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Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED VR DX AF-S Nikkor

 
Lens Reviews / Nikon Lenses i Lab tested

Lab Test Results

  • Blur
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Vignetting
  • Geometric Distortion
55-200mm $147
average price
image of Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED VR DX AF-S Nikkor

(From Nikon lens literature) Nikon Corporation is pleased to announce the AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED, a compact, lightweight 3.6x zoom lens featuring a host of state-of-the-art optical technologies such as the Vibration Reduction (VR), Nikon ED glass element and SWM (Silent Wave Motor). The AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED has been specifically designed to complement the D80 as well as the upcoming D40 and D40x cameras. And it delivers outstanding performance at a remarkably affordable price.

The compact zoom lens offers powerful zoom performance of 55-200mm (providing a picture angle equivalent to an 82-300mm lens in 35mm format) and is suitable for every type of photography from candid portraits to sports, nature and wildlife photography.

The Nikon Vibration Reduction (VR) system enables users to take substantially sharper handheld pictures at slower shutter speeds. With this lens, users can take sharp pictures at shutter speeds approximately 3 stops slower* than would otherwise be possible. The VR system minimizes image vibration in the finder, making shutter release timing and image composition easier.

The AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED also incorporates proven Nikon features and technologies such as the SWM, which offers quiet and smooth autofocusing, and one ED glass element that provide higher resolution and high-contrast images.

The AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED is the only entry level VR lens at a very affordable price.

*Under Nikon measurement conditions.

Test Notes

Whether you call it Vibration Reduction (as does Nikon) or Image Stabilization (as do Canon and several others), it's a feature with real utility for most shooters. It obviously wont' do anything about blur caused by subject motion, but the ability to reduce the effects of camera shake can make a big difference when shooting under limited lighting, particularly at telephoto focal lengths. Given that VR usually adds a hundred dollars or so to the cost of a lens, finding it on a lens selling for $200-250 is a real surprise. True, this particular lens' VR is based on an older version of Nikon's technology, but Nikon says it still provides a good two f-stops worth of shake reduction. That is, you should be able to shoot at shutter speeds four times slower than whatever level you need to get sharp handheld shots without VR. (We're working on a way to measure VR performance, hope to have some initial results published in the next month or so. - Preliminary results for the 55-200VR weren't that great, we've asked Nikon for a second sample.)

VR is all well and good, but how does well does this lens perform its main task, namely delivering sharp, distortion-free images?

Sharpness
The Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G VR does pretty well in the sharpness department, particularly considering its selling price. It is a "DX" lens, meaning it has an APS-C size image circle, and so isn't compatible with Nikon's full-frame film cameras; this helps the price somewhat. But still, $200-250 for a VR-enabled lens is a remarkable price point, making its very decent sharpness performance all the more noteworthy. Like many inexpensive zooms, it's sharper at shorter focal lengths than at long, the worst blur performance occurring at 135mm in our DxO tests. But even its worst isn't all that bad, the softest point coming in at under three blur units. That's a blur that's easily noticeable when compared against the best lenses we've tested, but is as good as that of many lenses likely to be considered by even relatively well-heeled amateur shooters. The 55-200mm VR's blur characteristics are also unusually uniform across the frame, with much less variation from center to edges than we're accustomed to seeing, particularly in this price range. Sharpness improves somewhat as you stop down, but images never get truly crisp. At the risk of sounding like broken record though, the 55-200mm VR's image quality does exceed expectations for its market segment.

Chromatic Aberration
The 55-200mm VR's chromatic aberration was also something of a pleasant surprise. It begins on the low side of moderate at 55mm, drops to truly low levels through the middle of its focal length range, and then rises to the high side of moderate at 200mm. At 200mm, average CA remains fairly low as you stop down, but maximum CA increases, meaning you'll see more CA in the corners and edges, and less in the center as you close the aperture. Across the entire range though, CA is better than that of many more expensive lenses, again drawing attention to the excellent value offered by this lens.

Shading ("Vignetting")
I guess it was inevitable that something had to give in the design of the 55-200mm VR, and it turned out to be shading. Light falloff in the corners of the frame is quite pronounced when shooting wide open across the entire focal length range, decreasing more or less linearly as you stop down; falling to about 1/4 EV two stops down, and 1/10 EV or less at three stops below maximum aperture. These are much higher levels of shading than we're accustomed to seeing in the lenses we test, but it's worth noting that shading isn't too hard to correct in recent versions of Photoshop, so a solution at least exists. (Even if the software package involved costs more than twice as much as the lens in question.)

