A subjective look at Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6G VR @ Nikon D40. Part 1 — Introduction. Design and Features. Autofocus

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6G VR is a kit lens for Nikon consumer APS-C digital SLR cameras announced back in 2007. The lens was designed for amateur shooting of wide range of genres, inclduing landscapes, architecture, interiors and portraits.

If we will trace the history and development of Nikon kit lenses for Nikon consumer APS-C digital SLR cameras, we’ll find that the tested lens is the 3rd version in the lineup:

  1. from 2005 to 2006 Nikon produced Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6G ED which is a lightweight and compact zoom lens with 1 aspherical and 1 extra-low dispersion elements in the optical scheme;
  2. from 2006 Nikon started production of 2nd version — Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6G ED II which is just a cosmetical update of 1st version with identical optical scheme;
  3. in 2007 Nikon started production of Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6G VR. The lens received 1st gen optical image stabilizer but lost extra-low dispersion element;
  4. at last, from 2014 года Nikon produces Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6G VR II with fancy collapsible design and the same optical scheme as in case of VR lens.
Parameter ED ED II VR VR II
Aperture blades 7 7 7 7
Image stabilizer No No Yes Yes
Elements 7 7 11 11
Groups 5 5 8 8
Special elements 1 ASPH, 1 ED 1 ASPH, 1 ED 1 ASPH 1 ASPH
Minimum focusing distance, m 0.28 0.28 0.28 0.28
Weiht, g 210 205 265 195
Maximum diameter, mm 69 70.5 73 66
Length, mm 74 74 79.5 59.5
Front filter diameter, mm 52 52 52 52
Lens hood HB-33 HB-33, HB-45 HB-45 HB-45

The lens is made in Thailand. The build quality is mediocre — both the housing and the mount are made of cheap plastic. On the other hand, the lens is lightweight (265 g only) and has moderate dimensions (maximum diameter of 73 mm and overall length of 79.5 mm).

The zoom ring is wide enough, well damped, rotates smoothly. The front group of lenses extends forward as a single cam and the overall length of the lens slightly increases with zooming to focal length of 18 or 55 mm. The overall length of the lens is minimal at focal length of 35 mm.

The manual focusing ring is very narrow and located around the front element of the lens. The angle of rotation of the ring is only 45 degrees. The ring rotates with play which significantly complicates precise manual focusing. However, most of the owners of the lens will never use this ring anyway. Of course there’s no distance scale on the housing of the lens. The lens also does not focus internally. The lens does not support Full-Time Manual focusing (M/A or A/M mode according to Nikon) but at least there is A — M focusing mode switch on the housing of the lens. You can use it in case when you’ll want to experiment with manual focusing and then forget about it forever.

The diameter of the front filter thread is 52 mm — it’s a standard size for most Nikon lenses including those designed for analogue cameras. The filter thread rotates during focusing which makes the use of polariziing and gradient filters inconvenient.

Since this lens is of G type, there’s no aperture ring on the housing of the lens — the aperture must be controlled from the camera only. The aperture is circular, has 7 blades, its minimum value is F/22-36 depending on the focal length.

Optically the lens is not especially complex for a zoom lens and consists of 11 elements in 8 groups including 1 aspherical. The lens lost extra-low dispersion but received additional group made of 2 lenses (highlighted with a crimson frame on the scheme below) responsible for the optical image stabilization.

Being equipped by the 1st gen optical image stabilizer, the lens should demonstrate the effeciency up to 3 stops, according to the manufacturer. In practice the stabilizer is unable to provide the efficiency more than 2 stops. The stabilization can be disabled by the corresponding VR ON/OFF switch located at the housing of the ring for the convenience (for example, when the camera is set on a tripod).

The minimum focusing distance of the lens is 0.28 m. It’s a typical value for a 18-55/3.5-5.6 kit lens. The champions here are the Pentax and Sony kit lenses with their minimum focal distances of 0.25 m.

The buyer usually gets only both caps together with the lens. The petal lens hood HB-45 should be purchased separately.

The lens is equipped with ultrasonic AF motor (Silent Wave Motor by Nikon’s terminology) as indicated by AF-S designation in the lens’ name. The autofocus is silent, precise but not especially fast with Nikon D40. However, this is already not bad.

Too many words, tired reading? But this is how we do it here…
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