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Canon 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6
Full-Frame EF USM

© 2012 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

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Canon 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6

Canon EF 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6 USM II (52mm filters, 4"/1.2m close-focus, 10.6 oz./300g, about $150 used.) enlarge. This free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this link directly to them at eBay (see How to Win at eBay) when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It helps me keep reviewing these oldies when you get yours through these links, thanks! Ken.

April 2012    Canon Reviews    Canon Lenses    All Reviews

NEW: Sample Images 20 April 2012


Introduction       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

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The Canon EF 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6 II is a super-lightweight, full-frame plastic telephoto zoom for all Canon EOS digital and 35mm autofocus cameras.

It was originally introduced in 1998 for use with Canon's IX240 APS cameras, and it also covers full-frame. A "II" version, shown and tested here, replaced the original in 2003. The "II" version is claimed to have faster autofocus, and while not having an original here for review, this II USM version has spectacularly fast autofocus.

There is no instant manual-focus override; you must move the switch. When you do, there is no focus ring: you must turn the front of the lens itself.

This 55-200mm has great ergonomics; it zooms easily and smoothly to any setting, and it's extra-wide range starting at 55mm makes it much more useful than any of the 70-200mm lenses.

Used on older cameras like the Canon 5D Mark II, it has awful optics, loaded with color fringes. Used on a modern camera like the Canon 5D Mark III, which corrects these color fringes in-camera when a lens profile is loaded, its optics are surprisingly competitive.

Because of the new lateral color fringe correction in the Canon 5D Mark III, I prefer to carry this dinky lens instead of any of the much heavier 70-200mm L lenses. If the photos look the same most of the time, why bother with all the weight and limited 70mm wide end, when this plastic thing focuses just as close, and carries and zooms much more easily than Canon's best L-series 70-200mm lenses? My 70-200mm f/4 L IS is staying home now that I have my 5D Mark III. I get paid to make pictures, not to carry equipment.


Compatibility and Formats

This lens is optimized for 35mm film and full-frame digital, and of course works on all 1.3x and 1.6x Canon cameras.

This Canon EF EOS 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6 II works perfectly with every Canon EOS camera ever made, meaning every Canon DSLR and every Canon autofocus 35mm camera made since 1987.

This means of course it works great on today's 5D Mark II and Canon 7D, but it works just as well on my original Canon EOS 620 from 1987!

As a full-frame lens, this works on all Canon SLRs, regardless of format. As a full-frame lens, I will be reviewing this lens on full-frame.


Canon 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6

Canon 55-200 4.5-5.6 II. enlarge.


Specifications         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More



Canon calls this the CANON ZOOM LENS EF 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6 II ULTRASONIC.

EF means "electronic focus," meaning that there is an autofocus motor in the lens itself. All Canon lenses since 1987 have been EF.

ULTRASONIC means USM or UltraSonic Motor, meaning nothing whirs as it focuses.


Optics       top

Canon 24-85mm internal diagram

Internal diagram.

13 elements in 13 groups.

Three-group zooming.

Pumps in and out as zoomed.

Front group focus.


Focal Length


On 1.3x Canon cameras it will see angles-of-view similar to what a 72~260mm lens would see on a 35mm camera.

On 1.6x Canon cameras it will see angles-of-view similar to what an 88~320mm lens would see on a 35mm camera.


Angle of View (on 35mm and full-frame cameras)

36° ~ 10° diagonal.

25° ~ 7° vertical.

43° ~ 12° horizontal.


Close Focus       top

4 feet (1.2m) from the image plane, specified.


Maximum Reproduction Ratio       top



Extension Tubes

Use the Canon EF-12 or Canon EF12 II to get close-ups of 0.29 to 0.06 x.

Use the Canon EF-25 or Canon EF25 II to get close-ups of 0.50 to 0.14 x.


Diaphragm       top

Canon 55-200 L

Front, Canon 55-200mm at 55mm (EF diaphragm not visible). enlarge.

6 blades.

Stops down to f/22-29.


