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An Ode To My Lens: 2007-2012

My old and trusty 18-200mm lens

My old and trusty 18-200mm lens

I am here to say goodbye to an old friend. A friend who has traveled with me for the last five years and has seen most of the same incredible things which I have. A friend who has stuck by me when everything else left. A constant companion who has never left my side though good times and bad.

I am of course talking about my Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G VR DX Zoom Nikkor Lens.

The vast majority of photos you’ve seen on this site have been taken with the same lens. The 18-200mm VR Nikon lens is probably the most versatile lens in the world. It can take reasonable wide angle shots as well as zoom up to 200mm. When ever I go out for the day, I know I’ll have a 95% chance of dealing with whatever I come across with this lens.

The lens I’ve been using I purchased back in March 2007 when I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. Getting this lens was one of the better purchases I made back then. It is literally the only piece of gear that I was still using as of June 2012 that I had back at the start of my trip.

It has been with me to over 100 countries and territories and all seven continents. It has taken photos of penguins, mountains, giraffes, race cars, hot air balloons and people.

Sadly, however, it is time to put it aside.

One of the tens of thousands of photos taken with my lens

One of the tens of thousands of photos taken with my lens

The problems started back in 2010 when I was in Fiji. Like I did many times before, I put my circle polarizing filter on the lens, but this time it wouldn’t come off. Somehow the threads that screw the filter in place got crossed and the metal stuck tight.

I tried everything I could think of to get that filter off: pliers, a monkey wrench, a vice, rubber jar opener, heat, oil, and taking it into a professional to get it fixed. The filter would not budge.

I eventually took drastic action and cut it off with a rotary tool. It worked, but I wasn’t able to use a lens cap or a lens hood anymore. The lens was basically naked.

In the two years since, everything on it not made of metal or glass has fallen apart. The rubber focus ring became so loose that it fell off. There were other plastic rings that came off as well, switches became loose and overall the lens was dying a slow death.

Despite all of this, and sometimes having to hold it together with my free hand, the lens continued to take good shots. Most of my photos from my recent photography tour and many of my photos from Antarctica were taken with it. The fact that the optics were still performing despite everything that had gone wrong with it is a testament to the quality of the lens.

After months of putting off getting a replacement, I finally pulled the trigger last week when I was in New York and got a new lens. Exact same model as the one which served me faithfully for the last 5 years.

I know it is a bit weird to make such a big deal about a lens, especially when I purchased an identical replacement, but when you carry something around the world for 5 years, you get attached to it.

Good bye old friend. Your service was appreciated.

  • 17 Comments... What's your take?

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Comments

  1. Jonas Wynn says:

    I’m also an AVID fan of this lens. So versatile and great quality. Are you sure you picked up the EXACT same model though? The 18-200 pictured in this post is the VR, the model that’s being sold now is the VRII. Also not sure what’s going on with that Amazon link but they’re selling the VR1 for more than the VRII.

  2. Darcy says:

    This lens is definitely great for your every-day traveller (and maybe the 18-300 will be even better when I eventually get to try it out). But for me, I’ll stick with a 16-35, 24-70, 70-300, 50 and 85.

  3. Ruby says:

    you just give me an idea about a good lens for travelling..was not very contented with what i ma using now..thanks Gray..

  4. Gary, as a photographer, what semi-pro camera do you recommend for a traveler? Something that will not break the bank but is good quality? Heading back to the US soon and would like to get something more pro than my Lumix.

    Best,
    R

    • Darcy says:

      Hi,

      I’m not Gary of course but I do work in a camera store and feel I can speak with a bit of authority on the subject. Basically you’ll have to choose the category of camera you want (SLR, Mirrorless, Compact Superzoom, Compact).

      “Semi-Pro” for most people would mean either an SLR or a Mirrorless camera – and in these categories I’d recommend either the Nikon D3100 or the Canon 650D (SLRs at the cheap and medium price levels) or the Olympus OM-D (Mirrorless). Have a look at the reviews of these and you’ll find for the most part they are all glowing! :)

  5. Judi McCormick says:

    I understand all too well. They become so familiar in our hands. Even though your new lens is the exact same model bit will take time to become the old friend you have been with for so long. Good luck.

  6. Jason D says:

    I have the same lens and have had mine for about the same amount of time so I totally understand. Sorry for your loss ;)

  7. Furio says:

    Sorry for it, I also get so attached to my things.

    Canon 18-200 is not that good, I chose the 70-200.

    Of course I cannot take 95 percent of my pics with that, but I don’t mind carry more than a lens.

  8. I have an 18-200 Nikon lens too, and it stopped focusing on faraway objects when I was in Patagonia. I’m going to see if it can be fixed and what it will cost when I get back to the US. I was so sad to lose my most versatile lens.

  9. Bryan Waugh says:

    I have the same exact lens. Glad to see that I can expect to get many years out of it. Using it on our 2.5 year tour around the world. Hoping to have my photo gallery going soon.

  10. I also have had the 18-200 since it was released. It is my go everywhere lens primarily due to weight, but the VR is great too.

  11. Ed O'Keeffe says:

    I have the same lens Gary and feel the same way about it, I think I got mine back in 2008 and although it hasn’t seen half what yours has it is still going (although feels a little lose). Apart from wide angle night photography and architecture the 18-200mm does 99.9% of all my travel photography work. It’s a sad day when you have to retire a trusted lens like this.

  12. Gary: I feel your pain, but as long as you’re not falling apart, then we’re good:)

  13. Wez says:

    I know the feeling Gary. I’m sorry to hear about your lens, and I’m glad and thankful it has served you so well. Your photos, and therefore the lens have been an inspiration. May it rest in peace.

  14. My D7000 sports such a lens, and we’re very happy w/ it.

  15. derek roe says:

    I also have this same lens that went from a D300 to a D7000 and still is used for 90+% of all my shooting. Great walking around lens, Great for portraits (& I shoot a lot of animal portraits) and wouldn’t leave home without it. Tried different lens on occasion & still came back to this one.

    derek

  16. Tom Bartel says:

    I feel the same way about my 18-105 Nikkor lens. And yes, it too is beginning to show its age. They don’t make them like they used to. Back in 1971, when I got my first Nikon, it seemed I could use it to drive nails. Still works, btw.

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About Gary Arndt

My name is Gary Arndt. In March 2007 I set out to travel around the world...
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