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Is the Nikon 18-200/f3.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR DX zoom good enough?

I really like this flower shot below (D200 with 18-200VR), both for its gorgeous color palette, simple color composition and smooth background (click for larger version). It was a snapshot I worked for a minute or two, taking 3 or 4 frames, and this one was my favorite. It was shot handheld at 1/100 second @ f10 with the 18-200VR.

It demonstrates what gorgeous color Nikon bodies can produce without the fiddling around often required with Canon EOS bodies and their low-contrast, less saturated look. Some work was done to bring out the dragonfly, and some contrast and saturation was added, but the image remains true to the original, and matches my “minds eye” of what I remember shooting. I’ve already had several requests for prints, and it’s for sale if you’d like to buy a print.

I don’t normally like variable-aperture “prosumer” zooms, but the long zoom range, Vibration Reduction (VR), high color saturation, contrast and sharpness make the 18-200VR a no-brainer for walk-around shooting under daytime conditions. The lens does need stopping down to f8 or f11 for best results, and the corners stay somewhat soft, but it’s hard to quarrel with the great combination of features. And as a bonus, it performs quite well in infrared.

Not convinced? And rightly so—many times, reduced-size images look good, but can’t hold up beyond an 18 X 12 or so. However, I printed a section equivalent to a 46" wide print, and while more detail would be helpful, I’m going ahead with a 46" print, perhaps larger, with no qualms as to image quality. The only problem is that this particular image is out of gamut for every paper I’ve tried, with Epson Premium Glossy offering the best match. That purple/blue color as well as the saturated yellows are a challenge for the Epson printers as well as the Lightjet.

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