Alternative Nikon Kit Lenses - Review Results - Digital Photography School

Alternative Nikon Kit Lenses – Review Results

A few weeks ago we posted a review from Camera Labs that explored the options for Canon DSLR owners when it comes to kit lens upgrades. This of course only appealed to those of you with Canon DSLRs and I received a few emails from readers wanting information on alternatives for Nikon users.

I’m not a user of Nikon DSLRs so couldn’t offer much personal advice – but today stumbled upon a helpful article in Digital SLR User magazine (UK) which reviews 4 Nikon Kit Lens Alternatives. Nikon generally offers two options for kit lenses (the 18-55mm II and the 18-135mm – but you can always choose to buy the camera as a ‘body only’ option and upgrade to a better lens. This review looks at the two kit lenses already mentioned and two other possible upgrades to consider.

If you want to read the full review I recommend tracking down the August 2007 edition – but if you just want a quick summary – here’s how they ranked the four alternatives:

1. Nikkor DX 18-200mm VR f/3.5-5.6 – rating: 4 Stars

This was the most highly recommended of the four lenses due to it’s good build quality, excellent zoom range and image stabilization. Of course price wise it was almost double all of the other lenses tested). On the downside it was the biggest and heaviest of the zooms and had a little ‘zoom creep’ (the zoom moves a little when you point it downwards).

Their summary of this Nikon Lens was – ‘The DX 18-200mm is the graddaddy of zoom lenses in the Nikkor range right now, and it’s compact, easy to use and offers superb zoom capability. The second-generation VR II technology is an added bonus.’

It received 4 stars for ‘handling’, ‘functions’ and ‘operation’ and 3 stars for ‘cost’.

2. Nikkor DX 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 – rating: 4 Stars

The ‘Pros’ of this lens were listed as brighter f4.5 aperture at 70mm, superior build quality and longer zoom than the basic kit lens. The ‘Cons’ were it’s expense and that it had a few corner sharpness issues.

‘Handling’ and ‘Operation’ both scored 4 stars and ‘cost’ and ‘functions’ scored 3 stars.

“The DX 18-70mm is a big step up from the DX 18-55mm II in every respect. It’s a great general-purpose zoom, especially if you’re considering a 70-300mm now or in the future.


3. Nikkor DX 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 – rating: 4 Stars

This lens has an equivalent of a 7.5x zoom range and is listed as having a better build quality than the kit lens, being affordable and as coming with a lens hood (a plus). On the negative side of things it has no Vibration Reduction and has above average geometric distortion.

‘Cost’ was the only area this camera scored 4 stars in. ‘Handling’ and ‘Operation’ both scored 3 stars and ‘functions’ only scored 2 stars.

‘The DX 18-135mm may not match the 18-70mm in build quality, but still offers a lot of lens for your money. REcommended if you’re not planning on buying a longer lens in the near future.’

4. Nikkor DX 18-55mm II f/3.5-5.6- rating: 3 Stars

This last lens was rated lowest among the four under review but is listed as being quick, quiet and better quality than other rivals. On the downside was it’s lower build quality, rotating end section and shorter zoom range.

It rated at 5 stars for ‘cost’, 3 stars for ‘operation’ and 2 stars for ‘handling’ and ‘functions’.

“The DX 18-55mm II may be the most basic Nikkor kit lens option, but it’s classier than rival 18-55mm models in terms of focussing and quality. If you can’t afford to upgrade, it’s still a good model.”

Like I say – the reviews have been written up in a lot more detail in the original article and the above are just some of the summary information.

5. Want more Nikon Lens Recommendations?

When we asked our readers what DSLR lenses they are using the following Nikon Lenses came up as the most used (listed in order of popularity with our readers):

1. Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor Lens
2. Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED-IF AF-S VR DX Zoom-Nikkor Lens
3. Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom Nikkor Lens
4. Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S DX Nikkor Zoom Lens
5. Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR Zoom Nikkor Lens
6. Nikon 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED IF AF-S DX Nikkor Zoom Lens
7. Nikon 12-24mm f/4G ED IF Autofocus DX Nikkor Zoom Lens
8. Nikon 50mm f/1.4D AF Nikkor Lens
9. Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8D ED-IF AF-S Zoom Nikkor Lens
10. Nikon 85mm f/1.4D AF Nikkor Lens

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • http://1001noisycameras.blogspot.com 1001 noisy cameras

    Nicely done list! Clear, concise and to the point!

