Despite being about £ 200, or £ 120 more expensive than the 18-55 VR, the Nikon 18-105mm VR isn’t an expensive lens, so my performance expectations were moderate, but how did it perform on test?
Full Aperture : At 18mm and f3.5 performance is surprisingly good, only the extreme corners show some CA and a drop in sharpness, but most of the field is crisp with lots of detail. Barrel distortion is quite noticeable though - common with this sort of lens, and nowadays less of an issue as there are lots of software solutions, including in camera ones. Zooming out to 50mm sharpness is still excellent with only some CA - pink fringes around high contrast edges, noticeable pincushion distortion and a little darkening in the corners to worry about. This trend continues to 105mm where sharpness away from the centre has dropped a little.
Stopped down : Even at f5.6 there are still some pink fringes in the corners at 18mm, but other than that sharpness is good to excellent throughout the range. Vignetting is still visible at the longer end even at f8.
VR - Vibration Reduction is Nikon’s optical stabilisation system and it’s the only area of this test where the Nikon 18-55 VR seems to be better. With the Nikon 18-105 I’d say the VR helps but only about a stop or so.
The Nikon 18-105mm is one of the best kit lenses around just now, with a very good optical performance, and reasonable build quality. It’s main weaknesses of noticeable distortion, vignetting at 105mm, and colour fringing, aren’t that serious and can all be fixed in software if they’re an issue. Overall this is a very good lens, so if you’re just getting going, this is a much better choice than the Nikon 18-55 VR which will leave you wanting an upgrade almost as soon a you get it home. By comparison the Nikon 18-105 VR is an excellent starting point, covering almost all your needs in one lens, with the equivalent focal length of roughly a 28-160mm lens on film, and delivering the kind of bite you’d expect with a Nikon lens. Is it worth the extra over the 18-55? Definitely.