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I currently have the Canon EOS 550D with the 18-55mm IS kit lens. I am primarily looking for greater telephoto reach, as I have found the 55mm length to be quite limiting at times. So, I was considering the 18-200mm IS lens which would be a good general purpose replacement for the kit lens, versus the 55-250mm IS lens that would give slightly greater telephoto reach while complementing the kit lens.

What are the pros & cons of each like optical quality, effort in changing lenses etc, considering the fact that the 18-200mm lens is almost 3x as expensive as the 55-250mm one?

Note that it's highly unlikely that I'll be printing photographs larger than A4 size.

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I finally went with the 55-250mm lens as suggested by Stan, and got the second gen version that came out this year. –  ab.aditya Sep 22 '11 at 5:57
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2 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

The 18-200 might be more expensive, but I don't think I've ever seen a lens getting worse reviews. (There are two reviews linked there, and they're two of the friendlier ones.)

The 55-250mm, on the other hand, gets rave optical reviews. The worst thing anyone has to say about it is that, well, is mostly plastic. Really good, solid, well-built plastic, but plastic. And there's some vignetting wide-open that's down to "wont notice it in the real world" levels once you've stopped down one stop. It's sharp, there's only the tiniest amount of barrel distortion at the 55mm end, chromatic aberration is at the sub-pixel level, and once you've taken the aperture off of "full blast" the light distribution is very even.

Given a choice between the two, go for the 55-250mm, no question.

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And that's what I got in the end –  ab.aditya Sep 22 '11 at 5:58
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If you are considering paying for the 18-200, I suggest you take a long hard look at the 70-200 f/4L instead. It is among the cheapest of the pro-level "L" Canon lenses, and is a very, very good piece of glass. The main drawback is the f/4 aperture; against this it is relatively small and light.

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Assuming that this - the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/… - is the lens you recommend (without IS), how much of an impact will the lack of Image Stabilization have versus the lenses in question? From the review, it seems that the general image quality would be far superior to either. –  ab.aditya Feb 22 '11 at 5:22
Yes, that is the one. There is an IS version too but it is far more expensive. IS is useful in that it lets you use a slower shutter speed than otherwise. With a 70-200 at the long end, I'd want to keep at least 1/400 second shutter speed without stabilization... at f/4 this obviously puts some limits on the photographer, you need a lot of light or a high ISO. On moving subjects you may want to use a shutter speed this fast anyway, to freeze subject motion, this means that the lack of IS is no loss in this situation. –  Staale S Feb 22 '11 at 12:12
(continued, ran out of comment space:) So... while the lack of IS means that some pictures cannot be taken with this lens, the ones that can be are likely to be a better than with the other lenses. –  Staale S Feb 22 '11 at 12:13
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