For those of you who have bought into the mighty fine Canon EOS M, lens choices are currently thin on the ground. But, to keep everybody happy in the short term, there’s the option of the Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM. Aimed at the enthusiast end of the market, the point here is to provide an all-rounder lens, ranging from medium telephoto to a long zoom.
If you shop around, you can find the lens as part of a camera kit, being an ideal solution to test out the EOS M’s capabilities. In this regard, lets see what the lens has to offer and can the Canon fulfill the duties of a telephoto lens.
Designwise, the 55-200mm is a very straightforward and simple design, with a very plastic feeling lens barrel. It may not feel as robust as an L-series lens, but in its favor, it weighs only 260g. That means it’s perfectly balanced when attached to the camera body. Other external lens features include the focus and zoom rings. The lens also extends when zooming, but there is no zoom lock switch for keeping the barrel in place.
Autofocusing duties are performed by a stepping motor (STM), which is also driven when turning the focus ring. It’s an adequate system for this price point of lens, but it’s not the fastest around when coupled with the f/4.5-6.3 aperture (more on this later). There’s also no external controls for image stabilization, which is rated up to 3.5 stops, all controlled in camera.
Moving onto the optics, the lens has an equivalent reach of 88-320mm and an equivalent aperture of f/7.2-f/10. There are also 17 elements arranged in 11 groups, with one aspherical and one ED element for good measure. There are also seven rounded aperture blades, culminating in a 1m minimum focus distance and a magnification ratio of 1:4.8.
At this stage of the game, the 55-200mm is a compact and lightweight solution, which you will not be burdened by when carrying around all day. However, heavyweight lenses usually imply a stronger build quality and high-end optics, with the downside being more weight to cart around. But, that doesn’t mean lightweight lenses cannot deliver the goods. It really depends on your own personal shooting circumstances.
The Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM In Use
Examining a few initial test shots revealed that Canon does not use any digital auto-correction when it comes to barrel distortion. Without any lens correction profiles, there is a small amount of barrel distortion at the widest 55mm, turning into a pin cushioning effect at 200mm. The effects are small and easily correctable, being within tolerable limits.
Small amounts of vignetting can be seen in the corners at 55mm, which when stopped down to f/11 are virtually non-existent. Vignetting is more apparent at 200mm, but as with the widest end of the range, stopping down by a stop solves the problem. Luckily, any unwanted vignetting can be easily taken out in the likes of Lightroom or other photo editing software.
Although the camera can handle auto correction of Chromatic Aberrations (CAs), it’s useful to know what the lens can produce on its own. Luckily, CA is low on this lens, especially at 55mm with the aperture wide open, again showing only small amounts at 200mm. CA only rears its head on very high contrast areas and with these amounts, can be easily corrected in post processing. This area is easily one of the main benefits to this lens.
As for sharpness and resolution, the best results come in at 55mm, with sharp detail across the frame. Center sharpness is good, with only a touch of softness in the corners. However, softness ramps up significantly when approaching 200mm. At 135mm, center sharpness is still acceptable, but the corners start to suffer, especially when the aperture is wide open.
Stopping down to f/8 is advisable across the board, as seen when hitting 200mm at f/6.3 where the center of the frame has reasonable sharpness, but corner softness let’s things down. In other words, to produce the best overall frame sharpness, you will have to be working at f/8 and above for the best quality.
Although this is a slow lens, at least the image stabilization lends a helping hand in getting lower shutter speeds. Roughly three stops of compensation are achievable with the greatest benefit being at 200mm. The feature came in especially useful when needing to stop down constantly, which we will come onto next.
The overall image quality was found to be quite good for this price point of lens. For full clarity across the frame, stopping down will be needed. But, with enough light levels the lens can produce pleasing results. However, due to the quite narrow aperture and need for stopping down, this isn’t exactly a fast lens and would be best suited for more general photographer, where they are ample levels of light.
Basically, a variable f/4.5-6.3 aperture is never going to be a great low-light performer, which means working around the compromises. If you’re needing a lens for sports photography or action shots, you may want to look elsewhere.
How Does the Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM Compare?
Lining up the Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM against other mirrorless lens offerings is difficult at this point due to the lack of options. Thus the omission of the usual comparison table. This point is further compounded when the other available lenses are either wide-angle zooms or primes. This means that the alternatives are there if you need other focal lengths.
Currently alternatives available include the Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM, a wide-angle zoom which incorporates image stabilization. There’s also the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN if you want to go down the medium wide-angle prime lens route, or the Opteka 50mm f/2 lens if you wanted an ultra cost-effective prime lens. At least the Opteka has a very wide aperture, as does the Sigma. All these lens choices come in at reasonable prices, roughly around the same price point as the Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM.
The Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM can deliver very good images, but that is within it’s very narrow scope of workings. The 55mm end produces sharp images, but softness starts to creep in all the way up to 200mm. Lens anomalies also follow the same path, with vignetting starting to ramp up past 135mm, but at least CA is kept in check.
On the plus side, the lens is featherweight and although the image stabilization system doesn’t have the range of higher end lenses, it’s still reasonably efficient. In total, the advantages to this lens are its compact size and weight saving, along with price point.
In the grand scheme of things, the 55-200mm may not be the best lens out there, but you have to consider what you are getting for the money. A wide focal range, image stabilization, and a compact size for just a few hundred dollars. As a general, get you started lens, the Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM fills this gap.