Review Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6G VR II

Nikon1855II review
Nikon 18-55 II review
At the beginning of this year, together with the Nikon D3300, the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 VR II lens was announced. The Nikon 18-55 mm VR II is a very light (less than 2 ounces), new version of the popular 18-55 mm lens, improved with a retractable lens mechanism, meaning that the camera becomes even smaller during transport. The focal length range of 18-55 mm is suitable for a wide variety of circumstances, and therefore this is a good starter lens. The built-in image stabilization increases the usability of the camera in low-light situations, without you having to resort to a tripod or flash. Would the Nikon 18-55 mm VR II be better than its predecessor?

Nikon1855II review

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 18–55mm VR II and Nikon D7100 & Nikon D3300

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This standard zoom is universally applicable, whether you want to capture landscapes, portraits, events, or action. It’s all possible. The 3x optic zoom offers a field of view that compares with the field of view of a 28-85 mm zoom lens on a camera with a full-frame sensor. The low weight and the compact dimensions make this lens ideal for a day trip. Below you can see the zoom range illustrated: on the right, the telephoto setting; on the left, wide-angle setting (pictures with a Nikon D3300).



Construction and auto focus


This zoom lens has two switches: for AF/MF and for the image stabilization (on/off). On the zoom ring of the Nikon 15-55 mm VR II there is also a round button, with which you can turn the zoom ring further than the zoom range. The effect of that is that the lens becomes smaller than during use. This makes the Nikon 18-55 mm VR II not only 25% lighter than its predecessor, but also shorter (less than 6 cm long in the transport setting; extended it’s 8 cm). For people who photograph with a micro-43 or a Nikon 1, this construction will sound familiar, as it’s been applied there successfully for some time already. The disadvantage of this construction is that you must first expand the lends before you can begin photographing. That adds a few seconds to your startup time.
Nikon’s compact Silent Wave Motor-technology (SWM) ensures quiet, fast, and accurate auto focus operations, also when shooting video. Precise manual focusing with the small ring on the front of the lens is a bit more challenging because this ring is not as nicely dampened as the zoom ring. Given the target audience of this kit lens, that probably won’t be a really big problem. Even so, it’s a bother for anyone who wants to focus manually when shooting video.

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For a compact lens, you expect some visible vignetting. And at full aperture, you can indeed encounter visible vignetting. But after just one stop stopping down, the vignetting is so diminished that in practice you won’t have any trouble with it. In the rare cases where vignetting at full opening would disturb you, it’s simple to correct with an image editing program. It’s even easier to make as many photos as possible with aperture 5.6 or 8; the sharpness in that range is optimal, as you’ll see later. jpgvignet

Vibration reduction


Despite its compact dimensions, this lens is equipped with a system for VR (vibration reduction) by Nikon. That ensures clear, sharp pictures, whether you’re making a group portrait in low light from a wide-angle perspective or you zoom in on subjects in the distance. Nikon’s VR technology improves stability when photographing by hand and makes it possible to use shutter speeds up to four times slower, without the image-disrupting blur that can arise when the camera vibrates. Thanks to VR, pictures at long shutter times remain sharp, you don’t have to use a tripod or flash as quickly. In the photo shown here, made at a distance of 55 mm, the maximal focal depth and aperture of f/22 were used at a lighting time of 1/25th of a second. The picture is sharp down to the pixel level.



An abandoned brick factory on the outskirts of Vuren (Gld). In the 18 mm setting, 1/400 f/10, ISO 100. In the original, you can count the bricks of the chimney. The bend in the chimney does not come from distortion; the chimney is really bent like that.


The distortion runs in the usual way for an APS-C/DX kit lens: from visible barrel distortion at the shortest focal lengths to pincushion-shaped at the longest. Between 28 mm and 55 mm, the distortion is so low that in practice you will not be bothered by it. In Lightroom and Photoshop there are lens correction profiles with which you can automatically – with one click of a button – correct for distortion in RAW files.




Here, too, the new version of the Nikon 18-55 mm VR makes a better impression than its predecessor. The Nikon 18-55 mm VR II in our testing had no problem with flaring and light flecks with an open light source. Very good.



The Nikon 18-55 mm VR was already a good lens, and the Nikon 18-55 mm VR II is possibly even a little better.

