The standard kit lens offered with Nikon's new D5000 DSLR camera body.Nikon has matched Canon in offering a stabilised lens as the kit lens with its latest DSLR camera, the D5000. The AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6G VR lens covers a focal length range equivalent to a 27-82.5mm lens on a 35mm camera. Equipped with a Silent Wave Motor drive and built-in Vibration Reduction (VR) technology, this 3x zoom lens will focus down to 28 cm across the entire zoom range. . . [more]
Nikon has matched Canon in offering a stabilised lens as the kit lens with its latest DSLR camera, the D5000. The AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6G VR lens covers a focal length range equivalent to a 27-82.5mm lens on a 35mm camera. Equipped with a Silent Wave Motor drive and built-in Vibration Reduction (VR) technology, this 3x zoom lens will focus down to 28 cm across the entire zoom range.
The optical design of this lens has been optimised for Nikon's DX-format bodies. Consisting of 11 elements in 8 groups, it includes one hybrid aspherical element to minimise chromatic aberrations plus Nikon's Super Integrated Coating to reduce the effects of flare and ghosting. A seven-bladed iris diaphragm closes to a circular aperture that produces attractive out-of-focus elements in shots.
The optical design diagram for the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6G VR lens. (Source: Nikon.)
Although not as small as the non-stabilised 18-55mm version, the new lens is still reasonably small and light, largely because it's mostly made from plastic - right down to the lens mount. The mounting plate carries seven metal contacts for transferring distance information to the camera body and signals from the camera to the lens. Build quality is good for a plastic lens - but not up to the standard of the more expensive Nikkors.
Nikon's AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6G VR lens. (Source: Nikon.)
Extending approximately 90 mm out from the camera body (with lens cap attached), it protrudes roughly 10 mm further at the 55mm focal length. The focusing ring is a narrow band attached to the inner lens barrel with thin parallel ridges to provide a grip.
At approximately 3 mm wide this ring is way too thin for ease of use and the mouldings in the grip are quite shallow. No rubber coating has been added to improve grip quality and feel. Movement of the focusing ring is only possible when the lens is set to manual focus mode, where it turns through approximately 20 degrees and moves the front of the lens forward by roughly 5mm.
The zoom ring is a ridged, rubber-coated, 20 mm wide band closer to the camera body. It turns through approximately 90 degrees (a quarter of a turn) as you move from the 18mm to the 55mm focal length. There's no distance scale, no depth-of-field indicator and no markings for infrared focus correction.
On the left side of the main barrel are two sliders; one for switching between auto and manual focusing and the other for turning the VR stabilisation on and off. Unlike many AF-S Nikkors, you can't focus manually when the focus slider is on A. No zoom lock is provided -and none seems to be required as we found no evidence of slippage when the camera was carried with the lens pointing downwards. No lens hood was supplied with the review lens, which accepts 52mm diameter filters.
The review lens was a comfortable fit on the D5000 body we used for our tests and the combined camera-plus-lens felt well balanced. The front element rotates a little as the lens is zoomed from the 18mm to the 55mm focal length position, which means you have to re-adjust the position of polarisers and graduated filters each time you change the focal length setting.
Slightly more re-adjustments is required if you decide to focus the lens manually and the focusing ring's grip is too thin for comfort. Furthermore, with only a small adjustment range available for manual focusing, obtaining critical sharpness is difficult - if not impossible - with this lens.
Considering the diameter of the largest elements, the review lens turned in a creditable performance in our objective and subjective tests. Imatest testing showed it to be capable of matching the resolution of the D5000's sensor, with best performance at aperture settings larger than f/8. Our Imatest results were remarkably consistent across all focal length settings, as shown in the graph below.
Imatest revealed a significant discrepancy between centre and edge resolution at the 18mm focal length but this lessened by 24mm and centre and edge performance remained relatively close at longer focal lengths. Resolution declined sharply at apertures of f/16 and smaller. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.
Lateral chromatic aberration was negligible at most focal length settings, although it crept into the low CA band with the 18mm focal length at its widest and smallest aperture settings. In the graph below, which shows the results of our Imatest tests, the red line marks the boundary between 'negligible' and 'low' CA while the green line divides 'low' from 'moderate'.
Barrel distortion was evident at the 18mm focal length but by 35mm it had disappeared. Slight pincushioning was detectable at the 55mm focal length setting. Vignetting (corner darkening) was quite pronounced at wide apertures at the 18mm and 24mm focal lengths (see illustration below). However, closing the lens aperture by a couple of f-stops resulted in an even distribution of light across the frame.
Vignetting at f/3.5 with the 18mm focal length setting.
The VR image stabiliser proved as effective as we expected and enabled us to use shutter speeds as slow as 1/10 second. However, it could not counteract subject movement, as shown in the illustration below.
30mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/10 second at f/4.5.
Backlighting was generally well handled, although the D5000's exposure system tended to produce silhouettes. Flare was surprisingly low for a cheap lens and bokeh was more attractive than we expected.
Buy this lens if:
- It's offered with a camera body. As a kit lens, its performance is well up to the standard of Nikon's entry and lower mid-level DSLRs.
- You want a lightweight general-purpose lens for Nikon's entry-level DSLR bodies.
- You require low levels of chromatic aberration performance.
Don't buy this lens if:
- You require distortion-free images.
- You need close focusing capabilities.
18mm focal length, 1/100 second at f/5.
55mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.6.
18mm focal length, 1/160 second at f/6.3.
55mm focal length, 1/125 second at f/5.6.
50mm focal length, 1/250 second at f/8.
Strong backlighting: 26mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/640 second at f/16.
40mm focal length, ISO 450, 1/60 second at f/5.3.
52mm focal length, ISO 800, 1/40 second at f/5.6.
Close-up: 18mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/20 second at f/6.3.
Close-up: 18mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/60 second at f/4.
18mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/40 second at f/3.5.
Picture angle: 76 degrees to 28 degrees 50 minutes
35mm equivalent focal length: 27-82.5mm
Maximum aperture: f/3.5
Minimum aperture: f/22-36
Lens construction: 11 elements in 8 groups (1 aspherical element)
Lens mount: Nikon F (DX sensors only)
Diaphragm Blades: 7 (rounded)
Focus drive: Built-in Silent Wave Motor
Minimum focus: 0.28 m throughout the entire zoom range
Maximum magnification: 0.31x
Filter size: 52 mm
Dimensions (Diameter x L): 73 x 79.5 mm
Weight: 265 grams
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Rating (out of 10):
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- Handling: 8.0
- Image quality: 8.5
- Versatility: 8.5
- OVERALL: 8.0