Nikon 18-200 VR vs 17-55 2.8

We spent the weekend with a family holidaying in Guilderton.   It is a great getaway, away from Perth but not too far to drive.

My friend had a Nikon 18-200 VR lens, whereas I brought my 17-55 2.8.   The 18-200 VR was the “other” lens I was considering when buying the 17-55 so I was happy to have a little play with it.   Is it “better”?   I don’t think there’s a “better”, it’s just different – it satisfies different requirements.

Good Things

I loved the smaller size of the lens!   My 17-55 is a big lens.  But when the 18-200 is extended to 200mm, it does get quite long, but that’s to be expected.  The smaller size is definitely good for travel when compared to the wider barrel of the 17-55.

I loved the ability to zoom up to 200mm.   We went kayaking on Moore River and the wives stayed on shore, snapping some photos of us.   The 17-55 only managed landscape type shots, and we were really small, whereas the 18-200 was able to zoom in really well.

Depth of Field

I’m not sure of the exact calculations, but the largest aperture for the 18-200 ranges from 3.5 at the 18mm end up to 5.6 at the 200mm end.   Yes, this means “more” depth of field, meaning it can be harder to get that thin slice of sharpness and everything else out of focus.   But remember that depth of field also is dependent on focal length, so at 200mm, it’s going to be fairly thin anyway (but not as thin as a fixed 70-200 2.8 lens!).

VR

How about the VR?  After playing around with it in the evening with VR on and off, I found that the VR did make a difference.  It allowed me to take shots down to nearly 1/10th second with minimal shake!!  I was really excited by this!!   However, it was really only good for stationary objects.   For shots of the kids in low light, it didn’t work so well because they weren’t sitting still, resulting in blurred moving subjects.

So in summary, the VR would be good for still portraits, landscapes or scenery shots where the subject is still.  If you’re travelling, shots inside churches, temples, etc would be better with the 18-200 VR lens – you could have a lower ISO, less noise, yet be sharp.

For lowlight photos where the subject could be moving, like concert or dance photography or kids in lowlight, the larger aperture is much more useful.

Summary

So, which should you get if you could only get one?   I think it really depends on your needs and shooting style!

I’m currently getting away with a 17-55 2.8 and a 70-200 2.8.   I use both for events and wedding photos, but if I travel, I’m stuck with just the 17-55 2.8.   I can’t zoom in, but I’ve found that I rarely need to.

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