Here is a brief overview of my experiences with various midrange lenses that I have either owned or used. One important factor to remember is that I have found sample variability in all lenses I have tried from the cheapest to the most expensive, although I find much less variability in the more expensive products. I state this as a "grain of salt" in this or any other lens reviews. What one person finds in their testing may or may not reflect what someone else finds depending how good or bad their samples are. I also utilize both formal and field experience to form my opinions. I am very picky about lens quality and have sent many lenses back for either exchange or adjustment that did not meet my expectations. The opinions below are based on the best examples of each that I have used. Please contact me if you would like to know more about any of the lenses in detail for specific uses.

Midrange FX Zooms - Listed from favorite down

Nikon 24-70mm f2.8: My favorite midrange lens overall for either FX. This lens is very sharp through out the focal range and aperture settings. My copy is best in the midrange from one stop down to f11.  It is good enough that it rivals my 24mm prime and 17-35mm zoom in match ranges, although not quite as good as either from my use. It is still a fantastic lens to couple with a 70-200mm for a great two lens solution. The ergonomics and slightly wider angle are the biggest advantages over the 28-70mm.

Nikon 28-70mm f2.8:  This is another fantastic Nikon zoom. It rivals or beats most primes in it’s range. The build is excellent, possibly more satisfying than the 24-70mm. It is bulky though and not quite as nice to use as the 24-70mm. I find it to be a beautiful portrait lens. I highly recommended this lens.

Nikon 28-105mm: Very light compared to the above, and quite solid optically. The lens is sharp across the zoom range stopped down one stop and has a pretty effective macro setting – 1:2. It has good consumer grade build and is fairly compact with a 62mm filter thread. Interestingly my copy had a yellow cast to it on digital that I did not notice on film. It is still a good option for a lighter hiking lens where you want zoom and only carrying one lens over the optical quality of a light weight prime/s.

Nikon 28-200mm: This lens is fairly bulky with a 72mm filter. The lens looks OK on DX but has pretty poor corners on FX. The zoom range is pretty handy for a one lens solution however there are certainly options which will give you more satisfying images. There are always more compromises the more extreme the lens is.

Midrange DX Zooms - Listed from favorite down

Nikon 18-70mm: A great little DX lens. I have shot with many of these at different times. The best ones are very good and my preference for a light weight DX midrange. The lens does have a bit of falloff wide open and a bit of distortion but nothing terrible. Good samples are even pretty sharp wide open. The build and size are also quite reasonable and it’s cheap! This is certainly a great little lens if you can find a good one!

Nikon 18-200mm: This is a compromise lens. It produces good but not great results. The lens is amazingly flexible and convenient with a very broad zoom range and VR. The size is a bit big on a D80 or smaller class camera and fantastic balance with a D300 class camera. The couple that I tried had a tough time resolving corners effectively at the wide end even stopped down. It is still a very solid overall choice with the given compromises of a broad zoom range and I will still recommend

Nikon 16-85mm VR: I purchased this lens right before I converted to FX, so I was only able to try one sample and it was a dog. It was simply soft at every focal length, unusable for me. This lens gets fairly high marks, however, so I am sure this is a sample anomaly. For the cost and range I believe I would still prefer the 18-70mm.

Midrange FX Primes - Listed from favorite down

Nikon 55mm Micro AIS: A tremendous overall lens. It is simply sharp in about every circumstance you want to use it in. It is compact and well built like most of the AIS lenses. I really can’t think of anything to complain about with this lens other than both copies I have had needed to be repacked to tighten up the focus after some use. I have heard that they also acquire oil on the aperture but I did not find that with my copies.

Nikon 50mm f1.4: This lens is fairly sharp wide open but improves dramatically even one stop down. From f2 to diffraction I find my copy stunning for sharpness. The lens suffers a bit from CA and has the typical OK consumer grade AF build quality. It is still very compact and a handy solution when you need a very fast lens and you need to pack small and light.