Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS

Lens Reviews / Canon Lenses i Lab tested
18-200mm $699
average price
image of Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS

Lab Test Results

  • Blur
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Vignetting
  • Geometric Distortion

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Buy the Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS

(From Canon lens literature) Compact, lightweight and a wide magnification range - this standard zoom lens features a wide focal length range from normal to telephoto equivalent to 29-320mm in the 35mm format. It features an Optical Image Stabilizer for up to 4-stops of effective correction even at full zoom.

SLRgear Review
October 20, 2008
by Andrew Alexander

The lens lineup between Nikon and Canon is similar, but in some areas there are some distinct gaps where one manufacturer has covered a base more solidly than the other. The ''vacation lens'' category, encapsulating a wide range of focal lengths, is one such area: when Nikon released its 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 VR in November 2005, the lens was so popular it was back-ordered for months. With this release by Canon, we imagine it will be equally popular.

Small and light, the reduced-frame EF-S 18-200mm lens represents a field of view of approximately 29-320mm in 35mm terms. As an EF-S lens, it will not mount on Canon's 1.3x, or full-frame camera bodies (as well as some older APS-C dSLR bodies). To economize and create a more efficient design, the lens is equipped with a variable aperture; as the zoom extends the focal length, both the smallest and the largest apertures change. The following chart represents the largest and smallest apertures you can expect at a given focal length:

Focal length18-23mm24-49mm50-134mm135-200mm
Largest apertureƒ/3.5ƒ/4ƒ/5ƒ/5.6
Smallest apertureƒ/22ƒ/25ƒ/32ƒ/36

The lens is equipped with Canon's image stabilization (IS) technology, advertising a hand-holding improvement of up to four stops. The lens does not ship with a hood, but the optional EW-78D is available for less than $40. The lens takes 72mm filters, and is available for a MSRP of $699.

The 18-200mm, like all ''vacation lenses,'' must make concessions to balance optical performance, weight and price. In this regard the Canon lens is not immune. Our copy of the Canon 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 IS seemed to be very slightly out of alignment, with the effect most noticeable at 18mm (the sharpest region is at the bottom of the frame rather than the center).

Set to 18mm, wide-angle performance is good wide open at ƒ/3.5 (sharp in the center, mdoerately soft in the corners), becoming excellent as you stop down to ƒ/5.6, where it is essentially sharp across the frame. Diffraction limiting begins to set it at ƒ/8, though it doesn't impact on sharpness until ƒ/16; even at ƒ/16, we're seeing only 2 blur units across the frame. Using the ƒ/22 aperture setting produces a softer image, at 3 units across the frame.

We've certainly seen a lot worse, but if we have to pick on anything in this lens it would be its slightly-soft corners when used at its widest apertures. This softness is present at focal lengths below 80mm, where we are seeing upwards of 4-6 blur units in the corners. Still, the central portion of the frame is remarkably sharp, around 1.5 blur units at pretty much any combination of focal length and aperture. Stopped down to ƒ/5.6-ƒ/8, and the corners become much sharper.

At its smallest apertures (ƒ/22-36) image quality suffers above ƒ/22; Canon seems to have included smaller apertures when the lens is zoomed out because they can. However, diffraction limiting takes a large toll on image sharpness, where we see 4-6 blur units across the frame at these small apertures.

As is typical of ''vacation'' lenses, the 18-200mm must be stopped down to achieve optimal performance, however, instead of the usual ƒ/8 benchmark the 18-200mm does well at ƒ/5.6 pretty much across the lens' range of focal lengths. At telephoto settings (>135mm) you'll see the lens' best performances at ƒ/8 or ƒ/11.

Chromatic Aberration
The lens' resistance to chromatic aberration isn't anything to write home about, but given the price point and other features packed into it, it's not bad, either. The lens is optimized in the mid-range of its focal lengths (50-80mm), where it shows low CA throughout the frame (~3/100ths of a percent of frame height) and only slightly more in the corners (~5/100ths).

