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Nikkor AF-S DX VR 55-200mm f/4-5.6 G ED Gordon Laing, August 2007
Nikkor DX 55-200mm VR coverage, zoomed-out

The Nikkor DX 55-200mm VR is designed as an entry-level telephoto zoom to complement the range of the standard DX 18-55mm II kit lens. It literally starts where the other stops, giving you a total range of 18-200mm – or an equivalent of 27-300mm – in an affordable twin lens package.

Most people thinking of buying the DX 55-200mm VR will be weighing it up against the pricier 70-300mm VR model, so to compare their coverage in practice, we mounted a Nikon D80 on a tripod and took photos with each lens from the same spot, when fully zoomed-out and fully zoomed-in.

Below are examples of both lenses zoomed-out to 55 and 70mm respectively and you can see how the DX 55-200mm VR captures a slightly bigger field of view. If you already have the DX 18-55mm and are thinking of going for the 70-300mm VR though, you certainly won’t miss much between 55 and 70mm, so having an uninterrupted range shouldn’t sway your opinion too much.

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Nikkor DX 55-200mm VR with D80
Nikkor DX 70-300mm VR with D80
Nikkor DX 55-200mm at 55mm f8
Nikkor DX 70-300mm at 70mm f8
55-200mm at 55mm, f8 (83mm equivalent)   70-300mm at 70mm f8 (105mm equivalent)

Nikkor DX 55-200mm VR coverage, zoomed-in

Below are examples of each lens zoomed-into their longest focal lengths and the difference is clearly much greater. The 70-300mm VR with a maximum equivalent of 450mm clearly allows much tighter crops than the DX 55-200mm can at an equivalent of 300mm. This extra reach makes a big difference if you’re into photographing small or distant subjects, such as wildlife or sports, and can really isolate people (or anything else) against their backgrounds in portraits.

Nikkor DX 55-200mm VR with D80
Nikkor DX 70-300mm VR with D80
Nikkor DX 55-200mm VR at 200mm f8
Nikkor DX 70-300mm VR at 300mm f8
55-200mm at 200mm, f8 (300mm equivalent)   70-300mm at 300mm f8 (450mm equivalent)

So ultimately you have to ask yourself how powerful would you’d like your telephoto zoom to be. The DX 55-200mm VR will certainly give you decent telephoto coverage, but if you’re after something longer, then you’ll need to spend more on a model which zooms to 300mm or even beyond. We have several real-life examples at 200mm in our DX 55-200mm VR Sample Images page, so check it out and see if it’d be sufficient for your needs. But continue on this page to see how the lens performs in terms of anti-shake capabilities.

Nikkor DX 55-200mm VR anti-shake

The Nikkor DX 55-200mm VR is equipped with Vibration Reduction to counteract camera-shake. It’s an optical system, which means you see the benefit through the viewfinder, and like Canon’s IS system, it can be very reassuring to see your composition suddenly become steady as you half-press the shutter release. It also makes framing the shot at longer focal lengths much easier.

DX 55-200mm VR controls
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VR is enabled on the DX 55-200mm VR with a simple switch on the side of the lens, after which the system will activate as you half-press the shutter release button. There’s only one mode on this lens, so if you’re panning, you’ll have to switch it off. In contrast, higher-end lenses like the 70-300mm VR offer two VR modes, the second only stabilising in the vertical axis for use when panning horizontally.

Nikon claims up to three stops of compensation for the DX 55-200mm VR, so to put it to the test we took a series of photos of a distant house zoomed-into 200mm with and without VR enabled. We started each series at a shutter speed of 1/250 and progressively reduced it by one stop until 1/8.

Without VR, we required a shutter speed between 1/125 and 1/250 for a perfectly steady result, whereas with VR we achieved the same result at a shutter speed of 1/15. This corresponds to between three and four stops of compensation, and closer to four if you compare it against the traditional photographic advice of requiring a shutter speed of one over the effective focal length.

Below are examples of shots taken with and without VR at 1/15, reproduced here at 50%. They immediately reveal the kind of benefit you’ll enjoy, although like all anti-shake systems it will only stabilise a subject that’s static; if you want to freeze a subject in motion, you’ll simply need a faster shutter speed.

Nikkor DX 55-200mm VR without VR
Nikkor DX 55-200mm VR with VR
Nikkor DX 55-200mm VR without VR
Nikkor DX 55-200mm VR with VR
Nikkor DX 55-200mm at 200mm (300mm equivalent using D80), VR disabled.
50% crop, 100 ISO, 1/15th second
  Nikkor DX 55-200mm at 200mm (300mm equivalent using D80), VR enabled.
50% crop, 100 ISO, 1/15th second

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