- Lens Name: Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM
- Focal range: 17-55mm
- Optical Construction: 19-12 elements/groups
- Max Aperture: f/2.8
- Min Aperture: f/22
- Closest focus: 0.35m
- Filter Thread: 77mm
- Dimensions: 83.5x110.6mm
- Weight: 0.645kg
- Price (SRP) £699.99
Build and handling
Despite lacking the L branding this lens is a good quality item of kit, as indicated by its price. The build quality feels right with all the switches and rings having that positive smoothness of operation to them. It is a large optic that has an extending front element that protrudes an extra 28mm as it zooms out to the longer focal length. The broad zoom ring does enable this movement with relative ease though. The extension is about the only thing we could criticise the lens for though and the inclusion of the 3-stop image Stabilisation system excuses the bulk.
The IS system, now much more usable than early versions, is capable of allowing hand holding down to much lower shutter speeds than would previously have been recommended and we managed shots at well beyond the ‘focal length=shutter speed’ and claimed 3-stop settings without any hint of shake. This, combined with the f/2.8 maximum aperture, does make the lens ideal for low light work although it should be remembered that the IS system will not stop subject movement. You need shutter speed for that! Focus speed with the USM motor is quick and near silent with the amount of light getting in ensuring a good lock-on.
Again, this lens can be regarded as quite high quality and is a massive step up from the ‘kit’ lens that it is designed to replace. All of the parameters that we measure are ‘quite’ good rather than the ‘very’ good you might expect of an L class lens. Some minimal evidence of chromatic aberration does creep in towards the edges of the frame, but nothing that can be detected by eye. Contrast, as with most of Canon’s optics, is good and the colour rendition is pleasantly warm without being too saturated. Resolution is good enough wide open and improves well to the f/5.6 mark, where it can be classed as excellent.
The one place where the lens is let down is in the area of distortion. At the wide end of the zoom range it is fine, with a minimal recording of 0.83% pincushion but at the longest focal length this turns into a reading of –3.3% barrel which is evident to the eye on critical subjects. It is, however, the only noticeable anomaly that we could pick up with this lens and images gave a crisp clean appearance when printed up to A3.
The focal range is the standard for cropped sensor cameras and gives good capabilities
Depth of field is easily controllable with this lens’ wide aperture and it give good Bokeh
Hand held at 1/10th second and f/11, this shot shows no sign of camera shake with the IS turned on.
Click on each comparision photo below to view full size versions
Below is our lens test data. To find out how to use these graphs look at this article: How we test lenses
The lens is a high quality optic that is not quite up to L standard but takes close scrutiny to find the differences. Priced at the upper end of the spectrum for lenses that cannot be used on Canon’s professional camera models it would seem to have a limited place in the market. The price is added to if you want the optional hood though. That said, it is an ideal lens for anyone who does much low light photography.
In summary, the positive points of the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM are:
Good build quality with smooth operations
Excellent Image Stabilisation
Good image quality
Popular Filter size
The negative points are:
Expensive with no-upgrade path
Distortion at the longer focal length.
Slightly bulky for focal range.
Check the latest price for the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM here
Get the full test data results here