Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II Review

In this review I will be taking a look at the entry-level Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II lens. Why a call it a entry-level lens? Because this would make a perfect step-up from the standard 18-55mm kit lens. For those looking to buy a new lens to complement their existing 18-55mm kit lens this 55-200mm would make it a perfect buy.

The 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II lens delivers a equivalent focal range of 82.5-300mm (Nikon cropsensor factor 1.5 x focal length of the lens), the retractable Nikon 55-200mm VR lens features a built-in auto-focus motor, a 4-stop Vibration Reduction system, and an iris diaphragm with seven rounded blades for a soft rendering of the out-of-focus (Bokeh) areas. The optics includes 13 lens elements arranged in 9 groups, including an ED glass element, with a a Super Integrated Coating. The AF-S Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR is currently available for $349.95 at Adorama and Amazon in the US, in The Netherlands it currently sells for as low as €289,- at CameraNU.

Weighing in at approximately 300 grams, the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II is very lightweight for a 3.6x telezoom lens.

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Here is the lens in my hand, which shows you how small this lens actually is, all though I have big hands so this image might be irrelevant :-).

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Here are some specs:

• Mount Type: Nikon F-Bayonet
• Lensmount: Plastic
• Weatherresistant: No
• Aperture: Variable f/4-5.6
• Maximum Aperture: f/4 @ 55mm, f/5.6 at 200mm
• Minimum Aperture: f/22-32
• Construction: 13 elements in 9 groups
• 1 ED Glass Elements
• Super Integrated Coating
• AF-S: (Silent Wave Motor)
• Internal Focusing: Yes with G-drive
• Diaphragm Blades: 7
• Nikon format: DX
• Angle of view: 28 degrees @55mm to 8 degrees @200mm
• Closest Focusing Distance: 1.1m
• Filter size: 52mm
• Weight: 300 grams.
• Dimensions: (Diameter x Length) 70.5 mm x 83 mm
 

More product shots:

Here you can see the front element of the lens, if you want you can fit a 52mm filter on the lens. The front end of the lens does not turn when focusing so it makes it compatible for using ND-filters. I myself don’t use UV-filters seeing these don’t do anything to complement you pictures at all, they just protect the front of you lens that’s it.

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Like I stated before the front lens element is fixed so it doesn’t turn when you focus in or out, but the focus ring it self is in a awkward place and it will only appear when you unlock the lens at 55mm.

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In this shot you can see the unlock button on the side of the lens, which allows you to lock the lens for travel. I have found this locking mechanism to be slowing me down, every time I wanted to grab my camera and snap a few shot I had to unlock the lens before I could do anything. If the lens had lens creep (where the lens would extract or retract automatically when pointing the lens up or down) then this lock system might make sense but the lens doesn’t suffer from lens creep at all. The lens is build pretty solid to be honest.

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The lens mount is plastic and not made of metal like to the more expensive nikkor lenses. Some might find this a reason not to buy it because people are posting experiences on the web whereby they stated that the plastic lens mount breaks to easily. If you take care of your equipment this wont happen, but that’s just my opinion.

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The Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II lens is equipped with a auto focus switch as well as VR (vibration reduction) switch. The auto focus can be set to either AUTO or MANUAL, do not attempt to turn the focus ring when its in AUTO because you will damage the internal focus motor by doing this. Some lenses do have the option to override the auto focus and use manual focus, these lenses have the switches marked A/M – M.

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This shot show the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II lens unlocked at 55mm on a Nikon D7200.

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When the lens is fully zoomed at 200mm the balance is gone, it’s not that big of a deal but take this in account when you placing your camera on a solid surface fully extracted.

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The lens uses a variable aperture starting at f/4 t f/5.6 so it’s not a goto lens for indoor and or low light photography.

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Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic aberrations, which could appear in a image as a purple or blue fringe along contrast edges, can be seen in shots taken at end of the zoom range, but that’s not that big of a deal and if you are a pixel peeper then you probable use Adobe Lightroom software which makes it easy to correct. That goes for barrel distortion as well.
 

