Nikon goes small, announces retractible telephoto zoom and lightweight, pro-level ‘Phase Fresnel’ 300mm f/4 VR lenses


posted Monday, January 5, 2015 at 10:00 PM EDT


Announced alongside their new Nikon D5500, the Japanese imaging company announced a pair of new lenses: a new compact, affordable DX-format telephoto zoom, and a big (but not too big) full-frame, professional telephoto prime.

Designed as a companion lens to the recently updated, retractable 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II DX kit lens, the new 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II sports a similar retractable barrel design for easier carrying and storage. At just 2.7 in. by 3.2 in. when retracted and weighing a mere 10.6 oz., the new compact telephoto zoom should easily fit in a camera bag and not weigh you down when you're out shooting. The updated 55-200mm lens is perfectly situated as a lightweight, affordable lens for those looking to capture outdoor sports and action, as well as people and travel shots.

Specs-wise, the new 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II uses 13 elements in nine groups and includes Nikon's Super Integrated Coating and a single ED glass element, to help reduce chromatic aberration. The use of a 7-bladed, rounded aperture diaphragm should help create smooth, pleasing background blur. The lens also includes, as the name suggests, Nikon's Vibration Reduction image stabilization technology, which should provide up to three stops of vibration correction, according to Nikon. Using an AF-S Silent Wave Motor to autofocus, the new 55-200mm should be fast, quiet and accurate when focusing. 

The Nikon D5500 with the new 55-200mm VR lens.

While not an official kit lens option with the new D5500, the 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II should pair very nicely on that camera, as well as Nikon's other, particularly smaller-sized APS-C DSLRs. The lens itself is set to go on sale in February for an estimated retail price of US$349.95. 

For professional and high-end enthusiast photographers, Nikon has updated their venerable 300mm f/4 telephoto prime lens. With this refreshed lens, Nikon's included some unique optical technology to cut down on size and weight, while reducing chromatic aberration: Phase Fresnel optical technology. 

Similar in principle to Canon's Diffractive Optics (DO), the Phase Fresnel optical technology allows Nikon to create a long telephoto lens with a relatively bright aperture yet cut down significantly on size and weight. Compared to the older Nikon 300mm f/4, which tipped the scales at over three pounds, the new 300mm f/4E PF ED VR cuts the weight nearly in half to just 1.66 pounds. The physical size is also noticeably smaller going from almost nine inches long with the predecessor to just shy of six inches with the new model. If you're a sports or wildlife photographer who treks or carries a lot of gear to your assignments, the size and weight savings from this new lens will be a big plus.

Another big change compared to the older model is the inclusion of Vibration Reduction. In this new lens, the VR system is capable, according to Nikon, of a whopping 4.5 stops of correction. Also inside the barrel, sit 16 elements in 10 groups as well as a 9-bladed, rounded aperture diaphragm for smooth out of focus blurring. In addition to the new Phase Fresnel lens element, the new 300mm f/4 lens also includes a single ED element and a single aspherical element. The 300mm f/4E PF ED VR also includes several of the latest Nikon tech, including Nano Crystal Coat, electromagnetic aperture control and, of course, Silent Wave Motor for fast, quiet autofocus performance.

For serious photographers, needing a bright, long telephoto lens but wanting to save serious weight and space in their camera bag, the Nikon 300mm f/4E PF ED VR could be just the ticket. Scheduled to also go on sale in February, the lens has an estimated retail price of US$1,999.95.

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  • Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II AF-S DX Nikkor Lens, $346.95 - Adorama

  • Nikon 300mm f/4E PF ED VR AF-S Nikkor Lens, $1,996.95 - Adorama