The 18-55mm zoom range is the digital equivalent of the 28-80mm for film SLRs. Nearly all manufacturers of DSLRs and mirrorless interchangable lens cameras with 1.5x crop APS-C sensors make their own version of 18-55mm kit lens. So far, Nikon has made three generations of 18-55mm kit zooms. The first one was introduced in 2005 with the D50, the first entry-level DSLR from Nikon. The second one (the one above) with a slightly improved focus motor was introduced in 2006 with the entry-level D40, the first Nikon DSLR without in-body AF motor. Then finally, Nikon released the third version with a totally different optical formula (more complicated but with no ED glass) and VR in 2007. The VR version is the in-production model and has been the “standard” kit lens for D60, D3000, D3100, D5000 and the D5100. All three versions looks almost identical and should perform pretty much the same optically. If you find that your 18-55mm VR is sharper then the other two in large apertures, there is a high possibility that it is due to the VR.
So how good is this lens? At f/8 and f/11, it is sharp enough to be compared with more expensive models (of similar zoom ranges) and even the professional ones! On the long end at 55mm, it still retains satisfactory results at its maximum aperture f/5.6. This lens also focus all the way down to 0.28m at 55mm which should make it the closest focusing Nikon zoom beside the “true macro” 70-180mm f4.5-5.6. The AF-S 18-55mm II is also super light especailly if you are used to glass optics and metal barrels of 1970’s and early 1980’s. It is because the whole lens is made from plastic including its lens mount.
Surprisingly, this little guy has withstood my abuses very well although its mechanical performance is not in its optimal state anymore (inconsistent stiff/sluggish zoom action). Optically, I still have no complaint on it which means the lens elements had not been locked out of axis yet.
Oh, I forgot to mention another superbly important goodness of this lens, it is CHEAP! This non-VR version (if you can still find it brand new) should sell for less than the AF 50mm f1.8D and the current VR version is not much more expensive. Moreover, this is a kit lens which means many of the times, people should get it for around $100 or even less. There are even times when the camera kit is on sale that the lens would cost nothing at all (I have seen a D3000 kit sold for less than the body alone). So, for small amount of money, you get true wide angle to short telephoto in super light package, top grade quality at f/8 and f/11, close focus capability that most people would not need a true macro lens and a list of “fancy” terms on its name: SWM (silent wave motor), ED (extra low dispersion), aspherical (in fact, hybrid molded aspherical)…
I got mine as a kit lens with my D40 and ever since then, it has become my most used and favourite digital lens. I even use it on my D300 given that I already have the better Tamron 17-50mm f2.8. Of course, the AF-S 18-55mm is still limited by its slow speed (f3.5-f5.6) and its comparatively inferior performance away from the sweet spot which makes the Tamron still being my prime choice for location portraits and events. However, for hiking and vacation shots, I would pick the lighter 18-55mm instead and if I plan to shoot some low-light photos (e.g. evening markets, interior architectures, etc.) during my vacations, I would just put the small Tamron Adaptall-2 28mm f2.5 in my bag. One more thing I have missed (see how many goodies I can pointed out from this lens!) is the smaller diameter (52mm filter thread) of the front of the lens that will not block the built-in flash at close-up like the larger Tamron (67mm filter thread) does. This is a great convenience for me because I can control the built-in flash manually and use it as a fill when the main light is off-shoe while shooting “quick” (like 10+ shots in 10 minutes) close-ups.
Well, finally some sample photos showing the lens at work at its wide-end, long-end and close-up…
Status: In Collection