As is typical of wide-angle lenses, CA is exacerbated in the corners of the image when used at wide-angle settings (18mm), where we see increasing amounts of CA as the lens is stopped down (3-6/100ths of a percent of frame height throughout, 7-9/100ths of a percent in the corners). CA performance is fairly constant between 135mm and 200mm, just slightly worse than the midrange, but better than wide-angle performance.

Shading (''Vignetting'')
Corner shading is fairly well-controlled in the 18-200mm IS. Wide-angle lenses typically show some form of light falloff, and while we see this phenomenon with the 18-200mm, it's not too severe: the corners are only 3/4 of a stop darker than the center, and only when used at 18mm and at ƒ/3.5. At any other focal length while using the lens wide open, corner shading is only 1/2 of a stop. As the lens is stopped down, corner shading falls to 1/4 of a stop by ƒ/8; when using the lens at a focal length of 80mm or greater, there is virtually no corner shading when the lens is stopped down to ƒ/11 or smaller.

Distortion is usually a side effect of packing both wide-angle and telephoto capabilities into a lens, and the 18-200mm is no exception. There is no focal length setting where the lens has been optimized to produce a distortion-free image. The distortion profile for the lens varies widely with the focal length being used.

Test sample, upper left corner,
showing barrel distortion at 18mm.

At the wider angle focal lengths (18-21mm), distortion is distinctly of the ''barrel'' type, with the center of the image pushing outward from the middle. This form of distortion is easier to correct in image post-processing software, as both the edges and the center of the image are barrel-distorted. At its widest point (18mm) the edges of the image show approximately 1% barrel distortion.

From 24mm onwards, we see a complex distortion profile: the edges of the image exhibit pincushion-style distortion (the edges of the image are ''pulled'' into the frame) while the center exhibits barrel distortion. The effect isn't dramatically evident - but if you need your photographs to show straight lines as truly straight, then you're in for a bit of a surprise. Straight lines will show the ''moustache'' effect, where they bend one way at one edge, another way in the center, and then back the first way at the other edge. This form of distortion is fairly consistent from 50-200mm; fortunately, it's not especially severe, at around 0.3% barrel distortion in the center and -0.6% pincushion distortion at the edges.

Autofocus Operation
The Canon 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 IS is not a USM lens, being driven by gears which are electrically powered by the camera. As a result the lens focuses fairly fast, but is noticeably slower than a USM lens. As well, the lens makes a slight, low frequency whizz as it focuses. Manual focus override is unavailable while the lens is set to autofocus operation: in order to focus manually, autofocus must be overriden with the ''AF/MF'' switch.

With a reproduction ratio of 1:4.2 (0.24x), the 18-200mm has fair macro capability, but it won't replace a macro lens any time soon. Its minimum close focusing distance is 45mm (just under 18 inches).

Build Quality and Handling
At 21 ounces, the Canon 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 IS makes a light package for the versatile range of focal lengths it offers. To accomplish this the lens is largely plastic, though it is of a high-quality construction. The lens mount is metal, and the filter threads appear to be plastic. There is no flexing or rattling when using the lens: the front barrel extension does move slightly when retracted to 18mm, but this tightens past 135mm and stays tight up to 200mm. The exterior of the lens has a spatter-painted appearance, while the two protruding pieces are smooth. While the lens is marked with focal lengths at regular intervals, there is no depth-of-field or distance scale.

The lens only has two switches to speak of: one to enable or disable autofocus (''AF/MF'') and one to activate or deactivate image stabilization (''Stabilizer ON/OFF''). Image stabilization works as advertised, providing several stops of steadiness in our hands, though as always the actual usefulness is going to depend largely on the capability of the individual camera user. There is a very slight sound when image stabilization is active, but mostly only audible when your ear is next to the lens.

