Despite its low price and low cost construction, the Nikon 18-55mm VR is a very important lens for Nikon. For many people, their initial impressions of their new Nikon DSLR will be based on this lens. So how did it perform on test?
Full Aperture : At 18mm and f3.5 sharpness in the centre is quite good, only in the extreme corners does it drop below OK although there is some Chromatic Aberration - CA, or colored fringing, even slightly off center. The good news is what’s not there - distortion levels are lower than most kit lenses I’ve tested and vignetting, or darkening in the corners, is also low, although it increases as you zoom out and is very noticeable at 55mm, although distortion levels remain quite low. Central sharpness stays pretty good through the zoom range but the good area shrinks as the focal length increases. Corner performance is quite poor at full aperture by the time you reach 35mm and only the central area has any crispness at 55mm.
Stopped down : Even stopped down to f11 the edge softness and CA remain, with small colored fringes on contrasty edges especially at 18mm. The CA reduces as you zoom out, but unfortunately so does the sharpness. Central performance does increase as you stop down, but from 35 - 55mm only the center is really sharp even at f11.
VR - Vibration Reduction is Nikon’s optical stabilisation system and in the Nikon 18- 55 VR it works very well. Even hand holding at 1/30 sec almost all of my shots were sharp, which is a really excellent performance.
The Nikon 18-55mm is not an expensive lens and it does come with a really excellent VR or image stabilisation system, but that’s really where the good news ends. Performance at 18mm is quite good but drops as you zoom out to 55mm where edge sharpness is poor even at f11. This lens may get you started but it’s nowhere near what any Nikon camera deserves.
My advice would be to spend a little more and go for either the Nikon 18-105 VR or Nikon 18-70 both of which are much better, or even the Tamron 18-250 which is the best “all in one lens” I’ve tested.