The best 18-200mm lenses on the market today are usually categorized in the super zoom bracket. This means they cover far more focal range than traditional lenses, where the common thought process is to use two or more zoom lenses to cover the same distance. This is generally because there will be too much optical correction needed with a super zoom for ultimate quality.
Most photographers will use 18-55mm, 24-70mm, and 70-200mm zooms to cover the same range. But, it’s not always feasible to carry a few key zoom lenses around all day long, which is where a super zoom slots in. These type of lenses can be useful for travel or where you need to keep the amount of kit you carry sparse in size and weight.
Many of the current offerings in this category now have more advanced features such as image stabilization, advanced optics, and a zoom lock to stop the lens barrel extending when not needed. So, let’s have a closer look at what is currently available on the market.
1. Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM (Overall Winner)
The Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM is a deceivingly compact lens, which extends like a telescope and provides a lot of features for the money. This lens is the latest iteration of this super zoom, now with smaller dimensions, a macro mode of 1:3 and a minimum focusing distance of 39cm, and built-in image stabilization. The lens is currently available for the Nikon, Canon, Pentax, and Sony mounts.
Inside the lens are 16 elements arranged in 13 groups, with four Special Low Dispersion (SLD) and three aspherical lens elements to control things like chromatic aberration and lens distortion, while a Super Multi-Layer coating has been applied to reduce ghosting and flaring. The included image stabilization system comes with the Canon and Nikon versions, while Sony and Pentax copies have to rely on the camera’s built-in stabilization.
The lens barrel itself is built from high impact plastics, with a metal mount and a non-rotating front element which fits tightly with the included lens hood. As for overall image quality, the sharpest images can be found at 18mm, with good center and edge sharpness, while the edges do suffer as you approach 200mm. Stopping down to f/8 produces the sharpest images across the frame and throughout the focal range.
Considering the price point and overall features, the Sigma is great value for money, while also providing good overall quality. As a super all-rounder lens, it provides lots of scope for creativity from landscape shots to events and wildlife photography.
Aimed squarely at the enthusiasts photographer, the Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS is designed for crop sensor camera bodies and provides an equivalent focal length of 29-320mm. Optical image stabilization has been included with up to four stops of compensation, which will help out tremendously at the most telephoto end of the range.
Optically, the lens consists of two ultra-low dispersion and two aspherical elements, with a Super Spectra coating and 16 elements arranged in 12 groups. The diaphragm blades are a slight letdown, having only six in total, which means you’re not going to get those super creamy bokeh effects. But, you cannot have everything with a do-it-all lens at this price point.
On the plus side, the DC Micro Motor is quick to snap into focus and sharpness is very good from the widest to medium telephoto range. Sharpness does tail off approaching 200mm and does exhibit some chromatic aberration, but in general the image results are pleasing across the board. Considering the focal range this lens has to cope with, it does a respectable job of producing good image quality in a wide range of scenarios.
This is the second version of this highly capable Nikon travel lens. The AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II now features a very useful zoom lock switch, which stops any type of lens creep when you are shooting directly overhead or straight downwards. Designed specifically for the ‘DX’ format, the lens comes in at an equivalent 24-300mm and although it can be used on a full-frame DSLR, the vignetting will be too much for most applications.
The lens itself consists of 16 elements arranged in 12 groups, plus two extra-low dispersion (ED) and three aspherical elements. It also has seven rounded diaphragm blades and a Super Integrated coating to reduce reflections, flaring, and ghosting. The VR II (Vibration Reduction) image stabilization system provides 3.5 stops of compensation, with an overall compact weight of 560g.
The lens is at its sharpest between 18-70mm, with relatively good center sharpness up to 200mm. Corner sharpness suffers the most at 200mm as with barrel distortion, but is still acceptable for this price point of lens. Generally, images are rich in color and when this lens is given enough light, resolution is better than expected. Overall, the Nikon may be one of the priciest lenses on this list, but it’s also one of the most worthwhile, considering the range it has to cover.
The Sony E 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS LE may be the most expensive lens on this list, but it also provides exceptional image quality, while also looking quite fancy with its silver and black layout. Designed for the APS-C-format of cameras, the focal range comes in an equivalent 27-300mm and a respectable weight of 524g.
Inside the lens are 17 elements in 12 groups, with a seven-blade rounded diaphragm, plus one extra low dispersion and four aspherical elements. The Optical SteadyShot image stabilization combines effectively with an Active Mode and also features a zoom lock switch to stop any lens creep.
Color and contrast are rendered extremely well with this lens, with sharpness levels being very good across the frame at 18mm, with edge softness only starting to appear at 200mm. There is only a small amount of barrel distortion throughout the focal range and the lens is very adept at handling aberrations such as purple fringing, with only small amounts visible at the widest and most telephoto ends.
As an all-rounder lens, the Sony is a very good choice if you want to balance price with image resolution. Plus, it’s a great lightweight solution for travel purposes or a budget wildlife lens.
5. Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC (Budget Winner)
When it comes to the most bang for your buck, Tamron is usually included in the mix. In this case, we’re talking about the Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC.
It’s quite remarkable that this lens maker has included features such as Vibration Compensation (VC) for the money, while also producing respectable image quality. The lens consists of 16 elements arranged in 14 groups, with one hybrid aspherical and one low dispersion element. It also sports a moisture-resistant lens construction.
A DC motor handles auto focusing, while the zoom ring provides just enough resistance to be easily turned, while also stopping the majority of lens creep. When the aperture is wide open, images are at their sharpest at the widest focal, but sharpness levels tail off up to 200mm in both the center and the edges. Stopping down to f/8 sharpens things up considerably, but there is still a relatively high amount of barrel distortion which will need correcting in post-processing.
Considering the Tamron’s cheap price point, it delivers image quality on par with the rest on this list. Which means if you want the most cost-effective solution in the 18-200mm range, the Tamron is a good option.
Summary of the Best 18-200mm Lenses
Considering the range a typical 18-200mm lens has to cover, it’s remarkable that the image quality is still very good, while also having high-end features such as image stabilization for the reasonable prices. For the ultimate in image quality, shorter range and more costly zooms are the usual way to go. But, for an all-in-one solution which is very affordable, a 18-200mm is a great option.