Hours of Idleness-A Photographer's Journey in St. Louis

Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G Lens

Posted in 35mm, perception, photography, technique by Jason Gray on June 19, 2011

This lens was a popular model offered originally as a kit lens with the Nikon D70.  Although an inexpensive option, this lens can produce some extraordinary results when compared to other lenses in its class, and really is a wonderful value, considering its surprisingly good image quality (decent out-of-focus, good acutance, and good contrast) when shot wide open.  It is pretty compact, falling in size somewhere between the 28-80mm G kit and the 18-105mm G kit lenses, but feels closer to the 18-105, in terms of build quality.

The lens that I used for this review was supplied by my friend, Joe, and everyone knows my fondness for the 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6G, so I will be comparing Joe’s lens to my own favorite compact zoom.

At 18mm:

At 50mm:

At 70mm:

Without hood at 18mm:

Full name: Nikon 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor

Max/min. Aperture: f/3.5-4.5/f/22-25

Diaphragm Blades: 7

Lens Configuration: 15 elements in 13 groups, with 3 ED elements and 1 Aspherical element

Filter Size: 67mm

Magnification Ratio: 1:6.2

Focuses Beyond: 15″

From the side:

Some shots with this lens (note, none have been processed at all, including sharpening):

In comparing this lens to the 28-80mm it is apparent that each have certain strengths.  For instance, the 28-80mm is lighter, smaller, has slightly more reach, generally costs less than half as much on the used market, and can be used with full-frame dslrs and 35mm film slrs (so long as they do not require an aperture ring).  While the 18-70mm features better build quality and sealing, goes dramatically wider, has a built-in distance scale, and is a half-stop faster at the long end.  The 18-70mm balances better on most cameras as well.

In terms of how each of their variable apertures break down, ie. the widest they go at standard focal lengths, here is the data:

1. 18-70:  at 18mm= f/3.5;  at 28mm= f/3.8; at 35mm= f/4.2; at 50mm= f/4.5; at 70mm= f/4.5; at 80mm= na

2. 28-80: at 18mm= na; at 28mm= f/3.3; at 35mm= f/3.8; at 50mm= f/4.5; at 70mm= f/5.3; at 80mm= f/5.6

Again, each clearly has a strength and a weakness, but I would have to say that the speed edge goes slightly in favor of the 18-70mm.  Given everything together, I would say its a toss up between which of these lenses is “better”.  I would say that, all considered, the 28-80mm is still the better lens for me because of its usually lower pricetag and its ability to be used with my film cameras.  However, the 18-70mm is probably the better overall lens for cropped-sensor camera bodies.

One problem with both of these lenses is that they lack VR.  While I don’t believe that it is a big issue at the shorter focal lengths, I do think that it becomes a factor when you get above 50mm (especially when your minimum aperture is f/5.6).

Having such a wide focal range, like these two lenses, can cause problems of perspective.  Many photographers assume that having a wide zoom range means that they do not have to change their foot position as often (which is probably true), but they should consider how perspective affects the images that they take.  For example, see the two images below, which were each taken at the same distance from the object:

at 70mm:

at 18mm:

Now consider what the photographer who only had a 70mm lens’ shot would have looked like had he/she been forced to move their feet to get a similar composition as the 18mm shot above:


2 Responses

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  1. Stan said, on February 21, 2012 at 1:55 am

    Just bought this lens, and I’m really looking forward to learn the handling and image differences between it and my “do-everything” 18-200 VR.

  2. […] Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G DX […]

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