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Nikon 18-200mm. (enlarge)
See also the 18-200mm VR Macro Focusing page
Focus is fast and silent. It doesn't get any better than this.
The instant manual mode is great. It feels better, slicker and less mushy than my other under $1,000 AF-S lenses.
Just grab the focus ring at any time for instant manual override. Use the "M/A" position of the M/A - M focus mode selector.
This lens has real AF-S, compared to some new semi-AF-S lenses like the 55 - 200 which only focus well enough for amateur use.
I can track cars flying by me at 60 MPH (100 km/h) easily on my D200. The lens and camera are better at tracking focus than I am at keeping the subjects in the frame!
Even at 200 mm it quickly focuses from near to far. Unlike tele zooms it's focusing from infinity to 1.6 feet and back out again! That's quite a feat; the 70-200 VR ($1,500) is faster, but only has to rack in to 5 feet. Of course for sports I'd get the 70-200 VR instead, but that's not why I bought this jewel, and I already have a huge 80-200 AF-S for sports. The Nikon 18-200mm has no focus limiter switch, or need for one.
All my shots have been right on. I haven't seen any errors with the autofocus system of my D200.
Focus While Zooming
My Nikon 18-200mm holds focus amazing well while zooming. I can zoom in and out and it holds focus.
In network television we zoom in, focus the pedestal mounted camera looking at a 5" b/w monitor, and zoom out. This works perfectly with my Nikon 18-200mm.
It even works in reverse. I can focus at wide, zoom in, and be reasonably in focus. We focus at the long end since we get the accuracy and precision. Focus with any lens is much less precise (or critical) at wide.
This is better than my 80-400 VR which loses focus when zoomed.
Manual Focus Camming
This is a treat. People who have never used wide-range zooms may not appreciate this. Most wide range zooms manually focus way too fast at the wide end and painfully slow at the tele end.
The Nikon 18-200mm uses a clever non-linear cam in the focus mechanism so that it's easy to focus at any distance at any focal length. It works like it's supposed to, which is far better than other lenses. I appreciate this because I've used other lenses in the past which were a pain.
I use it on my D200 every day and it's great.
Nikon has found some issues with older firmware in some older cameras.
The D2H needs a firmware revision Nikon will release around April 2006.
The D100 might have to go in for service. I think that's the only way it can update firmware.
The problem is, to quote Nikon, that it may be "unable to acquire accurate focus on near subjects when shooting at wide-angle positions and autofocusing at infinity." Nikon attributes this to " incompatibilities in AF control at short distances."
Nikon is usually very precise in it's language, so I presume this notice means that the current D2Hs and D70s work perfectly with every version of firmware.
You can read all about this here.
Once in a blue moon my Nikon 18-200mm won't focus on my D200. Manual focus works fine, but the lens won't autofocus no matter what I do. It's annoying!
Of course the camera needs to be pointed at something with contrast, lines or texture. Point it at the sky and nothing autofocuses. That's normal.
One time this was so bad I thought for sure I was going to have to send my lens in for service, since nothing would get it to go.
Then I discovered the problem: I had knocked the AF switch on my D200 to M. This switch is easy to knock and I had forgotten to check the obvious. There also is a switch on the lens which is not easy to knock, but I have left the lens set to M shooting at night, and I forgot to return it to A/M the next morning.
This fixes most of my problems.
Rarer is when the lens honestly won't focus. When this happens I turn the camera off and on. If this doesn't fix it, turn the camera off, press the lens release button and rotate the lens back and fourth a couple of times. This will clear any dust off the electrical contacts and focus returns.
I have seen consistent problems on a D200 when using Sigma lenses as I mentioned on my Digital Ultra-Wide Review. Some off-brand lenses don't have enough sharpness away from the center sensor to let the D200 think that the image is in focus. That's why I stick to Nikkor lenses.