Now comes the day many a Canon loyalist has been fervently hoping for: There's finally a long-ratio super-zoom lens for Canon's DSLRs with APS-C sized sensors! Lenses of this sort are often called "vacation zooms" because they're great when you don't want to lug along a bag full of lenses on a trip or outing; a single lens can cover the entire focal length range from wide angle to significant telephoto. No bag of lenses, no changing lenses and getting dust on your sensor, what could be better? Well, image quality for one thing: You often give up quite a bit of image quality in exchange for the long zoom ratio. In this case, we're looking forward to testing Canon's new EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens. Canon staff members were unusually enthusiastic in describing its image quality, saying that early image samples they'd seen have led them to believe it's going to 'trump everything out there." If true, that'd certainly be welcome news to Canon fans, and pressure on other camera companies and third-party manufacturers that consumers will welcome as well.
Notable in the new lens design are two aspherical elements and 2 UD glass elements in a 16-element/12-group formula. Mechanical construction was described to us as "mid-grade": Not the built-like-a-tank level of Canon's L glass with gaskets and a metal barrel, but at the same time, far from low-end "plastic fantastic" construction as well. The complex optical formula also delivers a minimum focusing distance of 17.8 inches (45 cm) at all focal lengths, aided by a zoom arrangement that puts 5 lens groups in a helical zoom assembly, with only 80 degrees of rotation needed to go from maximum wide angle to maximum telephoto. The new 18-200 is 3.1 inches (78.6mm) in diameter x 6.4 inches (162.5mm) long at maximum extension, weighs in at 20.99 ounces (595g) and takes a 72mm filter.
A key feature of the new lens is its top-of-the line IS system: It uses the latest Canon technology, which offers up to four full stops of shake compensation. It also has a new wrinkle of its own, in the form of auto-detection for panning. Where previous Canon IS lenses required the user explicitly switch IS modes (via a control on the lens barrel) when panning or shooting normally, the new lens will detect panning motion and switch to panning mode automatically.
Canon didn't tell us when the new lens will appear in stores, but gave the suggested retail price as $699. (A relatively aggressive price. Considerably more expensive than non-IS third-party vacation zooms and even Sigma's IS-equipped 18-200mm model, but at the same time a good bit cheaper than Nikon's 18-200mm VR (Nikon's name for IS) model.) Stay tuned, we'll have a full test of this lens over on SLRgear as soon as we can get our hands on a production sample!