- Compact and lightweight, compatible with DX-format
- 1x normal zoom lenses with a focal length range of 18-55mm
- Fast and quiet autofocus operation due to the stepping motor for AF drive
- Instant manual focus override
- 12 element in 9 groups optical design
- Addition of two aspherical lens elements that results in superior optical performance
- 7 rounded diaphragm blades
- Equipped with a VR (vibration reduction) system that offers camera shake compensation equivalent to a shutter speed 4.0 stops faster (according to CIPA standard)
- A new system setting using the camera menus has been adopted, lens settings can now be performed on the camera
Nikon AF-P DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR is one of the two kit lenses that the company offers with its latest entry-level cameras. The other one in this category has no VR inclusion and comes without stabilization. The AF-P category denotes the addition of stepping motor technology for driving autofocus. The cameras that are compatible with this lens are Nikon D3400, D3300, D5300, and D5500.
Design and Performance
The lens is mostly made of plastic with plastic build mount and plastic barrels. As the lens uses stepping motors for the autofocus drive, it is more compact and lighter than its predecessor. Also, the stepping motors are simple and cheap as compared to the ultrasonic motors that the AF-S lenses use.
There is a button on the outer barrel that operates the retracting mechanism. To unlock the lens, you need to press the button as you rotate the zoom ring and extend it to the shooting position. Apart from the button for lens release, you don’t have any other button on the outer barrel of the lens. You need to head to the camera’s menu to enable or disable stabilization or switch between auto and manual focusing.
The zoom ring has a width of 30mm and is covered by a rubberised grip. You also get five focal length settings (18mm, 24mm, 35mm, 45mm, and 55mm) that are marked on the edge of the ring. There is a white line on the fixed section of the lens barrel. Each setting is lined up against this line to select a particular focal length.
Before moving inwards from the mounting plate, the lens barrel stays cylindrical for around 15mm behind the zoom ring. There are eight metal contacts placed on the mount that provide an interface between the lens and the camera. The lens ships with a front and end cap along with a printed instruction sheet. You also get an optional HB-N106 lens hood and CL-0815 carry bag.
The optical design of the lens has 12 elements in 9 groups that include two aspherical lens elements (a name quoted by Nikon’s official website in the USA). The use of two aspherical lenses results in a superior optical performance with an effective suppression of aberration and distortion. The VR stabilization is driven by voice call motors that the company claims to provide up to four stops of shake compensation.
Autofocus: The autofocusing driven by the stepping motor technology is quick and quiet that makes the lens perfect for shooting movies. When the camera is powered on, the lens holds the focus while it is zoomed, but not when the camera is powered off. This happens because the lens when zoomed keeps its focus electronically.
Sharpness: Nikon AF-P 18-55mm VR is a pretty sharp one. While the underlying image is much sharp at 18mm, we found some minor yellow-blue lateral color. The images come out to be quite sharp when the lens is wide open. The biggest drawback at 18mm is the lateral color and not the sharpness. At 35mm, it is sharp with a bit softer in the corners but without any lateral color.
Chromatic Aberration: The lateral chromatic aberration is automatically corrected in the latest Nikon cameras. So we were not surprised to find a negligible amount of CA at all focal lengths and aperture settings.
Vignetting: Corner shading was obvious with the widest apertures at the focal length of 18mm. The vignetting was almost negligible as we stopped down to f/5. When we set our combination to 55mm and f/5.6, the shading was barely visible and it was eliminated when we stopped down to f/6.3.
Distortion: We were surprisingly happy with the performance of the lens at various focal length settings. We got the highest resolution between 1.5 and two f-stops down from the maximum aperture. We found some edge softening at the widest aperture. Diffraction started to peep in from f/8 with a considerable drop-off in the resolution at f/6. Same goes with the barrel distortion (pincushion distortion) which was apparent at 18mm. Though there was no distortion by 35mm focal length. However, both the distortion and vignetting can be corrected by enabling the in-camera correction.
Macro: There is some good news for the users as you don’t need to buy a separate macro lens. The macro gets quite close and sharp which is capable of filling the frame with just the dial of a watch. There is only one sharpness limitation and that is there is zero DOF (depth of field) at macro distances.
Bokeh: The bokeh (background blur or out-of-focus areas of an image) is pretty nice with this lens. The out-of-focus areas don’t distract. The background blurs get softest as you approach close to your subject and shoot at 55mm end of the zoom range. This is not obvious with evenly-lit background areas. However, outlining was there when we tried to shoot in the bright highlighted backgrounds.
Should You Buy this Lens?
Nikon AF-P DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR is priced at $246.95. Even if not tack-sharp from edge to edge of the imaging field, the central resolution of the lens is more than enough for an entry-level lens. The lens is compact and packs in some nice features like STM technology AF, the inclusion of two aspherical elements and VR system. Overall the lens represents a good value for money.