AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED Lens

      Photo Review 9
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      leadpic_AFS_DX_VR55_200

      In summary

      An affordable telephoto zoom lens for Nikon’s DX-format DSLR cameras.Designed as a second lens for DSLR kits, the AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED offers an affordable option for owners of Nikon’s DX-format bodies who want a medium tele zoom lens. Compact and light in weight, this lens is made almost entirely from plastic – right down to the mounting plate. Fortunately, overall build quality is good for a plastic lens and, coupled with the 18-55mm kit lens, buyers will get a very useful range of focal lengths without adding much weight to their equipment. . . [more]

      Full review

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      55-200mm-diagram

      The optical design diagram for the AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED lens. (Source: Nikon.)
      A seven-bladed iris diaphragm closes to a circular aperture that produces attractive out-of-focus elements in shots. Minimum apertures range from f/22 at the 55mm position to f/32 at 200mm. Internal focusing allows use of angle-critical attachments, such as polarisers and graduated filters and the lens is threaded to accept 52 mm filters.
      Key features of this lens are the inclusion of Nikon’s VR image stabilisation system and Silent Wave Motor (SWM) focusing drive. The former claims to offer up to three f-stops of shutter speed compensation against camera shake, making it easier to obtain sharp pictures when the lens is hand-held. The latter provides almost silent autofocusing.

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      AFS_DX_VR55_200_lens

      The AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED lens. (Source: Nikon.)
      Extending approximately 105 mm out from the camera body (with lens cap attached), this lens protrudes a further 40mm when zoomed out to the 200mm focal length. The design comprises two barrels, with the zoom and focusing rings attached to the outer barrel. There is no distance scale, no depth-of-field indicator and no markings for infrared focus correction.
      The zoom ring is a broad (62 mm) band with a textured rubber grip covering most of its width. An engraved scale on the trailing edge (nearest the camera) carries markings for the 55mm, 70mm, 85mm, 105mm, 135mm and 200mm focal length positions. These are lined up against a gold mark on the non-moving part of the lens barrel.
      The focusing ring is a narrow (5mm wide) band just in front on the zoom ring. It can only be moved when the lens is set to manual focus mode, unlike the more expensive Nikkors which support manual over-ride of autofocusing. Fine – but relatively shallow – rubber ridges provide a grip of sorts but the ring is really too narrow for comfort.
      On the left side of the main barrel are two sliders; one for switching between auto and manual focusing and the other for turning the VR stabilisation on and off. Unlike many AF-S Nikkors, you can’t focus manually when the focus slider is on A. No zoom lock is provided -and none seems to be required as we found no evidence of slippage when the camera was carried with the lens pointing downwards. No lens hood was supplied with the review lens.

      Handling
      The review lens was a comfortable fit on the D5000 body we used for our tests and the combined camera-plus-lens felt reasonably well balanced – although we feel a slightly heavier lens would be more stable at focal length settings beyond 100mm. The focusing ring turns through approximately 20 degrees, which makes it difficult to obtain critical sharpness when focusing manually.
      The zoom ring moves through about 35 degrees and we found the markings on the lens barrel to be close to accurate for the indicated focal length settings. Precise manual focusing is difficult because of the narrow focusing ring and the limited amount of travel provided.
      A weak point of this lens is its lack of close-focusing capabilities. Minimum focus is 1.1 metres throughout the zoom range. Unlike more pricey telephoto zooms, no ‘macro’ settings are provided.

      Performance
      For its construction and price, the review lens turned in a better-than-expected performance in our objective and subjective tests. Test shots were sharper-looking with better contrast and colour rendition than you would expect from the price of this lens and image quality was very even across the zoom range.
      Best results in our Imatest resolution tests came from apertures between f/6.3 and f/11 at most focal length settings. Interestingly, we did not find the expected sharp decline in performance at small apertures that characterises many lenses. The graph below shows the results of our tests.

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      DX_VR55_200_lens_Res-vs-FL-graph

      Centre and edge resolution were quite similar throughout the aperture and focal length ranges, indicating a good flatness of field for the test lens. Lateral chromatic aberration was mainly in the negligible band, with deviations into the low band at the smallest aperture settings. No coloured fringing was apparent in test shots. The graph below shows the results of Photo Review’s tests, with the red line marking the border between ‘negligible’ CA and ‘low’ CA and the green line the boundary between ‘low’ and ‘moderate’ CA.

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      DX_VR55_200_lens_CA-graph

      Slight vignetting could be seen at wide apertures, particularly at the shorter focal lengths. However, by f/7.1 vignetting was no longer visible. Distortion was also quite well controlled, with no visible barreling and only slight pincushion distortion at the 135mm and 200mm focal length settings. Neither of these problems is likely to be a major issue for potential buyers of this lens.
      Autofocusing is, unfortunately, relatively slow and the review lens showed a tendency to hunt in low light levels. Focusing was also slowed in bright and contrasty lighting, although not for slightly contre-jour shots. Little flare could be seen in shots unless the lens was pointed directly towards the sun. Bokeh (out-of-focus blur) was attractive – but not spectacularly beautiful.

      Buy this lens if:
      – You want a lightweight telephoto zoom lens for Nikon’s entry-level DSLR bodies.
      – You require performance levels to match the standard of Nikon’s entry and lower mid-level DSLRs.

      Don’t buy this lens if:
      – You require fast autofocusing in low light levels (this isn’t a lens for shooting indoor sports).
      – You need close focusing capabilities.

      IMATEST GRAPHS

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      55-200_DSC_0115_YBL75_ca
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      55-200_DSC_0116_YBL75_cpp

      SAMPLE IMAGES

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      DSC_0204-wide

      55mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/200 second at f/7.1.

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      DSC_0203-tele

      150mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/500 second at f/5.6.

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      DSC_0218-wide

      55mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/80 second at f/4.5.

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      DSC_0220-tele

      200mm focal length, ISO 800, 1/125 second at f/5.6.

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      DSC_0231-wide

      55mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/320 second at f/9.

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      DSC_0230-tele

      200mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/640 second at f/6.3.

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      DSC_0205-dog

      200mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/500 second at f/5.6.

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      DSC_0416-close

      Close-up: 200mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/250 second at f/5.6. Note the attractive bokeh.

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      DSC_0282-backlighting

      Backlighting; 135mm focal length, ISO 320, 1/500 second at f/5.6.

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      DSC_0296-action

      Backlighting; 145mm focal length, ISO 320, 1/500 second at f/5.6.

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      DSC_0245-200mm

      180mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/500 second at f/5.6. The lens focuses easily on slow-paced action.

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      DSC_0247-slide

      122mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/320 second at f/9.

       

      Specifications

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      leadpic_AFS_DX_VR55_200

      Picture angle: 28 degrees 50 minutes to 8 degrees
      35mm equivalent focal length: 82.5-300mm
      Maximum aperture: f/4
      Minimum aperture: f/22-32
      Lens construction: 15 elements in 11 groups (one ED glass element)
      Lens mount: Nikon F (DX sensors only)
      Diaphragm Blades: 7 (rounded)
      Focus drive: Built-in Silent Wave Motor
      Minimum focus: 1.1m (throughout the entire zoom range)
      Maximum magnification: 1:4.3
      Filter size: 52 mm
      Dimensions (Diameter x L): 73.0 x 99.5 mm
      Weight: 335 grams

       

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      Rating

       

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      PR-EdChoice-web-100

      RRP: $449

      Rating (out of 10):

      • Build: 8.0
      • Handling: 8.5
      • Image quality: 9
      • Versatility: 8.5
      • OVERALL: 9.0

      Buy