    Another idea of interest might be a list of 3rd party Nikon-mount kit lens alternatives? (Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, etc)

  • http://www.klaidas.lt/ Klaidas

    18-200 seems to be a little fishy ;) Isn’t it one of those “never have to buy another lens again” type of marketing?

  • http://www.timlinden.com/blog/ Tim Linden

    I had the 18-55, 55-200 set and recently purchased the 18-200VR. Wow. Wish I bought it in the first place. Mine has no lens creep, so I wonder if Nikon tightened things up or if I just got lucky. The only other lenses you’d need are special purpose ones because this one can pretty much get you good results in all situations.

  • Chris

    I had the 18-55 as a kit lens with my camera, so I got the 55-200 VR lens and love it. I have to swap lenses, but it was cheaper than getting the $700 18-200 by a long shot.

  • http://pics.paulspage.org Paul

    For non-Nikon alternatives the Tamron 28-75 2.8 gets fantastic reviews. Constant 2.8 aperture and only $400. It’s on my short list. :)

  • Jan

    I’ve upgraded from 18-55 to 18-200 last week. Didn’t have much time for testing but it looks very nice so far and my friends only agree. Of course the optical quality doesn’t reach the prime lenses but you get very versatile lens – ideal for travelig light. You don’t also get the dust-on-the-sensor issue and don’t miss a shot as you can keep the lens on for most situations, but it definitelly doesn’t mean that you don’t need anything else, some sharper or fast lens for your creative photograpy is still something you will want to have. But go for 18-200 for most of daily work.

  • Andrea

    When I bought the D70, the 18-70mm (officially the 18-70mm AF-S DX f/3.5-4.5G, unless that’s a different lens) was the kit lens.

  • Andrew

    I wonder why the 17-55 f/2.8 didn’t make the list? I love this lense and use it all the time. Totally solid construction, no wacky glass obscuring issues and its f/2.8 the whole way! Great for just about anything.

  • http://jollence.blogspot.com Jollence

    I had the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 for my D80, doesn’t have VR tho but I manage to get a lot of good shot from that lens.

  • http://arrumario.blogspot.com Zé Maria

    I bought my D80 with the 18-70 lens and I am quite pleased with its overall quality. I only wish it was a little faster and had a little less distortion when zoom wide open.
    I think it is perfectly sharp and very solid for a kit lens.

  • http://puplet.blogspot.com Puplet

    What about the Nikkor 17-55mm f2.8? Perhaps too expensive for some but a worthy replacement kit lens nonetheless. My brother has this lens – and I rate it as highly as my own Olympus 14-54mm f2.8-3.5 – which *did* come as part of a kit.

  • http://cams.vox.com Cams

    I got the 18-70mm with my D70s and the only lens I’ve bought since is a 50mm f/1.8. I like the results of the kit lens but do find it too short on many occasions. I thought I would go for a 70-200 VR but the cost is to high for me, so it may very well be that I’ll end up getting the 18-200 VR, which will kind of make the kit lens redundant. Since I couldn’t decide coming through the duty free at the airport this week, I got an SB-800 instead.

    Nice review and I’m sure that I shall revisit it when I’m in shopping mode.

    BTW, to the author: watch out for those rogue apostrophes; “it’s” is ALWAYS a contraction of “it is”.

  • http://arewethereyet-scoop.blogspot.com/ Scoop

    We have a Nikon D50 and D40 and the kit lenses that came with them, we also have a Sigma 28-300mm and a new Nikon 18-135mm, I love this lens.

  • wayne west

    the great 70-300mm vr is not #1???

  • Chike Nwobu

    I have the 18-55, 55-200 set, just purchased the 18-200vr. to stop the act of swaping lenses, i miss good shots doing that.

  • Steve B.

    I have the 18-200 VR and other than the weight, there is no downside to this wonderful lens. However I plan on taking alot of landscape photography this year and have been agonizing over whether it is worth buying the 12-24mm which is pricey and means adding something else to carry. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Thanks.

  • Jarvis Kingore

    Hi! This is kind of off topic but I need some guidance from an established blog. Is it very hard to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking about making my own but I’m not sure where to begin. Do you have any ideas or suggestions? With thanks

  • pooh oj

    wondered if sigma 18-250 mm. f3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS would qualify ?

Some older comments

  • Jarvis Kingore

    August 26, 2013 10:17 pm

    Hi! This is kind of off topic but I need some guidance from an established blog. Is it very hard to set up your own blog? I'm not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I'm thinking about making my own but I'm not sure where to begin. Do you have any ideas or suggestions? With thanks

  • Steve B.

