I know this is a bit speculative question, but I believe the answers can be generally useful.

At the moment I am using Nikon D7000 with the following lens setup:

  • Nikon 18-55mm as an universal, default lens (inherited from my old D60, the non-VR version).
  • Nikon 55-200mm as a zoom lens.
  • Nikon 35mm as a portrait / low light lens, but lately I've just used it as a primary.

Now I would like to replace the 18-55 with a new zoom lens. The idea is to get a lens I could use the whole day if necessary, and not be limited when I need a wide angle, or a portrait, or a closeup from distance.

Things I dislike about the current universal lens: terrible build quality, short travel of focus ring and absence of VR.

Lenses I was looking into are these:

Some constraints: price does not play a big role, I intent to use this lens for a long time. I would like it to be a Nikon lens.

What are the most important parameters/issues to take into consideration when picking such a lens?

Are there any known problems with any of the above lenses? Is one of them clearly superior to the others? Should I consider some other solutions?


5 Answers 5


You are looking for the ever popular Nikon AF-S 18-200mm f/2.0 ED VR II for $500USD. Of course we all know that it doesn't exist, but it would be great if it did.

I believe you will find a great deal of information in this existing thread: What are the tradeoffs when replacing two zoom lenses with a superzoom?

It is a very common scenario. We start with a kit lens that is not the best quality, and slowly purchase a medium prime, and a telephoto lens. Before long the prime has us itching for a higher quality, larger aperture general purpose lens, so we begin to look beyond the kit lens.

The problem is that we simply cannot have everything in one superzoom or general purpose zoom. You have to tradeoff somewhere. If you are looking for the utmost optical quality then prime lenses are likely the way to go on a DSLR. If you are looking for more flexibility over image quality, then obviously any of the lenses that you outlined will do that. They are middle of the road choices, not the best quality but not the basic entry level quality of the kit lens. If you are serious about quality in a zoom lens, the constant aperture f/2.8 lenses are really the way to go, but they are going to be bigger, heavier, more expensive, and have a limited focal range(ie not superzooms).

  • 1
    You forgot to mention that the 18-200 f2.0 weighs only 10 ounces. :) Aug 21, 2012 at 14:31
  • 1
    Thanks for your insight, it's on a fast track to Accept:) Anyway, no, not that imaginary lens really. I don't need to go past 100mm on the long end. Also, I am fully aware of the compromises that are a necessity in this area, so I'm just looking at what I could improve over the kit 18-55 lens without regretting it too soon.
    – vektor
    Aug 21, 2012 at 17:36
  • 2
    If you aren't worried about anything past 100mm, what about the 18-24mm range? If you aren't as concerned with that wide of a lens you would be a great candidate for the excellent Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8. Personally on an APS-C camera I prefer the 17-55 f/2.8 lenses.
    – dpollitt
    Aug 21, 2012 at 18:52
  • @dpollitt Indeed, the difference between 18 and 24 doesn't play that much of a role either. On a different note, neither 17-55 nor 24-70 have VR. Is this relevant?
    – vektor
    Aug 22, 2012 at 7:18

If cost is no constraint: I replaced my kit lens (18-105) of the D7000 with the Nikon 17-55 2.8 and I am very happy with my choice. Optically it is a very good lens, but depending on you requirements there are less costly alternatives that could be acceptable too. However, what was key for me is 2.8 and the build quality since it is my default lens.

If you ever want to upgrade to FX you could also consider the 24-70 2.8, all-though this gives you a kind of a strange focal range on DX und is even bigger, heavier and more expensive.

You didn't tell us why you want to upgrade, what should be the primary driver for your decision. With the 18-55 you have a lens in almost the same focal range as the 17-55, so I asume it's image quality / resolution you are looking for to match the D7000 sensor. If I am right I'd suggest the Nikon 17-55 f2.8.


To be honest, except for the 35mm f/1.8, the lenses you're using are too low quality to do justice to the sensor on the D7000. Regarding the lenses, I would recommend you go for a good general purpose zoom and a good telephoto lens instead of a single all in one lens like the 18-200 or 18-300. These all in one zooms cost quite a bit and generally have inferior quality compared to separate dedicated lenses, although they do offer the convenience of not having to change lenses frequently.

My recommendations for the standard zoom lenses are:

  • Nikon AF-S 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED
  • +Best image quality of the lot
  • +Best build quality of the lot
  • +Weather sealed
  • +Constant f/2.8 aperture
  • -Heavy (755 g)
  • -Very expensive (more than 4 times the price of Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 non VC and 5 times the price of the Nikon 18-105mm)
  • -No VR

  • Nikon AF-S 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G VR

  • +Very reasonably priced
  • +Very good image quality for the price
  • +Very useful focal range
  • +VR
  • -Smaller aperture
  • -Image quality not as good as some of the other lenses mentioned here

  • Tamron SP 17-50mm f/2.8

  • +Reasonably priced
  • +Very good image quality
  • +Constant f/2.8 aperture
  • -No VR

  • Tamron SP 17-50mm f/2.8 VC

  • +Good image quality
  • +VR
  • +Constant f/2.8 aperture
  • -Image quality inferior to the lower priced non-VC version
  • -High price