Focus Scale       top


The front of the lens rotates about 100º from infinity to the closest focus distance.


Depth-of-Field Scale       top



Infra-Red Focus Indices       top



Filter Thread       top



Rotates with focus and pumps in and out with zoom.


Size       top

Canon specifies 2.8 " (70mm) diameter by 3.8" (97mm) long.

It gets longer when zoomed towards 200mm, or focused more closely.

It is longest (not specified) at 200mm and focused at 4 feet.


Weight       top

10.579 oz. (299.85g), measured.

Canon specifies 10.9 ounces (310g).


Hood       top

Plastic bayonet ET-54 ($23), not included.


Case       top

LP1016 sack, ($27), not included.


Caps       top

52mm E-52U front, included. (ultrasonic cap with gold "ULTRASONIC" and silver "Canon" logos.)

Standard EOS cap rear.


Quality       top

Made in Japan.


Price, USA        top

2012 April: about about $150 used.

2005 December: $200 gray, $210 USA (equivalent to $235/250 with inflation in 2012).


Performance       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

Overall    Autofocus    Bokeh   Breathing   Color   Distortion

Ergonomics   Falloff    Filters     Flare     Lateral Color Fringes

Maximum and Minimum Apertures   Mechanics   Sharpness   Sunstars


Overall     performance      top

The Canon 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6 II is a dinky, plastic-barreled lens with crappy optics that miraculously work quite well with the automatic correction of the Canon 5D Mark III.


Autofocus     performance      top

Autofocus is amazingly instantaneous. It pops from four feet to infinity immediately.


Auto/Manual Switching

You always must move AF-MF switch.

There is no manual-focus override.


AF Speed

AF is fast!, as Canons always are.


AF Accuracy and Consistency

AF accuracy is fine on my Canon 5D Mark III.


Manual Focus

Manual focus is silly. You must twist the front of the lens.


Bokeh     performance      top

Bokeh, the quality of out-of-focus areas as opposed to the degree of defocus, is usually very good.


Focus Breathing     performance      top

Focus breathing (the image changing size as focused) is mostly of interest to cinematographers who don't want the image changing size ("breathing") as the lens is focused among different subjects.

As a conventional front-group focusing lens, the image from the Canon 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6 II gets larger as focused more closely.


Color Rendition     performance      top

The color balance of this 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6 II matches my other Canon EF lenses.

Sunset, Cambria

Sunset, Cambria, 14 April 2012. At 200mm, f/7.1 at 1/320 hand-held, 5D Mark III. bigger.


Distortion     performance      top

This Canon 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6 II has strong barrel distortion at the shorter settings, and strong pincushion distortion at the longer settings.

The distortion is easy to correct completely in Photoshop's Lens Distortion tool using these figures:

On full-frame

at 10' (3m)

at infinity


© 2012 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

For less distortion use the professional Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II, which has half the distortion.


Ergonomics     performance      top

Canon 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6

Canon 55-200/4.5-5.6 II. enlarge.

Ergonomics are just about perfect.

The plastic zoom ring, which is most of the lens, is easy to turn, and it's designed properly so that it's just as easy to set precise framing regardless of where you are in the range.

Manual focus is foolish, but I never need to use it.

The plastic mount is weak, but much smoother for mounting and unmounting.


Falloff (darkened corners)     performance      top

With Peripheral Illumination Correction, an option in the Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 5D Mark III, it's not a problem, so long as you load this lens' profile into your camera.


Filters, Use with     performance      top

There's no problem with vignetting even with thick or rotating filters, or combinations of them.


Flare and Ghosts     performance      top

There is a slight red ghost opposite a source of light around 165mm under extreme conditions. You won't see it otherwise.


Lateral Color Fringes     performance      top

There are horrendous color fringes if shot on older cameras, but none if shot on the Canon 5D Mark III with the appropriate lens profile loaded.

Whoo hoo!


Maximum and Minimum Apertures     performance      top



Mechanics     performance      top

Canon 55-200mm f/2.8

Rear, Canon 55-200 f/4.5-5.6 II. enlarge.

