A ‘convenience’ zoom lens for DX-format cameras, which covers a 7.8x range from a moderate wide angle to 210mm equivalent telephoto focal length.

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In summary

The focal length range, which spans from moderately wide to modest telephoto, makes this lens a good general-purpose lens, particularly for travellers and family snapshooters who want a single, all-in-one solution. Fully retracted it’s 40mm longer and 295 grams heavier than the alternative 18-55mm kit lens but nonethtless feels well balanced on the D5300.

While it will fit onto cameras with FX (‘full frame’) sensors, there are more suitable lenses available that cover a similar zoom range and are designed to suit the larger sensors. On an FX camera, the DX crop mode will block the sides and corners of the frame and roughly halve the effective resolution. The viewfinder image will be similarly cropped.

The closest focusing distance of 45cm provides adequate magnification at longer focal lengths for shooting close-ups of larger flowers and other subjects. But photographers who want a macro-capable lens will need to look elsewhere.

By design, the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-140 f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR is a convenience lens and, as such, it will satisfy anyone who wants a capable, general-purpose lens for everyday use or for taking holiday snapshots. Bundled with the D5300 it is excellent value for money but, if you’re contemplating buying it separately, you may wish to consider alternatives.

 

Full review

The AF-S DX Nikkor 18-140 f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR, which was announced on 6 August 2013, has been designed as a general-purpose lens for Nikon’s DX format cameras. Covering a focal length range equivalent to 27 to 210mm in FX/35mm format, it replaces the unstabilised AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED, which is no longer listed on Nikon’s global website. Because of its smaller image circle, if you use this lens on a camera with a FX sensor, the camera will crop the imaging area to DX size to avoid vignetting of the frame.

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The AF-S DX Nikkor 18-140 f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR lens. (Source: Nikon.)

This lens is the middle one of a series of similar DX lenses, all with 18mm focal lengths but differentiated by their zoom range. It’s longer than the 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR  but shorter and smaller than the AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED. Price-wise, it sits between the 18-105mm and 18-200mm lenses.

The optical design is relatively complex, which isn’t surprising for an extended-range zoom lens. There are 17 elements in 12 groups, including one ED  and one aspherical lens element. Nikon’s Integrated Coating is applied to minimise ghosting and flare.
 

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The optical diagram above shows the positions of the aspherical and ED lens elements. (Source: Nikon.)

Being a G-type lens, this lens lacks an aperture ring, requiring aperture settings to be adjusted from the camera body. The review lens was bundled as the kit lens with the D5300 camera body, which we used for this review. Supplied accessories were limited to front and end caps, although a petal-shaped lens hood (HB-32) and a soft carrying pouch CL-1018 are available as optional extras.

Who’s it For?
The focal length range, which spans from moderately wide to modest telephoto, makes this lens a good general-purpose lens, particularly for travellers and family snapshooters who want a single, all-in-one solution. Fully retracted it’s 40mm longer and 295 grams heavier than the alternative 18-55mm kit lens but nonethtless feels well balanced on the D5300.

While it will fit onto cameras with FX (‘full frame’) sensors, there are more suitable lenses available that cover a similar zoom range and are designed to suit the larger sensors. On an FX camera, the DX crop mode will block the sides and corners of the frame and roughly halve the effective resolution. The viewfinder image will be similarly cropped.

The closest focusing distance of 45 cm provides adequate magnification at longer focal lengths for shooting close-ups of larger flowers and other subjects. But photographers who want a macro-capable lens will need to look elsewhere.

Build and Ergonomics
 Like the D5300, this lens is made in Nikon’s factory in Thailand. It has a metal mounting plate but most of the barrel is made from polycarbonate plastic. Size- and weight-wise it is a comfortable match for the D5300.

Build quality is similar to Nikon’s other consumer lenses and generally of a high standard. There’s a thin rubber gasket around the lens mount to keep out dust and moisture. However, the lens is not actually weatherproof.

Internal focusing keeps the front of the lens in place, allowing angle-critical filters to be used without the need for re-adjustment. Zooming from the 18mm to the 140mm position extends the two-stage inner barrel by a total of just over 50 mm. The inner barrel extend smoothly with no detectable wobbling.

The rear group of elements moves in and out over a distance of about 3cm as the focal length is changed. They are closest to the sensor at the 18mm focal length and furthest into the barrel at 140mm.

The front element is relatively flat and sits just behind the filter ring, which accepts 67 mm diameter attachments. A small indicator mark on the outer edge of the filter ring provides a guide for attaching the optional bayonet-style lens hood, should you choose to acquire it.

The zoom ring is roughly 50 mm wide with a 36 mm wide broadly-ridged rubber grip band. Its trailing edge carries indicator marks for the 18mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 70mm and 140mm focal lengths. These are lined up against a white dot on the fixed section of the lens barrel that carries the focusing ring.

The focusing ring is located about 2 mm behind the trailing edge of the zoom ring. It’s approximately 12 mm wide and most of its surface is clad with a ridged rubber grip band.

Behind the focusing ring is a fixed section of the lens barrel that is roughly 17 mm wide. The focusing mode and stabilisation sliders are located on the left side of the lens barrel in this section.

