, you can get plenty of light on the subject even close in.

    reviewed October 5th, 2013 (purchased for $600)
  • Nikon 40mm f/2.8G DX AF-S Micro Nikkor

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Small, lightweight, inexpensive and astonishingly sharp
    Fairly light construction, which is as much a pro as a con.

    I think this one is sharper on my DX cameras than even the 60mm micro. Also, with the shorter focal length, depth of field increases over the 60 for "in your face" closeups. Between this one and the 60 it's a hard choice. But for bang for buck value, in the DX format, I'd choose this one. And once again, if you look at the direction of impinging light, you can shoot very close to the subject without hiding it in the lens's shadow.

    reviewed October 5th, 2013 (purchased for $276)
  • Nikon 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5D AF Nikkor

    8 out of 10 points and recommended
    Good focal length range, very sharp, usable macro.
    Heavy, no VR, macro is a bit difficult to switch into.

    Hardly a state of the art lens. But they're so cheap for what you get it's hard not to get your money's worth out of it. The focal length range is adequate for most purposes, and the macro is almost a true macro, plenty good enough for most purposes. The heft of the lens compensates a bit for the lack of VR, but VR would be nicer. Nevertheless, it's a good, handy package for a walkabout. I've thought of unloading it many times, but I still have it and intend to keep it. That says something.

    reviewed October 5th, 2013 (purchased for $250)
  • Nikon 35-70mm f/2.8D AF Nikkor

    8 out of 10 points and recommended
    Very sharp, solid construction
    Flare is a problem; fogging is significant in some examples, but is easy to remove.

    Despite a fairly limited focal length range and old-fashioned push-pull focal length selection, this is a very useful lens. The biggest problem is flare. But the long hood that you can buy cheaply, or just hand shading the lens when shooting toward the sun, pretty much removes that problem. Fogging is common in this lens, for some reason. But professionals can easily remove it, leaving you with a good, sharp mid-range lens. Many zooms contain this range. But for those who concentrate around the mid-range (for FX) and mid-range to mild zoom (for DX), it's a handy piece of equipment. It's very sharp at all focal lengths.

    reviewed October 5th, 2013 (purchased for $350)
  • Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED VR DX AF-S Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Cheap, sharp, good contrast and color balance, useful mid-zoom focal range, lightweight
    Flimsy construction, somewhat hard to hold steady full out because it's so light

    This lens is a real bargain. It's as sharp as lenses several times as expensive and is so lightweight that it's easy to carry all day on a small camera like a Nikon D90. The results are much better than expected: sharp, good contrast, fairly quick focus even full out. Because of its light weight, it's a bit hard to hold steady enough for the sharpest results it's capable of. But with a steady position and careful squeezing of the shutter release the results are worth the effort. It might have to be babied a bit because of its light construction. But if you break it, buy another one. They're cheap.

    reviewed October 19th, 2013 (purchased for $126)
  • Nikon 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED DX VR AF-S Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Excellent focal length range, super sharp, little or no CA or distortion in normal use.
    Just a bit heavy. Also the focus and focal length collars turn somewhat tightly.

    I think this one is even better than the superb 16-85 DX, with which I've taken thousands of pictures. On my cameras, a D7000 and a D90, the 18-140 will now be my workhorse walkabout lens. I've only taken a few dozen pictures with it so far, but I'm amazed at its sharpness and lack of CA. Because of fairly close-in focus, it's almost like a macro, especially if you crop the image severely, which is possible because of the lens's sharpness. I highly recommend this lens to anyone who is interested in real photography, as opposed to shooting pictures of test screens and brick walls. Out in the field it's great.

    I have now taken thousands of pictures with this lens, all over the world. It's the most useful workhorse lens I have ever used on my D7100. I am so confident of its performance that I almost never take a second "just to be sure" shot of subjects I don't want to miss. It has held up very well, so I'm increasing the build quality rating to 9.

    I have even bought a second, refurbished 18-140, so I can also carry one in my D610 bag to use with that camera in DX mode. It works well that way, and usually produces sharper images outdoors than the 24-85 on that camera. Of course, with the lower pixel count cropping of DX mode images is not as flexible. It does work very well, though, as all my DX lenses do on the D610 in DX mode.

    Resolution of the 18-140 at 140 is still a slight problem. It's just not as sharp all the way out. But now I use my newly acquired 55-300 DX lens in the 70-200 range, which yields better resolution at 140.

    reviewed October 5th, 2013 (purchased for $460)
  • Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED DX VR AF-P Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Very sharp, instant AF, amazing VR, priced right.
    Entry level construction and handling, some flare.

    I rented this only to see if it's time to retire my good, old 70-300 VR FX. Summary: Yes, I'm switching.

    I compared the two lenses on my D7200, taking hundreds of identical pictures and then placing best-of-three in each group side by side. These shots, all hand-held at f/8, varied from 1/3 second, ISO 800 indoors to bright sun outdoors. In every case, the DX lens outshone the older one.

    For sharp images at 300mm with excellent color rendition and contrast, and great VR for relatively slow exposures in low light, there's no comparison. I no longer have an FX format camera. With VR like this, who needs it? I can shoot with this lens at relatively low ISO to eliminate any FX noise advantage.

