Nikon AF-S DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR I I- £590
You can't help but feel that many superzoom lenses are built down to a price, but the Nikon 18-200mm seems a real quality item. Stand-out features compared with all the other lenses on test include ring-type Silent Wave ultrasonic autofocus, which is rapid and accurate, as well as full-time manual override. It's also the only lens to include a distance scale that's neatly positioned below a viewing window, and overall build quality feels well above average.
Nikon's latest-generation vibration reduction lives up to its four-stop promise, edging ahead of the system fitted to the original version of this lens. The dual-mode stabiliser includes both normal and active modes, toggled by a switch on the lens barrel. The lens also suffers slightly less zoom creep, although it's still a bit of an issue in the 24-135mm focal range. At least the new edition includes a zoom lock.
The focus ring is towards the rear of the lens barrel, but because it doesn't rotate during autofocus, this doesn't impair the excellent handling. The focus and zoom rings are smooth and precise and the optical quality is extremely good, with excellent sharpness through most of the range.
Distortions are pronounced at the wide-angle and telephoto ends of the zoom range and colour fringing can be noticeable at the edges of the frame. However, in-camera corrections for distortion and chromatic aberration work well in Nikon's current bodies.
Sharpness at the widest and middle focal lengths is excellent, but it drops at 200mm. It falls towards the edges at all focal lengths.
Fringing is consistently low, showing little to no signs across the frame. At 200mm, there's a mild green fringe towards the edges.
Distortion at 18mm is heavy and only a fraction less than the Sony. At the middle and longest focal lengths, pinch distortion is average.
Image test verdict
Sharpness at all focal lengths is good and beaten only by the Sony. Fringing across the frame is minimal, but barrel distortion at 18mm is high.