8 out of 10 points and recommendedNice range, VR2 is nice, light weightMy copy doesn't focus quite right @ 18-24 mm at long distances, also has zoom creep
The positive:reviewed February 7th, 2006 (purchased for $685)
Good range in a lightweight and compact package. Also, VR2 rocks if you like to shoot a lot of handheld stuff. I can get away with 3-4 shutter speed stops slower just as advertised -- although only about 60% of my shots were keepers when shooting like this so my advise is take a few shots doing so.
There are some threads over at the dpreview.com forums (nikon slr section) comparing the quality, sharpness, etc. of this lens vs. the 18-70, and several others on a tripod. From that thread, the 18-200 was one of the sharpest at different focal lengths and apertures.
I'll spare you the comments about distortion @ 18 mm (all zooms have it), the light fall off/vignetting (more or less correctable while PPing yet still a bit annoying), and the others known issues talked about in other review. My biggest gripe about this lens is its inability to focus and produce a sharp image @ 18-24 mm.
I have tried 4 copies now and kept the best one (walking around with $2800 worth of lenses is kinda cool though). In a nutshell, when I focus on a distant object (infinity as per the AF), the image is just not sharp... this is particularly true at 18 mm, but I can do it at 50 as well -- in fact I have compared several shots @ 50 on this lens to more or less the same scene through my 50 f/1.8 prime and can tell them apart. My 18-70 wasn't like this at all. The other major issue I have with it is the fact that it "creeps" -- that is, it zooms in or out by itself depending on the orientation of the camera, but this only occurs at steep angles up or down.
I called the Nikon Tech line and asked about the zoom creep on this lens. The tech had a sample 18-200 and his did it (set to 70 and pointed either up or down). He also called their NY office and spoke w/ a manager who tried 2 other 18-200 samples he had and both of them did it. By the way, the technical term for this is "gravitate." Anyway, the official word is that "gravitation" is normal on this lens. It can be a problem if you're on a tripod at steep angles. Wish they would have added a zoom lock on a $700 lens. If others would like to call and verify, I use the Photo and Sport Optics Technical Support at 1-800-645-6687.
The final comment I would make about it is that it isn't a true 200 mm lens UNLESS you're focused @ infinity. I believe this has something to do with the IF mechanism. The plus side is that you can focus much closer on objects.
Despite these criticisms I would say that overall, I'm still happy with the lens but I wouldn't pay much more than I did for it. If you're thinking about it, don't drop over $700 on it, wait for the pricing to stabilize. I have seen some vendors asking as much as $899 for it which is obscene.