  • Sigma AF 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC HSM OS

  • +Good image quality
  • +Good focal range
  • +VR
  • -Variable aperture (although better than the Nikon 18-105mm)
  • -High price

  • Sigma AF 17-50mm f/2.8 DC EX OS HSM

  • +Very good image quality
  • +Constant f/2.8 aperture
  • +VR
  • -Variable aperture (although better than the Nikon 18-105mm)
  • -Very high price (double the price of the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 non-VC)

My recommendations for the telephoto zoom lens are:

  • Nikon AF-S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR
  • +Good image quality and sharpness
  • +Good build quality
  • +Fast AF operation
  • +VR
  • -Heavy

  • Tamron AF SP 70-300mm VC USD

  • +Good image quality and sharpness
  • +Lower priced compared to the Nikon (although not by much)
  • +VR
  • -Slower AF speed operation compared to the Nikon
  • -Build quality not as good as the Nikon

Overall I had to pick out of these choices, I would pick the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 non-VC and the Nikon 70-300. Both are well priced and have excellent image quality. You can compensate for the lack of VR/VC on the Tamron by using a monopod/tripod.


I've used a 70-200 VR with my older D70 and I just shifted to D7000 -- The 70-200 VR has been my primary lens for a long time.

The 70mm low-end figure had these two problems (along with my solutions for them).

  1. Can't focus near by objects
    • Indoor photography gets complicated
    • I usually walk-away from things I want to photograph
  2. Can't easily take wide pictures
    • take multiple frames and join them (Hugin is a favourite)

I got the 18-105 VR kit lens with the D7000 now; but, I still tend to pick the 70-200.
Am ordering the 35mm f/1.4D to join them now.

Update: This is the AF-S VR Zoom-NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED mentioned in another answer right now. This is kind of difficult to get these days. There is however the newer AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II.

  • You used a 70-200mm on a D70 as a primary lens? Ok...?
    – dpollitt
    Aug 21, 2012 at 15:09
  • @dpollitt, I considered the D90 for a long time and then finally went for the D7000 :-) --- Goes to show how much I'll recommend it.
    – nik
    Aug 21, 2012 at 15:12
  • 1
    You must be ripped! If I use my 70-200 VR for longer than about 10 minutes, my arms feel like jello, and I end up looking for a place to take a nap. At 15 minutes, I need to take a break to keep my hands from cramping. Aug 21, 2012 at 17:20

As you are willing to consider the AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II, may I suggest that you look at what users have to say about the non-Nikkor Tamron AF 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC LD Aspherical (IF) MACRO.

SLRgear.com say

  • “The Tamron is noticeably sharper than the Nikon in the majority of focal length / aperture combinations, except at the telephoto end (200mm) where both lenses produce similarly average results.”

DPReview say:

  • “It [the Tamron] the stands up well in comparison to both the Nikon 18-200mm F3.5-5.6G ED VR and the Canon EF-S 18-200mm F3.5-5.6 IS; it's softer than the Nikon at wideangle and the Canon at telephoto, but beats both in that mid-range.”

Here's a user discussion of the Nikon 18-200 and Tamron 18-270

Semi random comments from there include:

  • I have been using the Tamron 18-270 for about four months but on a D300 instead of a D90 and so far I have been pretty pleased with it. My only complaint with the lens is that when zooming from wide angle to tele it is stiff when crossing the mid-range. It bothered me some initially but now I've gotten used to it and seldom notice it. I have also noticed some CA at the 270 end but it seems to go away as you stop down past f8.

Here are 33 reviews of the Minolta / Sony A mount version . (This is for the slightly older 18-250 as there are more reviews - the 18-270 is about the same)

User ratings out of 5. Anything over 4 is respectable for a very wide range lens.

overall ratings: 4.36
sharpness rating: 4.44
color rating: 4.61
build rating: 4.33
distortion rating: 4.03
flare control: 4.39

3 x 18-270 reviews

I have the Sony SAL18250 = Tamron 18-250 with Sony mods to AF drive ratio and aperture blade shape. I find it a superbly useful walk-around lens. The biggest criticism made by many people is its slowish AF. Some say it cannot be used for sports, birds in flight etc. It can. You have to work at it more than some and learn to understand what it can do but, for the price, it's very good indeed.

Picture SAL18250 = Sony 18-250 mm version - made by Tamron.

Shags: 1/90s, f/8, 210mm (APSC actual), Sony A77 with antishake. Hand held - limitations are probably more caused by my focusing and hand shake than lens. Full res version gives a better impression.
Full resolution out of camera version here.

enter image description here

Useful review - Tamron plus a range of other longer zooms Canon focused but gives some good comparative results.
The lenses named below are compared to the Tamron.

Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM
Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
Sigma 18-125mm f/3.8-5.6 DC OS HSM Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS
Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM
Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di II
Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC

  • 2
    What is all of that random lens naming at the end of your answer?
    – dpollitt
    Aug 21, 2012 at 16:28
  • @dpollitt - Thanks. Modified. I hadn't noticed that that had happened. Those are the lenses which are compared with the Tamron in the test. I included them as it may make the tests of more interest to someone who has one of those or is looking at it. What I didn't notice is that focal length ranges had been included in error. The table in the review shows the focal length ranges over which various apertures are maintained. Aug 23, 2012 at 13:30

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