Today we are going to take a quick look at a new ultra wide zoom crop lens that was introduced by Nikon earlier in 2017.
For the past 8 years or so Nikon had a 10-24mm lens which is considered to be a great DX lens but is a quite expensive at close to $900. Nikon decided to make a much more affordable ultra wide lens and in this review, we shall look at what sort of compromises, if any, this new lens comes with.
When you consider the fact that this is made to be an inexpensive entry level type lens it is actually pretty decently made. It is mostly made from hard plastic including a plastic mount so be careful not to break it.
The lens is very small at close to 80mm or 3 inches long closed down and it does extend a bit to 85mm or about 3.5 inches. It is very lightweight, weighing 256 grams or 9 ounces with the hood which we recommend you keep on your lens at all times and has a filter thread of 72mm so you can definitely use this lens with conventional filters.
The lens has two rings – a relatively thick zoom ring which feels fairly good and a very thin focus ring which felt surprisingly dampened (especially compared to the thin focus ring of other Nikon DX lenses such as the older 18-105mm kit lens which feels really bad).
Thin but nice focus ring
What we found really strange is that this lens has no switches – no AF/MF switch and even stranger no VR off switch (the new Nikon AF-P 18-55mm VR also has no switches and it is possibly another way to cut costs). This basically means that we have no simple way of testing the effectiveness of the VR on this lens but Nikon does claim it goes up to 3.5 stops.
AF speed and Image stabilization
The AF speed in our testing was quick and on our D7500 test camera (review coming soon) we were able to focus pretty fast on both 10mm and 20mm. You might have seen our recent Vello Nikon to Sony AF adapter review and we tested this lens on a Sony A6500 as well – there we had some issues focusing on smaller objects at around 10mm but this should not really be a point against this lens as it was not designed to work with that adapter or Sony cameras.
As we mentioned testing VR on this lens is hard because there is no way to disable it and to be honest with ultra wide lenses we need image stabilization less than on longer lenses but it is still nice to have. From a subjective experience, the claimed 3.5 stops stabilization seems reasonable.
Light and compact lens
Moving from subjective to a more objective testing, we tested sharpness in different apertures of the lens and also did a quick comparison to our older Sigma 10-20mm f/4-f/5.6 DC HSM lens.
Sharpness – as you can see the sharpness at 10mm in the center of the frame is very good even wide open and you don’t see a lot of improvement closing down.
Looking at the sides of the frame you find the same result (keep in mind that this specific test was shot at a distance of 3 feet or about 1m). If you look at very high magnification you can see that there is just a tad more CA at the wider aperture but the sharpness itself seems almost identical in all of these shots which is truly surprising (we really can’t recall any lens with a similar behavior).
10mm sharpness – center of the frame comparison (click to enlarge) – low left – f/4.5, low right – f/5.6, top left f/8, top right f/11
10mm sharpness – right of the frame comparison (click to enlarge) – low left – f/4.5, low right – f/5.6, top left f/8, top right f/11
At 20mm you do see a slight improvement in sharpness between f/5.6 to f/8 in the center and about the same level of sharpness stays at f/11 as well. On the side of the frame, we see an even bigger improvement between f/5.6 and f/8 and in this case, there is also a tiny bit of improvement going from f/8 to f/11 as well.
20mm sharpness – center of the frame comparison (click to enlarge) – left – f/5.6, center – f/8, right – f/8
20mm sharpness – right of the frame comparison (click to enlarge) – left – f/5.6, center – f/8, right – f/8
Compared to the Sigma which is a little bit faster at 10mm and much larger and heavier but the sharpness overall is very similar.
The Sigma (right) vs. the Nikon (left) @10mm f/8, 300% magnification – the Sigma is just a tad sharper (maybe something to do with the VR on the Nikon – both shot using a tripod)
CA – the lens seems to control chromatic aberrations pretty well – the image that you are seeing is cropped heavily and was shot against bright sunlight and even here the purple fringing isn’t extreme although we did encounter it from time to time.
The Nikon Has some chromatic aberrations (more than our Sigma) but there are good ways to correct that
Flare – the lens seems to handle flare pretty nicely which is not an easy task for this type of ultra wide angle lens.
Good handling of flare for an ultra wide angle lens
Vignette – isn’t that relevant for a crop lens and we didn’t see much of a change in the corners when we stopped down.
Barrel distortion – as you can see, at 10mm the lens has quite a clear barrel distortion which goes away as you get closer to 20mm where it is practically gone.
Quite a lot of Barrel distortion at 10mm (when the camera auto correct is turned off)
And almost no distortion at 20mm
Bokeh – this is a wide slow lens so Bokeh isn’t really what you are looking for here. None the less you can see how the background is rendered almost wide open at 10mm from a close range (the lens can shoot close objects at 10mm from a distance of about 5cm from the end of the lens which is pretty close).
Not really your go to lens for Bokeh
The new Nikon 10-20mm is an interesting option from Nikon. It is a very small and compact, it is decently built for the price, has image stabilization (which is very uncommon in the category) and focuses quickly (with a modern Nikon camera).
In terms of image quality, we were kind of surprised to see that at 10mm the lens is as sharp wide open as it was when it was closed down (at 20mm there is still an advantage going to f/8 or even f/11) and in general the sharpness is good.
Surprisingly good image quality for the price
As for drawbacks – this lens is much slower (aperture-wise) then some of the other ultra wide angle lenses in its category (especially some of the lenses Tokina has in its line), this isn’t necessarily a deal breaker for a lot of users especially if you are shooting on a tripod but some would certainly want the faster lens for low light handheld shots. The fact that you can’t switch the VR off might also be a concern with a lens that you might use on a tripod often.
In terms of pricing, as we have mentioned this lens is meant to be as inexpensive as possible and is currently sold for just a above $300 which means that it is less expensive than any other comparable lens in the category and with the performance that we have seen in this review it is certainly a lens that you should consider.
A few sample images we shot with the Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR on the Nikon D7500 (click to enlarge)
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