Distortion
While the 55-200mm VR's shading performance was well below average, geometric distortion is in line with other lenses sharing its focal length range. It starts at about 0.25% barrel distortion at 55mm, changing to about the same amount of pincushion at 70mm, increasing thereafter to a maximum of 0.5% pincushion at 105mm, and then decreasing again to about 0.35% pincushion at 200mm. That's a noticeable amount of pincushion, but not more than we've seen in many other lenses we've tested in the past. (And again, recent versions of Photoshop make it fairly easy to correct even significant amounts of geometric distortion.)

AF Operation
As befits a DX-series lens intended for use with the lower end of their camera line, the Nikon 55-200mm VR sports an internal focus motor, as evidenced by its AF-S designation. This means it will work with the D40 and D40x, or any future Nikon bodies lacking an internal AF motor. AF operation isn't blazingly fast, but isn't bad either, it taking roughly a second for the lens to slew from closest focus to infinity. As is the case with many modern AF lenses though, the price for this fairly fast AF performance is a relatively limited amount of travel on the manual focus ring, making manual focus a bit touchy.

Macro
Macro performance is fairly typical for a non-macro lens, with a minimum coverage area of 97mm at a lens-subject distance of 0.95m (1.3 feet) when shooting with our D200 test body.

Build Quality and Handling
Build quality is better than we'd normally expect from a "budget" lens, with smooth operation of both the manual focus and zoom rings, and no play between lens components. Another happy discovery was that this lens is an internal focus design, so there's no rotation of the front element/filter threads during focusing, nor during zooming for that matter. This makes the lens well-suited for use with polarizers, graduated neutral density filters, or other front-element accessories sensitive to rotation. The lens isn't an internal-zoom design though, as the barrel extends about 37mm beyond its minimum length as you zoom from wide to tele.

While we did find this lens a little tweaky to focus manually, it was otherwise a very nice-handling optic. Operation was quite smooth, and while it has a largely plastic construction, its feel was quite nice and relatively solid. The zoom ring operated smoothly, but took enough force that we were surprised to find the lens prone to zoom creep, if only slightly. That is, if you hang a camera with the 55-200mm VR attached around your neck, the lens will maintain its zoom setting fairly well as long as it isn't jiggled too much. Vibration will cause it to creep to more telephoto settings over time though, so you'll likely want to make use of the zoom lock when carrying it for extended periods.

While fairly solid-feeling, the all-plastic construction makes the 55-200mm VR light enough that it balanced very nicely on our D200 test body and isn't too unwieldy, even on smaller bodies like the D40 and D40x.

Alternatives

Being designed for subframe sensors, there aren't a lot of lenses yet that cover the specific focal length range of the Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6 VR, and of those available, we've tested only a very few. Besides a direct match for its focal length range though, potential purchasers may also be comparing performance against the long end of the 18-200/250mm "vacation zooms", or perhaps against the shorter end of 70-300mm lenses. Comparison with all possible options would thus be a rather tedious process, so we'll restrict our discussion here to a subset of the alternatives that we've tested.

Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED AF-S DX Nikkor ~$170
This is the original, non-VR version of this lens, intended as an inexpensive complement to the traditional 18-55mm kit lens bundled with many of Nikon's entry-level SLRs. It's less expensive and does OK for its price, but for the slight increase in price in the VR version you get image stabilization, significantly better sharpness, as well as a noticeable reduction in chromatic aberration and distortion.

Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED AF-S DX VR ~~$800
Nikon's ultimate travel lens, the 18-200mm is also equipped with VR image stabilization technology; however, it's a newer version, VRII, able to make photos at shutter speeds four stops slower than required without stabilization, rather than the 55-200mm's two stop improvement. Optically, the 55-200mm is a bit more solid; sharper at the same focal lengths and apertures, as well as exhibiting less chromatic aberration, distortion and vignetting. That said, it is nowhere as versatile as the 18-200mm, which covers the entire range from wide to telephoto, which accounts for and perhaps excuses some of its optical shortcomings.

Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 DC ~$300
The Sigma 18-200mm exhibits corner softness wide open across its full range of focal lengths, where the Nikon 55-200mm is much better-controlled; when both are stopped down to about f/8, both are very sharp, the Nikon being a hair sharper on our test results. Obviously these are different beasts, with the Sigma being optimized to handle both the wide and tele ends of the focal-length spectrum. Chromatic aberration and distortion are better controlled on the Nikon, while Sigma does well in controlling vignetting.

