Thursday, September 24, 2015

Review of the Nikon Nikkor AF-S VR 18-140mm: Darn Good Compromise

Lately I've been searching for a "compromise" lens for my D3200. If you need want a truly long such lens, there are some good options for you. But I prefer something shorter, and hence (theoretically at least) more capable. Let's see if the AF-S VR 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6 is such a lens.

The widest part is pretty strong, and the lens resolves plenty of detail.

+ optically very, very good. More importantly, it's well-balanced (i.e. consistent) throughout the range.
+ although it's not exactly cheap, it's not terribly expensive either. Good value
+ good, reliable autofocus & VR operation.

- very plasticky, it looks cheap; then again, did you expect a pro-build for such a lens?
- quite a bit of distortion (again, what do you expect for a 18-140mm zoom?)
- extends quite a bit when zooming.

The longer end of the range is still very decent, with good control of flare and chromatic aberrations. 

Intended Users
Great for:
  • if you're a DX user looking for an all-around lens (but not a superzoom), this is a very good option.
  • probably the best compromise for a travel lens (in terms of performance vs weight/size)
  • not sure which lens to take with you for whichever occasion? Take this one!

Not for:
  • low light. VR helps with stationary objects, but not with anything moving...
  • ...which means, this doesn't make a great lens for things such as concerts, theater performances, etc.
  • there are cheaper, (or) longer, (or) better lenses (read 'Final Verdict' below), so remember: this is a compromise lens.

Final Verdict
Like with every other lens out there, it all boils down to scope. You must realize that, although this is not a superzoom, it is still a compromise lens. Which means, you give away some things to get something else. In particular, you give away a little bit of everything to get back a little bit of everything. Hmm... Let's try to clarify even further: You give away (a bit of) image quality, (a bit of) construction quality, (a bit of) zoom range, (a bit more of your) money, to get a lens that is:
- optically better and cheaper than superzooms (but more expensive than, say, the 18-55)
- far more flexible than any prime (but obviously not as good optically, nor as fast in terms of aperture)
- several hundred $$$ cheaper than pro- zooms (but not as well constructed, nor as good optically).

The word "compromise" is the key factor here. Yes, it is a compromise. But a darn good one. Essentially, this is a lens that updates both the old 18-135 and the newer 18-105 - and it's better than both of them. In everyday/casual photography (particularly in adequate light), you will not feel you're missing anything at all. Limitations will start popping up only in very low light or in very specific situations (such as sports performances at night, etc). In all other occasions, the Nikon Nikkor AF-S VR 18-140mm is a lens that will get the job done, and with style.

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