Apr 25 2005

Nikon 18-70 review – a very useful and high quality lens

Despite its penetration to the market, this lens is sometimes overlooked by the digital camera buyers or is sold very early in favor of different other zoom lenses, said to be better or longer, depending on the taste of the owner. I just presume that in a lot of cases, the owners are quite new to (D)SLR photography and are not very familiar with the zoom lenses other than those on compact or bridge digital cameras.

This was the “kit” lens of the Nikon D70 and  D70s digital cameras. But the Nikon 18-70/3.5-4.5 AFS DX is not a cheap “kit” lens and it should be taken quite seriously.

Of course, I can understand those which prefer the Nikon 17-55/2.8 DX instead, but the price difference is a bit more than $ 1000.

Nikon 18-70 review – Specifications:

Nikon 18-70/3.5-4.5 AF-S

Nikon 18-70/3.5-4.5 AF-S

If you have to know, the complete name of this Nikon lens is: AF-S NIKKOR 18-70mm 1:3.5-4.5G ED DX

  • 15 elements in 13 groups, (3 ED glass elements and 1 aspherical lens)
  • Picture angle 76° – 25°50′
  • Number of diaphragm blades 7 (rounded)
  • Minimum aperture 22-29
  • 73 mm x 75.5 mm, weights 390 g
  • Close focus 0.38m at all focal lengths.
  • Maximum reproduction ratio 1/6.2
  • Supplied accessories 67mm snap-on front lens cap LC-67, Rear lens cap LF1, Flexible lens pouch CL-0915, Bayonet Hood HB-32

It covers a very useful range on the DX cameras (Nikon and Fuji DSLRs), about the equivalent of 28-105 mm in film photography.

Its DX design really makes this lens unusable on full frame cameras at all focal lengths.

The lens is delivered with its own HB-32 petal shaped plastic lens hood. It can be mounted in the reverse position for storage but I prefer to keep it ready for action.

The lens cap is the newer (Tamron like) type which can be easily removed even with the lens hood in place.

The only problem is that the filters thread is a very unusual (at least in the Nikon line) 67mm, so you may have to buy a filter or two.

I never recommend the use of UV filters for protection so maybe a (circular) polarizer would be in order. I use an old linear polarizer with mine and I never had any ill effects as exposure meter of AF malfunctioning. The good news is that 67 mm filters are reasonably priced.

Nikon 18-70 review – Appearance:

The Nikon 18-70/3.5-4.5 AFS DX looks pretty identical to the Nikon 24-85/3.5-4.5 AFS

The lens is decently built and it can take some beating but it would be wiser to treat it well. Anyway, in case of an accident, the price for a new one is quite affordable.

The lens extends when zoomed to the 70mm position – just roll the mouse over the picture above to see how much.

The good news is that the filter thread does not rotate when zooming or focusing, making the use of polarizing filters easier.

It has a rubber gasket said to improve the “weather sealing” near the camera mount.

The mount is metal and since it is an AF-S lens it has the full line of electrical contacts and no “screw” AF coupling.

This lens is clearly not from the professional Nikon line but it is good enough to be used professionally in a lot of circumstances.

It is delivered with a soft pouch which can be of some use, but this lens will stay a lot on the camera anyway.

Nikon 18-70 review – In use:

The AF is quite fast and it can be adjusted manually since this is a full specifications AFS lens.

The lens hood does a decent job but if you have the sun in the frame you should be careful.

I find this lens very useful for events shooting since it covers the most useful range of an equivalent 28-105 on full frame. Indeed it is not a 2.8 lens but you are going to usually shoot it at least at 5.6 due to the need for some depth of field.

If you want the best of both worlds, simply pair the 18-70 with the inexpensive Nikon 50/1.8 which will offer you a very good quality from 2.8 at a useful focal length for ambient light shots. At 18 mm, the 18-70 is 3.5 and you will be able to use it a reasonable long exposure times.

Another (unexpected) application for this lens is the product shooting especially when (very) different sized products have to be shot in a short period of time and the zooming feature becomes handy.

The Nikon 18-70 does an incredible job at 70 mm stopped down even at 16, and it covers about an 8×12 cm field at the minimum focusing distance.

Of course it can’t compete with the Micro Nikkor 60/2.8 but when speed and flexibility are important this lens does a pretty good job.

At 18 mm there is some “moustache” distortion but only if you look for it. In most people images, as wedding and events you will never see it. Only whet you try to do some architecture or interior shots and have straight lines in the wrong position you will notice this problem.

But this distortion can be successfully corrected with Panorama Tools given you have the correct coefficients, or easier with PTLens from Thomas Niemann.

Lens kits:

Being so versatile, the Nikon 18-70/3.5-4.5 can be either a single lens solution for social events, travel, hikes or a part of a two lenses kit, together with a telephoto zoom lens.

Nikon 18-70/3.5-4.5 + Nikon 50/1.8 – ideal for social events and some low light photography

Nikon 18-70/3.5-4.5 + 70-300 – small and light solution for most situations

Nikon 18-70/3.5-4.5 + Nikon 80-200/2.8 + Nikon 50/1.8 – versatile kit for more demanding shootings.

Nikon 18-70 review – Conclusion:

I find the Nikon 18-70/3.5-4.5 AFS DX lens a very useful and high quality lens, especially considering its price, and this was the reason for this review.

Actually, when I want to carry the least equipment, the Nikon 18-70/3.5-4.5 AFS DX and the Nikon 80-200/2.8 form a very useful and dependable kit.

More, if I was to go with only one lens with no knowledge about the assignment type, the Nikon 18-70 would be the one.

Buying the Nikon 18-70/3.5-4.5

You can get the Nikon 18-70 only second hand because it was dincontinued.


4 Responses to “Nikon 18-70 review – a very useful and high quality lens”

  • mark Says:

    compare the 18-70 to the 18-105 at 70mm and the difference is very visible, in favor of the 18-70. The new Nikon consumer zooms (including the 18-55 , 18-105 , 18-200) are good in the center but not good at all right outside the center. Like the tamrons
    take the tamron 17-50 or the tamron 70-300 VC : booth stellar in the center but the corners are a disaster. Nikon seems (to me) to understand how the market goes and the fact that the vast majority of the new digital buyers only look at the center when they have to decide what to buy.
    This 18-70 is sharp also at the corners , from 18 up to 70mm

  • Joe Says:

    @Chinto: It doesn’t vignette at 17 because it only goes to 18mm 😉

  • Chinto Jinocuago Says:

    Great review but you did not mention the lens is vignetting very strong at 17. Also resolution and vignetting problems are better handled by the 18-55 kit of the D40/40X/60

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