Old 04-08-2008, 02:08 PM   #1
KevinM
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Default Nikon 18-200mm VR Zoom

Folks,

Do any of you have actual experience railfanning with the Nikon 18-200mm VR Zoom? As I've said in an earlier thread, I'm looking for a "walking around" lens. I have 18-55mm and 55-200mm VR zooms for use with my Nikon D40x, but too many shots occur in the 30-100 mm range....so I change lenses too much and miss shots.

I recently purchased the 18-135 mm (non-VR zoom) but am ready to return it. It has pretty bad barrel distortion at 18-22mm, but I can live with that. What I can't live with is the obvious pin-cushion distortion between 24mm and 135mm. I took the thing out in an urban environment for some test shots on a trolley car and all of the pictures at various focal lengths had obvious distortion. I don't want to spend my evenings post-processing every shot.

I am ready and willing to make the investment in the 18-200mm VR, but I've seen some distortion plots on that and they are not encouraging. They're better than the 18-135mm, but not MUCH better. I really don't want to spend $650-700 for another "fun-house" lens....and the 18-135mm borders on that.

Anybody have any recommendations? I mean other than tossing the D40x and buying a Cannon?

Thanks,

Kevin
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Old 04-08-2008, 06:04 PM   #2
Ed Mullan
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I've got an idea..if you are happy with the other two lenses, why not invest in another body? I think you could get a D40 to use with the 55/200, because you proably won't crop as much with the longer lens.
The total outfit might not be to bad to handle, as either of the lens camera combos are very large. 52mm filters and polarizers would fit either lens, too.
Gives you a backup, also. I left my camera home by accident the other day, and dang near fainted when I found I'd done so. Can't imagine being without a camera!

Ed
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Old 04-08-2008, 06:47 PM   #3
John Craft
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KevinM
Do any of you have actual experience railfanning with the Nikon 18-200mm VR Zoom? . . . I am ready and willing to make the investment in the 18-200mm VR, but I've seen some distortion plots on that and they are not encouraging.

I've used one for over a year now, and am quite happy with it. If you're looking for tack-sharp poster prints of architectural subjects, it (or any zoom) may not be to your liking, but I haven't faced any distortion problems that can't be sorted in a couple of minutes with Photoshop.

You may also want to look at the 24-85 - it may have fewer pincushion issues.
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Old 04-08-2008, 06:55 PM   #4
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I have the 18-135mm... it sucks. Great for family shots, birthdays, Christmas, etc... not for railfanning.

I have a Nikon D200, and all my glass with the exception of that 18-135 are old fashioned manual lenses... ED glass, usully the lowest F-stop possible. I'm naturally skeptical with auto everything lenses, and believe it or not, I have no zooms other than the 18-135 AF POS! I've got some decent results with my stone-age lenses, and decided to stick with them.

I'd still be interested in a nice telephoto AF lens, but I, like you, am a little gun shy to put out the money.

Once I could change a roll of K64 in a Nikon F3 in about 10 seconds (I remember once shooting with a 300mm, changing both the lens and film and getting shots with my 85mm of the same moving train). I find it a little trickier with the D200 since I have to rememeber to tell the camera which "non-CPU" lens I'm using, but it can be done with advance planning. I've thought about getting a second D200 (they'v come down in price), but I'm not sure if I'd be better off waiting for the D300 to come down in price (or save the $$$ for a rainy day).

EDIT: My one RP shot with the 18-135: http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=228961

The same train at a different location with my old fashioned 85mm: http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=228960
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Old 04-08-2008, 08:23 PM   #5
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Ed,

I am happy with the 18-55mm and 55-200mm VR lenses. Now that I've researched the heck out of the other AF-S lenses, I think these two are not only the best performers, but they're also the LEAST EXPENSIVE! Go figure. I have considered another body, but lugging two around....and I would need to have both with me....would be a bit cumbersome. Still it is an option I am holding open.

John,

You had me sold with your first sentence....and back on the fence again with your second. It's the sitting at the tube PSing out all of the distortion on every last shot that I'm hoping to avoid. Do you have to mess with most of your shots to get them into RP??


Guys, I've also looked at the 24-120 VR. That really is the "walking around" range for me. The distortion plots on that lens look really good, but 75% of the reviews I've read say the lens isn't very sharp....which is a problem. I have a Nikon 5700 and it left me with thousands of "soft" pictures.

I probably should have bought a D80. It would have left me with a bigger selection of lenses to choose from. With my D40x, I am limited to AF-S or AF-I lenses if I want full functionality and unfortunately, all of those are consumer zooms with issues.....

Kevin
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Old 04-09-2008, 12:44 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KevinM
You had me sold with your first sentence....and back on the fence again with your second. It's the sitting at the tube PSing out all of the distortion on every last shot that I'm hoping to avoid. Do you have to mess with most of your shots to get them into RP??
(Psssst . . . don't tell anyone, but I've never submitted a photo to RP)

I don't recall ever using the barrel / pincushion adjustment in PS for an image in the 30-100mm range (the range you specified).

This photo was taken at 50mm. The only adjustment I made was a rotation: http://www.steamspecials.com/images/...8/carland8.jpg

This photo was taken at 18mm. The "fullsize" file is simply converted from RAW and saved as JPEG. The "uncorrected" file has been downsized to 1024 px wide. The "corrected" file has been rotated 0.25 degrees CW, I put about +3 of barrel distortion correction on it, and downsized it to 1024 px wide.

http://johnacraft.com/images/JAC_1912_fullsize.jpg

http://johnacraft.com/images/JAC_1912_uncorrected.jpg

http://johnacraft.com/images/JAC_1912_corrected.jpg


I could upload a few uncorrected shots at various focal lengths if you want to see some other examples.
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Old 04-09-2008, 02:21 AM   #7
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Hi John,

THANK YOU for taking the time to post those shots and the information. This is really valuable information. That 50mm shot of PM1225 is gorgeous! Knowing that the lens does OK in my target range is a real selling point.

Also, seeing the uncorrected 18mm shot tells me the barrel really isn't THAT bad....and the PS correction took it all out as far as my eyes can see.

Tonight, I finally found a store that had one of these that I could play with. Yes, I did see the pin-cushion effect, but it is not as bad as the 18-135mm. Also, the build quality of the lens seemed pretty good....no zoom creep at all as far as I could tell.

I'm going to sleep on this tonight, but I think I want one of those super-zooms.

Thanks again, and thanks to the other folks who responded to this thread. I really appreciate the advice I get here.

Kevin
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Old 04-09-2008, 06:25 AM   #8
Dennis A. Livesey
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John
The caboose shot is terrific!
Please consider putting your stuff here.
O/W you are unjustly depriving us!

Last edited by Dennis A. Livesey; 04-09-2008 at 06:26 AM. Reason: omission
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