The Canon 18-200mm EF-S is one of Canon's newest editions to its lineup of EF-S lenses designed for the (less than 35mm) ASP-C sized censor. Canon has really stretched the optical properties of its EF-S glass as far as they'll go here; just a few years ago a lens with such a broad range of focal lengths would have been unimaginable in a consumer price range, but a year after Nikon released its own 17-200, Canon has countered with a solid Wide/Tele lens that has changed the way a lot of prosumer buyers think about a “walkaround” lens.
Many photographers go through most of their professional career never owning a lens wider than 18mm or longer than 200mm, so having this range of focal lengths in one lens is a great deal; it's the lens that I now recommend to buyers starting out with their first Canon SLR, before the 18-55 EF-S or, in many cases, even the 18-85 EF-S USM. It's reasonably sharp lens across the whole range, with a sweet spot for sharpness around the 55mm mark. The wide end is blurrier at the edges than the 18-55 and much, much worse than L-glass equivalents, but significantly better than most super-zoom point and shoot users will be used to.
The lens suffers most from its low light gathering capabilities, which make it slow across its whole range, opening up to just F3.5 at the wide end. Again however, this is still faster than the 18-85 EF-S, which manages just F4.5 The 18-85 does have one significant advantage though, which is smooth, silent operation: the motors in Canon's 18-200 are in no way “ultrasonic” and you pay for the inferior technology with noise and slow auto focusing. For this reason, this lens is not suitable as a sports lens, in anything less than ideal conditions. Chromatic aberration at the long end is, if left untouched, just about as bad as chromatic aberration gets. Make sure to update the firmware on your body; newer xxD and xD cameras will store a lens profile and correct this in camera.
This lens does benefit from Canon's industry-leading Image stabilization, which is Canon's brand of “shake reduction” or “vibration reduction” as advertised by other manufacturers. I'm not convinced that it will give you the advertised 4 stop advantage (although it's a bit hard to test this in the field) but the difference is definitely noticeable. Because the stabilization is in the lens you'll see it working while looking through the viewfinder on any canon body, including older models. Missing from this model though is a stabilization mode switch, which means that you're stuck in what more expensive lenses would call “mode 1” or two-axis shake reduction. Other lenses offer a second mode which stabilizes on the vertical axis only, so that you can take horizontal panning shots without the camera attempting to compensate for your (intended) motion. Again, this is not a sports-friendly lens.
A last note on this lens is to remember that, because it is built for an ASP-C censor, it is not suitable for use on a full-frame camera. If you're looking for a walkaround for your 5D or 1D, try the 24-70L, which will deliver a properly projected image (with no vignette) across your entire 35mm censor.
Mon, 09 Mar 2009 23:49:44 +0000
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