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NIKON AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR LENS Review: Should You Buy this Lens?

NIKON AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm ED VR Review

Design - 84%
Build - 83%
Handling - 86%
Performance - 85%
Image Quality - 86%

85%

Overall Score

A valuable asset for every photography enthusiast.

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NIKON AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm ED VR Specs

 

Key Features

  • Compatible with DX- format, 7.8x normal zoom lens that covers a focal length range of 18-140mm
  • Super integrated coating: multilayer coating of the optical elements
  • 17 element (12 group) optical design
  • High optical performance due to the inclusion of one aspherical lens element and one ED (Extra Low Dispersion) glass element.
  • VR (vibration reduction) minimizes the camera shake by providing a shutter speed equivalent to 4.0 stops faster (based on CIPA standard)
  • Addition of silent wave motor (SWM) to ensure smooth and quiet AF operation.
  • Auto-manual mode: smooth focusing operation in the manual focus mode
  • 7 circular diaphragm blades
  • 67mm filters

Introduction

Nikon is one of those companies that are leading the way when it comes to standard lenses that are designed for reflex cameras with APS-C/DX sensors. This superzoom lens was first announced in August 2013. The lens replaced the previous 18-135mm lens that did not feature VR image stabilization. Apart from the VR, it has a better build quality with a much wide focal length range. The significant increase in price clearly indicates the use of better quality elements not only in the build but also in the optics.
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Design and Performance

The lens is pretty solid and is mainly made of polycarbonate plastic with a textured black matte finish. It is slightly longer and wider as compared to its previous version. The lens is also heavier than its predecessor (to accommodate the VR system) and weighs around 490 grams.

The lens has a metal mounting plate that surrounds a rear element. The rear element is positioned on the same level as the mount. When you reach up to a maximum focal length, the element gets hidden more than 3cm inside. There is a white dot in the front that makes the alignment with the camera easier. Above this, there is a plate that has the name and the lens’ parameters marked on it.

 

NIKON AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm ED VR Review

 

On the left side, there are two switches that can be used to control the stabilization (VR ON/OFF) and focusing mechanism (A/M). On the opposite side of the plate, you get all the information regarding the technologies used in the lens, filter size, serial number etc.

The manual focus ring is narrow and is only 12mm in width. It is plastic made with a ridged rubberised texture. The ring does not have any depth of field or distance scale.

The 5cm zoom ring covers the rest of the lens casing. The nicely-textured ridged rubberised zoom ring is very easy to grip and moves quite smoothly. The focal lengths are marked on the edge of the ring with an indicator mark.  The ring rotates at around 90 degrees in its range.  The zoom action is not internal. The lens gets an extra extension of almost 2 inches when you reach the 140mm end.

Behind the zoom ring, you get a small fragment of the casing with the hood thread that surrounds a non-rotating filter thread (67mm in diameter) and a front element (56mm in diameter). Nikon offers a petal-shaped HB-32 bayonet mount lens hood as an optional accessory that can be reversed for storage and for protecting the front element from sunlight coming in at different angles.

The optical design consists of 17 elements placed in 12 groups in which there are one aspherical element and one low dispersion ED glass. The 7 circular diaphragm blade aperture that can be closed down to a value of f/22 at 18mm and f/36 at 140mm. Nikon offers stabilized lens that boast of an efficiency close to 4EV.

Autofocus: Nikon 18-140 boasts ultrasonic SWM (silent wave motor) technology that provides a smooth and silent autofocus operation. The lens focuses quite fast and is capable of shooting fast moving subjects. The internal focusing system keeps the filter thread from rotating on focus. This makes the use of graduated neutral density filters and polarizers easy. Manual focusing can also be done via the focus ring which makes it easy to precisely set the focus.

Image Resolution: The performance in this category is worth appreciation. No matter what focal length you choose, starting from aperture f/5.6 and above, the MTFs remain even. The performance of the lens at the maximum relative aperture is quite impressive. In spite of being a high zoom lens, the shots came out to be pretty sharp when wide open.

The best results can be obtained in the 35-50mm focal length range, where you get minimal corner softness. The lens reaches its prime by the aperture f/11 at all focal lengths. If I am asked to point out a weakness, I would say its performance at 140mm. But in practical use, the difference is not that eye-catching.

 

NIKON AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm ED VR Design

Chromatic Aberration: Almost every Nikkor 18-xxx mm lens has one issue in common and that is the lateral chromatic aberration. There is a significant rise in the level of CA at the maximum focal length. Though, by stopping down, it can be reduced to a certain extent. But it would never be as low as you expect. It performs decently at the middle of the focal length range. Some shot also shows a slightly dark blue fringing around the high-contrast areas.

Distortion: The distortion correction is difficult when it comes to the lenses of this category. There is no such focal length setting where the lens yields a distortion-free image. The level of distortion varies with the focal length in use. At the wide angle focal lengths such as between 18-21mm, you get a barrel type distortion with the center of the image pushing outward. This form of distortion can be corrected in image post-processing software. Even the edges of the shot show a barrel distortion of over 1% at 18mm.

From focal length 24mm onwards, the center of the image shows barrel distortion while the edges reveal a pincushion type distortion. The straight lines exhibit a slight moustache effect, where the lines bend one way at one edge, another way in the center, and then bend at the other edge. This distortion is present in almost every focal length from 50-105mm. Fortunately, the distortion is not very evident (0.4% barrel distortion in the center and -0.7% pincushion at the edges).

Vignetting: Nikon 18-140mm VR exhibits a fair amount of corner shading. The issue crops up mostly at both the ends of the focal length range. At 18mm and at the maximum relative aperture, the level of vignetting amounts to 37% that decreases subsequently with the change in focal length. By f/4.0 the effect decreases to 32% which again reaches to 18% at f/5.6 and further decreases to 12% at f/8.0. The problem becomes less severe at 35mm. We observed the highest level of vignetting at the longest focal length.

Bokeh: The bokeh performance of this lens is quite impressive. The performance ranges from fair to good that depends strictly on the distance, aperture, and focal length settings. We would recommend the combination of 140mm and f/5.6 for the softest background.

Macro: This lens is not exactly designed for macro. It has a reproduction ratio of 1:4:3 (0.23x magnification) and the minimum close-focus range is 45cm from the image sensor. This means a subject measuring around 100x67mm can fill the frame. The close-up images are not tack-sharp but there is a minor amount of distortion when shooting at 140mm.

Should You Buy the Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens?

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-140mm VR is priced at $496.95. The lens is compact and is a valuable asset for not only the everyday users but also photography enthusiasts. The lens boasts 7.8x zoom range that helps capture images and video with utmost clarity and color rendition.

The lens is equipped with a 7-blade circular diaphragm that provides natural image blur and a silent wave motor that provides precise AF operation. It offers four stops of VR image stabilization that helps yield sharp photos and videos while handheld or shooting in low-light conditions.

About Richard Smith

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