Nikon were one of the first camera manufacturers to design digital-specific lenses matched to the DX sensor size, but then seemed somewhat reluctant to produce a true budget standard 'kit' zoom, finally succumbing with their original 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 to accompany the launch of the D50 in April 2005. This lens was updated to a mark II version with the release of the D40 in November 2006, featuring a new external design and smoother zoom operation. Then barely a year later, they announced a wholly new version, this time equipped with a vibration reduction (VR) unit to combat camera shake; a lens which has now been confirmed as the standard companion to the D60 SLR. This lens is clearly Nikon's response to the widespread adoption of in-body stabilization systems by most other manufacturers (with the notable exception of Canon, whose own stabilized 18-55mm preceded Nikon's by just a few months), and allows them to offer stabilized dSLR kits at budget prices.
The incorporation of VR technology allows photographers to take substantially sharper pictures at slower shutter speeds than previously possible, and according to Nikon's own specifications, speeds up to three stops slower can be used before the image-degrading blur of camera shake becomes apparent. This should allow shooting in a wide range of low-light situations which would previously be impossible.
Changes compared to the non-VR version
As with Canon's 18-55mm IS upgrade, there are rather more changes from the previous Nikon 18-55mm than at first meet the eye. The physical similarity between the lenses masks a multitude of differences; most notably the new lens has a more complex optical formula of 11 elements in 8 groups as compared to 7 elements in 5 groups, and interestingly the new lens loses the Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass element of its predecessor. The use of ED elements allows superior correction of image aberrations in simpler lens constructions, and presumably Nikon consider the more complex design of the new lens renders their use superfluous.
Other changes include a modest increase in size, with about 3mm added to the diameter and 6mm to the length, and a 60g increase in weight. As seems to be the current fashion, the smooth black plastic of the old lens has been replaced by a new stippled matte black finish, which resembles magnesium alloy and matches the D60 body. Other differences include a larger rear lens element (20mm vs 15mm), an additional circular flare-cut diaphragm placed in front of the aperture assembly, and new 'Super-Integrated Coatings'. Overall this newcomer is clearly a completely different beast to the old lens, and as the old 18-55mm had an unusually high reputation for image quality (for a kit lens at least), we will be interested to see if the new version maintains this standard.
- 27-82.5mm equivalent focal length range
- Optical vibration reduction – 3 stops
- F mount for Nikon DX dSLRS only