Pretty good telephoto lens for the price
Jan 29, 2012 (Updated Jan 30, 2012)
Review by aloofyouth
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Good bang for the buck moderate telephoto with VR
Cons:Autofocus speed among the slowest I've seen for AF-S lenses
The Bottom Line: Cheap lens that offers great performance-per-dollar with few weaknesses. Get if you want a cheap, good, sharp telephoto for portraits or distant objects or to mount a closeup lens
The Nikon 55-200mm VR (I know this product title leaves out the VR but if you look at the linked product references it is clear this is the VR version) is a cheap but effective telephoto lens for Nikon DX-format cameras. If your Nikon digital SLR camera cost less than $2000, it's a DX-format camera.
Recommend this product?
Nice and sharp at the 55mm end even wide open, but it turns slightly mushy at 200mm wide open unless you stop it down to f/6.3 or smaller. (It's f/4 wide open at 55mm and f/5.6 by 200mm). Aperture is not constant; that is par for course for cheap kit zooms.
Noticeable vignetting at 55mm but it quickly reduces and is not a problem to correct in post-processing. Not particularly bad.
VR works and gives you about 2 stop more optical stabilization than you otherwise would have. It's not magic though and if the shutter speed isn't reasonable then even VR won't save you. Also, VR is useless against moving subjects, as VR only counters your handshake and not the subject's movements.
It's a pretty small lens considering the 55-200mm zoom range, and not heavy either. Nor is it wide; it uses 52mm filter rings. Specifically it is about 4 inches long and 3 inches in diameter, weighing about 12 ounces (about 3/4 of a pound). I often slap a close-up filter on this lens for macro photos, and even with the macro filter it's probably no more than a pound or so. Pretty light for a telephoto of this focal range. Note the front element doesn't rotate allowing use of graduated neutral density filters without problems.
Colors, Distortion and Chromatic Aberration.
These haven't been problems but then telephotos usually have mild distortion, and newer Nikon cameras automatically correct chromatic aberrations. Even uncorrected, the CA is nothing to worry about and is easy to get rid of via post processing (e.g., Lightroom's quick anti-CA fix). Nikon glass usually gives pretty good colors and contrast, and this lens is no exception despite its relatively low cost.
Focus ring and zoom smoothness is pretty decent for the price... dare I say good. Rotation is fairly smooth and the markings are accurate. There is only VR on or off with this lens, and Manual or Autofocus, via switch. No full time manual focus. This means that those who like to autofocus and then manually adjust right away, may be disappointed in that you have to flick the switch to manual to then adjust. But that often means leaving your viewfinder, which is annoying to say the least.
Plastic lens mount is not confidence-inspiring as far as build quality and longevity. Do not pick up the camera+lens via the lens, when they are attached.
The autofocus speed isn't that fast, and you have to switch between AF and Manual which can be a pain if you're used to full-time autofocus. Still, it's fast enough to deal with most situations not involving small flying objects like birds. I actually tried to take shots of flying seagulls and other seabirds I couldn't identify at the beach recently, with limited success... yes it's possible to take birds in flight photos with this lens, with some patience and skill, but it's not easy... but to be fair, bird in flight photos are among the most brutally difficult and stressful tests you can administer on your camera and lenses, period, so it's asking a lot for a cheap lens like this to perform well under such difficult conditions.
Thankfully the autofocus is accurate and pretty quiet. I have no complaints at all about those.
The price is a bit high considering all the plastic, though it does come with a lens hood and 5 year warranty unlike its Canon counterpart. I would definitely not pay full price on this lens but get it via a bundle or wait for a sale instead. $150-175 or lower would be ideal but I might bite even at $200 if you really needed a telephoto.
If you know you will be photographing mostly moving objects, save yourself the money and get the version of this lens without VR. The VR adds little benefit and only more cost and weight, seeing as how the non-VR version is about 3 inches long and 2.7 inches in diamter weighing only 9 ounces (!) while being about equally sharp and having similar aberrations and distortion levels.
If you may be using the lens for photographing still objects (e.g., macros of flowers with closeup filters, people's portraits), then the VR is of more use, when you are forced into longer exposure times that are susceptible to handshake.
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