Front-Ranger's reviews

  • Nikon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED DX AF-S Nikkor

    8 out of 10 points and recommended
    Impressive sharpness, good range, lightweight
    Distortion, lack of VR

    I purchased this lens in December of 2007 as part of a D300 bundle. Initially, I was torn between this and the 18-200 with VR. After studying the interactive blur-index charts here, I decided to go with this lens and have not regretted the decision. Reading subsequent reviews at this site and others, seems to bear out that the 18-200 is noticeably not as sharp as the 18-135, and softens a bit further at focal lengths above the reach of this lens. The 18-135's range satisfies about 95% of my needs and if I decide to add a longer telephoto, I would want to pair it with the 70-300 VRII, which seems similarly sharp and gives you much more range at a lower price versus the 18-200. I still miss the VR though and had I known that the 16-85 VRII was due out the following spring, I may have waited. Of course, now that the 18-105 VR has been released, there is another compelling option available.

    Initially I got what I thought were pretty sharp shots at the longer focal lengths handheld but the first time I used a tripod I was amazed at the improvement in clarity. Like any other lens, having a stable platform to work from really reveals what it is capable of. I immediately went out and bought a monopod for general outside use. The sharpness of this lens still continues to impress me. I shoot mainly static subjects outdoors so this lens has been ideal for me. For indoor shots of people, I rely on an SB-600 speedlight.

    For any given focal length, this lens offers a broad range of aperatures at which you will get very uniform sharpness across the frame. The only exception may be some slight corner softness wide open at 35mm and to a lesser extent at 135mm. Chromatic aberration has not been an issue for me since the D300 automatically processes that out. The one real fault that this lens has is distortion - if there are architectural details in your photos, it is very obvious. I downloaded a trial version of DxO Optics Pro lens-correction software and it did a wonderful job of eliminating the distortion and what shading that I could detect.

    The only issue that I have with the build quality is some slight instability at the end of the lens - there is a wee bit of a wobble there. I read some early reviews that complained of auto focus problems developing soon after purchase but I haven't experienced anything of that nature. I got my copy about a year and a half after the model was released and it has performed flawlessly over the past year's approximately 2,000 shots.

    If you don't mind having to fix the distortion when it is evident with corrective software, it's a darn good performer at an attractive price. If you want to shoot active subjects in lower light, you really need to save your money and go with a faster lens. All things considered, the sharpness will keep you smiling.... :)

    reviewed January 18th, 2009 (purchased for $300)
  • Nikon 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR DX AF-S Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Very sharp, good contrast, VR, solid construction, no creep, great price
    Plastic mount, would be nice to have a distance scale

    I originally purchased a D300 bundled with the 18-135 in December of 2007. While I got very good results with that lens, I sorely missed having vibration reduction. After waiting almost a year for something with VR in a similar range, the D90 was announced with this lens. I sold the 18-135 and picked up a copy of the 18-105 at a very attractive price.

    I have found this lens to be a step up in just about every catagory. While the 18-135 may have a tiny advantage in corner sharpness, I don't think any difference is readily apparent. If you can stop down a bit, the images become identical. Plus the VR more than makes up for any minuscule difference in sharpness. VR yields a tremendous improvement. I can now truly say that it is a joy to shoot handheld.

    According to the review, the 18-105 is much better than the 18-135 at reducing chromatic aberration. Since the D300 automatically process that out, I don't have a basis for comparison there.

    I have seen a noticable improvement in both shading and distortion over the 18-135. The distortion of the 18-105 is more subtle and wavy versus the pronounced pincushion distortion of the 18-135 at most of the higher focal lengths. I used to run shots with architectural details through PT Lens or DxO Optics but now I am content to leave them as shot for everday use.

    For the small tradeoff of 30mm of reduced reach versus the 18-135, this lens is a significant improvement. It's impressively sharp and well constructed for the price. Overall, I couldn't be happier............. :)

    reviewed November 26th, 2009 (purchased for $270)