The zoom ring is the prominent feature of the lens, at just over three-quarters of an inch in width. The rubber texture is a series of indented lines that provide an easy grip. The zoom action is smooth, going from 18mm to 200mm in a quarter-turn, with only a minor amount of force required to transition between focal lengths. The lens extends as it is zoomed out, adding an extra 60mm (almost 2.5 inches) to its overall length. The lens is resistant to zoom creep at the 18mm setting, but between 24mm and 135mm zoom creep can occur without much effort. Canon has thoughtfully included a zoom lock switch to counter this problem, which fixes the lens in its 18mm setting.

The focusing ring is mounted near the front of the lens, with a rubber ridged knurl that is easy to turn. The lens really isn't built for manual focus: the ring is only a quarter-inch in width, and doesn't offer much in the way of travel for manual focus operations (much less than a quarter turn). The ring turns during autofocus operation, and can't be overridden in this mode: you must specifically disable autofocus to override the focus clutch.

The lens takes 72mm filters, which will not rotate during focus or zoom operations. The optional EW-78D lens hood is petal-shaped with a bayonet-mount, but we can't comment on its usefulness as it doesn't come with our test sample.


Sigma 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM ~$430
Sigma's comparable offering is very similar to the Canon 18-200mm, with some notable differences. The Sigma is just slightly heavier, and uses a hypersonic motor to focus rather than Canon's DC/mechanical process. Sigma also includes a lens hood for a lower price to the package: however, the Canon proves to be worth the extra money, with better results in sharpness and resistance to chromatic aberration. The Sigma shows slightly less corner shading, and slightly better distortion control. Finally, the Sigma's minimum aperture at longer telephoto lengths is ƒ/6.3, compared to the Canon's ƒ/5.6.

Tamron 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 XR Di II LD Aspherical IF AF ~$270
Tamron's comparable offering is similar to the Canon 18-200mm as well, however, the 18-200mm Tamron does not feature image stabilization. The Canon shows off much better results in sharpness and resistance to chromatic aberration, but the Tamron shows slightly less corner shading, and slightly better distortion control. The Tamron's minimum aperture at longer telephoto lengths is ƒ/6.3, compared to the Canon's ƒ/5.6.

Tamron 18-270mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 Di II VC LD Aspherical IF Macro AF ~$600
Announced in August of 2008, we haven't yet tested this lens, but the Tamron vacation lens offering extends the maximum reach to 270mm. As well, Tamron gives this lens a macro designation, with a 0.29x (1:3.5) magnification.

Nikon 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G IF-ED AF-S DX VR Nikkor ~$675
While it's actually possible to mount a Nikon lens on a Canon body with a third-party adapter, this comparison is being included to answer the inevitable question that will be asked: which is better? Keep in mind that comparing the results from different systems is filled with all sorts of provisos and caveats, so with that firmly cast to the side, let's see how the two line up.

The Nikon offers 7 diaphragm blades compared to the Canon's 6 rounded blades; the Nikon is also slightly lighter by 35 grams. The Nikon is an AF-S lens, offering full-time manual override of focus; the Canon has a slightly closer minimum focusing distance (5cm). Both lenses have approximately the same transitions between apertures and focal lengths (ie., the minimum aperture shrinks at about the same rate as the lens is zoomed in).

Comparing the test results of the lenses, it's fairly close, but if you peep the pixels closely enough the Canon offers slightly sharper results, especially at the telephoto end. For resistance to chromatic aberration, again, it's a very close call, but in this case it's just slightly better on the Nikon. Corner shading is slightly less of a factor on the Canon, and both lenses share the odd distortion characteristics associated with vacation lenses.

To sum up, the Canon 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 IS offers slightly better performance than we're accustomed to seeing with vacation lenses, with image stabilization thrown into a very portable form factor. Users who seek optical perfection shouldn't flock to this lens, but when used stopped down by one or two stops, it'll give fairly impressive results. On its own, it's a decent lens, but users considering replacing a kit 18-55mm IS lens with this model should consider the 55-250mm IS if they're not adverse to switching lenses, and have room for it in their bag. Between the two-lens combination there's as much and more range covered, and the optical performance between the two lenses exceeds that of the 18-200mm IS. But if you absolutely can only bring one lens, then you won't be let down by the 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 IS.

