After doing some shooting with a friend's camera, equipped with a 18-200mm lens, I find my own 18-70mm lens rather limiting. I mostly do snapshots while traveling and/or with the scouts, and versatile lens with a long zoom range seems to support this kind of photography well.

I am aware that my Nikon D70 has some years behind it, and that I might want to upgrade to a newer body within the next few years. If I purchase a new 18-200mm (or similar) lens for my D70 today, will it still useful when I replace my camera body in a few years? Would it be wiser to upgrade body and lens at the same time?


A good lens is a lasting investment that will outlive generations of camera bodies. But you should be aware of these general considerations when buying a lens.

  1. The greater the zoom range the lower the resolution, the greater the distortions and the smaller the maximum aperture. This is an unavoidable law of lenses. Thus a prime lens is capable of the highest quality, moderate zoom lenses are capable of intermediate quality while the long, so-called super-zoom, lenses have the lowest quality. It is a trade-off, convenience vs image quality that will depend on your needs and circumstances.
  2. High resolution camera bodies will reveal the shortcomings in your lenses. Your Nikon D70 has a 6 Mp sensor and this low resolution sensor will not reveal the shortcomings of a long zoom lens like the 18-200. But when you upgrade to a new, high resolution body you will find the shortcomings of the lens become very obvious. At the same time you will have become a more experienced photographer who expects more from his equipment.

Many photographers happily make this compromise while others demand the highest possible sharpness and will only use prime lenses. It is your choice but you need to be aware that upgrading to a modern, high quality body will make the compromise more obvious.

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  • You make a very good point about becoming a more experienced and demanding photographer over time. Right now, the unexperienced photographer, that is me, want a convenient "super-zoom" lens. Would you recommend getting a "cheap" one, rather than an expensive Nikkor model, which I will not use anyways as I gain more experience? – Jørn Schou-Rode Oct 27 '10 at 12:03
  • It should be noted that your first rule is really just a rule of thumb. It has been claimed by some (momentcorp.com/review/nikkor17-35mmf28d.html) that the 17-35mm f2.8 nikkor outperforms the primes in that range, or at least the primes available when the lens came out. I'd say the real distinction is between fixed aperture zoom lenses and variable aperture zoom lenses; fixed aperture should be comparable, or at least in the same league, as primes in the range, while variable aperture zooms are not even close. – mmr Oct 27 '10 at 20:28

If you buy a high-quality AF G lens today for your Nikon, it should still be perfectly useful with a new body in a few years. The odds of Nikon doing an overhaul of the lens mount in that time seem slim.

That's one big upside of SLRs/DSLRs; you can buy lenses and bodies independent of each other.

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  • In "AF G", I reckon that AF is auto-focus, but what is the G? Please excuse the camera noob :) – Jørn Schou-Rode Oct 27 '10 at 9:50
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    Michael probably means AF-S. The S stands for "Silent Wave". AF-S lenses have their own AF motor, instead of relying on the camera's motor. AF-S is good (among other reasons) because newer low-end bodies do not have an AF motor, and thus can only autofocus with AF-S lenses. G means that the lens has no aperture ring. It's aperture can only be controlled by DSLRs and some of the newer film SLRs. G is bad because these lenses are about useless with older film bodies. If you don't plan to use these old bodies, then you don't care. AF-S lenses are almost always G, thus the confusion. – Edgar Bonet Oct 27 '10 at 16:14
  • I'm not so sure that G is 'bad'-- with my older lenses, the only thing the aperture ring does on a newer body is slip out of position and give the 'fee' error. Not having the ring = not having the error. – mmr Oct 27 '10 at 20:30
  • How does a DSLR camera body have it's own auto focus motor? Auto focus is all in the lens... – Nick Bedford Oct 28 '10 at 0:43
  • No, I actually did mean AF (as in general autofocus), and G; though @Edgar is correct, the lack of aperture ring certainly is a double-edged sword. – user Oct 28 '10 at 9:05

The D70 is indeed an old camera and has some limitations compared with newer bodies: low res, lack of live view, no active D-lighting, few AF points... However, if you do not feel frustrated about these limitations, there is no urge to upgrade. A new lens will usually have a greater impact on your pictures than a new body.

The 18-200 is certainly not the best lens if you look at pure image quality. But if portability and zoom range are more important to you than ultimate resolution, it can indeed be a very good choice.

As for the compatibility with future bodies, the question is: are you likely to upgrade in a few years to a full frame body? Full frame cameras (currently: D700 and D3 series) are quite heavier and more expensive than DX cameras, and targeted at the prosumer and pro markets. But Nikon still makes high end DX bodies (D300s and D7000). If your answer is "yes, it's likely", then be aware that the 18-200 does not play well with full frame. If the answer is "no", then do not worry: the 18-200 is 100% compatible with any past and current DX camera, and is likely to be 100% compatible with newer DX cameras in the foreseeable future.

To answer your last question, upgrading body and lens at the same time can indeed be a wise move. Not for technical reasons, but simply because you may be able to buy the lens at a discount price if you buy a body at the same time.

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This is a really useful question.

I am working with a D90 and have been purchasing new lens recently. I have chosen to spend the money on better lenses rather than a new body.

A key point is if you do decided to upgrade the body are you going to stick with a cropped or go to full frame - this has a significant difference on the lens you would purchase.

Any nikon lens that is marked as DX is designed for the cropped cameras and therefore will technically work on a full frame however my understanding is that you would not get the best from the lens.

Sometimes you can get a pretty good deal buying a new body and lens together - if you are happy with your D70 then go for a decent lens instead.

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