Canon EF 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6 II USM

Lens Reviews / Canon Lenses i Lab tested
55-200mm $167
average price
image of Canon EF 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6 II USM

Lab Test Results

  • Blur
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Vignetting
  • Geometric Distortion

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Buy the Canon EF 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6 II USM

A simple lens with a plastic body, made for Canon's Rebel series of cameras, inclusive of film and digital SLRs. The lens incorporates an ultrasonic focusing motor, which usually means very fast and very quiet autofocus. The lens is small and light, an excellent companion for the light cameras they were designed for.

Though not designed specifically for digital cameras, this lens is a good choice for film and digital SLR owners. Its light weight and fast AF will not disappoint. A Digital Rebel Kit owner need only buy this lens to cover nearly every type of event he's likely to encounter.

Test Notes

As noted above, this is Canon's "budget tele zoom," intended for SLR shooters on a budget, but who still want a decent mid-range tele zoom. (Actually, this is a pretty long zoom on dSLRs with APS-C size sensors, like the Rebel series and the EOS-20D.) Given its bargain price, it actually doesn't do too badly optically, although it does have trouble when shot wide open at its maximum tele setting. Like many budget lenses, it does better when stopped down a fair bit, delivering optimum sharpness at apertures between f/8 and f/11.

Chromatic aberration is on the high side of average at the two ends of its focal length range, but is actually quite low near the middle. Exposure uniformity is surprisingly good, with a maximum light falloff of 1/4 EV wide open at 55mm, but less than 1/10th EV at any other focal length or aperture. Geometric distortion is also quite low, with 0.3% barrel distortion at 55mm, gradually transitioning to about 0.25% pincushion at 200mm. (The inflection point of zero distortion happens somewhere around 75-80mm.)

The bottom line here is that this isn't a lens that stacks up to the standards of Canon's expensive higher-end models, but it's a very workmanlike option for photographers on a budget, particularly if there's enough light to shoot stopped down to f/8 or so. The one caveat we'd add is that if you need to shoot wide open at 200mm -- for sports shots, say -- this really isn't the lens for you, as it's really quite soft at that specific combination of aperture and focal length.

Canon EF 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6 II USM

Canon EF 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6 II USM User Reviews

5.2/10 average of 9 review(s) Build Quality 4.4/10 Image Quality 5.7/10
  • 3 out of 10 points and not recommended by transiently (26 reviews)
    Reasonable at short and medium telephoto focal lengths when stopped down a bit.
    Poor at anything like 200mm. Low contrast. Very poor construction.

    I tried one on my 6D. It wasn't a great experience. The one I tried was not in my view a significant improvement on the poor, but not necessarily unusable 80-200/4.5-5.6. There is extra sample variation in these very cheap lenses, and I have seen some results online which indicate that they may not all be as bad as this example. But I'm not likely to try again. Small and light, but less so than the above-mentioned 80-200.

    If you have a 1.6 crop camera, just buy a 55-250 IS instead.

    reviewed January 22nd, 2021 (purchased for $50)
  • 7 out of 10 points and recommended by dugong5pm (52 reviews)
    IQ, weight, price
    plasticky build, lack of IS

    This is a basic telezoom EF-s (APS sensor) lens. For a basic lens, this lens is GOOD! They can be found easily for a cheap price. Use it properly, and they will deliver great results.

    For basic users that want a very decent lens, this is it. Use it along with the 18-55 IS kit, then you're about ready for anything. Too bad that this lens hasn't been equipped with IS. IS can be really handy especially for tele-ranges like this. If you have the budget, I'd suggest buying the IS version for a slight price difference.

    reviewed October 20th, 2012 (purchased for $150)
  • 7 out of 10 points and recommended by DimLight (7 reviews)
    Cheap and ligthweight, not-so-bad image quality, good range, good bokeh
    Cheaply built, slow and a bit soft. But hey, what can you expect?

    I used this lens for 8 months or so, before replacing it with a 70-300 f/3.5-5.6. It is a cheap lens, but I actually enjoyed it. Other reviews have already covered all technical aspects such as sharpness and IQ in general, so I will concentrate on my usage experience.

    Its focal range covers many common situations of casual photography, from head-and-shoulder portraits at 55mm to candid shots. If you are a beginner, it allows you to drop landascapes and concentrate on details. It can turn out quite a valuable tool for beginners eager to experiment on telephotography but unwilling to pay for a "prosumer" zoom lens.

    Far from deliver stunning award-winning pictures, this lens is however capable of taking decent shots, much better than one might expect from price and build quality. Bokeh is surprisingly good for instance.

    When it gets down to it, it is only a matter or what one's real needs are. You will not be able to freeze wild animals or birds with it for example, but you can take good candids of your wife and kids, blur the background nicely around them, and doing that without standing right in front of them and thus distracting them with your aimed camera.

    If your other lens is the EF-S 18-55 "kit lens" I'd give (and actually gave) this tele zoom a try, given its cost it is likely worth the investment. If, after some usage, you find that you like the possibilities that telephoto lenses open, chances are that you will replace it with a better (and more expensive) lens as I did. If you find that you still shoot mostly landscapes, you will not have wasted much money and gained a good "just in case" lens.

    reviewed January 15th, 2007 (purchased for $280)
  • 3 out of 10 points and recommended by kzr63g (6 reviews)
    cheap, not heavy
    IQ bad, plastic cameramount

    I have version 1 of this lense bought for my APS SLR to get a light travel pack. This was 1997.

