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How to get one (an undropped one, that is)
Drop Test: Yosemite National Park, USA
As part of my ongoing commitment to science, I had a generous Yosemite workshop attendee volunteer his 18-200mm for testing.
He dropped it on concrete from 1 meter (3 feet).
You can see the result. That's the filter that cracked, not the lens.
He emptied glass of his Hoya 81A filter into his uneaten scrambled eggs at the cafeteria, which was pretty scary for me to watch since I have a reputation of finishing anything offered to me by my fellow diners. I didn't eat this, but the scary part was how the slightly-amber glass disappeared into the eggs.
Anyway, did the 18-200mm still work?
At first, the zoom ring was locked at 18mm. An application of elbow grease (American slang for forcing it) freed the zoom, and now it zoomed over most of the range. It was stiff, but it worked.
It worked for about a day, and then died.
It didn't break apart, which had been my fear.
I'll check back in after it's been in for repair.
Drop Test: West Babylon, NY
A reader from Long Island writes:
While recently on vacation I put my D70s/18-200VR combo in a small shoulder bag since that’s easier to carry than my large camera bag.
I put the shoulder bag on top of the ironing board in the room so I could “take care of mother nature” before departing for our last day of vacation. After I turned and walked away I heard a loud thud. I spun around and saw the bag on the floor.
The floor was hard, but carpeted.
Considering the drop was from 4’ high, and my camera and lens were only a few weeks old, my heart dropped. I opened the bag and removed the camera. As I held my breath I removed the lens cap and all I could see was smashed glass. My body instinctively stopped breathing for a second. I instantly thought “another $750 purchase when I get back home” and of course “what will the wife say about this.”
But after inspecting the damage, I realized that all of the glass was from the UV filter that I put on the lens as soon as I bought it. Miraculously, the lens was not damaged at all. It took me some time to clean out the shards of glass and fine glass powder residue, and even longer to remove the warped filter ring still mounted on the end of the lens. But that was a small price to pay compared to what I thought had happened.
All functionality and image quality seems to be fine. I was impressed, to say the least.
Drop Test: San Diego, California, USA
A San Diego reader writes:
I was out with my 2 year old at a fundraiser breakfast for a local fire station. I had put my camera around a friend's stroller for a second to get the kiddo set up to eat. The friend took her child out of the stroller and the weight of my D50/18-200 lens combo pulled the stroller and camera backwards, crashing to the ground.
My friend handed me my camera and I expected the worst. I had to pry the lens cap off the filter, but the lens and filter seems to be fine. 6 weeks later I am still taking great pictures with no damage to speak of, save a pretty banged up lens cap.
I don't ever want to repeat that scene, but I am pretty impressed with the quality of the lens.
Drop Test: Manchester, England
Another generous reader in rainy North West England shares his experience:
Never one to shirk a challenge, I recently took the trouble to drop my D70/18-200 combination, front element down, onto a large, pointed piece of Pennine gritstone, from atop the field wall I was scaling (I live in the gray, rainy North West of England).
My girlfriend gingerly picked it up. Tinkling noises. Eww.
I am not rich - I shouldn't really have afforded the lens at all. We extracted the lens cap, which had been driven into the Hoya filter I'd attached as soon as I bought the lens. The broken glass of the filter dropped out onto the floor. The rim of the filter is bashed well into the thread of the lens body, and I've not so far found a way of removing it.
But after some ginger handling and blowing away shattered crud, the whole lens and camera work perfectly. The front element didn't get a single scratch, and focusing and sharpness are just as good as before.
If you hold the lens up to the light, it looks as if it is dusty inside, which it certainly didn't before. Presumably some kind of dust or lubricant has been shocked free inside the lens, but (and since I'm not selling on eBay, you can actually trust this for once) the picture quality appears totally unimpaired.
This was a really good bash, equivalent to hitting the lens cap with a hammer, and I was both surprised and very delighted that no real harm seems to have resulted to the plasticy lens or plasticy camera.
I was no doubt lucky, but you have to give it to Nikon, their stuff is more resilient than I would have guessed. It's kind of a pain not being able to detach the old filter rim, but I'm disinclined to risk further injury.
Drop Test: Orlando, Florida, USA
A reader in Orlando writes:
My D200 with my 18-200 lens was in my waist pack, the plastic buckle failed and the pack fell from waist height onto the cement. Naturally the pack fell lens first and struck on the front edge of the lens. The Nikon filter broke (it is hard to get the tiny fragments of glass out) but thankfully the lens was otherwise undamaged.
Drop Test: Emerald Isle, NC, USA
Love my daughter… she decided to play with the neck strap on my D200 unbeknownst to me. Long story short, she did not put it back on the correct way, and as I was walking along with the D200/18-200 combo slung casually across my back, I felt a jerk and then heard a heart stopping thump on the ground.
The camera obviously landed lens first from a height of about 4 feet onto a hard concrete sidewalk. Thankfully, I had the lens cover on. After holding my breath, and taking the very dinged lens cover off, I was pleasantly surprised to see all of the glass was intact!
I took a few test shots to make sure all was working well, and walked away thanking the great photo enthusiast in the sky for keeping both my lens and my camera safe from harm. This lens may not be built as solidly as my pro Nikkor lenses, but considering I have never dropped any of those, I was very happy with the outcome of my little drop test.
Drop Test: Seattle, Washington, USA
A reader writes:
Hmm, I must say I have had a slightly different experience of this lens. I was snapping a few pictures of my cat one evening in the living room last month, and had my D70 and 18-200 on a tripod. The lens was fully extended, and as I moved to a new vantage point I bumped it on the ceiling. Not a hard crash at all -- it didn't even make a visible dent in the soft acoustic tile.
