Nikkor 18-200mm vs 28-80mm sharpness comparison

I’m a big fan of the Nikon Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G VR II AF-S lens because it’s so versatile. It’s also a great companion to my Tokina AT-X 116 ultra wide angle zoom lens. Both fit nicely into my small LowePro SlingShot camera bag and it doesn’t get too heavy.

After reading Ken Rockwell’s review about the Nikkor 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6 G I was curious to see how much sharper it is than my 18-200mm lens. Ken claims the 28-80mm to be “unbelievably sharp”. The lens was sold as a kit lens for Nikon’s entry camera models until 2006. It weights only 190g. I got the lens 2nd hand for EUR 30 (US$ 38) from eBay. The lens feels and looks cheap and I don’t know what the former owner did to this lens but it sounds and feels like there’s sand in it while operating the zoom ring?! It didn’t even come with lens covers and has a suspicious mark that looks like it has been dropped onto something hard. What a rip off… at least the AF motor is okay and there are no visible scratches on the glass. So, let the competition begin. 

All photos were made with a Nikon D80, no sharpening was applied. VR on the 18-200 was turned off (I was using my Benro carbon tripod).

28mm guide image:
reference_28 

old_28_f11 new_28_f11 

Left: 28-80mm crop (f/11, 28mm) – Right: 18-200mm crop (f/11, 28mm) – click to enlarge

80mm guide image:
reference_80 

old_80_f11 new_80_f11

Left: 28-80mm crop (f/11, 80mm) – Right: 18-200mm crop (f/11, 80mm) – click to enlarge

While there’s hardly any visible difference in sharpness at 28mm there’s a considerable difference at 80mm. Looks like Ken was dead on right about the sharpness of the 28-80mm lens.

Conclusion

My 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR is a nice and universal lens but it is a little soft at longer focal lengths and loses against a harshly beaten up cheapo 28-80mm lens when it comes to sharpness. Thanks to the second generation VR in the 18-200 it will still produce sharper pictures in a lot of situations – at least when not using a tripod. Mind you, there are many other important factors when rating a lens, it’s not all about sharpness. By the way, Ken Rockwell compiled around 50 pages of information about the 18-200mm VR zoom lens.

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