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NEW: Nikon 55-200mm DX VR II. January 2015
Ideal Uses: Perfect for use on every DX digital Nikon. Great sports, nature and portrait lens; there's no need to pay more.
Not for: FX or film cameras.
The Nikon 55-200mm VR is a superb lightweight, plastic-mount lens with outstanding performance.
So long as you're careful not to break the plastic lens mount, this is an extraordinary lens in every way. Even if you break it, it's cheap enough that you can buy another and still be out less money than if you had bought the larger 70-300mm VR.
I own the more expensive alternatives, and I usually use this 55-200mm VR instead because it's easier to carry and more fun to use. I have this 55-200mm VR, the 70-300mm VR, the 80-400mm VR and the huge 80-200mm f/2.8 AF-s. This tiny 55-200mm VR is the first tele I grab for my D40. I grab the 70-300mm VR for larger FX or film cameras, but not for DX. I never use the 80-400mm VR or 80-200mm f/2.8 AF-s because they are too big.
The Nikon 55-200mm VR is very inexpensive. It's the telephoto lens bargain of the decade at only about $230.
Sharpness and performance are extraordinary. A lens this inexpensive never used to have the right to be this embarrassingly good. VR (Vibration Reduction or image stabilization) works great; I can shoot at 1/30 at 200mm and get sharp shots without a tripod! The results are amazing on my 12 megapixel D300, and the 55-200mm VR is so tiny it feels perfect for travel on my D40.
I'm addicted to Vibration Reduction (VR) because it's critical to getting sharp shots with telephoto lenses. VR eliminates camera shake, the biggest reason people get blurry shots with telephoto lenses.
The Nikon 55-200mm VR is significantly better for hand-held shooting than non-VR tele lenses, including the non-VR 55-200mm, because the VR helps ensure sharp shots that otherwise are often blurred. VR is less important with normal lenses, and very important with telephoto lenses. See Image Stabilization for more.
Unlike most of the alphanumeric gibberish on lenses, VR is really, really important. VR can't stop your kids from moving, but it does a spectacular job of letting me shoot in the dim light I love without a tripod.
The 55-200mm VR zooms easily and precisely. The zoom range is well spaced, and VR works great. It focuses reasonably quickly, but not as fast as more expensive lenses. I have no problem tracking my 2-year-old in action with my D40. The 55-200mm VR doesn't offer instant manual focus override: you have to move a switch, but for the price, I'm not complaining.
Forget the old non-VR 55-200mm. This 55-200mm VR lens costs little more, and VR makes a huge difference with teles.
It does not work well on FX or film cameras. It usually cuts off the far corners of the image. It appears to work at most focal lengths on film and FX, although at 80mm all the corners are dark. At most other focal lengths the darkening isn't that bad, so long as you know you're not really supposed to use the 55-200mm VR on anything other than a DX digital camera.
See Nikon Lens Compatibility for details with your camera. Read down the "AF-S, AF-I," "G" and "VR" columns for this lens. You'll get the least of all the features displayed in all columns, since "G" (gelding) is a handicap which removes features.
Nikon 55 200 VR. enlarge.
Bottom, Nikon 55-200 VR. enlarge.
Nikon calls this the Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor.
Focal Length top
Used on a digital Nikon it gives angles of view similar to what an 85-300mm lens would give on a 35mm film camera. See also Crop Factor.
15 elements in 11 groups.
One of them is made of magic ED glass.
7 rounded blades.
Stops down to f/22 - 32.
Close Focus top
3.6 feet (1.1m).
Maximum Reproduction Ratio top
Filter Size top
52mm, which has been Nikon's standard filter size since 1959.
All plastic mount and barrel; glass optics.
2.9" diameter x 3.9" long (73 x 99.5mm)
11.805 oz. (334.6g) measured, naked.
Nikon specifies 11.8 oz (335g).
Made In top
Price, USA top
2012 December: $250.
2009, USA: $230.
MSRP, USA, 2007: $249.95
Nikon Product Number top
2166, in catalog as of spring 2008.
Included Accessories top
Nikon CL-0918 pouch and HB-37 hood.
HB-37 plastic bayonet hood.
March 5th, 2007.
Available Since top
I've already covered most of it: this is a sharp, great performing lens worth far more than its bargain price.
Auto and Manual Focus top
Focus is internal.
Except for the front focus ring, which moves during manual and autofocus, nothing moves externally while focusing.
The filter thread doesn't rotate — ever.
AF is reasonably fast, but not as fast as more expensive lenses. Even so, my D40 has no problem tracking the motion of my kid with the 55-200 VR.