In particular, the resolution in the corners at 55 mm appears to have improved. In terms of sharpness, this is not just a good lens, but one of the best kit lenses – regardless of brand – that we’ve tested, in which the highest center sharpness is reached at f/5.6 – f/8. What’s remarkable is that it, in any case in terms of sharpness, can compare with many fixed-focal length lenses in the range of 30-50 mm. Only in terms of distortion does it lag a bit behind.

At the shortest focal distance, this kit lens reaches the highest center sharpness, but the corners lag a bit behind the sharpness in the center. At the longest focal distance, the sharpness is nicely even across the image, but then the sharpness in the center is lower than at 18 mm. In comparison with the previous version of the Nikon 18-55 mm on a Nikon D3200, the scores of the Nikon 18-55 VR II are a bit lower for jpg files, but higher for RAW files. That difference is caused by the settings that we chose for in-camera sharpening when saving jpg files. The jpg files of the D3200/18-35 mm VR are a bit more sharpened than the jpg files of the D7100/18-55 mm VR II. With the RAW files for both lenses, no sharpening is applied for the measurement of the resolution. The differences in sharpness between the two lenses are small. Probably with the naked eye, you will only see the additional sharpness in the corners at the longest focal lengths. In that, the new version is visibly better. Also at the shortest focal length, the corners show improvement, but that’s a difference that we found so small that you don’t see it with the naked eye.


This stack of pallets in an industrial area were photographed directly against the sun. The planks glow in the sun. With a small highlight correction, the wood texture again becomes visible.
 1/160 second at f/25, the lens set to 55 mm and enlarged a bit.

Chromatic aberration

The optical construction consists, just as with the previous version of the Nikon 18-55 mm VR, of 11 elements spread over 8 groups. The lens design is not identical to the design of the previous version of the Nikon 18-55 VR; in the central portion, the order of two lenses has been reversed. That has to do with the collapsible design of the new version. An aspherical lens element (shown in blue) minimizes atmospheric aberration and other kinds of distortion, and ensures high resolution and high contrast. Nikon cameras correct for chromatic aberration for all lenses when saving jpg files in the camera. If you shoot only jpg files, like most photographers in the target audience (starters) with this lens, then you will never have trouble with chromatic aberration. lendsdesign


For a nice bokeh, choose a bright lens with a long focal length, preferably on a camera with a full-frame sensor. The Nikon 18-55 mm VR II meets none of these conditions and thus delivers no spectacular bokeh. You can’t really expect that from a kit lens anyway. Given the relatively short focal length of this zoom lens, I would sooner enjoy the high sharpness and the large focal depth that this kit lens offers at f/5.6 and f/8. If you set the camera on a preset aperture, choose f/5.6 or f/8, and enjoy the sharp images without vignetting that you make freely, and buy, for example, a Nikon 50 mm f/1.8 if oyu want to have more bokeh.

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Conclusion Nikon AF-S 18–55mm VR II test with Nikon D7100

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See our list of tested lenses or the lenses with a Nikon mount tested by us to compare the performance of this lens to other lenses.
ECWYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens when you store the files in the camera as jpg, with all available in-camera lens corrections applied. This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: “What you see is what you get”. {insertgrid ID = 308}
ECPure RAW score: This table shows the performance of this lens when the file is stored in the camera in RAW format. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera. {insertgrid ID = 309}


  • As a kit lens: very good price/quality ratio
  • Surprisingly good image quality
  • Compact and light
  • Built-in image stabilization


  • Not immediately useable in collapsed form
  • Sharpness in the corners lower than in the center
  • Not that bright
  • In the wide-angle range, considerable distortion

The Nikon AF-S 18-55 mm VR II is more compact, easier to carry, and in terms of image quality even better than its predecessor. It delivers consistently good performances in every situation. If you compare the price of a Nikon D3300 body with a Nikon D3300 + 18-55 mm VR II kit, then the lens costs about a hundred euros, and the price-to-quality ratio is superb. The suggested retail price of the Nikon AF-S 18-55 mm VR II sold separately is €259.-. Even then, this is one of the less expensive lenses that you can find for a Nikon camera. The Nikon 18-55 mm VR II beats out in terms of image quality many fixed-focal-length lenses. The largest aperture is indeed limited, meaning that ‘playing’ with the focal depth is not really possible. When you become more enthusiastic about photography, you’ll often want a lens with less focal depth, and in such a case you’re better off with a fixed focal length with high brightness like the 35 mm f/1.8 from Nikon.


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