Pin It

Review – Canon EF 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6 USM

All Purpose and Affordable Canon EF 28-200mm Zoom Lens

The Canon EF 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6 USM is a wide focal length lens that is designed for the traveler in mind. The 28mm wide-end covers a decently wide coverage for sweeping landscapes and crowded captures while the 200mm reaches far enough for most detailed work. Before we go further, here’s how Canon describes their product:

Features:
* Diagonal Angle of View: 75° – 12°
* Lens Construction (elements/groups): 16 / 12
* No. of Diaphragm blades: 6
* Minimum Aperture: f/22 – 36
* Closest Focusing Distance (m): 0.45
* Maximum Magnification (x): 0.28 (at 200mm)
* Filter Diameter (mm): 77

A handy, compact zoom lens for versatile and easy subject selection whilst traveling

A handy, compact zoom lens for versatile and easy subject selection while traveling, etc. The highest optical performance in its class,plus the convenience of focusing up to 45 cm over the entire zooming range.The micro USM drive provides silent,high-speed auto-focusing,plus the wide zooming range provides an easy,enjoyable picture-taking experience. This lens is also available with a DC motor instead of a USM to drive the AF.

Build and Design

As mentioned, this lens is marketed for the consumer level among the wide range of the Canon EF lens line-up. The silver ring around the lens signifies that this lens was designed for the APS-C film size in Canon’s IX series of SLRs back in the film days. On a crop sensor (1.6x), the field-of-view is equivalent to 45mm to 320mm, which isn’t too wide, but the telephoto end more than compensates if you like to shoot things from afar. Despite the IX-design, though, this lens is fully compatible to full-frame EF mounts on both digital and analog EOS bodies.

The lens is a little heavy for a plastic body, but light enough for daily use despite the wide focal range and extends itself to a reasonable length at full zoom. The lens uses a 72mm filter size, which is not as common as 77mm but isn’t that hard to find.

Auto-focus uses a DC-motor instead of a ring-type ultrasonic motor (USM) like the newer Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM. While it’s not as silent or as quick, it is still fast and accurate enough for normal use. As an added bonus, the front element does not rotate when focusing, which will help make filter usage easier.

The zoom ring dominates the lens barrel while the manual focus ring could use some more width as it’s quite difficult to find by feel alone. The zoom ring doesn’t turn as smoothly as I would like as it seem to “jump” from one focal length to the next, while the manual focus ring doesn’t feel tactile enough for accurate manual focusing. The lens also wobbles a bit especially when extended, which is expected with consumer wide-focal length lenses, as is the slight lens creep when the lens is pointed downwards with some motion induced.

Image Quality

Wide focal length coverage lenses usually sacrifices some optical qualities in order to keep the size compact and incorporate the amount of zoom range available and the Canon EF 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6 USM is no different. While the comparison isn’t really fair nor valid, I only have a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM on hand for comparison. The L lens costs almost 3x more this lens but as a general-purpose travel lens, the L lens serves as a good benchmark.

24mm vs 28mm / 200mm vs. 105mm

I’m sorry for not sorting the tele-end of the photos correctly, the bottom one is 105mm, while the 3rd image is 200mm. 24mm clearly allows a wide field-of-view than the 28mm, in this example, about three vertical posts more.

Since the lens doesn’t sport an image stabilizer, it is a lot more difficult to keep the lens steady at over 100mm, especially at slower shutter speeds.

The Canon 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6 USM can focus as close to about a foot, which makes it a decent close-up (but not macro) lens to use at focal lengths over 100mm. Depth of field is adequate, but since the lens closes its aperture quite early (f/3.5 only stays open until 35mm or so, then it starts stopping down and stays at f/5.6 at around 75mm all the way to 200mm), it’s harder to get a nice blur on the background compared to faster lenses.

Sharpness is acceptable for most users, especially if you don’t print beyond A4 or view images at over 1600 pixels on screen often, but not stellar. At wide open, center and edges are a bit soft and lacks contrast but responds well to post-processing sharpness enhancement.

Distortion on a crop body is decent for such a lens, there is a bit of pincushioning at over 80mm but shouldn’t be a big deal for most users unless you’re shooting a scene with discernible horizons or parallel lines.

Please look at the images below for reference.

Conclusion

The Canon EF 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6 USM is a good low-cost travel lens that offers a very versatile focal length for most users, especially those using film EOS cameras. On a digital camera, the focal length isn’t too limiting if you’ve never shot with a full-frame, 35mm camera before, and if you’re coming from kit lenses, this is a good step-up for a minimal investment.

For digital bodies, though, there are more modern lenses that are designed specifically for a smaller sensor and the different way a sensor reacts to light, compared to film. The new Canon EF 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM is a much better choice but does cost twice as much as the lens we’re reviewing here.

Here are some low-light and night-time images that feature this lens’ capabilities.

Even so, the physics involved with these lenses will make the usage quite similar. Consumer lenses are generally slow lenses and perform best if ample light is available and/or if stabilized. The Canon EF 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM is rather difficult to use indoors and low-light but with the right techniques, you can still get great images with the lens. The cost of this lens is a big factor, as is the ability to cover 7x zoom coverage, but I think the EF 28-135 version is a better option. Use proper techniques and proper usage of tripods and stabilizing techniques, the images produced by the Canon EF 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6 USM are more than acceptable for the frequent traveler.