    As other have said; this is a cheap lense and that shows. Build guality is ... plastic..., lens quality = works but not good, but my lense is suprisingly sharp at 200mm stopped down to 8.0
    Plastic camera mount. My lense shows wearing after 10 years.
    I have since replaced this lence by L lenses and there is a very huge IQ difference. Especially contrast and color reproducing. This lense gives blueish images compared to L lenses.
    I still have it when hiking because there is not much extra weight in my backpack. And it does not matter if this lens gets smashed during the hike!

    reviewed January 9th, 2007
  • 2 out of 10 points and not recommended by adobo (17 reviews)
    ummm.. cheap?*
    cheap everything

    *a good friend of mine got this lens as a part of the 400D kit, they said that it was being sold at a discounted rate.. but it seems that I actually paid higher than the other reviewer..

    This would have been a good beginner's lens if it was as cheap as the 18-55 kit lens. But no, I'd rather recommend a third-party lens than this one...

    Yes it is usuable but I guess its better to invest in a better lens, the price vs. quality ratio is too low..

    reviewed January 7th, 2007 (purchased for $200)
  • 5 out of 10 points and not recommended by gadgetguy (62 reviews)
    light, cheap
    bad IQ and build

    This lens is cheap - that's prettty much sums it up. Oh, and it's light too.

    If you need a cheap and light lens, then this is probably it - if that's all you need. You will compromise on image and build quality big time, though. Even ultrazooms (18-200mm lenses) can deliver better IQ.

    reviewed December 30th, 2006
  • 6 out of 10 points and recommended by GWM (1 reviews)
    Light, cheap, portable

    Got this lens as part of a kit with the EOS-300D (Digital Rebel), and took it with me through Europe in 2004. New to this game and unaware of the lens's weaknesses, I took a number of shots fully open at 200 mm (300 mm equivalent). They turned out to be reasonably satisfactory up to about A4 size but when I had a couple blown up to poster size, they turned out to be rather soft, despite some fiddling in Photoshop. I'll be getting something better before my next overseas trip (and maybe an EOS-5D).

    reviewed October 29th, 2005
  • 6 out of 10 points and recommended by streamliner (1 reviews)
    very good results in good outdoor lighting; one gets fast AF, strong color, and sharpness from this lens in daylight in the magic hours
    not very good outside its optimal conditions, it cannot compete with superior glass. I agree with the reviewer all the way. If you use it in the conditions for which it was designed one can get very nice images. Outside that window, put it away.

    I just echo the first reviewer's assessment - good travel lens for casual work. I use mine for railroad photography in daylight and get plenty of nice results. It's useful window is limited due to the limited maximum aperture and less satifactory images at extremely small apertures. I think you would get a bit more out of it with a 20D whereby you can use higher ISO settings with lower noise compared to 300D that I currently use.

    reviewed October 20th, 2005 (purchased for $155)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by psulonen (6 reviews)
    Optically way better than it has any right to be at this price point
    Well, it *is* a bargain telezoom, so what do you expect?

    I have to say my practical experience with this lens does not agree with the test results published here. I don't know whether this is because I have an exceptional copy, SLRGear tested a duff copy, or for some reason the test does not accurately reflect the lens performance in real-world shooting.

    Basically, I find the lens eminently usable at all apertures and focal lengths, including wide-open at the long end. I've used it on the EOS-20D and now the EOS-5D. My point of comparison is the 200/2.8L I owned before (but sold because it didn't suit my shooting style; it spent more time on the shelf than in the bag, which means I didn't get too many pictures with it.)

    In my experience, it delivers uniform sharpness edge to edge at all focal lengths and apertures -- no mean feat for something this cheap. Also, the bokeh is very nice -- it has none of the chromatic weirdness common on budget telezooms. In fact, the only optical tell-tale that it is what it is -- a budget zoom -- is the contrast: the pictures look noticeably "flat" compared to what primes or pro-grade zooms turn out. However, most of the time this is quite easy to correct in post-processing.

    In use, the lens focuses reasonably fast and accurately -- enough to pass the "terrier test" (tracking a medium-sized terrier scooting around). Build quality is... well, let's put it this way: it feels like a roll of toilet paper in a yoghurt jar, but it hasn't in fact given any indication of dying on me. But it's not exactly a tactile joy to handle.

    On the other hand, it's very light and compact, which means it doesn't take up much space in the bag and can even be stuffed in a pocket in a pinch. I've gotten more keepers with this one than the 200/2.8L for this simple reason -- I've had it with me when opportunity calls, while the L usually made room for something else in the bag.

    My verdict? If you shoot a lot of tele, buy something nicer. But if you want a light "travel" lens, or "just-in-case" lens, or "occasional-use" lens, or just want to experiment with telephoto, in my opinion this is the one to get: there's nothing out there around this price point that is better, and a lot that's worse.

    A note about the ratings -- I feel a bit weird about giving this a "9" in image quality, since there are clearly much better lenses out there, but I figured that I ought to factor in the cost of the lens into the rating. On an "absolute" scale, if the 200/2.8L was a 10 on all counts, I'd rate the image quality at around a 6, the build quality at a 3, and "overall" around 5. Any comments from the mods?

    reviewed October 20th, 2005