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Nikon 18-105mm ED VR Review

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 ED VR Lens Review: Should You Buy this Lens?

Nikon 18-105mm ED VR Design

 

Key Features

  • Nikon DX APS-C lens mount, 18-105mm focal length range
  • Matte leather texture leads to a high-quality exterior design
  • Super integrated coating
  • Silent wave motor for quiet, smooth and accurate autofocus
  • 15 element (in 11 groups) optical design that includes one ED (Extra-low dispersion) glass element and one aspherical lens element to ensure superior image reproduction
  • Minimum focus distance of 0.45m
  • Maximum aperture f/3.5-5.6
  • 5 stops VR image stabilization assures sharper handheld images
  • 67mm filter thread
  • 7 rounded diaphragm blades

Introduction

Nikon is undoubtedly the best when it comes to manufacturing lenses designed for DSLR cameras with. The company has been quite consistent in launching lenses with focal lengths ranging from 18mm to several hundred millimeters and also the megazooms like 18-200mm and 18-300mm. Today we are going to discuss the specs and performance of Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 ED VR Lens.
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Design and Performance

The lens is primarily made of polycarbonate with a textured black matte finish. The lens weighs around 420g with the dimensions of 89x76mm (length x diameter). The increase in weight is undoubted to accommodate the VR system.

The lens uses the 67mm filters that do not rotate during zoom or focus operation due to the IF mechanism. The lens doesn’t have any distance scale and depth-of-field markings. The focal lengths are marked on the zoom ring which is a major feature of the lens. The zoom ring is over 1.5 inches wide and has a thick ridged rubberised texture that is easy to grip. The zoom action is not internal i.e. the lens extends almost 2 extra inches when you reach the 105mm end. The zoom ring rotates 80 degrees in its range.

 

Nikon 18-105mm ED VR Specs

 

On the left, there are two switches to control autofocus (A/M) and vibration reduction (VR ON/OFF). The ridged rubberized slim focus ring rotates around 100 degrees. The manual focus control is decently smooth, if not the best. The difference in sizes of both the focus and zoom ring is mainly because of the handling issues. You can never accidentally operate the wrong ring.

Nikon has included a supplied accessory kit which contains both the caps, a plastic petal-shaped HB-32 lens hood and a soft pouch. The hood attaches to the lens via a bayonet mount and can be reversed. We appreciate the company’s move to include the accessories at the given price point.

Autofocus: Nikon 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 VR is equipped with Silent Wave Motor that ensures a fast, quiet and accurate autofocus. The AF-S lenses are usually known for their high focus speeds, but this lens is not exactly a fast focusing lens. That does not mean that the lens is slow. Just that you cannot expect it to instant focus when you half-press the shutter release button. Sometimes, the lens hunts for focus in low-lit surroundings, particularly at the telephoto end.

 

Nikon 18-105mm ED VR Review

 

You can manually focus even when the ‘A’ focus mode is enabled. But manual focusing is a bit difficult as the focus ring is narrow and has much less to travel. This makes it difficult for you to lock the focus accurately, especially when using Live View and a tripod.

Image Resolution: Coming to the resolution, we must say that the lens performs pretty well at this price-point. The MTF reaches around 47 lpmm even at the shortest focal lengths with the lens wide open. The performance drops at 70-105mm, but the results are usable. When we stopped down to f/8-11, the diffraction started to influence the resolution. At 5.6-8, the lens performs like an optically ideal kit. The only drawback is that the lens is not that faster at its longest end. The frame edge performance is better not only just at the center but also at the frame edge.

 

Nikon 18-105mm ED VR Build

Chromatic Aberration: Nikon 18-105mm ED VR exhibits a considerable amount of chromatic aberration. The lens shows the highest level of CA at both the ends of the focal length range (0.12-0.13%). The performance was comparatively decent at the middle of the range (0.03-0.07%).

The CAs typically occurs as purple or magenta fringes along the contrast edges. But this can only be seen in the Raw image files, as Nikon’s JPEG processing systems are quite good in detecting the CAs to remove them automatically.

Distortion: There is nothing new that the 18mm zoom lenses are bound to exhibit a notable amount of barrel distortion at the wide end. Nikon AF-S 18-105mm VR is no exception. The barrel distortion reaches to -5.0% which is, unfortunately, bad. The distortion changes to pincushion type at the longer focal lengths. The geometric aberrations also increase at longer focal lengths.

From 24mm and above, the distortion profile changes as the center exhibit barrel distortion but the edges exhibit pincushion type distortion. From 50-105mm, the straight lines of the images show the mustache effect. The coma effect is much significant at the shorter focal lengths but the performance gets better at the longer end.

 

Nikon 18-105mm ED VR Performance

 

Vignetting: The lens does show some amount of corner shading, especially at the larger apertures. The worst situation is at the maximum focal length. Stopping down at apertures f/11 or smaller, the vignetting is almost negligible. At 18mm, the loss of illumination in the corners of the frame reaches to 43%. The performance gets better at in the middle of the focal length range.

Macro: The lens is not a macro one. It has a respectable maximum reproduction ratio of 1:5 (0.2x magnification) at the telephoto end. The minimum close-focusing range is 45cm. A subject measuring 112x75mm can fill the frame.

Bokeh: People use the term bokeh (background blur) to demonstrate the out-of-focus areas of an image. Nikon has included an iris diaphragm with 7 circular blades that ensure a pleasant rendering of the out-of-focus areas.

Should You Buy the Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 ED VR Lens?

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 VR is priced at $396.95. The lens is packed with a good set of features. Considering the price range, the build quality is pretty decent. The SWM equipped autofocus is quite impressive. The center sharpness is decent at almost every focal length, wide open. We found the bokeh performance to be surprisingly nice. However, the lens is moderately susceptible to distortions and flare. The IF system ensures an easy use of polarisers and graduated density filters. The inclusion of VR is definitely a welcome move. If you already own a standard zoom lens, buying a telephoto lens like Nikon 18-105mm VR is a good bet.

Pros

  • Silent, quick and precise autofocus
  • Excellent frame center image quality
  • Improved frame edge
  • Controlled coma
  • Low astigmatism
  • Additional accessories at this price range

Cons

  • Significant amount of distortion
  • Vignetting is visible at all focal lengths
  • A lot of use of plastic in the barrel and bayonet

About Richard Smith

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