    Because I was only seeing if I wanted to buy one of these lenses, I probably didn't take all the types of pictures I might eventually take with it, and I don't pretend to have conducted a "scientific" test. I leave the latter to the experts. But it didn't take long for me to ship my FX out for sale and buy one of these new ones. I know I didn't make a mistake, and the forthcoming reviews will confirm that.

    This lens did something that's new to me: .NEF files (which is all I ever shoot) wouldn't open in Nikon View NX2, and generated an error message in NX-i, if they originated in my D7100 with Auto Distortion Control set to ON. But the D7200, with the same firmware download, produced .NEF that were fully functional in NX-i with ADC ON. Apparently, the current D7100/7200 firmware includes ADC data for this lens, but it doesn't input such data on the D7100. The solution for images from the D7100 for NX2 or NX-i, is to set Auto Distortion Control to OFF. That makes D7100 .NEF files using this lens fully compatible with NX2 or NX-i.

    Apparently, a firmware patch or new firmware is needed for ADC data on this lens for the D7100.

    No, this lens is no substitute for my 80-400 G, which lives in my D7200 kit. But for all around longer tele use it's going to be very useful as a sidekick for my 18-140s.

    It works well with my Kenko Teleplus Pro DGX 1.4x teleconverter, on my D7100 and D7200, which focus with it behind this lens all the way down to net f/9 (f/6.3 x 1.4), which surprised me. Yes, the contrast has to be good, and in some cases where was a bit of searching. But it did focus even in low light for good 1/4 second exposures, and very easily for normal outdoor shots. I think this small aperture focus is because the lens is so sharp. The resolution with this lens and TC is as good as I've ever gotten with a teleconverter, except with the 80-400 G and Nikon TC.

    I also took about 100 shots comparing this lens with my 55-300, which I'll move to my D7200 kit for 100-210mm shots, with the new lens carried in my D7100 kit for 100-300. At 300mm, images from this lens are much sharper than the 55-300's. But up to about 200mm their image quality is pretty close.

    I don't care that I can't turn off VR, because I never use a tripod, nor do I care that there are no switches on this lens, as manual focus override is so simple.

    I don't like the "greasy" feel of the focal length and manual focus override ring turning. But most recent entry level lenses have that, and I'm getting used to the others I have. At least turning the rings is very smooth. Also the light weight of the lens, compared with the earlier FX version, takes some getting used to, especially in breezes. But I think I can handle that. It is a plasticky lens. So...I'll be careful.

    I recently noticed that if shooting with this lens toward the sun, or even with the sun alongside the subject in dusty areas, the images suffer a bit from something like flare. The "glow" is actually there if you look at the subject without the camera, but the lens doesn't seem to do anything about it. I don't know if a CPF (which I don't have for this lens diameter) or any other lens by itself would eliminate such "dust flare" entirely. Anyhow, I'm now more careful where I point the lens.

    I now have two of these lenses, one to use with my D7100 and the other to use with my D7200. They're identical optically, but zooming on the more recent one is firmer up to about 100mm and then eases up toward 300mm. No problem with that, but it again shows that these really are entry level lenses.

    The bottom line is that this certainly isn't a pro lens, and even if Nikon had added a metal mount and increased the price it still wouldn't be a pro lens. But for a guy who's been shooting Nikon SLRs for going on 50 years, it definitely confirms that Nikon is still in the front rank of lens optics technology.

    reviewed February 11th, 2017 (purchased for $219)
  • Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G DX VR AF-P Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Lightweight, instant AF, excellent resolution and VR, close minimum focal distance, great value
    Entry level construction.

    I bought a grey market copy of this lens as a companion to the grey market 70-300 AF-P I bought recently and reviewed at this site. I wanted it as a handy walkabout for my D7100 with the bigger lens for longer range. Yes, it will serve that use well.

    The obvious comparison was with my 18-55 AF-S VRII, which I have also reviewed at this site. Optically, this one is as sharp as the AF-S. I see no real difference. The big difference is in autofocus (much faster, just as fast as D-lens screw-activated AF) and in VR (striking improvement with indoor images at 1/4 second). Contrast and color resolution are the same in both lenses, i.e., very good.

    Minimum focal distance is a bit less than with the older lens. So it's almost a macro lens. It becomes full macro with a 12mm extension tube. But like the older lens, this one won't autofocus with the tube. Unlike the older lens, however, manual override is right there with no switch to fool around with. So for real macro, you have the choice of switching to manual focus on the camera, or using the lens (with its automatic AF) and then turning the manual focus override on the lens when you want to zero in. Like most people, I think, I prefer manual focus for macro shots anyway.

    With that simple expedient, it's in the same league as my 40mm macro. What little...very little...this lens might give up in resolution, is counterbalanced by excellent VR, which the 40 lacks.

    So this lens is a winner as an all-purpose normal zoom...outdoors (scenery, flowers, etc.) and indoors (museums, etc.)...because of its great resolution, surprisingly good VR and close minimum focus.

    Even if it doesn't come in a kit with the camera of choice, it's a good buy as a standalone. There's such a spread between Nikon USA and grey market price that I chose grey market as a real bargain.

    Make sure your camera is compatible with this lens. On my D7200 there's no problem, but with my D7100, I have to set Auto Distortion Control to OFF. I'm sure Nikon will issue a firmware upgrade.

    reviewed February 23rd, 2017 (purchased for $99)
  • Nikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    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)