A few years ago, we sold a house. Freshly funded, I decided it was time to upgrade my old Nikon D40, and I replaced it with a D90. At the same time, I bought the Nikon 18-200mm VR DX zoom lens – covering the range I’d used two lenses for with my D40-based kit. It worked well for me for quite some time. Later, when I had a bit of money to spare, I bought the then-new Nikon 35mm f1.8 DX lens, and loved it’s compact size, light weight and wide aperture. I used it pretty much exclusively, letting the old zoom sit unused.
When I did try to use the zoom again, it was temperamental, and didn’t always want to focus. That put me off using it further. When I got around to a bit of testing, I realised it just wouldn’t focus to infinity when fully-zoomed. It was ok up to around 135mm, but beyond that, it wasn’t happy. In practical photographic terms, infinity isn’t as far away as you’d think, so it wasn’t much good for anything at a distance if I needed the zoom. I put it on one side, and planned to get it repaired at some point.
Anything I decide to do at some point does not get done. So it sat, unused.
Recently, I’ve started looking around at other lenses, wanting a bit more macro capability, and wanting a bit of zoom back, maybe in something a bit smaller and lighter than the 18-200. At the same time, though, I really kind of wanted the 18-200 back. Today, I decided to spend a little more time experimenting with what was wrong with it, with the intention of bringing at some point forward to a more practical soon.
A little testing confirmed the problem I knew it had, but it also seemed to be able to focus a bit closer than it should, as if something had just slipped a little forward or backward, or wasn’t lined up with the focussing mechanism at the place it should be. I started feeling tempted to open it up and have a go at repairing it, though my skills are in no way good enough for that. I found a video online that appears to show the process of removing the front lens element from the lens (though I think it’s a later version of the same lens).
The interesting part was the ring with the cut-outs that surrounded the front lens. On mine, that just turned freely in either direction. It was partially unscrewed already.
I unscrewed it, and lifted the front lens out. That gave me direct access to the lens that turns to focus, and I could see that it barely moves – only a millimetre or so forwards and backwards. If that little movement was the focussing range, the next lens element being unscrewed a bit could throw the focussing off completely. Also, I could feel that the focussing element was very definite about how much it would move – it didn’t feel as though slipping a bit was an option.
I screwed the front element back on, and tested. It worked fine. I’ve had that lens out of action for a long, long time because the front was slightly unscrewed. I’d intended to send it away to be repaired, where someone would have charged me a painful amount of money to give a screw thread a turn or two.
So, now I have my 18-200 lens back, and given that it can focus fairly close (around 50cm) at 200mm, it’s capable of most of the macro stuff I really wanted. It’s like getting a really good new lens for free.