Look What The Cat Drug In - A Crappy Lens.

Yep - it's the crappy Nikon 18-55 DX VR. It's crappy because it's kind of crappy looking. It's got a plastic mount. It's crappy because it doesn't have a bunch of letters like ED, N, IF, ASPH, X, Y, or Z in the name. It's crappy because the tiny little focus ring really does blow and you cannot manually focus override like almost every other AFS lens. It's especially crappy because of that 5.6 at the end of the 3.5. Three point five is not so bad as a maximum aperture. Five point forking six is bad, especially considering that it doesn't have a decent zoom range.

Here is what is not crappy…

  • It is crazy crazy sharp at maximum aperture across the DX frame at all focal lengths.
  • It's tiny compared to my other AFS zooms.
  • Once run through the auto-wonderful distortion filters it looks great - really great.
  • Virtually no CA. Extremely hard to provoke any. I am serious. Not even that out of focus green/magenta kind (smallish aperture).
  • It's slow when racked from absolute close focus to infinity but in the real world where it counts it is plenty fast focusing. Real world as in actual relative longitudinal velocity that it has to keep up with.
  • It's quiet.
  • The VR performance is far more capable than I expected at this price. Equal to or better than the LX5 which surprised the crap out of me for the price.
  • I got my never used copy for a hundred bucks.

As I mentioned 3.5 is not bad. To be honest there won't be a whole lot of situations, if any, where a 2.8 at 18mm will be make or break compared to a 3.5 at 18. It's the f5 at 35mm (50mm DX equiv) that is not so good for my particular needs. That's where the VR comes in. This lens is easily as good as a 2.8 constant aperture lens of similar focal length range in terms of hand-hold-ability. If you really need the shutter speed for subject motion vs hand-holding obviously the 2.8 is going to be a whole lot better towards the 55mm end.

As you may have surmised I don't buy a lot of DX specific lenses. I never have, even before "FX" existed in Nikon or Canon Digital. In fact I have owned a grand total of 2 DX lenses. The 12-24 DX which I could not wait to unload and the 18-200 which sort of was my only way to get a D200 when they were in short supply. The 12-24 f4 wasn't horrible, it's more that it was a let down. Not small, not cheap by any measure, not absolutely stunningly great. I was DX underwhelmed. I am not exaggerating, at 18mm the 18-55 VR blows the 12-24 into the weeds. Maybe not in the distortion department but who cares.

The 18mm-200mm, well let's just say I never wanted it in the first place. I found it too cumbersome attached to the front of the camera as a "walk-around-lens". When you combine that with the price as well as the fact that I rarely shoot over 85mm on DX, the 18-200 was useless to me. Guess what… The 18-55 trounces the 18-200 in sharpness.

A hundred bucks? You have to be kidding. Get one if you are a DX shooter. You will not be disappointed in it's performance. You might have heard that before. So have I but I never expected it to be this good. It may be the only DX lens I will ever need to cover that critical 28mm to 35mm equivalent. Maybe I will add the 35mm f1.8. It is also dirt cheap. For me everything else will probably be FX. Here are some obligatory 100% pixel peeps from my uncontrolled, immediate, out of the box, "does it work", "tests". Click on the image to see all the pixels in all their peepy-ness.

These are not souped up NX2 versions. These are Aperture 3 with NO sharpening at full Aperture and a range of focal lengths. They look even better in NX2 much better with the auto-lens-magic and the Picture Control wonderfulness. Why did I buy this? I did mention the $100 part right. I had to see for myself at that price and I definitely needed a 28-35-ish lens. This is absolutely got the wide-ish end covered in my upcoming discussion on a small DX kit that is very capable. Hopefully it will feel somewhat more like my M6 and holy-trinity of 35-50-90 as a go-anywhere do-anything with a very small bag.

What is infuriating is that the D7000 will focus this lens at 18mm f3.5 with amazing accuracy but refuses to do so with my manual focus 18mm f3.5 AIS. I do not give a rat's ass about how any of the damn computers in my camera work but I cannot refrain from wild assumptions about what may be going on here. Just for giggles I am going to mis-specify my 18mm as a 135mm f3.5 and see if that provokes the D7000 to be a bit more careful about detecting maximum contrast. I will let you know if that turns out well.

RB

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