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- Made to work best with the D40, D40x, D50 or D70s, or even the D200.
- Much sharper and better performance than its low price.
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Although Nikon’s Nikkor 55–200mm f/4–5.6G AF-S DX VR zoom lens is not perfect, its performance is much better than the average inexpensive lens and, at approximately $230, the value is excellent. As noted by its “DX” designation, the 55–200mm has been specifically designed for Nikon DSLRs (and the Fujifilm DSLRs) only. That’s because the DX series of Nikon lens have an image circle that more closely matches the smaller sensor size of those DSLRs. For this reason, a DX lens is typically shorter and weighs less than a lens required for the full 35mm frame.
Another primary benefit of this lens is that Nikon has upgraded it with its VR, or Vibration Reduction technology; although, it doesn’t seem to work as well as it does on the Nikkor 70–200mm f/2.8 zoom lens. This may be because of the short physical length of the 55–200mm. The one downside is that panning detection can’t be turned on or off, which some VR lenses allow you to do. At this price point, you can’t have everything; however, the addition of the VR capability certainly increases the value of your money if you decide to buy this lens.
In Your Hand
Hold the Nikkor 55–200mm f/4–5.6G zoom lens in your hand and you’ll notice immediately that it is light, small and made from plastic parts, including the lens mount. Attach it to your camera and it should feel well balanced; plus, it makes the lens less intrusive when you’re trying to capture candids or shooting in a situation where you don’t want to distract people. Although the 55–200mm will feel good in your hand, the operation of the lens is not all it could be.
The zoom ring is somewhat stiff, but workable with a little practice. The focus ring, however, is very poorly conceived, as it is very narrow and immediately in front of the zoom ring, which is much wider. Because the lens is so short, you wouldn’t expect the barrel to extend very far; and it doesn’t, at a maximum of approximately an inch-and-a-half. The barrel doesn't rotate during zoom or focus. The biggest negative is that you must choose the manual focus position on your camera or the lens before you can override focus manually. This means the Nikkor 55–200mm is not appropriate for wildlife or sports photography.
Although there are some sharpness limitations, the Nikkor 55–200mm performs better than one might expect, considering its price. Maximum sharpness is evident throughout most of the focal range; however, the corners tend to go soft at f/4 or 5.6. The hobbyist and enthusiast who are the market for this lens should know that pros prefer a bit of corner softness. There is some vignetting at the widest aperture (lens opening), but it’s difficult to notice any chromatic aberration. Third-party testing has found that the 55–200mm is also sharp when shooting close-ups.
The Nikkor 55–200mm VR zoom lens receives an excellent grade for distortion, meaning there is not much of it. There is so little that it isn’t an issue (a bit a 55mm and approximately one percent from the mid- to the longest focal lengths).
The AF-S technology in this lens should have made auto-focus faster than it is, which is a bit slow. Not only is auto-focus only average in bright light, but also off-center sensors can trigger the lens to focus a second time. This is because the 55–200mm seems to be at the limit of Nikon’s AF system with an aperture setting of f/5.6 and racked to the maximum 200mm.
Pros and Cons
Keeping the low price of the Nikkor 55–200mm f/4–5.6G AF-S DX VR zoom lens always in mind, the negatives are noticeable, but not big obstacles for those who will buy this lens.
In reality, this is an f/5.6 lens at 200mm, so auto-focus in low light can be an issue.
Although many features and capabilities of this lens make it worth more than its price, the quality of construction falls short.
With a slower auto-focus, the 55–200mm’s doesn’t match other AF-S lenses.
No distance scale.
The upsides of this lens exceed any negatives. It’s certainly an excellent choice if it’s appropriate for your camera and the kind of digital photography you shoot.
Very good optics.