Tamron 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II LD Aspherical IF Macro AF ~~470
Another case of corner softness wide open, where the Nikon performs better across all focal lengths. Stopped down to f/8, both lenses perform well, but the Nikon is still sharper across the frame; at the telephoto end, the Nikon is a fairly uniform 2 blur units across the frame, while the Tamron is sharper at the center, but hits highs of 4 blur units in the corners. Not surprisingly, chromatic aberration is better controlled on the Nikon, vignetting is better on the Tamron, and distortion is similar between the two lenses.

Summary

If we haven't said it enough through this review, lenses that used to cost this much didn't have much to offer other than the savings in the wallet. The Nikon 55-200mm VR isn't a perfect lens - there are some obvious issues with vignetting, and its focus mechanism is a bit of a step backwards from even slightly more expensive AF-S models. However, it's sharper than most alternatives, controls chromatic aberration well, and distortion isn't a real issue. Paired with Nikon's basic 18-55mm kit lens, you would have a full range of focal lengths in two lenses, for half the overall price of the Nikon 18-200mm super-zoom. With a real improvement in optical characteristics from its predecessor design and the addition of VR image stabilization technology, you can't do much better for the price.


Sample Photos!
Beginning in July 2007, we now provide sample photos of two laboratory test targets to help in our readers' evaluation of the lenses we test. The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.

As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and f/8. For the "VFA" target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.

To see the sample shots from this lens captured with this lens on our test body, just click on either of the thumbnails below, and scroll as needed in the window that appears.


Still Life shot


VFA target

Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED VR DX AF-S Nikkor User Reviews

8.4/10 average of 16 reviews Build Quality 7.3/10 Image Quality 8.5/10
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (9 reviews)
    light, inexpensive, excellent IQ given its variable aperture
    cheaper build, VR a tad less effective than stated

    A solid performer that punches above its price point...I own the Tamron 70-300 VC, which has better IQ and markedly better image stabilization, but at the price of heft. When I want a "light kit" and portability is paramount, this lens shines. Good IQ, decent bokeh, surprisingly good results for so little $$. Not one of Nikon's better VR systems, be advised. Solid performer for the $100 you can pick it up for used...

    reviewed March 5th, 2014 (purchased for $90)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (20 reviews)
    Cheap, sharp, good contrast and color balance, useful mid-zoom focal range, lightweight
    Flimsy construction, somewhat hard to hold steady full out because it's so light

    This lens is a real bargain. It's as sharp as lenses several times as expensive and is so lightweight that it's easy to carry all day on a small camera like a Nikon D90. The results are much better than expected: sharp, good contrast, fairly quick focus even full out. Because of its light weight, it's a bit hard to hold steady enough for the sharpest results it's capable of. But with a steady position and careful squeezing of the shutter release the results are worth the effort. It might have to be babied a bit because of its light construction. But if you break it, buy another one. They're cheap.

    reviewed October 19th, 2013 (purchased for $126)
  • 7 out of 10 points and recommended by (6 reviews)
    Price, moderately sharp and contrasty
    Build, pictures lackluster.

    Sharpness is not that bad,nor is contrast or even color at f/8-f/11.
    But I never liked pictures taken with this lens so after awhile I replaced it. I don't have the money to invest in pro zoom so instead I bought: - Nikon 50mm 1.8 ai-s 50$
    - Nikon 105mm 2.5 ai 130$
    - Nikon 180mm 2.8 ai-s ED 200$
    Sorry for convenience but with these lenses I got what is lacking
    in Nikon 55-200mm vr: luster,brilliance,shining pictures.
    By the way the field of view of my Nikon 180mm is probably equal to what would be 240mm on the 55-200mm vr.

    reviewed April 19th, 2013 (purchased for $200)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (52 reviews)
    very light telezoom, VR, sharp! cheap
    build quality

    nikon's small telezoom wonder! it's very light, yet very comfortable to handle. It has big zoom ring & very easy to handle. AF is fast & VR works well. For this kind of lens, VR may come really handy at most situations.

    Images produced are surprisingly sharp!!! This tiny plastic lens have super optic design.
    The only downside is the plastic-build quality. It made of all plastic, even the lens mount. Sometimes you feel that it may break anytime.

    reviewed October 12th, 2012 (purchased for $189)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    Nice zoom. Nice images. VR works really well in the 1/5-1/30 range.
    VR does not tend to work as well as I would have expected in the 1/40-1/100 range

    I am editing this review based on new information.

