Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Best Nikon Kit Lens? Nikon 1 Nikkor 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 VR

As I hinted at in the previous article, today I have for you the review of the Nikkor 10-30mm VR lens for the Nikon 1 system. Now, Nikon has a longish tradition of good, cheap, capable kit lenses. The 18-55 was a great lens, with its capabilities easily exceeding its price tag. The older 28-80 was a similarly decent lens. In fact, we'd have to go back to the AF 35-70 and AF 35-80 to find a mediocre kit lens. So, how does the 10-30mm compare? As the title suggests, it's very good news.

There are two versions of this lens, an older non-PD (stands for 'Power Drive') model, and a newer, PD model. The copy I own and tried is the older, non-PD model. I have no opinion on the newer one, although optically there shouldn't be much if any difference.

Older, non-PD model:

Newer, PD model:

+ superb optically. Suffice to say, at 10mm it's maybe even bit better than the 10mm f/2.8. No great flaws to speak of, a great match for the Nikon 1 sensor.
+ focuses pretty close
+ for a midrange zoom (equivalent range: 27-81mm) it's very compact (especially in 'store' position)

- not anyhow a surprising fact, but being f/5.6 at the long end means it's problematic in low light
- close-focusing ability in connection with the lack of a focus ring, means manual focus (via camera) is tedious.
- although the range is useful, it's probably not as long as you'd expect for some uses.

There's plenty of information there, and the Nikkor 10-30mm
captures a good deal of it. Pretty impressive performance!
Intended Users
Great for:
  • together with any Nikon 1 camera, it is the perfect travel compromise: flexibility, optical quality, ease of use. It's perfect.
  • walk-around lens. Very discreet, very easy to fit in a jacket/bag pocket.
  • casual, candid family photography.

Not for:
  • low light. Especially at the long end.
  • things that are far away. 30mm (81mm equiv.) is not that long.
  • portraits. f/5.6 at 30mm doesn't allow for much subject isolation.

Final Verdict
Stellar little lens, a perfect match for the Nikon 1 system. Small, compact (in 'store' position; it's not that long when extended, either). capable. Before committing, I also tried the 10mm f/2.8. Optically, believe it or not, the 10-30 is, if not actually bit better, at the very least equal to the prime. It has a capable VR, it's 3x more flexible than the prime... It's a no-brainer. The only reason to prefer the 10mm f/2.8 is if you need the absolute minimum physical size. Yes, I think I can say it: The 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 VR is perhaps the best kit lens Nikon has ever made, in terms of value.

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