Nikon AF-S DX 18-105mm f3.5-5.6G ED VR lens
For Nikon DX shooters looking to expand their horizons beyond the kit lens, the 18-105mm DX ED VR f3.5-5.6 lens is an attractive and reasonably priced addition to your collection. Introduced in August 2008 as a kit lens option for the D90, you can find it for well under $400. Delivering a 27-158mm 35mm equivalent focal length in a compact and lightweight package, combined with Nikon's Vibration Reduction (VR) image-stabilization technology, make this a good choice for travel and general pictorial photography. Although the telephoto range seems a likely option for portraits, its f5.6 maximum aperture does not permit the shallow depth of field desirable for those shots.
The lens fits in Nikon's lineup between the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR and the 18-200mm f3.5-5.6G IF-ED VR options; there is also an 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED lens still current, but it lacks VR.
A very wide textured rubber zoom ring is located toward the front of the lens where it's sized and positioned for comfort. It is also well dampened and exhibits no lens creep at all. However, that means the focus ring is small, only about 0.3 inch, and located at the rear of the lens nearest the body. Although the manual focus feels loose and sounds noisy, it gets the job done. While its 17.7-inch closest focusing distance allows you to get some cool shots, this is far from a macro lens. The lens' maximum aperture ranges from f3.5 to f5.6, while its minimum aperture ranges from f22 to f36 depending upon where you are in the zoom range.
Performance and image quality
In our lab testing we saw heavy barrel (where objects appear to curve away from the center of the image) and pincushion (where objects appear to curve toward the center of the image) distortion throughout the focal range, not uncommon for a budget zoom lens. At its widest, 18mm, it unsurprisingly exhibited the most excessive barrel distortion (-4.9 percent), while in the middle of the range, at 50mm, there was noticeable pincushion distortion (+ 2.1 percent). Fully extended at 105mm there was also noticeable pincushion distortion (+1.8 percent). However, the 18-105mm DX lens at 18mm displayed less distortion than the 18-200mm DX lens at 18mm (-5.6 percent), but more than the 16-85mm lens at 16mm (-3.6 percent). At longer focal lengths it performs comparably with the 18-200mm and the 16-85mm with some noticeable pincushion distortion.
Sharpness, both center and edge, stays consistent though all of the focal lengths. All three tested focal lengths rated very well, with 18mm slightly sharper than 50mm, and 50mm slightly sharper than 105mm. Edge sharpness also stays consistent through all focal lengths, rating very good across the board at the edges. Its sharpness at 18mm is just about the same as the 18-200mm, lens, and only a bit worse than the 16-85mm lens at 16mm; at 50mm, it is noticeably sharper than the 18-200mm, and about the same as the 16-85mm. There's minimal sharpness loss around the edges, good for a consumer lens. Some vignetting is noticeable at maximum aperture, specifically f5.6 at 105mm.
The Nikon 18-105mm DX ED VR is sort of a kit lens on steroids; it has the all-plastic construction of a basic kit lens but adds VR and an extended zoom range. If you want to equip your Nikon DX dSLR with something more than the basic 18-55mm kit lens and a better performer than the do-everything 18-200mm lens, this one provides a good combination of features and performance for a reasonable price.