    The VR in this lens works really well at the slower shutter speeds and really seems to shine in the 1/5 to 1/30 range (I have not tested in in the slower range).

    Once in the 1/40-1/100 range the VR for some reason is hit or miss. Sometimes you are better off without the VR on (especially if you are not required to track your subject) since it may cause some image blur. But if you are having to track your subject then you probably are still better with the VR on.
    I have some situations where 1/10-1/20 shutter speed gives me a more clear image than at the 1/50 shutter speed because of this. So I have learned to actually dial down the shutter speed if I am forced to use the low speeds due to the lighting conditions - with some quite impressive results.

    Now that I have learned (I think) the peculiarities of this lens I find myself much happier with its performance.

    reviewed January 30th, 2012 (purchased for $250)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (2 reviews)
    Sharp, inexpensive and compact
    economy build

    At this price point, the results from this lens are surprisingly good. I would recommend it highly as a companion to any of the smaller Nikon bodies for a light travel kit. The AFS seems a bit slower than the pro lenses but has been fast enough for portraits and photos of the family in good light.

    reviewed July 19th, 2010 (purchased for $249)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (21 reviews)
    fast and light long zoom
    plastic shoe

    Nikon professional user.

    This lens should be in your camera bag if you like blur-free photographs. The VR is superb.

    For outdoor work it is super-light and very sharp.

    It is quite versatile on my D300 and D200 cameras when I don't want to carry a heavy zoom. Results are professional in good light.

    Add it to the D40 kit lens for perfect holiday shots.

    reviewed March 15th, 2010 (purchased for $240)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)

    Pros: value for the money, light, cheap, very good IQ

    Cons: vignetting if is not stopped down, plastic mount, shorter than 70-300 VR :-)


    Quite good for that money. I got this lense for a few months a than I changed it for 70-300 VR. I am not sure, that was good change, because the IQ seemed to me the same (except vignetting is more visible with 55-200). The price of this lense is really better than it's longer brother and if you don't mind it is shorter, you will be satisfied.

    reviewed January 15th, 2009 (purchased for $260)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (3 reviews)
    Lightweight, Cheap, lots of value for the money
    Only f/5.6 @ 200mm

    Excellent lens with a lot of value for the money, and extremely lightweight.

    The downside is that it´s not very light sensitive, but the 70-200 mm f/2.8 costs roughly 9 times as much, at least in Sweden, so it was never an option.

    Really a great lens, fantastic for portraits.

    reviewed November 6th, 2008 (purchased for $280)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    Compact, VR, good image quality, very reasonable price.
    Won't stand abuse. Manual focus?

    I read about this lens in a Pop Photo article "Must buy bargain." Good range, compact, light-weight zoom with VR! I bought it new for a vacation trip and I'm very happy with the results. Paired with the 18-70 kit lens on my D-70, this is an excellent travel package.

    reviewed August 4th, 2008 (purchased for $250)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (4 reviews)
    cheap, accurate colors, light, compact
    a little slow

    This lens is great given the price factor. It's also very compact and light. You may have to stop down to get that extra crispness at 200mm but it's also quite good wide open.
    Not the best but you'll be pleasantly surprised with the image quality.

    reviewed July 22nd, 2008
  • 7 out of 10 points and recommended by (19 reviews)
    cheap,the VR works as well as my Canon IS, excellent value , SWM
    Nothing as considering the price .

    I bought my D40X for traveling to China as I broke my Canon EOS XTI and had to send it in for repair service.

    I thought buying one more 400D but I got a great deal with this D40X kit with 2 lenses(18-55 and 55-200VR) for about 700 US, I bought it and gave it a try.

    I think this Nikon cheap zoom is nice ,with decent IQ but poorly constructed and my lens worn out , the plastic mount torn now.

    The VR does not work or much less effective than the IS on my Canon lenses.

    It is slow to focus , nothing like my super fast Canon EOS 40D and EF-70-300DOIS combo, so I sold all my Nikon silly stuff as my XTI came back from Canon.

    But I know it is silly comparing this cheapo with the Ef70-200f4L IS.

    But only tele zooms I have used are LS and my DO............so I have to compare this lens against my Ls and DO.

    The color is good very cool , a bit too cold for my taste , though.

    The contrast is not like my Ls but ok.

