What Is the Difference Between 18-55mm and 55-200mm?

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Selecting a lens means going through lots of models, features, and specifications. Like when choosing focal lengths, what is the difference between 18-55mm and 55-200mm? We’re going through the differences between these two lenses and see what makes them useful for photography.

What Is the Difference Between 18-55mm and 55-200mm?

The field of view is the major difference between the 18-55mm and 55-200mm. The first lens features 55mm for a zoomed-in perspective, whereas the second lens uses 55mm for the broader end. While they both have zooming features, the 18-55mm provides twice as wide a perspective as a 55-200mm lens.

18-55mm camera lens

The 18-55mm and 55-200mm are popular all-around lenses because of their versatility. However, they still differ in some aspects, including aperture, shutter speed, exposure, sharpness, focus, and ergonomics. Knowing these differences would allow you to maximize their features.

Angle of View

The 18-55mm and 55-200mm basically differ in the focal length, influencing the angle of view. This affects what you can include in the frame and how you would position yourself to take the shot.

With the global digital camera industry hitting a market value of $13.1 billion in 2020, the demand for interchangeable camera lenses also grows. Among them are the 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses, which have varying focal ranges. Their differences impact how you would see scenes through the viewfinder.

  • 18-55mm: This focal range enables you to capture more of the environment, especially on the 18mm end. You can still fill in the entire frame if you switch to 55mm. This focal perspective is perfect for shooting indoors or in sceneries with lots of foreground and background elements.
  • 55-200mm: This focal range cuts away much of the environment to separate the subject from the background. In effect, the subjects appear closer and more prominent. This telephoto lets you zoom in on subjects that are far away, like wildlife or sports.

Magnification

Zoom lenses are in-demand to most photographers, including beginners, enthusiasts, and professionals. In fact, it covers the highest share in the global interchangeable market from 2018. Moreover, as its popularity continues to grow, so does the range of focal ranges photographers can use to zoom.

The 18-55mm also classifies as a wide-zoom lens, whereas the 55-200mm is a standard zoom lens, bordering telephoto capacity. So in their categories alone, you would see how they differ in zooming capacities.

Woman taking photos on a beach
  • 18-55mm: Zoom out to achieve the wide angles of 18 and 24mm, allowing you to capture seaside sceneries or colorful glow at nighttime. Likewise, this lens lets you shoot portraits as if you’re using a 35mm prime. However, its maximum zooming perspective is inferior to that of the 55-200mm.
  • 55-200mm: This standard zoom lens is among the most flexible focal ranges, enabling you to get tight shots of subjects and eliminate the surroundings. Zoom in to 200mm, and you can shoot tiny, flying objects. On the downside, you may find it challenging to photograph tight spaces or groups of people.

Aperture

It is common for 18-55mm lenses to have f/3.5-5.6 aperture values. On the other hand, 55-200mm lenses tend to feature f/4.5-6 apertures. 

When it comes to general photography, the bigger the aperture, the more light can enter the camera sensor. Conversely, a smaller f-stop or larger aperture produces a smaller depth of field, making it ideal for low-light shooting. In effect, your photo will attain the necessary exposure.

If you’re a landscape, interior, or portrait photographer, the combination of the 18-55mm perspective and broader apertures ensure brightness and sharpness for several elements in a frame. The same applies for the 55-200mm, as its apertures balance the need for faster shutter speed to attain tack focus.

Shutter Speed

When adjusting camera settings, the shutter speed generally follows after choosing the necessary aperture. 

The ideal shutter speed varies because this depends on the focal length and the type of photography. For instance, you can use slower shutter speeds for focal lengths closer to 18mm, whereas you would need faster shutter speeds for perspectives close to 200mm.

Keep in mind that the longer the focal range, the harder it is to steady the lens. Hence, the shutter speed may also prompt motion blur.

Exposure

Wide-angle shots from an 18-55mm lens would most likely be bright initially since there’s a bigger scene and light source for the frame. Meanwhile, a 55-200mm lens tends to produce darker shots because there are fewer elements in the frame, usually just the primary subject.

55-200mm camera lens

Image Sharpness

The sharpness is another significant difference between an 18-55mm and 55-200mm lens. Since the 18-55mm contains a broader perspective, its sharpness spreads evenly across the whole frame. However, there’s also a tendency for the edges to suffer from vignetting and distortion around 18mm.

The 55-200mm lens also has excellent sharpness, although the sharpness is most remarkable at the focused subject. This is why it’s easier to achieve background blur when using narrower focal lengths.

Furthermore, regardless of the focal range, image stabilization may influence the overall sharpness of your shots. Ideally, the longer the length, the more you would need the help of built-in optical stabilization.

Focusing Speed

The autofocus speed would depend on the actual model and the focusing motor. The fewer the aspherical elements, the quicker the lens can focus, whether manually or automatically.

With that said, the autofocus of the 18-55mm may work faster, especially when there’s a lot of light available. Still, the focusing mechanism of the 55-200mm works great, particularly when shooting in a stable position or using a tripod.

Ergonomics

Considering the 18-55mm is also a kit lens, it is significantly lighter and shorter than the 55-200mm lens. In contrast, the 55-200mm lens has a longer lens barrel, making it heavier on the hands. Additionally, you would feel more resistance in the focusing ring as you adjust it.

Conclusion

The 18-55mm and 55-200mm mainly differ in the field of view, and thus the ability to zoom. Additionally, they have variable apertures, ideal shutter speeds, effects on exposure, image sharpness quality, focusing speed, and build quality. Despite these differences, both have unique features that make them valuable in photography.