The best lens ever – bar none

On March 17, 2010 by DaniLew

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Professionals and amateurs will argue this subject until the end of time and probably beyond that, but in my opinion the Nikon 18-200VR is the best lens ever.

Say what?

For sure, Tamron and Sigma beat Nikon by several months with their announcements of an 18-200mm lens early in 2005 but neither vendor had hit pay dirt as “the compact and lightweight single-lens solution”. However, in late 2005, Nikon announced the same focal length lens but with VR (vibration reduction) and a promise that “users can take pictures at shutter speeds up to four times slower than is possible with a non-VR lens”. (http://press.nikonusa.com/2005/11/nikon_adds_new_18200mm_lens_to.php). Nikon targeted it perfectly by pairing it as the kit lens with the D200 and was rewarded with a substantial gain in market share against long-time rival Canon. At the same time, Canon saw a dip in its market share during the height of the Nikon 18-200VR lens, only coming out with an equivalent in late 2008. A bit tardy for Canon since some of its faithful had either jumped ship altogether or resorted to using the Tamron and Sigma lenses for the sake of convenience.

Ease of use

True, the Nikon 18-200VR is a rather expensive consumer lens but, per the pixel-peepers of the world, with a slight compromise in IQ and acuity. So? Consider that a large portion of ‘new photographers’ that have now suddenly flocked to the DSLR arena came straight from a point-and-shoot, specifically superzoom p&s cameras, and have probably never even held a film SLR. Therefore, it is an excellent lens for a DSLR beginner because it goes wider than most p&s and zooms out to a decent distance. And yes, it is relatively easy for these newbies to find their comfort zone while they learn about their camera at the same time. I started this way with my D300 and I’m grateful for the hassle-free opportunity.

During a morning scenic boat ride, Grinnell Glacier reflects in the rippling waters of Lake Josephine in the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park, Montana. - taken with a Nikon D300 camera and Nikon 18-200 VR lens

During a morning scenic boat ride, Grinnell Glacier reflects in the rippling waters of Lake Josephine in the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park, Montana.

Image above made with a Nikon D300 camera and Nikon 18-200 VR lens

I’ve recommended this lens to all of my friends who have recently upgraded from p&s to Nikon DSLR. Those who listened to my advice are very happy and carefree while those who chose to go the cheaper route (i.e. 18-55 and 55-200) usually just stick with one lens and easily become frustrated with their choice.

I still hear it all the time: “not having to switch lenses is the ultimate convenience” and is part and parcel of the instant gratification now assumed by the masses since digital became available to the common man and woman. After achieving the comfort zone, the beginner can then hone their own photographic vision and, hopefully, make the world a better place by purchasing better (more expensive) lenses to suit their tastes.

But, until then, the Nikon 18-200VR is the single-lens solution; an all-rounder.

Proof is in the picture

It’s the best story-telling lens, a perfect walk-around lens and an unparalleled vacation lens for when I have no idea what I will encounter in my travels around the world or around the block. I can go from wide angle to telephoto in a matter of seconds; take snapshots on the go; or concentrate on a subject and make art; and not worry about losing the moment or the light or missing the action because I didn’t have the right lens on at the time.

Man propelled in Dolphin show at Loro Parque in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain - taken with a Nikon D300 camera and Nikon 18-200 VR lens

Dolphin show at Loro Parque in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

Image above made with a Nikon D300 camera and Nikon 18-200 VR lens

The Nikon 18-200VR is also the ideal total range lens for the Nikon SB-900 speedlight. The new flagship flash’s “power zoom function automatically adjusts the zoom position to match the lens focal length from 12 mm to 200 mm (in DX format).” (SB-900_en.pdf, page B-2). This is yet another brilliant stroke by the Nikon engineers. This is my go-to lens/flash combo at family gatherings, parties and any other event indoors or out. Again, I never have to worry about fiddling with settings and buttons and such when I’m actively mobile and having a good time.

Young girl plays lipstick with her cupcake at a child's spa birthday party. - taken with a Nikon D300 camera and Nikon 18-200 VR lens

Young girl plays lipstick with her cupcake at a child’s spa birthday party.

Image above made with a Nikon D300 camera, a Nikon 18-200 VR lens, and a Nikon SB-900 flash

Finally, as mentioned in one of my previous articles (my infrared cravings – foray #2), the Nikon 18-200VR is the quintessential infrared lens. I have consciously tried other lenses on my D200 IR converted camera and obtained decent results but not the consistent satisfaction that I get from my go-to lens.

Photographers the world over can and will continue to discuss its pros and cons and idiosyncrasies but, for me, the Nikon 18-200 VR lens is the first lens that I reach for whichever camera I take.

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