For Nikon DX shooters looking to expand their horizons beyond the kit lens, the 18-105mm DX ED VR f3.5-5.6 lens is an attractive and reasonably priced addition to your collection. Introduced in August 2008 as a kit lens option for the D90, you can find it for AU$669. Delivering a 27-158mm 35mm equivalent focal length in a compact and lightweight package, combined with Nikon's Vibration Reduction (VR) image-stabilisation technology, make this a good choice for travel and general pictorial photography. Although the telephoto range seems a likely option for portraits, its f5.6 maximum aperture does not permit the shallow depth of field desirable for those shots.
The lens fits in Nikon's line-up between the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR and the 18-200mm f3.5-5.6G IF-ED VR options; there is also an 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED lens still current, but it lacks VR.
The lens itself is compact and lightweight at 450 grams, in part due to its all-plastic construction. Its G designation refers to its lack of an aperture ring. As an internal focusing (IF) lens, the front element does not rotate which makes it good for working with circular polarising filters.
The filter size is 67mm, with plastic threads on the filter mount. There is, however, no focusing scale, no depth-of-field scale and no infrared focusing marks. The only markings on the lens are the focal lengths displayed in white with markings for 18, 24, 35, 50, 70 and 105mm.
Deciphering the acronyms in Nikon lenses is no easy task — but, the VR denotes the company's optical image stabilisation technology. The VR compensates in real-time for shake and vibration with no degradation to the image. With only one mode, it is either on or off.
With Nikon's VR turned on, this image was able to be shot handheld at 1/30 second.
(Credit: Matthew Fitzgerald/CBS Interactive)
Nikon's Silent Wave Motor (SWM) delivers fast and quiet autofocusing, and the lens also employs Nikon's Super Integrated Coating for reduced flare and chromatic aberration. It works in conjunction with one ED (extra low dispersion) lens element and one aspherical lens element to ensure sharpness and contrast.
The lens incorporates Nikon's AF/Manual switch on the body. So, to focus manually just turn the focus ring, even if you're shooting in AF. You'll also be provided with a lens hood (HB-32) and a soft pouch.
A very wide textured rubber zoom ring is located toward the front of the lens where it's sized and positioned for comfort. It is also well dampened and exhibits no lens creep at all. However, that means the focus ring is small and located at the rear of the lens nearest the body. Although the manual focus feels loose and sounds noisy, it gets the job done. While its 0.45 metre closest focusing distance allows you to get some cool shots, this is far from a macro lens. The lens' maximum aperture ranges from f3.5 to f5.6, while its minimum aperture ranges from f22 to f36 depending upon where you are in the zoom range.
Performance and image quality
In our lab testing we saw heavy barrel (where objects appear to curve away from the centre of the image) and pincushion (where objects appear to curve toward the centre of the image) distortion throughout the focal range, not uncommon for a budget zoom lens. At its widest, 18mm, it unsurprisingly exhibited the most excessive barrel distortion (-4.9 per cent), while in the middle of the range, at 50mm, there was noticeable pincushion distortion (+2.1 per cent). Fully extended at 105mm there was also noticeable pincushion distortion (+1.8 per cent). However, the 18-105mm DX lens at 18mm displayed less distortion than the 18-200mm DX lens at 18mm (-5.6 per cent), but more than the 16-85mm lens at 16mm (-3.6 per cent). At longer focal lengths it performs comparably with the 18-200mm and the 16-85mm with some noticeable pincushion distortion.
Sharpness, both centre and edge, stays consistent through all of the focal lengths. All three tested focal lengths rated very well, with 18mm slightly sharper than 50mm, and 50mm slightly sharper than 105mm. Edge sharpness also stays consistent through all focal lengths, rating very good across the board at the edges. Its sharpness at 18mm is just about the same as the 18-200mm lens, and only a bit worse than the 16-85mm lens at 16mm; at 50mm, it is noticeably sharper than the 18-200mm, and about the same as the 16-85mm. There's minimal sharpness loss around the edges, which is good for a consumer lens. Some vignetting is noticeable at maximum aperture, specifically f5.6 at 105mm.
The Nikon 18-105mm DX ED VR is sort of a kit lens on steroids; it has the all-plastic construction of a basic kit lens but adds VR and an extended zoom range. If you want to equip your Nikon DX dSLR with something more than the basic 18-55mm kit lens and a better performer than the do-everything 18-200mm lens, this one provides a good combination of features and performance for a reasonable price.