Sample Photos

The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.

As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.

Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS

Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS User Reviews

9.2/10 average of 6 review(s) Build Quality 8.8/10 Image Quality 8.5/10
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by mempi9 (1 reviews)
    Focal Range, Does not draw attention, EF-S Power Savings, Focus Ring, Build Qual.
    18mm, Vignetting, Barrel Slip

    Where do I start... This lens gets the most action/time on my camera. Images are clear and color accurate and the zoom range makes it hard to take off. I am a 1:1 ratio person that hates photos that only look good from far. I try for that pixel to pixel perfection that makes my hobby harder, but so much more enjoyable when done right. I don't use or run photos thru photoshop, because a part of me thinks it is cheating (leads me to retake photos often). I suppose someday I will change, but until then, I want a simple and clean photo.

    The 18-200mm has surprised me over and over. I have compared it to my L lenses and it keeps up. If you go to Canon's website check out the lens diagram info, the guts of this lens is very, very, very close to the L 24-105mm. I had to check because it was surprising me too often. In real life, I have taken the same shots between the two and find myself checking DPP (Canon's Digital Photo Professional software) to see which lens took which photo. When I test new lenses during an event, the 18-200 goes back on for the rest of the event because it produces GREAT shots and saves time in lens changes and looking like a wannabe pro. The only comparible L lenses I have in this range are the 24-105mm and the 70-200mm, both f4 and with IS. This lens STILL trumps them when it comes to function.

    ===L Lens Info for new folks:===

    Don't get me wrong, there are reasons to own an L lens. Tack sharp clarity may not always be the case. The 24-105 and 70-200 are similar to the other L series lenses, they help take the guesswork out of the shot. If anyone make a lens with well coated glass, low aperture, and supreme motors, the lens no longer part of the challenge with taking photo. The joy of photography is to enjoy it, and if you are in it to make money, then L is the way to make your life easier. For the rest, it is the challenge of getting that perfect shot. The advantage between Pro and Enthusiast is that Pros will come to learn which setting will or will not photograph well. Enthusiasts will be able to see each scene in a mechanical way, a way that they will know which Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO will get the shot the best. It isn't the lens that makes the shot, it's the photographer. But, L lenses make it MUCH easier to not worry about little details. L does mean luxury (not better photos) in the true sense that these type of lenses take out some of the guesswork for photography. I will say again, it isn't the lens that makes the photo -- it is the photographer; more specifically, it is the TIMING and LUCK. :)

    I will compare this to the list of lenses I have used and maybe you will have something to reference it by. BTW, I don't review lenses unless I spent a few weeks with them.

    Note: EF-S lenses handle power much better with longer battery life on Rebel (1.6 factor) Cameras in my experience than EF or non-Canon. I have seen this difference on my XS, XSi, and two X1i's.

    EF-S 10-22 USM; no comparison (part of my travel trio)
    EF 50 f1.8 II; this is my portrait/indoors lens, it outshines the 18-200 (@ 50mm)
    EF-S 18-55 IS; 18-200 has a better focus control, but has vignetting, same IQ, 18-55 is better at 18mm
    EF-S 55-250 IS; 18-200 has sharper corners all around, but I miss the extra 50mm
    EF 24-70 USM; completely better than 18-200 in 24-70 range, but no IS = no macro
    EF 24-105 f4L IS; near identical shots, can't tell when sorting, 18-200 is more useful
    EF 70-200 f4L IS; 18-200 near same IQ at 200mm, love the 70-200 shell (nothing moves)
    EF 300mm f4L IS; no comparison (part of my travel trio)
    Sigma 150-500 OS; 18-200 is better between 150-200
    Tamron 18-270 VR; 18-200 shots cleaner at all ISO, Tamron is a 800+ ISO only lens

    reviewed August 24th, 2009 (purchased for $595)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by MaxY (1 reviews)
    buld quality, image quality, versatility
    lens creep, CA

    I have this lens for about a month now and overall I’m very happy with it.