Afterward it had a grinding sound on zooming, wouldn't collapse all the way, and was no longer able to auto-focus. It's at Nikon right now, will be back in a couple weeks after a $135 repair.
It might have been a silver lining for me, though. I just got back from a week in Barcelona, and having only my 12-24mm forced me to follow the old maxim of "get closer" at all times, resulting in some shots I really like.
Drop Test: Moscow, Russia
Another reader writes:
I would like to fill up your collection concerning tests 18-200 VR on durability.
Very impressing test which hardly did not become the reason of my heart attack.
Drop Test: Malaysia
A reader writes:
Last year I was given a prototype D200 and 18-200VR for testing, without camera strap or lens hood. I put the thing lens-first into an overcoat pocket while taking a leak, and heard a crashing sound as the whole thing slipped out of my pocket and fell lens-first about 1m onto a marble floor in London. Dented filter thread ring on 18-200, lens continued to operate fine afterwards. D200 had some sealing issues after that (condensation under top panel LCD).
Drop Test: Tadoussac, Quebec, Canada
A reader writes:
July 06. Warm day. Slipped from shoulder strap, dropped about 2.5 feet onto coarse gravel. Damage: two nasty gouges in the magnesium back. Everything worked fine until the day of the end of the trip, when I felt something snap in the 18-200 and it wouldn't zoom any more. Nikon claimed I had dropped the lens (although there was no visible damage on the lens and I didn't tell them), said that the helical mechanism had to be replaced for $561 Cdn. I authorised the repair (what choice did I have?) but when it was returned a month later, there was no charge. Nikon changed their minds for some reason. The D200 works fine, as I would expect it to.
Drop Test: Unknown Location
A reader with no location writes:
I have conducted several drop tests of my lenses.
My wife conducted her own drop test on my 18-200mm VR by dragging the by the strap the D70 it was mounted on off the table onto a marble floor. The lens hood was broken, but the lens continues to function normally.
The 80-400mm VR once fell out of my belt pack onto a concrete jetty, bounced, then rolled down the rocks of the face of the jetty almost to the water below. The hood was broken, but the lens continued to operate.
The 18-70mm 'kit' lens was on my camera when the tripod fell forward onto a rock in Banaue. The filter was smashed, the hood was broken, and the autofocus stopped working.
Drop Test: Unknown Location
Another reader with no location writes:
I feel so much better after reading about how many other people had a UV filter shatter from a simple drop.
My D200 with the 18-200 was in its CF-D200 condom inside a backpack when it slid off a luggage trolley and lightly landed on the floor. So light I didn't bother to check it.
The next day when I went to shoot the image was fuzzy and I assumed fog as I was in Vietnam and had just walked outside into 98% humidity from a hotel lobby.
The shattered UV filter gave my heart a pause but luckily with the help of a restaurant cloth napkin came off easily. I air brushed out the glass shards and the lens never missed a beat.
Lesson learnt, never leave the camera anywhere that it can get away from me.
Drop Test: Unknown Location
I recently dropped my Nikon D70s with the 18-200 attached.
I was removing my Tamrac backpack from the rear of my SUV, the equipment section wasn't closed, and the camera fell from about 3 feet up to the asphalt.
It landed on the edge of the lens cap - as evidenced by the scratch on it - but with luck, no broken glass.
The only issue I now have is that after taking a shot, I can audibly hear the VR lock back down (I think).
Images have not been affected to the best of my knowledge, and I'm not planning on sending it in for repair unless it begins to fail me.
Drop Test: Tilburg The Netherlands
A reader writes:
I owned a 18-200 for a month.
It fell with my D200 from 1 - 1,5 meter height and broke in 2 pieces. It was a pretty harsh and stupid fall.
I was stunned. I called Nikon to discuss this. They keep deniying(sic) that this lens is a risk when dropped. (I suppose every lens is a risk)
Mine was build in Thailand and when hanging on my shoulder was always in the 200 position.
I have seen 2 18-200 which were built in Japan. These Japan build lenses seemd too me better build. They 'hung' in the 18 position. I can't proof anything, just wanted too tell the story.
End of reader's observations. I'm (Ken) unsure where everyone else's were made; only the very first ones were made in Japan. I doubt they are made any differently.
Drop Test: Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada
Another reader writes (different camera):
I had a cheap, side opening shoulder bag for all my camera gear, and over the years, it's been picked up 3 times with the flap open, resulting in something falling out.
The first time it was my Canon 75-300mm lens, falling about a half metre onto the sidewalk. It was scratched, but because it landed with a horizontal component of speed, the impact was slight. Everything worked fine afterwards.
The second time was the same lens, a short drop onto a wooden table, no damage.
The third time (should it have taken that many accidents before I got a new bag?) was the best, 1 metre onto carpet, everything came out of the bag, 75-300mm lens, Canon Digital Rebel with Tamron 19-35mm lens attached. The 75-300mm was again fine, however the camera landed lens first at an angle. The Tamron was done, the camera gives an error while starting up with that lens attached, and there is lots of grinding and springy sounds when trying to zoom the lens by hand. Thankfully, the camera itself is fine. I now have a new bag, and a new wideish zoom lens. :)
I never trust plastic-bodied lenses, but science has shown us that the Nikon18-200mm is much tougher than I would have expected.
As a news photographer I met dropping off mangled cameras at Nikon's Torrance service facility shared with me some years ago when I asked him how Nikon fared against Canon under newspaper abuse, he replied "Sure, Nikons are made of metal and Canons are made of plastic, but the Nikons dent and the Canons just bounce."
Want to help science? Go and do likewise, and share your results. Thanks! Ken.