Two focusing mode settings are provided: A and M. Manual focus over-ride is available in the A mode. The stabilisation slider also has two positions: on and off. Nikon claims shake compensation of up to four f-stops for the system in the lens.

The lens barrel steps in abruptly towards the mounting plate. The only feature in this area is the reference dot for mounting the lens on a camera.

In use, you can see how tight the image circle of this lens is by the slight darkening of the corners and edges of the frame, particularly at each end of the zoom range. This is further confirmation that this lens should not be used on cameras with FX sensors.

Performance
 The focusing and zoom rings operated smoothly and the zoom ring was very well damped. Zooming was consistently smooth across the focal length range with just enough resistance in the system to prevent the barrel from extending when the lens is carried facing downwards. (No locking switch is provided.)

The focusing ring felt looser than the zoom ring and didn’t provide a lot of tactile feedback. However, the ultrasonic Silent Wave Motor made single-servo autofocusing reasonably fast and very quiet, and almost silent. Continuous AF was also competent for such a long zoom range.

Optical performance was also rather good, although our Imatest tests showed the best performance was rather peaky and occurred between f/5 and f/7.1 with the 50mm and 70mm focal lengths. Imatest showed a distinct lowering of edge sharpness for all focal lengths. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.

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Lateral chromatic aberration was negligible to low at all focal length settings, as shown in the graph below. The red line separates negligible and low CA, while the green line marks the border between low and moderate CA.

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We found no evidence of coloured fringing in shots taken with the lens on the review camera., even when the in-camera correction was switched off. All current Nikon DSLRs correct CA automatically in JPEG files, so it’s unlikely to be a problem for most potential users.

In-camera corrections are also provided for vignetting and rectilinear distortions. We found some evidence of vignetting at all the focal lengths we tested when the in-camera correction was disabled. It’s more noticeable towards the ends of the zoom range than in the middle.

Distortion is a different problem. It’s evident at all focal lengths, with very noticeable barrel distortion at 18mm, which swaps to slight pincushioning at around 24mm. The pincushion distortion becomes stronger towards 70mm then reduces at 140mm, although it remains quite visible.

In-camera distortion control is available. However, it is likely to compromise resolution, particularly towards the edges of the frame, which are already rather weak.

The built-in VR stabilisation enabled us to shoot with the lens hand-held at shutter speeds as slow as 1/15 second with the 140mm focal length and get roughly half of the shots taken sharp. Bokeh was reasonably attractive at wide aperture settings, although not totally smooth and some outlining was found in shots with moderate contrast gradients.

Conclusion
 By design, the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-140 f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR is a convenience lens and, as such, it will satisfy anyone who wants a capable, general-purpose lens for everyday use or for taking holiday snapshots. Bundled with the D5300 it is excellent value for money but, if you’re contemplating buying it separately, you may wish to consider alternatives.

 

SPECS

 Picture angle: 76 to 11.5 degrees
 Minimum aperture: f/22-f/38
 Lens construction: 17 elements in 12 groups (including 1 ED lens element, 1 aspherical lens element)
 Lens mounts: Nikon F mount
 Diaphragm Blades: 7 (circular aperture)
 Focus drive: Nikon Internal Focusing (IF) System with autofocus controlled by Silent Wave Motor and separate focus ring for manual focus
 Stabilisation: VR (Vibration Reduction)  with 4-stop compensation
 Minimum focus: 45 cm at all focal lengths
 Maximum magnification: Approx. 0.23x
 Filter size:   67 mm
 Dimensions (Diameter x L): Approx. 78 x 97 mm (distance from camera lens mount flange)
 Weight:  Approx. 490 grams

 

TESTS

 Based on JPEG   files from the Nikon D5300.

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SAMPLES

 
 

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Vignetting at 18mm.

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Vignetting at 35mm.

 

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 Vignetting at 70mm.
 

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 Vignetting at 140mm.
 
 

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Rectilinear distortion at 18mm.
 
 

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Rectilinear distortion at 50mm.
 
 

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Rectilinear distortion at 140mm.
 
 

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18mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/400 second at f/10.
 
 

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35mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/400 second at f/10.
 
 

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70mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/640 second at f/6.3.
 
 

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140mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/640 second at f/5.6.
 
 

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Close-up at 18mm; ISO 200, 1/1600 second at f/4.
 
 

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Close-up at 140mm; ISO 200, 1/1250 second at f/5.6.

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Bokeh at 140mm with aperture set at f/5.6; ISO 200, 1/800 second.

 

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 Stabilisation test; 140mm focal length, ISO 800, 1/15 second at f/6.3.
 

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140mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/60 second at f/5.6.
 

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75mm focal length, ISO 800, 1/80 second at f/5.

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135mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/100 second at f/8.

 

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78mm focal length, ISO 1000, 1/100 second at f/9.
 

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70mm focal length, ISO 800, 1/60 second at f/6.3.

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135mm focal length, ISO 800, 1/200 second at f/6.3.

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26mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/200 second at f/7.1.

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45mm focal length, ISO 640, 1/30 second at f/4.5.

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35mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/50 second at f/5.  

Additional image samples can be found with our review of the Nikon D5300.

 

Rating

RRP: n/a  ASP: AU$580; US MSRP $599.95

  • Build: 8.5
  • Handling: 8.5
  • Image quality: 8.8
  • Versatility: 8.8

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