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New 18-105 VR best DX zoom yet?

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by Harry Lavo, Aug 27, 2008.

  1. I spent a few minutes this morning on Nikon's web site comparing the MTF charts for the new 18-105 VR lens to the other DX zooms.


    One thing is very clear....the new lens' performance is much more akin to the 18-135 (and to a lesser degree the 16-85) than to the other Nikon DX zooms. It has slightly higher (but not as uniform center-to-wide) contrast than the 18-135, the previous champ in this area. It has substantially higher resolution in the center 2/3rds of the image (out to 10mm) than any other DX zoom. In this reagard it bests the 18-135 and 16-85 in the center, but not the 18-135 at the edges which it essentially equals.

    I suspect new D90 users will be very happy with this lens, and if it is made available separately so should be the rest of us DX shooters. Of course hands-on reviews may reveal a flaw, but the basics as per the MTF's look excellent.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 27, 2008
  2. Thanks Harry. Each new Nikon lens seems to be sharper than the last. It'll be interesting to see how the lens does in other respects.

    I'll suspect we'll see constant "16-85VR or 18-105VR -- which should I buy?" threads now. The lenses are actually quite different -- plastic mount, possible other build quality differences, VR I vs. VR II, 2mm more on the wide end, and approximately 50% difference in price.
  3. These wide to tele kit lenses have nice range for walk-around, but miss the boat in terms of aperture speed and closeup capability. The new 18-105 is a dark f/5.6 at 105mm, and its max reproduction ratio is only 1:5. Contrast that to the old 28-105, which is f/4.5 at 105mm and its max reproduction ratio of 1:2. In terms of my priorities for a walkaround lens, closeups/macros outrank wide angle, but that's jmho.
  4. I am mostly in agreement with you on this, Frank, but when travelling I often find I'd like to go a bit wider than 28mm. And I would also like to have VR.

    So I've been hoping this lens might be a better (IQ) travel lens for me than the 18-200VR. At 105mm, the 18-200 only opens to about f/5.3, but the VR helps.
  5. Do we know that the new 18-105 has a plastic mount?
  6. rgordin


    Jun 3, 2008
    Washington, DC
  7. Thanks for the link. I was hoping it would be metal. :frown:
  8. rvink


    Mar 21, 2006
    New Zealand





    For those who complained that the 18-105 was missing from the 18-xxx lineup, you have what you want! Now all we need is an 18-180 :smile:. Notice the strong "family likeness" in the optical designs of all these models.

    The new lens seems reasonably sharp. From the MTF charts it is as good or better than the 18-70 and 18-135, except at the corners of the image. At the wide end corner sharpness suffers, the tele end holds up better. It will be interesting to see how well CA is controlled. It has only one small ED element in the center group. The 18-135 also has one ED lens, in the rear group, and it has been noted that it has more CA than some other lenses. In contrast, the original 18-70 has 3 ED elements. Maybe the automatic CA removal of the D300, and I assume the D90 makes CA control in the lens less important?

    I wonder if this lens will replace the 18-70 or 18-135 or both? The new lens is actually slightly bigger than the 18-135, probably due to the VR unit. In terms of build, it is a step down from the 18-70 and closer to the 18-135 - both have plastic mounts, and neither has a focus scale. It will find a place for those who want a lens a step above the basic 18-55 models, but it is a lens built to spec and price, not outright performance.

    Those who are waiting for new fast primes will have to wait longer, if any were going to be ready for PMA, we would have been announced at the same time. Patience, grasshopper... patience.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 27, 2008
  9. nht800


    Aug 26, 2008
    Missouri, USA
    Very nice post. Thank you!
  10. The red lines show contrast. Essentially this is excellent on all these lenses.

    The blue lines show resolution...sharpness if you will. The DX lens goes out about 15mm...so 10mm is 2/3 of the way to the edge. Notice that the new lens stays as high/higher between 0mm and 10mm than any other of the kit lenses when it comes to resolution.....making it potentially the sharpest of the bunch when it comes to overall image quality....a title previously held by the 18-135 (which this lens resembles) and challenged by the 16-85.
  11. Looks like the 18-200VR is actually better at the wide end, but definitely not as good zoomed out. I assume "wide" in these charts means at the shortest focal length, and "tele" means at the maximum zoom. If that is the case, I wonder how the 18-200VR stacks up at 105mm.
  12. grepmat


    May 5, 2008
    I wish that Nikon would publish MTF curves for other than maximum apertures - say at f/5.6 or f/8.

