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Nikon 18-200 vs 28-300 vs 18-300
© 2012 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Images   Comparison Table   Recommendations

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July 2012     Nikon Reviews    Nikon Comparisons    Nikon Lenses     All reviews


Nikon 18-200 review

Nikon 18-200 VR II

DX only.

Nikon 18-300 review

Nikon 18-300 VR

DX only.

Nikon 28-300 review

Nikon 28-300 VR

FX, DX and 35mm.

Versus the state-of-the-art:

Nikon 35 1.8 DX
Nikon 85mm f/1.4 G


Nikon 200mm macro

Nikon 200mm Micro. FX, DX and 35mm.


Introduction         top

Intro   Images   Comparison Table   Recommendations

Let's compare the sharpness of Nikon's recent super-zooms: the 18-200 DX VR, 28-300 VR and the newest Nikon 18-300 DX VR. Only the 28-300 VR is able to cover FX or 35mm, while all these lenses cover DX. Nikon's only other super-zoom was the manual-focus 35-200mm AI-s of 1985-2005, which wasn't very good optically, so I won't bother comparing it here.

On most computer monitors at 100 DPI, these are small sections from what would be gallery-sized 50" x 33 " (4 x 2.8 feet, or 1.5 x 1 meters) prints, if printed in their entirety. Few people, if anyone, prints this big from DX. At smaller sizes, these differences will be even less obvious.

These are crops taken from the center of a 16 MP DX Nikon D7000 at 100%. Its images are 4,928 x 3,264 pixels, and here I'm only showing 500 x 500 pixel crops.

For the sake of my own sanity, I only am comparing the centers, and only at f/7.1 at 18mm and 35mm, f/5 at 85mm, and f/5.6 at 200mm and 300mm.

I didn't include the 70-300 VR as it's not a super zoom, but I do compare it at the end.

You may click any image to get to that lens' detailed review.


18mm                        18mm      35mm     85mm     200mm     300mm      top

Nikon 18-200 VR Nikon 18-300 VR

At 18mm, they're the same. Ignore the exposure variations.

When reviewing numerous pairs, there were more variations in each lens from shot-to-shot than there was from lens to lens.


35mm                        18mm      35mm     85mm     200mm     300mm      top

Nikon 18-200 VR Nikon 18-300 VR
Nikon 28-300 VR Nikon 35 1.8 DX

At 35mm, they're all the same. Ignore the exposure variations.


85mm                        18mm      35mm     85mm     200mm     300mm      top

Nikon 18-200 VR Nikon 18-300 VR
Nikon 28-300 VR Nikon 85 1.4 G

At 85mm, the 85/1.4G wins by a slight margin, with all the zooms about the same. Ignore the exposure variations.


200mm                      18mm      35mm     85mm     200mm     300mm      top

Nikon 18-200 VR Nikon 18-300 VR
Nikon 28-300 VR Nikon 200 Micro-NIKKOR

At 200mm, the 200mm Micro wins, followed closely by the 18-200. The 18-300 VR and 28-300 VR look crappy by comparison.


300mm                      18mm      35mm     85mm     200mm     300mm      top

Nikon 28-300 VR Nikon 18-300 VR

Nikon 18-200mm VR

These are too close to call betwen the 18-300 and 28-300. Other shot pairs made one or the other look a little better. Don't sweat it.

Cropping from the 18-200mm isn't as good as either other lens at 300mm.


Versus 70-300 VR         top

Intro   Images   Comparison Table   Recommendations

The 70-300 VR is a different lens for a different purpose. Compared for sharpness, they are about the same at 105mm, the 70-300 is a little better at 200mm, and the 18-300 is a little better at 300mm.

If you want something significantly better at the long end, look at the 80-200mm and 70-200 VR II lenses instead, or even Nikon's fixed lenses. At 200mm, my NIKKOR-Q 200mm f/4 from 1970 is sharper than any of the super zooms or 70-300 VR, and sells for only about $75!


Comparison Table         top

Intro   Images   Comparison Table   Recommendations

All work on DX cameras.


All have:

VR: Vibration Reduction

Instant manual-focus override with a fingertip.

Made in Thailand.

Optical tricks that shorten the effective maximum focal length at close distances in exchange for being able to focus so close. At infinity, all give their rated maximum focal lengths.


All have the same:

Minimum focus distance.

Maximum aperture.


Nikon 18-200, 28-300 and 18-300mm VR

Nikon 18-200 VR DX, 28-300 VR and 18-300 VR DX. bigger.

2005 Nov & 2009 July (II)
2010 August
2012 June
Work on FX and 35mm?
Filter size
Maximum repro ratio
19.9 oz./565g
28.1 oz./796g
29.213 oz./828.2g
Price, 7/2012


Recommendations         top

Intro   Images   Comparison Table   Recommendations

These all do about the same thing optically. At normal shooting apertures in the center, they are all about as sharp as each other and the reference lenses at most focal lengths.

They cover different ranges and are different sizes and cover different formats. Nikon makes no 28-450mm zoom for FX, which would have been the analog to the 18-300mm DX lens.

All these lenses can make knockout photos 5-feet (1.5 meters) wide, seen at the same distance as your computer screen. People who spend a lot of time worrying about lens sharpness rarely spend time worrying about what makes a good photo, so they rarely do. Don't become one of them, get out and shoot!

When I spend more time looking at the master files for thee shots on my dual 30" monitors, I realize that as plastic zoom lenses, there is often more variation from shot-to-shot with each lens than any consistent and absolute variation from one lens to another.

All these zooms are made using the same technology, and pretty much make the same pictures.

Your choice is easy:


FX and 35mm

Of these three zooms, only the 28-300 VR works on FX. Done.



All three work on DX.

The 28-300 VR loses all of the wide-angle range compared to the 18-300 VR. They are about the same size, weight and price, so unless you expect to be shooting FX and 35mm as well, forget the 28-300 VR for use on DX.

This leaves us with the 18-200 and 18-300 for DX. Their similar performance makes the choice easy, since the 18-200 is smaller, lighter and less expensive, but the 18-300 goes to 300mm. Do you really want to pay the cost and and have to carry around the big 18-300 all the time just for the times you'll use 300 instead of 200mm? For me, I prefer the 18-200 , and if you really need and use 300mm, go ahead and get the 18-300 — just be forewarned that it's too big and heavy to enjoy carrying it all day.


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