Oddly, if I'm way out of focus at 200mm, my D300 may not be able to figure out which way to focus and simply may not focus! If this happens, all I have to do is zoom out to 55mm, let the D300 focus back to reality, zoom back in and refocus. That's a problem with the D300, not with this lens.
Bokeh is neutral to very good.
Backgrounds go away smoothly, never with any bother or busyness.
I never saw any distortion until I went out to measure it. For people and action photos, it's irrelevant.
For critical use, it can be corrected by plugging these figures into Photoshop's lens distortion filter. These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.
These factors correct the distortion completely with no residual waviness.
© 2009 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.
Lateral Color Fringes top
None on Gen 2 cameras like the D300.
Falloff (darker corners) top
I've never seen any falloff in actual shooting, however if brick walls or blank skies are your thing, the full-frame 70-300mm VR will be much better when used on DX.
I've greatly exaggerated this below by shooting a gray field and placing these on a gray background.
Nikon 55-200mm VR falloff on DX at infinity, no correction.
© 2010 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.
Maximum and Minimum Apertures top
It's sharp edge-to-edge at every focal length and every aperture.
Of course it gets softer due to diffraction as every lens does if you stop down to more than f/8; but otherwise, this dinky 55-200mm VR puts many of Nikon's older and more expensive lenses to shame.
Here's a giraffe, shot with a D7000 in BASIC JPG mode and cropped from this:
Vibration Reduction (VR) top
VR works great and is very quiet. It doesn't make the nasty noises that off-brand lenses, like Tamron, do. I can only hear the VR working inside my 55-200 if I hold it to my ear.
Vibration Reduction (VR) give substantially sharper images under most conditions (other than direct sunlight) compared to ordinary lenses without VR.
I can hold my 55-200mm VR down to about 1/30 at 200mm.
Rear, Nikon 55 200 VR. enlarge.
The glass is glass, but everything else is plastic. This is why it weighs so little and why I prefer to take it with me than the more expensive lenses I already own.
Don't push your luck, and you should get decades of great photos out of this lens.
I suspect that after 20 years not as many of these lenses will be working as well as pro lenses that cost five times as much , but then again, I've had pro lenses that broke under warranty and have never had a problem with these plastic lenses.
Don't grab your camera by the lens: you might break off the mount! Grab the camera by the camera body, not this 55-200mm's big fat grab ring.
Protect the front of the lens. Don't bang it, since it's connected directly to the zoom system and if you do, you could crack the zoom cams. This is typical for most zoom lenses.
I love my 55-200mm, so I see no reason to worry.
Zoom scale, Nikon 55-200mm VR. enlarge.
Most of the lens barrel is the zoom ring. Grab it anywhere and you're in control.
The front of the lens extends as you select longer focal lengths.
Zooming is well spaced, at about several centimeters per octave. Thank goodness there is no congestion at either end of the focus range: nothing gets bunched up so it's always easy to set the exact composition you desire.
Zoom action feels just a little bit plasticy with very little stiction; nothing I'd complain about.
Control Panel, Nikon 55-200mm VR.
Easy! Set the top switch to "A" for autofocus.
If you want to focus by hand, set it to "M" for manual focus and turn the front ring yourself. Look for the big electronic dot at the bottom your viewfinder to tell you when you've got perfect focus.
Leave VR on all the time, unless you're on a tripod.
If you're shooting fast action sequences, you may get faster frame rates if you turn it OFF. You don't need VR for fast action; you need VR for marginal light.
Keep your fingers away from the front focus ring; it moves all by itself as the lens autofocuses and you don't want to interfere with it.
See Nikon AF Settings for specifics on how to set your Nikon camera to track action and sports automatically.
Buy one, I did! It's the best deal in telephotos today.
Everything else without VR just went obsolete. Obsolete doesn't mean discontinued; obsolete means that other products just became irrelevant or uncompetitive.
If this 55-200mm VR isn't good enough for you, your next best choice gets much bigger and more expensive. You'd need the $500 70-300mm VR, the $1,500 80-400mm VR or the $1,600 70-200mm f/2.8 VR, and none of them focus as close.
VR is that critical, for me anyway, so I'd not shoot with anything other than this 55-200mm VR, one of the others, or my 18-200mm VR.
I'd leave the hood at home.
If I was working in nasty, dirty areas, I'd forget the cap, and use an uncoated 52mm Tiffen UV filter instead. Uncoated filters are much easier to clean, but more prone to ghosting, and the laminated Tiffens stay together in one piece even after they've been shattered.
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