Nikon AF-S DX VR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED £240
20th Dec 2011 | 16:38
Meet the fun-size Nikon
Wouldn't it be great to get some serious telephoto zoom reach without filling up most of your gadget bag with a big clunky lens? The Nikon Nikkor AF-S DX VR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED fits the bill with a remarkably compact design, and it's less than half the weight of its big brother, the Nikon 70-300mm VR. A major factor in its downsizing is that, unlike the 70-300mm, this is a 'DX' lens, designed specifically for Nikon DSLRs based on APS-C (rather than full-frame) sensors.
It's quite a basic zoom lens, a kind of telephoto version of the 18-55mm VR kit lens supplied with Nikon's budget DSLRs, such as the D3100 and D5100. With Nikon's 1.5x crop factor, the equivalent zoom range works out to 82.5-300mm.
By way of comparison, Canon's closest equivalent is the EF-S 55-250mm IS, which is a little larger and heavier. The Canon's extra telephoto reach and 1.6x crop factor give you a maximum effective range of 400mm, putting the Nikon in the shade a bit, but the little Nikon still has some smart features to offer.
Design is based on 15 elements in 11 groups, including one ED (Extra-low Dispersion) element to improve resolution and contrast while reducing chromatic aberrations. The maximum aperture drops from f/4 to f/5.6 as you extend the focal length through the zoom range, and can be reduced to f/22-32 via the 7-blade diaphragm.
Autofocus is based on a Nikon AF-S (Silent Wave) ultrasonic motor, which is quiet and reasonably rapid, although not as fast or as near-silent as the more advanced ring-type AF-S fitted to lenses like the Nikon 70-300mm VR. The closest focus distance is 110cm, at which point the lens gives a maximum magnification factor of 0.23x at its longest zoom setting.
Vibration Reduction is of Nikon's now outdated first-generation design and offers a 3-stop benefit in avoiding camera shake, whereas the VR II system featured in newer lenses gives a 4-stop advantage.
In keeping with the small build, the filter thread is a mere 52mm. Featuring internal focusing, the front element neither extends nor rotates during focusing, which is a bonus when using rotation-specific filters such as a circular polariser. Extras include a lens hood and soft pouch.
Build quality, handling and performance
Build quality and handling
Shoehorned into a compact package, the Nikon Nikkor AF-S DX VR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED's diameter and minimum length are just 73 x 100mm, extending to a maximum length of 175mm complete with hood, at the longest telephoto zoom setting.
Weighing a mere 335g, the lens certainly isn't cumbersome, but build quality isn't particularly inspiring either.
Unusually in this class of lens, the mount for fixing it to a camera is made of plastic rather than metal, but it should still be quite durable. The rubberised and nicely textured zoom ring runs almost the full length of the body and operates quite smoothly, yet without any hint of zoom creep.
There's no focus distance scale and the manual focus ring itself is tiny and quite fiddly. At least it's placed at the forward end of the lens, so doesn't tend to get fouled by your fingers while rotating in autofocus mode.
At the Nikon Nikkor AF-S DX VR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED's largest aperture settings of f/4-5.6, sharpness is merely adequate at short and medium focal lengths but it's impressive at the maximum telephoto length of 200mm.
This is quite unusual for a telephoto zoom lens, since sharpness normally drops off at the long end of the zoom range.
Vignetting is well controlled at all focal lengths, while autofocus is pretty rapid and very accurate. Like the larger Nikon 55-300mm VR, resistance to ghosting and flare is impressive.
Taken at 200mm, f/5.6
The main attraction of the Nikon Nikkor AF-S DX VR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED is that it's very compact and lightweight, while still offering a decent zoom range, equivalent to 82.5-300mm.
It's sharp at 200mm, even at the maximum available aperture of f/5.6.
Older generation 3-stop Vibration Reduction and the lens mount is made of plastic instead of metal.
Optical quality proved best at longer telephoto settings and, overall, it's a good buy at the price.