- Nikon DX APS-C lens mount
- Super integrated coating
- Silent wave motor for smooth and precise autofocus
- 13-element ( in 9 groups) optical design that includes one ED (Extra-low dispersion) glass element to ensure better correction of chromatic aberration
- IF lens, only the internal lens group shifts during focusing
- Equivalent to 82.5-300mm focal length
- Minimum focus distance of 1.1m
- Maximum aperture f/4-5.6
- Four-stop VR image stabilization
- 52mm filter thread
- 23x maximum reproduction ratio
- 7 circular diaphragm blades
Nikon 55-200mm VR II was first announced in 2015 and comes as an updated version of 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED. The latest version boasts VR technology and is more compact and a bit lighter. Nikon’s AF-S DX 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED VR offers an Internal Focusing system where the front element does not rotate while focusing. But this lens lacks the IF which makes the lens much shorter at 83mm. Apart from this, the lens offers the same focal length range, maximum apertures, and similar features.
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Design and Performance
The lens is mainly built of plastic but feels quite solid and sturdy. It is compact and weighs around 300g and is 83mm long when retracted. The rubberised ridged zoom ring has a button that releases the lens along with rotating the zoom ring. The focal lengths are marked on the edge of the ring. The zoom action is not internal as the lens extends upon zooming from the locked position through 55mm to 200mm.
On the left, there are two buttons to control stabilization (VR ON/OFF) and focusing (A/M). The focusing is not internal. However, you can adjust the focus manually even when the focusing mode is set to ‘A’. The lens does not have any depth of field or distance scale.
The optical design of the lens includes 13 elements in 9 groups that have one ED (extra-low dispersion) glass element that suppresses the chromatic aberrations to a certain extent. The lens has a 7-blade circular diaphragm aperture. Nikon does not offer any lens hood as an optional accessory.
The VR (vibration reduction) system makes it possible to shoot with shutter speed up to four stops longer. The system also ensures a limited motion blur for telephoto shots, especially in low-lit areas. The system is quiet and works perfectly for making stable videos.
Autofocus: The lens offers an autofocus powered by silent wave motor which provides a quick and silent autofocus operation. The manual focus adjustments cannot be applied via the focusing ring and have to be enabled or disabled via a switch on the side of the lens.
The lens has a closest focus distance of 1.1m throughout the entire zoom range. It offers 52mm filter thread that does not rotate making it easy for the users to use polarizers and graduated filters. Nikon’s VR provides an effect equivalent to a shutter speed 4.0 stops faster that deliver sharper images and videos.
Image Resolution: The lens produces pretty sharp images at every focal distance. At 55mm and maximum aperture, the sharpness in the center is excellent with just a slight dip towards the edges of the frame. However, as we stopped down, the performance improved with some tack-sharp images at f/8. Here the clarity towards the edges of the frame is as good as the center.
There is a bit of performance drop at 105mm at the maximum aperture where the center came out to be sharp with the edges of the frame can be considered as fairly sharp. The performance, however, gets improved at f/8. The trend goes same at 200mm where stopping at f/8 and f/16 results in good sharpness.
Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberrations in this lens are typically seen as colored edges at the sharp contrast transitions in the corners of the image. This happens for both the telephoto and wide-angle lenses. Nikon has included an ED glass element to limit lateral CA (separation of colors). Some amount of chromatic aberrations remains in the uncorrected RAW files, particularly at the longest focal length. However, at shorter focal lengths, CAs are almost negligible.
Distortion: Just like any other telephoto zooms, Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6 VR II shows a certain pattern of distortion. At shortest focal length, the lens exhibits barrel-shaped distortion that changes to pincushion type distortion at longer focal lengths (at 80mm and above). The issue is not that serious as these distortions can be corrected via certain software.
Vignetting: Corner shading is visible to some extent in this lens. It exhibits a fair amount of vignetting (a bit of light fall-off in the extreme corners) at the maximum aperture. This can be corrected using certain software.
Ghosting and Flare: Both the telephoto and wide-angle lenses are prone to backlighting. We found some colored angular flecks while shooting in a bright light source. In such cases, photographers often encounter ghosts. But, Nikon 55-200mm VR II surprised us with its performance as the image we captured only had two ghosts. The performance is really worth appreciating keeping in mind the given price range.
Bokeh: As we all know, bokeh is a term used for out-of-focus areas of an image. Since the lens boasts seven-blade rounded aperture, the bokeh results in some unexpectedly nice background blur at the longest end of the focal length range. Overall, considering the price point, the bokeh looks pretty good.
Macro: Nikon does not claim Nikkor 55-200mm VR II as a macro lens. However, the close-up performance is not that bad and can be considered as fair. The lens has a close focusing distance of 1.1m with 0.23x magnification.
Should You Buy the Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II Lens?
Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II is priced at $146.95. With this lens, Nikon replaced its most popular telephoto lens with a more compact and lighter version with better IS.
The lens is packed with a nice set of features. The lens offers SWM driven autofocus which is fairly quick and smooth. The lens does not offer manual focus override i.e. you need to enable the switch. The VR image stabilization works great as it limits blurry photos to a considerable extent. The seven rounded blade circular diaphragm results in the soft rendering of the out-of-focus areas. Overall Nikon AF-S 55-200mm VR II is a good value for money.