    Build quality:
    Very good. Although there is a little play between the lens and the camera mount (40D).

    Fast, quiet and accurate. So you need to switch to MF to focus manually.

    Image quality:
    The image is sharp. Inside camera sharpening (level 3 or 4) is sufficient to make the picture very sharp. Very good resolution, no flares, good color saturation.

    Fantastic. In 200mm even with the steadiest hands, you can see some shake.
    Press the shutter half-way and the image stablizes lake magic.

    CA – visible in high contrast
    Vignetting – not very noticable
    Pincusion – noticable at 18mm, not a problem at other focal legths
    In any case, if you see a one-in-a-milion shot, take it in RAW and correct using DPP. It works well.

    Pain in the a$$:
    Lens creep. Take a non-horizontal shot on a tripod? Forget about it.

    Bottom line:
    Unless you are a professional, get this lens.

    reviewed February 23rd, 2009 (purchased for $750)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by s_illes79 (1 reviews)
    Superzoom, IS, IQ, nice
    Distortion at 18mm, CA, bit heavy

    I had some bad experience with superzooms before, Sigma 18-200 was very soft, Tamron had a inaccurate focus and was soft at 200mm, sold them after 200-300 pictures.

    This lens was a big surprise to me, after the Sigma 17-70 and the Canon 70-300IS I was bit worried but ...

    I like the build quality. It is better then the 70-300, It doesn't feel like it's going to fall apart, no wobbly parts, etc.

    IS: is very good, lot better then in the 70-300, the picture doesn't jump when the IS gets activated, and it's quite, virtually unnoticeable. The 70-300 sound like a coffee machine. And this has one stop advantage. ( 4 vs 3 )

    I was quite surprised how sharp this lens is. I'd say it's comparable with my 17-70 and 70-300. Even at wide open I found the image sharpness ok. Distortion nicely clears out after 24mm and not noticeable after that. Vignetting is bit strong at wide open around 18mm, but it's not an issue for me, most of the case I stop if down and problem solved.

    Focus is very accurate and fast on my body ( 350D ), even in low light.

    There is a bit compromise(not as much as I thought) but it's worth it, at least for me. I like this lens very much.

    If you are looking for a superzoom, don't look further, you found it. If you don't believe check my gallery:

    Thank for reading.

    reviewed December 26th, 2008 (purchased for $499)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by Canon-Nikon-user (14 reviews)
    the IS in this lens is the most effective IS, sharp at 200mm, good colors.
    CA at wide end , distortion at 18mm, a bit too bulky for what it is.

    I highly recommend this lens as a light weight travel lens for all 50D users if you can get it as a part of the 50D kit.

    As I got it a part of my 50D kit in Japan , I saved lots of money, I bought my 50D with this lens for about 1300USD, so I think it is a good lens for the price and range.

    I had the Sigma OS lens before and I hated it and returned it and I bought a Nikon D300 just for the famous Nikon Af-S18-200VR DX lens and the light weight and fantastically sharp AF-S70-300VR lens and I really loved all of these Nikon gears.

    Now , Canon's also got this super zoom , so I wanted to buy it for myself and compare it to my Nikon Af-S18-200Vr , I think the Canon lens is a bit sharper , espeically at 200mm it , but the Nikon lens handles CA at wide end a bit better(even without the D300 in-camera CA control tool).

    With the DPP3.51,the Canon lens has no light fall off with my 50D and with the NX2, the Nikon lens has no CA with my D300.

    So I think both super zooms are really good for what it is, but 18mm on a 1.6X Canon body is not wide enough , so for a 1.6X Canon ,I usually need a EF-S10-22 with this EF-S18-200IS lens for travel but with my D300 , I just use the 18-200Vr or 16-85Vr with the cheap but sharp AF 85f1.8D and no need wider than the 18mm end of the AF-S18-200Vr or the 16mm end of the AF-S16-85VR , so I prefer traveling with my d300 when I have to travel light.