The Canon 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6 II is an all-plastic lens.

It works fine, but don't bang it on anything and don't grab your camera by it.


Filter Threads



Hood Mount



Fore Barrel



Focus Ring









Zoom Ring

Plastic, rubber-covered.


Zoom Cams



Rear barrel



Moisture seal at mount









Serial Number

Laser-melted into rear light baffle on back of lens, only visible when not mounted on a camera.


Date Code

None found.


Noises When Shaken



Made in



Sharpness     performance      top

Lens sharpness doesn't matter much, but it sure distracts amateurs who confuse lens sharpness with picture sharpness.

With that warning, it was really awful on my old Canon 5D Mark II, softer on one side than the other from sloppy mechanics and loaded with sharpness-robbing color fringes.

Astoundingly, on my 5D Mark III in actual use, it's pretty good!

Ragged Point

Ragged Point, 4:33 PM, 14 April 2012 (with slight color optimization). Original © file. At 55mm, f/11 at 1/320, 5D Mark III at ISO 100.


Corallina Cove

Corallina Cove, 6:09 PM, 13 April 2012. Original © file. 55-200mm at 120mm, f/14 at 1/640, 5D Mark III at ISO 100.


Corallina Cove

San Simeon, 5:50 PM, 14 April 2012. Original © file. 55-200mm USM II at 200mm, f/8 at 1/320 hand-held, 5D Mark III at ISO 100.

On my 5D Mark III, it's always sharp and contrasty in the center and most of the time on the left side. The right side is a bit softer, especially wide-open, but still amazingly saleable when used at normal apertures. The 5D Mark III really does turn this lens from crap to very usable for careful work.


Sunstars     performance      top

With its 6-bladed diaphragm, it makes soft 6-pointed sunstars on brilliant points of light.


Compared       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

This 55-200/4.5-5.6 II is a dinky plastic lens that works surprisingly well on the 5D Mk III if you're traveling light, as you should. No Canon 70-200mm focuses more closely, and most don't focus as close as this 55-200mm lens.

This 55-200mm also zooms wider than any of Canon's 70-200mm lenses, making for three ways in which this little lens expands your photographic envelope. I doubt the slight additional sharpness of the other lenses is worth having a heavier lens that restricts your travel range, that can't focus as close and can't zoom out as far.

Max. Aperture
Close focus
Filter Threads
Zoom Feel
A fast flick
Slow and damped
Slow and damped
Slow and damped
A fast flick
Very good
Very good
Distortion (W~T)
All plastic
Mostly metal
Mostly metal
Mostly metal
Metal and plastic
Metal and plastic
Clumsy, but tough, bayonet
Clumsy, but tough, bayonet
Clumsy, but tough, bayonet
Clumsy, but tough, bayonet
Clumsy, but tough, bayonet
Tripod collar ergonomics
Not needed
Weight w/collar if included
Price, 4/2012
$150 used

$1,700 used

Best for
Use with 5D Mk III, travel.
Rich guys & full-time pros.
Pros on a budget.
Tripod use, action and sports pros.
Nature and landscape shots in the field without tripod.
Budget tripod, sports or family shooters demanding high quality.


Recommendations       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

Only have $150 for a Canon tele zoom?

Shooting a 35mm EOS Rebel?

Shooting a 5D Mark III?

Heading out for an around-the-world budget trip, or backpacking?

This is your lens.

If you're just some nerd shooting test targets who spends more time online than out in the world shooting, sure, get any of the other Canon L zooms. They'll be sharper — but none will handle as well or let you travel as far.

If you've found the time I've spent sharing this professional review helpful, this free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this link directly to them at eBay (see How to Win at eBay) when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It helps me keep reviewing these oldies when you get yours through these links.




More Information       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

Canon's Museum: 55-200 USM II.

Canon's Museum: 55-200 USM.


Acknowlegdement       top

Many thanks to Nicholas from Sydney, Australia, who sent me this lens to review.


Help me help you         top

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Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.


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