    What I would take away from all these curves, however, is that all of these DX lenses sacrifice the corners (though the 18-70 is not bad). I'd guess that most of the FX lenses do far, far better in this.

    Interestingly, the oldest - the 18-70, has some of the best corner performance, and it does this at wider apertures, too. I'd judge the newest, the 16-85 and 18-105, as doing the best over-all, though with a bit of a hit in the corners and at slower apertures.

    My personal choice for over-all best would be the 18-70 if you value aperture and corner to corner performance over a bit of "contrast" (which is pretty easy to boost), or the 16-85 if you want a bit wider and prefer central sharpness at a slight cost in the extreme corners. The 18-105 is not much farther behind, but it is compromised in other ways such as build, apparently. Note that it's hard to compare the 18-70 to the others since by f/5.6 it would likely be better, yet that's not reflected in the comparison of the curves.

    By the way, the curves correspond only very loosely to "contrast" and "resolution." It's really just MTF at two different frequencies that differ only by a factor of 3.

    MTF is only part of the equation, too, though it is a powerful tool. It says little to nothing about distortion, for example.

  13. grepmat


    May 5, 2008
    P.S., if you looked at the curves for the 24-70 f/2.8, you would think that it was terrible compared to some if not all of the above lenses. This shows the difficulty with comparing MTF curves at different f-stops. However, I assure you that at more typical apertures, e.f., f/5.6, it would be superior, especially on DX.
  14. Glaudus


    Aug 6, 2008
  15. This is looking very tempting for me. I wonder what the price will be when it's actually out - here in the UK, RRP is £200.
  16. rgordin


    Jun 3, 2008
    Washington, DC
    From the Nikon press release: "The AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens is scheduled to be available at Nikon authorized dealers beginning September 2008 at an estimated selling price of $399.95."

    I am really torn about which zoom lens to get for the lower range. Choices are this one, the 16-85 or the Tamron 17-50. I don't think I can afford the Nikon 17-55. wonder if the 16-85 will droop a bit in response to the 18-105 price.
  17. Jim, according to the PhotoZone MTF's, 100mm is the 200's weak spot wide open.....worse than either higher or lower ranges.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 28, 2008
  18. Richard...the Tamron is tough to beat in the 17-50 range (I just succumbed and already own the 18-135 and 24-85). But is not the greatest walkaround unless teamed with a telezoom. The 18-135 is excellent for that, and I would guess is to be replaced by the new lens. Right now, the new lens would be my walkaround of choice.
  19. I agree it would be nice to have a standard set of f/8 charts, but I expect they would all be nearly-flat lines...but might better represent ultimate sharpness and contrast.

    However, with the reservations you cite, I still find the MTF's broadly typical of the lenses I have owned/tried. In the wide zoom range, for example, having tried a bunch and owning four, I've found the Tamron and the Nikon 18-135 to be the sharpest/contrastiest corner to corner, as the MTF's on the web Mfgr's web sites, Photozone, and SLRgear suggest. I've also found the Sigma's to be soft in the corners as indicated, and the two Nikon 24-85's to be mediocre at the long end, again as indicated.

    I trust these MTF's for an objective look at "sharpness" more than I do individual opinions.....but obviously they don't deal with other aspects of lens performance. The best approach IMO is to study the objective MTF's and look for lenses where expert opinion reinforces the findings.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 28, 2008
  20. rgordin


    Jun 3, 2008
    Washington, DC
    Thanks for your thoughts. I suppose you are right about the "walk around" limitations of the 17-50. I was in a town last weekend with a 18-55 and the 55 was a bit too short for several shots I wanted.

    Why would you lean to the 18-105 over the 16-85? Price? Reach at the long end? Other? By the way, my other zoom lens is a 70-300 VR.
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