Which Nikon Zoom Lens?

I bought my first digital SLR camera last week. I used to shoot a Contax film SLR many years ago before going for a digital compact camera. Early DSLR’s were way too expensive.

But the DSLR market has many good cameras now for a reasonable price. I knew from the start it was going to be either a Canon or a Nikon because of their reputations and breadth of quality lenses that both offered.

I went for the Nikon D80. I reasoned that I wanted more than the entry level cameras (D40x and 400D) so that left either the Canon 30D or the Nikon D80 and D200. I liked the D80 as it wasn’t very heavy compared to the other two and offered all the features I needed. It was an easy choice.

However, choosing the lens has been really hard. I want to travel light so I really just want a single zoom lens. That also avoids getting dust in the camera through lens changes.

My first choice was the AF-S 18-200 VR but after a day of shooting I was pretty disappointed by the lack of sharpness – particularly on the long end of the zoom. It didn’t seem much better than a compact camera and I was expecting a lot more sharpness from a DSLR. On macro shots, it just didn’t show up surface textures that well.

I returned it to Kerrisdale cameras (in Victoria, Canada) and tried another copy of the same lens just in case the one I had was a dud. Nope – the second one was lacking too. I have since read up on the internet and found quite a few people complain that its a soft lens at either end of its range but that’s the sacrifice you make when you have cheap consumer glass and a huge zoom range. The build quality is also lacking. I have to say the 18-200 zoom range is fantastic for a travel camera.

Instead, I’m now using the AF-S 18-70 kit lens. It’s 1/3 the price and has a respectable 4x’s zoom range. But I’m still not impressed with the sharpness. Maybe I’m expecting too much? At any rate, it’s supposed to be better than the other kit lens which has a 18-135 zoom range.

I’ve been tempted to splurge on the AF-S DX 18-55 2.8 G IF ED lens but its horrendously expensive, very heavy and covers quite a short zoom range. There are many people raving about how good it is.

So I’m stuck with the 18-70 until Nikon creates a better walkabout lens for me. I’d like them to invent something like an AF-S DX 18-105 VR ED. Take the current kit lens, add a little bit more range, add VR, add pro glass and voila, it would be almost perfect.

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