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Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Lens Review

Gary Wolstenholme reviews this new telephoto zoom lens from Canon, the EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM.

|  Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM in Interchangeable Lenses
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Handling and Features

Canon EF S 55 250mm IS STM (9)

This telephoto zoom lens provides an angle of view equivalent to an 88-400mm used on a 35mm camera. This version is an update to the previous Canon 55-250mm IS II lens, adding Canon's new stepping motor technology, which promises smoother, quieter autofocus performance, which is especially suited to recording video. 

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Handling and Features

Canon EF S 55 250mm IS STM (7)

Just like the previous version of this lens, this lens is constructed from high quality plastics, including the lens mount. As it is an EF-S lens, it can only be mounted on EF-S compatible Canon cameras, like the Canon EOS 600D used for testing. The lens balances well with this camera, due to it only weighing around 375g and being relatively compact.

Canon EF S 55 250mm IS STM (11)

Autofocus is silent, swift and precise. Unlike many of Canon's USM lenses, full time manual focus override is not possible, and manual focusing is performed by the focusing motor. Manual adjustments can be made in single focus mode once the lens has locked onto a target. The manual focusing ring is quite light to operate, but well enough damped to make applying fine adjustment a pleasure. A small switch on the side of the lens allows switching between manual and autofocus quickly. Focusing is performed internally, so the 58mm filter thread doesn't rotate, making this lens ideal for use with polarising and graduated filters.

With care, sharp hand held images are possible around half the time at an impressive 1/25sec, which is roughly four stops slower than the usual rule of thumb for sharp images would allow. The image stabiliser takes just over a second to settle down properly, so it pays to pause a while to allow the system to catch up with your motion.

Canon EF S 55 250mm IS STM (6)

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Performance

At maximum aperture and 55mm sharpness is already outstanding in the centre of the frame, with the clarity towards the edges of the frame being not too far behind. Maximum performance is realised at f/5.6 for this focal length. Here sharpness is outstanding across the frame.

With the lens zoomed to 135mm, sharpness at maximum aperture remains very high in the centre of the frame and good sharpness towards the edges. Peak sharpness across the frame is achieved at f/8 for this focal length. At this aperture, performance in the centre is still outstanding and sharpness towards the edges improves to very good levels.

Impressively, sharpness holds up very well at 250mm also. At maximum aperture, sharpness in the centre of the frame is still outstanding and good towards the edges of the frame. Peak performance is achieved between f/8 and f/11 for this focal length.

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How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 600D using Imatest.

Chromatic aberrations are well controlled throughout the zoom range, only just exceeding half a pixel width on a few occasions. These low levels of CA will be difficult to spot, even in large prints, or harsh crops from the edges of the frame.

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How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 600D using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is reasonably well controlled. At 55mm the corners are 1.28 stops darker than the image centre at maximum aperture. At 135mm the corners are 1.69 stops darker than the image centre. Visually uniform illumination is achieved one stop below maximum aperture throughout the zoom range.

Distortion is well controlled, with Imatest detecting 1.39% barrel at 55mm at 0.824% pincushion at 250mm. This level of distortion should pose few issues, but may become apparently if straight lines are placed parallel to the edge of the frame, especially at 55mm. If straight lines are paramount, then you'll be glad to hear that the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, which should make corrections relatively straightforward to apply.

No issues with flare were encountered during testing, with contrast only being slightly reduced when shooting directly into the light at wide apertures. However, no lens hood is supplied as standard, so if you require one for peace of mind, then an ET-63 hood can set you back around £11.

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Sample Photos

Value For Money

Currently, this lens is available for around £300, but the price has continued to drop steadily from launch. As this lens' predecessor, the 55-250mm IS II is currently available for around £170, it makes the new lens look a touch expensive.

The closest equivalent from third party manufacturers is Sigma's 50-200mm f/4-5.6 DC OS HSM lens, which is equipped with optical stabilisation and a silent focusing motor for around £130, although this lens is 50mm shorter at the telephoto end.

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Verdict

As this lens is intended as a budget option, it is quite surprising to see just how well it performs. Sharpness is outstanding in the centre of the frame for much of the zoom range, which is how you might expect much more expensive lenses to perform.

However, as this predecessor of this lens is still available, and as the STM focusing motor isn't quite a revelation in terms of performance or usability, one may do well to look at snapping up the older version for now, while the price gap is so large.

  The Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS STM lens delivers outstanding sharpness in the centre delivering better than expected performance at this price.

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Pros

Great sharpness in the centre throughout the zoom range
Fast focusing
Effective stabiliser

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Cons

Plastic lens mount may put some buyers off this lens
Quite expensive compared to its predecessor


Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Canon EF-S
Focal Length55mm - 250mm
Angle of View7į - 28į
Max Aperturef/4 - f/5.6
Min Aperturef/22 - f/32
Filter Size58mm
35mm equivalent88mm - 400mm
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus110cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

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8 Jan 2014 2:36PM
"Plastic lens mount may put some buyers off this lens":
mwoods 17 22 United Kingdom
8 Jan 2014 9:22PM
Couldn't give a damn about a plastic body - my Canon 50mm has one and I love it.
theorderingone 18 2.4k
24 Jan 2014 8:52AM

Quote:"Plastic lens mount may put some buyers off this lens":

Interesting, but the article you link to talks to what the mount is attached to, not the mount itself. If you change lenses often, the metal surface will last longer than a plastic one. If you don't then it will make little difference. That's why it may put some people off this lens.
StrayCat 18 19.1k 3 Canada
10 Dec 2017 10:16AM
Cowboy 77, that article is the most interesting one I’ve read in a long time, thanks.

I purchased this lens in November 2017 for $189 Canadian, if it breaks, Iíll get another one, itís that good. In my opinion it beats the socks off any zoom of any brand in that range for sharpness and clarity. The Is is great; better than anyIíve used besides Olympus M4/3 cameras with 5-axis in-camera IS.
StrayCat 18 19.1k 3 Canada
10 Dec 2017 10:33AM
Further to my post above: I am comparing the performance of this lens to the 70-300mm and 100-300mm of Canon, Panasonic, and Tamron, this lens is a much better performer. I bought mine on Amazon, which had the best price for a brand new product at the time.

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