    I was shocked at how sharp it is considering the price , it is amazing but can not AF so I say its potential Lab IQ is good but in real life IQ bad.

    I sold it with the D40X most silly SLR camara ever made and 70-300VR to fund for my new 40D.

    The 40D is great , now all my lenses focus much faster.

    reviewed August 21st, 2007 (purchased for $200)
  • 6 out of 10 points and not recommended by (20 reviews)
    Lightweight, price, size, VR
    Image quality is so-so, cheap plastic

    I don't like this lens. The images are very "cheap"-looking. Even my vacation Nikkor 70-300G can match with it. I'm sad I have sold my 70-300 VR... I tried it on my D200 and D70s and the results are very same. Thanx

    reviewed August 15th, 2007 (purchased for $400)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    light, small, fairly fast focus, nice bokah, feels well made, 52mm filters
    can hunt for focus at 200mm from time to time, plastic mount

    I have taken a few thousand shots with this lens so far and am VERY happy with the results.

    Focus is fast and silent in all but the dimmest of light zoomed out to 200mm.

    It seems really well made for such a low price lens. The mount is plastic, but as long as you aren't careless it should last years.

    As for the VR... Very impressive. I've been taking handheld shots at 55mm down to 1/8 to 1/4 second with some very sharp results. Make sure you take two or three and you will almost always get a usable shot.

    I'm not saying it is an alternative to a tripod, but the whole point of this lend is mobility. The light weight and small size are the best things about this lens.

    On a recent trip I took only this lens and my 12-24mm because of space weight restrictions and was able to do everything I wanted to do.

    Value for money, this is one of the best deals in the Nikon line.

    You can check out some examples of what this lens is capable of on my web site.

    http://www.brentmooers.com

    reviewed June 22nd, 2007 (purchased for $280)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (5 reviews)
    Inexpensive, light, good image quality.
    Slower AF.

    I second the previous review. The image quality was a nice surprise from 55 to 150. At the short length, it is sharper than many other lenses, even wide open. Makes a very good portrait lens, with a good Bokeh. Distortion is not large and can be fixed easily. I found no vignetting or chromatic aberation on my images yet.

    This is not an action lens. On my good old D70, the AF becomes slow in the long tele range. Sometimes, it would not focus at all and I have to zoom out first. This issue may be better on modern Nikon cameras.

    The VR really helps giving sharp shots out of the hand otherwise impossible. I'd estimate one or two extra F-stops when used shorter than 1/60. However, it takes time to adapt. Press the shutter halfways and wait a short bit before pressing it completely.

    The build quality is good. I do not need a hammer like heavy metal quality. I much prefer the kind of durable plastic used on this lens. The manual zoom ring is a bit small, however. The lens hood has to be twisted and snaps in, but I'd prefer the frontal one snap type with the side buttons I found on other lenses (e.g. the HB33 for the 18-55).

    Overall, a nice lens, especially for this price. Go out and photograph with it!

    reviewed June 3rd, 2007 (purchased for $300)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    sharp, very little ca, well made
    soft at 200 mm

    Initially I bought a 70-300 VR to complement my 18-70. I was very interested in this lens but discovered that the afs differs from the 18-70 and 70-300; it's the same lighter and slower version as used in the 18-135. In addition it is not the vr2 but the old vr1. Some reviewers already reported malfunction of this inferior afs. I chose to spend my euros wisely and bought the better 70-300 vr ...... I thought ....

    The 70-300 Vr2 broke just after one day of testing it!!! So there I ended up with ... a 55-200 vr and a sb-600 to complement my sb-800 for the same amount. And I must say: i am very very pleasant surprised!!!! I was not happy with the dark blue fringing of the 70-300 vr and expected to see some in this lens too, well ..... there is almost none!!

    Sharpness really surprised me too; it is sharp wide open untill say 150 mm. Stopping it down will help a little at 200 mm. Af is a little slower than my 18-70 but that does not matter. What does matter is that the lens tube does not wiggle and wobbel as my 18-70 does, the latter is a dust eater because of that!

    Vr works but don't expect miracles. Subject movement is already there below 1/30. See it as an extra tool to save the day and shoot acceptable images in low light. If you want razor sharp low light performance, buy faster and bigger glass.

    Color rendition is very good, like my 18-70. And last but not least ... bokeh ... It is very very very pretty.
    Perhaps not just as good as the 9 bladed 70-300 but it is close.

    All in all : this is a truly amazing lens!

    reviewed May 1st, 2007 (purchased for $319)