Photography - Nikon 18mm-105mmVR

Overview

When I got the D90, I knew that I would require a lot of range, to photograph things, people and wildlife. I knew I would be getting the 70mm-300mm VR (see my review of that lens here) for the long end, so the question was what to do on the short side. Based on playing with options and price, The 18-105mm VR is the "general-purpose" zoom lens which I determined to be the best fit for my needs.

My Nikon D90 with the 18-105VR mounted

Sharpness

The 18-105mm VR is quite sharp, particularly at the center. Stopping the aperture down one stop only marginally improves the sharpness (not enough to worry about). The corners can be just a little soft, at the widest end on the zoom range (<24mm) and on the long end of the range, the corners start to become soft again (>85mm). It's hardly noticeable, unless you're specifically looking for it, and easily overcome by stopping down just a touch.

Focusing and Other Notable Attributes

Auto focus speed is good, but not great. As the lighting gets dimmer, the AF will hunt more, and more. As this isn't the fastest lens around (18mm f/3.5 to 105mm f/5.6), that is to be expected. You can override the focus manually, if desired, though I don't really bother - while the camera may hunt in darker settings, once it locks, you're good. Outside in good light, or in a well lit room, you'll never notice this, at all.

The VR (vibration reduction) works well on this lens. It needs to be noted that I have very shaky hands - picture a coffee addict jonesing for his next hit of caffeine. As a result, any lens not offering VR will e a hard sell, unless I can use very high shutter speeds, or some form of stabilization. As my intent is to use this as a WALK AROUND lens, VR was a must. Based on my testing, VR easily saves me 1 stop at 18mm and 2 stops at 105mm.

The 18-105 does exhibit a fair bit of distortion, at the widest end of the zoom range. Chromatic aberration can be seen in images, but only most noticeably when used at its widest focal length (18mm). Generally, it seems well-controlled unless one is taking very difficult shots (bare tree branches against the bright sky).

Handling and Use

It is important to remember this is a kit lens, not pro glass. If I was getting paid, this isn't what I'd bring to the party, but since I'M PAYING, things change. The 18-105mm VR is all about balancing cost versus performance. For starters, it's a DX lens; it will not work on "full frame" cameras. The mount is plastic and most of the lens is constructed out of plastic. But, it feels right at home in front of the D90.

The VR (vibration reduction) works well on this lens. It needs to be noted that I have very shaky hands - picture a coffee addict jonesing for his next hit of caffeine. As a result, any lens not offering VR will e a hard sell, unless I can use very high shutter speeds, or some form of stabilization. As my intent is to use this as a WALK AROUND lens, VR was a must. Based on my testing, VR easily saves me 1 stop at 18mm and 2 stops at 105mm.

The f/3.5-f/5.6 isn't all that fast, and won't isolate the subject the way faster (more expensive) glass will. If you need/expect pro results, move on. Otherwise, the 18-105mm VR is a well balanced lens. I have found it to be acceptably sharp throughout the focal range, though the corners can be a little soft on either end of the zoom range. Shooting in good light, or with a flash it may not WOW you, but it won't disappoint, either.

Sample Photos

Here are a few samples I have taken with this lens:

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