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Nikon AF-S 55-200mm f/4-5.6 VR Lens

This is a popular second lens for owners of entry level Nikons, and is a good choice for travel and cruise photography for those not needing a high-power telephoto lens. The fact that it starts at 55mm, where entry kit lenses stop provides for a nice 18-200mm range. However, one must remember that these are daylight lenses; which is still great for cruises and travel vacations.

Nikon AF-S 55-200mm f/4-5.6 VR Lens Overview

Nikon AF-S 55-200mm f/4-5.6G

Lens Type: 3.6x Zoom
Format: DX
Maximum Aperture: f/4
Minimum Aperture: f/22
Focal Length: 55mm to 200mm
Autofocus Type: AF-S
Minimum Focus Distance: 3.6ft
Maximum Field-of-View: 8 to 28 deg
Filter size: 52mm
Manufactured: China
Lens construction: Consumer
Street Price: $200


Testing: How does this lens match up with more expensive lenses? the best way to determine that is to test the lens for optical clarity. While to be more accurate, I should have measured the center and all 4 corners of the lens, this simple test provides a basic idea of the lens performance.

The test was conducted photographing this scene at different focal lengths; all using an aperture of f/5.6. The yellow box in the lower right is the cropped area for each photo shown below.

Nikon AF-S 55-200mm DX f/4-5.6 @ 55mm f/5.6.

Nikon AF-S 55-200mm DX f/4-5.6 @ 100mm f/5.6.

Nikon AF-S 55-200mm DX f/4-5.6 @ 150mm f/5.6.

Nikon AF-S 55-200mm DX f/4-5.6 @ 200mm f/5.6.

The most noticeable softness is at 200mm @ f/5.6. However this has a lot to do with the lens being wide open at this focal length. So let's look at this lens at 200mm - it's worst performance focal length, and at f/8 and f/11.


Nikon AF-S 55-200mm DX f/4-5.6 @ 200mm f/8.

Nikon AF-S 55-200mm DX f/4-5.6 @ 200mm f/11.

You can clearly see an improvement at f/8, and a further improvement at f/11. I stopped at f/11 as diffraction distortion will prevent further improvement in lens sharpness.

For the sharpest images, the recommendation for this lens then is to avoid shooting at the widest aperture, which in this case is f/5.6 @ 200mm. Ideally, at 200mm, you should use f/11, and perhaps f/8 at the shorter focal lengths. However, this is not as bad as it seems as the general recommendation is to always shoot f/8 with any lens, whenever possible. The old "F8 and leave it there" saying is true with this lens.

Conclusion: While the lens suffers a bit at 200mm, this is not unusual, as many lenses have issues such as this, and it is easily correctable by shooting at smaller apertures. But that means this lens is primarily an outdoors lens, and not one for fast-action photography. However, if you are taking this lens on a cruise in the Caribbean, it's small size and lightweight factor make it an ideal choice in those conditions. And given it's low price, it does pretty well.