Vignetting

This type of vignetting is caused by the physical dimensions of a multiple element lens. Rear elements are shaded by elements in front of them, which reduces the effective lens opening for off-axis incident light. The result is a gradual decrease in light intensity towards the image periphery. Optical vignetting is sensitive to the lens aperture and can often be cured by a reduction in aperture of 2–3 stops. With the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II lens set to it’s maximum aperture at 55mm, there is a little bit of light fall-off in the extreme corners, but it’s not to harse and as stated before its easily corrected with Adobe Lightroom software.

Have a look at the following shot taken at 55mm at f/4…

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The vignetting is gone after f/5.6 and like I stated below it’s hardly noticeable and easy to correct with software.
 

Focus Test

Seeing its almost Christmas I thought I test the focusing on a small snowman like thingamajig. I took multiple images indoors at f/5.6 and at different focal lengths, focus wise it would sometimes miss focus but when it did focus it was sharp. Do note this is not a macro lens but is does a decent job when setup right.

This was one of the in focus results…


 

Bokeh

Bokeh, also known as “Boke” is one of the most popular subjects in photography. The reason why it is so popular, is because Bokeh makes photographs visually appealing, forcing us to focus our attention on a particular area of the image. The word comes from Japanese language, which literally translates as “blur”.

Now the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II lens has a an iris diaphragm with seven rounded blades, which makes a decent blur effect aka Bokeh. Zoomed in all the way, for those with excellent vision… you should be able to to see the corners making up the 7 blades. There is also background Bokeh which refers to the blur effect behind a subject, but more on that later in this review.

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Sharpness test

The weather hasn’t been that great lately so let move over to the sharpness tests. In this shot @ 55mm you can see a shot of a couple of books on shelf’s, do note that the shelf’s are bending by the weight of the books and its not barrel distortion:-)

The sweet spot (with the sharpest results) is in between f/8 and f/11.

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This next shot was taken @ 200mm and having the tripod in the same spot as the shot above, whereby the sweetspot is at its sharpest using f/11.
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Focal Range

Although a 200mm maximum focal range doesn’t sound all that impressive, do note that on a crop sensor body (1.5x crop) like the D7200 its equivalent to a 300mm lens.

At the 55mm end of the zoom range, the angle of view is 28 degrees, which is a little bit tighter than that of an 80mm lens on a full frame body. This shot was taken straight out of my office overlooking some threes, where the focus was set on the building way in the back…

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Now lets zoom in all the way from 55mm to 200mm, not bad at all right? At the 200mm end, the angle of view narrows to 8°.

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Sample pictures

All of the pictures shown in this gallery have been made using a Nikon D7200 and with the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II attached. These birds come by every morning to see if there anything to eat, do note that all these pictures have been shot through my window. So expect even better results when using this lens outdoor :-)

The background Bokeh is decent but that has more to do with the way I set up the various shots.

 

Conclusion

I must admit that I had lower expectations of the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II, which most still think of being a upgraded kit lens.

Optically, the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II is decent for a consumer grade lens. Sharpness is good at most focal lengths, but you have to stop down to f/8 to get the sharpest results and even to f/11 to get sharp results at 200mm. Bokeh is decent, vignetting and chromatic aberrations aren’t too bad at all, and close-up performance is also pretty decent for a non-macro lens.

The Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II does have Vibration Reduction but lacks the ability to manual override the auto focus (you will have to switch auto focus off in order to use it manually). The auto focus is slow, so for shooting sports or kids in action it could be a challenge. The filter thread does not rotate on focus which a good feature to have. The one thing I totally didn’t like is the lens lock button on the lens, in order to be able to use the lens you have to unlock it… during testing I found this to be my biggest issue with this lens

The plastic mount might not appeal to everyone but lets face it… If you take care of you gear it’s not going to be a problem at all. Its a good telephoto lens to complement your existing 18-55mm kitlens for a very affordable price. So if you are looking to get a additional lens to complement your existing 18-55mm kit lens and your on a budget then by all means go for it. The Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II will give a a lot more room (focal range) to play with and to discover even more then before.

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The AF-S Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II is currently available for $349.95 at Adorama and Amazon in the US, in The Netherlands it currently sells for as low as €259,- at CameraNU.

Our Rating

7 Build Quality

7 Optical Performance

8 Bokeh Quality

7 Focus Accuracy

9 Size and Weight

8 Handling

10 Value for money

My Rating