Nikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6 DX VR AF-P Hands-On Review

Nikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6 DX VR AF-P Hands-On Review

Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6 DX VR AF-P Hands-On Review
Nikon 10-20mm f4.5-5.6 DX VR AF-P Hands-On Review

In this in-depth field review, we are going to have a look at the new Nikon wide-angle DX lens Nikkor 10-20mm f/4.5 – f/5.6 AF-P ED VR, which was launched in June 2017. This lens was announced among two other professional wide-angle lenses (FX Nikkor Fisheye 8-15mm and FX Prime Nikkor 28mm f/1.4). While those bigger brothers raised a lot of expectation for full-frame shooters, the plastic entry level 10-20mm DX lens hardly caused any excitement.

Nikkor 10-20mm
Nikkor 10-20mm

1) Compatibility

Important notice: the AF-P line is only compatible with the latest Nikon DSLR bodies. It means the number of cameras usable with the lens is limited.

This is how Nikon USA specifies this by grouping cameras in three subsets:

  • Fully compatible models. Even for compatible cameras, firmware update may be required*. Fully compatible models are: D7500, D5600, D5500, D5300*, D3400, D3300*, D500 and later models
  • Compatible models with limited functions: D5, D810 series, Df, D750, D7200, D7100, D5200, Nikon 1 series with the FT1
  • Incompatible models: D4 series, D3 series, D2 series, D1 series, D800 series, D700, D610, D600, D300 series, D200, D100, D7000, D5100, D5000, D90, D80, D70 series, D3200, D3100, D3000, D60, D50, D40 series, film cameras

I have tested this lens on Nikon DSLR bodies D5200, D7200 and D800 – all worked great, except that with D7200 and D800 I was not able to switch-off the VR function (see more below).

Nikkor 10-20 With D800
Nikkor 10-20 With D500

2) Lens Handling and Features

Nikon managed to reduce significantly the size in all new AF-P lenses, partly by skipping the AF-A/M, AF-M and VR on/VR off switches. Compared to its main predecessor – the Nikkor 10-24mm AF-S (non-VR lens) – this new little lens features a more limited range of 10-20mm (2x zoom ratio compared to previous 2,4x ratio). In terms of 35mm format equivalent, this corresponds to 15-30mm. I found the previous 2,4x range more practical. But even if 4mm difference on wide angle lenses is noticeable, I can live with such compromise if the benefit is a much reduced weight and size. And that is exactly where this lens shines. As for the missing 4 mm: with ever increasing density of pixels on DSLR cameras, light cropping can make up for shorter zoomed-in focal range.

Nikkor 10-24mm AF-S
Nikkor 10-20mm AF-S

3) Focus Acquisition Speed and Accuracy

Nikon’s “P” series of NIKKOR lenses use stepping motors to “focus smoother and quieter than previous drive systems. This quiet drive system makes the lenses ideal for use when shooting video.”

Indeed, the real life shooting experience shows that this lens focuses silently, accurately and reliably. In my recent review, I have already praised the DX 70-300 telezoom for the fast and silent focusing capabilities of the new AF-P stepping motor. The wide-angle brother is only tiny bit slower, but unlike in tele range in wide angle focal range speed is not so crucial. This lens focuses roughly 30% faster than the older 10-24mm lens. Focusing in low-light with D5300 was no problem either.

Nikkor 10-20mm
Nikkor 10-20mm

P.S – Photograph does not belong to me

Manual override is a good feature to have in case you are shooting in difficult conditions and the lens is hunting. You can then help the lens to “find” the right range and make it snap the focus. But this nothing new, manual override has been featured in most of the recent Nikkkor lenses – except for the cheapest one. The Nikon 10-20mm AF-P allows a maximum magnification of 0.17x at the closest focusing distance of 0.22m, or 0.8 feet.

Sample Photos
Sample Photos

P.S – Photograph does not belong to me

Even though one should only praise Nikon for designing a faster and more silently focusing lens, I realized, however, that in combination with the missing on-the-lens switch, I experienced some frustrating moments. When shooting with the entry level D5300 body, I often had to opt for manual focus (in camera body setting) while making some panoramas. First of all, doing this in camera menu takes longer (do not underestimate how crucial this might be in some moments). What’s more, I repeatedly forgot to re-set the original setting (getting back to normal autofocus) and hence I ended up with a handful of out-of-focus shots. My fault obviously, but I just want to highlight that it Is easier to forget about this with AF-P lenses. Faster and noise-less fousing has also its drawbacks. One can easily lose the previous habit of controlling focus acquisition by short but yet visible and audible refocusing process. The AF-P lenses are different in this aspect and you do not really notice when it actually acquired the right focus the way it did with the older lenses. So just pay attention to other indicators (such as allowed camera beep, or circular control in the viewfinder). Anyway, if I could, I wish I had the version with both AF-S / AF-M switch.

Sample Photos For Nikkor 10-20mm
Sample Photos For Nikkor 10-20mm

P.S – Photograph does not belong to me

What we Say

There are competitors that are either faster (Tokina) or with a bigger zoom range. But there is no lens that would be even nearly this compact and yet versatile. This makes for a perfect travel lens that easily fits into a normal pocket (without the hood mounted). I wish the lens still allowed for VR and MF AF control and not delegate this to DSLR body setting. I wished the sharpness would not drop as significantly at longer end. And lastly, I wish the lens would produce more pronounced star shapes of pointed sources of lights.

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