    March 28, 2008 12:58 am

    I have the 18-200 VR and other than the weight, there is no downside to this wonderful lens. However I plan on taking alot of landscape photography this year and have been agonizing over whether it is worth buying the 12-24mm which is pricey and means adding something else to carry. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Thanks.

  • Chike Nwobu

    November 6, 2007 06:48 am

    I have the 18-55, 55-200 set, just purchased the 18-200vr. to stop the act of swaping lenses, i miss good shots doing that.

  • wayne west

    October 26, 2007 11:53 am

    the great 70-300mm vr is not #1???

  • Scoop

    October 26, 2007 10:43 am

    We have a Nikon D50 and D40 and the kit lenses that came with them, we also have a Sigma 28-300mm and a new Nikon 18-135mm, I love this lens.

  • Cams

    October 25, 2007 11:53 pm

    I got the 18-70mm with my D70s and the only lens I've bought since is a 50mm f/1.8. I like the results of the kit lens but do find it too short on many occasions. I thought I would go for a 70-200 VR but the cost is to high for me, so it may very well be that I'll end up getting the 18-200 VR, which will kind of make the kit lens redundant. Since I couldn't decide coming through the duty free at the airport this week, I got an SB-800 instead.

    Nice review and I'm sure that I shall revisit it when I'm in shopping mode.

    BTW, to the author: watch out for those rogue apostrophes; "it's" is ALWAYS a contraction of "it is".

  • Puplet

    October 25, 2007 11:23 pm

    What about the Nikkor 17-55mm f2.8? Perhaps too expensive for some but a worthy replacement kit lens nonetheless. My brother has this lens - and I rate it as highly as my own Olympus 14-54mm f2.8-3.5 - which *did* come as part of a kit.

  • Zé Maria

    October 25, 2007 07:32 pm

    I bought my D80 with the 18-70 lens and I am quite pleased with its overall quality. I only wish it was a little faster and had a little less distortion when zoom wide open.
    I think it is perfectly sharp and very solid for a kit lens.

  • Jollence

    October 25, 2007 09:03 am

    I had the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 for my D80, doesn't have VR tho but I manage to get a lot of good shot from that lens.

  • Andrew

    October 25, 2007 08:36 am

    I wonder why the 17-55 f/2.8 didn't make the list? I love this lense and use it all the time. Totally solid construction, no wacky glass obscuring issues and its f/2.8 the whole way! Great for just about anything.

  • Andrea

    October 25, 2007 07:39 am

    When I bought the D70, the 18-70mm (officially the 18-70mm AF-S DX f/3.5-4.5G, unless that's a different lens) was the kit lens.

  • Jan

    October 25, 2007 06:31 am

    I've upgraded from 18-55 to 18-200 last week. Didn't have much time for testing but it looks very nice so far and my friends only agree. Of course the optical quality doesn't reach the prime lenses but you get very versatile lens - ideal for travelig light. You don't also get the dust-on-the-sensor issue and don't miss a shot as you can keep the lens on for most situations, but it definitelly doesn't mean that you don't need anything else, some sharper or fast lens for your creative photograpy is still something you will want to have. But go for 18-200 for most of daily work.

  • Paul

    October 25, 2007 05:43 am

    For non-Nikon alternatives the Tamron 28-75 2.8 gets fantastic reviews. Constant 2.8 aperture and only $400. It's on my short list. :)

  • Chris

    October 25, 2007 05:22 am

    I had the 18-55 as a kit lens with my camera, so I got the 55-200 VR lens and love it. I have to swap lenses, but it was cheaper than getting the $700 18-200 by a long shot.

  • Tim Linden

    October 25, 2007 05:09 am

    I had the 18-55, 55-200 set and recently purchased the 18-200VR. Wow. Wish I bought it in the first place. Mine has no lens creep, so I wonder if Nikon tightened things up or if I just got lucky. The only other lenses you'd need are special purpose ones because this one can pretty much get you good results in all situations.

  • Klaidas

    October 25, 2007 04:30 am

    18-200 seems to be a little fishy ;) Isn't it one of those "never have to buy another lens again" type of marketing?

  • 1001 noisy cameras

    October 25, 2007 02:56 am

    Nicely done list! Clear, concise and to the point!

    Another idea of interest might be a list of 3rd party Nikon-mount kit lens alternatives? (Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, etc)

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