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At first, I just needed a universal lens for a two-week travel across Europe that would cover the full range from normal wide-angle to longish tele. I had the 18-55 and 55-200 lenses, but did not want to take them to the trip because of all the dirt and dust that would get into the camera body when changing them all the time. Since I did not have an option to rent or borrow some lens, I had to buy the Nikkor 18-200VR. Originally I planned on selling the lens again after I return from the trip but ended up keeping it and using it extensively. The price was high (around 750€ when I bought it a half year ago) but all in all the lens is well worth it.
I am using this lens on a Nikon D40 body, the two make a almost perfectly balanced pair. The lens is a bit heavier than the body thus when carried on a strap, the lens is always pointing down - which is a good thing in my book since it prevents most of the accidental bumps it might otherwise receive.
The lens has a metal mount and plastic construction, it feels sturdy and stable in hand. The zoom mechanish is of good quality, uses a double trombone design and when fully extended, the lens almost doubles its length. There is almost no wobble in the barrel when full extended. Lens front does not rotate when focussing or zooming. The filter thread is 72mm and a bayonet type shade is supplied in the box.
The zoom ring is located on the front half of the lens body, it is moderately stiff, with no uneven movement on my sample (I have heard of uneven zoom rings on other people's lenses though). There is some lens creep - when pointing the lens straight up or down with the barrel partly extended, the barrel will slowly creep in or out of the lens body. The creep only occurs when lens is zoomed to some focal lenght between 70 and 135mm.
The focus ring is located behind the zoom ring and can be used to manually tweak the focus in autofocus mode. The ring is a tiny bit loose, but moves smoothly and precisely. It does not rotate during autofocus. There is a distance scale marked both in feet and meters, but no depth of field scale.
The images produced by the lens are of good quality, although there is noticeable vignetting (darkening of the corners) when zoomed to 200mm and using wide apertures. The lens has a variable aperture, the maximum aperture is F3.5 at 18mm and F5.6 at 200mm. It is bright enough for daytime photography but requires assistance from flash when taking pictures indoors to avoid blurs. Sharpness is good across the image, with little softening in the long end. There is some distortion if you're looking for it (especially when the picture has straight lines going vertically or horizontally), especially in the wide ende, but in most situations it is neither visible nor disturbing.
The image stabilization works great, it has two modes - normal for everyday shots and active for shooting from a vehicle (it is supposed to only stabilize vertical shake). In very dark situations it is not effective, neither is is very usable for quick shots, but for everything else it works great.
Overall, the lens is a good piece of hardware which, while not on the professional level, is a very good universal tool for most amateur or hobby photographers. Especially when you hate changing lenses all the time.
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