    With that said, this Canon lens is a keeper , and as it is optimized for EF-S sensor cameras , it is quite sharp on my 50D , maybe a bit sharper than the EF-S55-250IS at 200mm(this lens is sharp at 200mm even wide open) , so considering the range and size , it is a good lens , no doubt about it and it is not as slow AF ing as some might think even without the RING USM.

    I am more and more using this lens with EF-S10-22 or EF-28f1.8USM and leaving my EF-S17-55f2.8, EF70-200f4LIS and 70-300DO at my home , now I am considering selling my 70-200f4LIS since 200mm is not long enough most of times when I need a tele zoom and the white barrel is really annoying. The L is a very sharp lens though, some times , I need to be inconspicuous.

    NOTE: in this digital era , a bit of distortion, color contrast or vignetting is not a serious issue and thus, the most important part of IQ now is resolving power , and thus, it is a great lens for what it is designed to do.

    I know many L snobs say this is a junk lens but I guess they never ever shoot in Burma or Cambodia with a white lens , to see how the local people there react to their white Ls.

    UPDATE: after posted this one , I read the previous poster's trashing this lens , and I thought he probably never used this lens in real life or he just got a bad copy. In any case , this lens is much better than that , it's AF very fast ,at least as fast as any other consumer grade lens in this price range and actually faster AFing than the Nikon super zoom , which I also have had for about 4 months.

    reviewed December 1st, 2008 (purchased for $500)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by Srod (2 reviews)

    I have owned this lens about eight months now and have made thousands of photoes with it with mostly excellent results. The exceptions are when shooting into a really bright light source where lens flare becomes very pronounced. The other problem is that I sometimes have out of focus subjects because this lens in combination with the Rebel XT body seems to have a tendency to back focus more often than it should.

    reviewed November 23rd, 2008 (purchased for $850)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by kinematic (13 reviews)
    Great walk around lens, Very sharp at 200mm, good build quality, quiet micro motor AF.
    Barrel distortion at 18mm, CA at 50mm range, slow AF in low light at 200mm.

    This is an excellent all around lens (vacation lens). I bought this as a kit for my EOS 50D. As a kit lens I would say it's one of Canon's best kit lenses and very comparable to the cheaper 55-250 in IQ and performance. The build quality is what beats the 55-250 by a long shot. Very solid build and very similar to the 28-135 kit lens. Zoom lock is handy to have but no lens hood with this. But for what it is, it's a great walk around general purpose lens and is very sharp at the furthest end. Doing wide shots are a little disappointing, but at least available when you need it. This lens is a great lens to have in any bag, but I recommend it only as a secondary lens to some better quality primes.

    Couple other things to note about this lens. The 4 stop IS is very fast in response and also include auto panning detect. The micromotor is very fast and actually quite quiet compared to older micromoter lenses (I might even argue it's the quietest micromotor of all Canon lenses with micromoters). Compared to a USM it's actually very close with exception to noise, the speed is almost the same. The only time you notice the noise is when it's infinitely seeking for focus. Another nice feature is the zoom lock that prevents the dreaded zoom creep for those that carry their cameras around their necks.
    Compared to the following kit lenses which I've owned or use:

    18-55 IS - the 18-200 has better range, but more barrel distortion, better build quality.
    17-85 IS - the 18-200 has better range, better build, similar IQ, more distortion and CA than this lens
    28-135 IS - the 18-200 has a wider range, similar build, similar IQ, more CA than this lens
    55-250 IS - the 18-200 is built better by a long shot, similar range, similar IQ, but the 18-200 is sharper at the far end. The 55-250 performs slightly better overall compared to this lens (and cheaper)

    reviewed October 17th, 2008 (purchased for $500)