Which zoom telephoto lens?

Testing the Nikon 55-200mm f4-5.6 AF-S VR DX

Before it was stolen out of my luggage at an airport when it was left behind with other luggage on a flight two years ago, I had a 180mm fixed focal length Nikon lens that was very sharp. Recently I decided to replace it and considered the heavy and expensive 70-200mm VR lens; the heavy 80-200mm AF-S lens (that does not seem to be advertised new anywhere now); the 80-200mm AF (non ‘S’ version); the 18-200mm VR, and the 70-300mm.

The 70-300mm stretches further but 200mm was enough for what I wanted, so if weight and cost were not an issue, the 70-200mm would be top of the tree – but it is heavy.

I tried all of them except the non ‘S’ version of the 80-200mm and decided that I just had to use the 55-200mm for a while because the images in the LCD didn’t look noticeably different from the 70-200mm.

At less than £200 in the UK the 55-200mm is £1,000 cheaper than the 70-200mm and a lot, lot lighter. The weight difference is over a kilogram (335g compared to 1470g).

Both are VR lenses and for anyone who has not used A VR lens, I advise trying it if for nothing more than the experience of focusing with it turned off, and then switching it on.

VR (vibration reduction) uses a system of gimbals built into the lens that steady it against the movement of your hands.

The way the image steadies is remarkable. Without VR the image sits like a rectangle vibrating and weaving about, and then ‘click’ the VR on, and it suddenly stops.

Of course the 55-200mm is nowhere near as strongly built as the 70-200mm, but maybe I can coddle it.

I haven’t done enough shooting to decide how sharp the 55-200mm is, but here is a shot taken with the lens mounted on my Nikon D40.

The shot was taken out of a motel window, with the pole about 200 feet away, at 800ISO 1/250sec and f7.1 – full frame and a 100% crop around the pole.



And here is a crop of 2% of the area of the frame of a grab shot portrait shot at 1/400sec f5.6 at ISO1600