How good is the EF-S 17-55 mm f/2.8 IS USM?

Posted: 11th October 2007 by Jacky Yong in Photography
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I have acquired the top of the range lens (currently) for the Canon’s cropped body despite every cell with a sense of financial intelligence in my body protesting against it. It’s a bloody expensive lens, and I’m still paying it with my blood and sweat. It’s a really painful purchase which still resonance till now.

For such an expensive toy, this better be worth it. And is it worth it? A resounding YES, I’m relieved to say this. No, I’m not saying this just to make myself happy. It is that good. A lot of forumers has contacted me asking for my personal opinions on this lens. So I thought I had better write all my thoughts down rather than to repeat myself over and over again.

For a 17-55 mm on a 1.6 x body, it is equivalent to the 27 mm – 88 mm on a full frame body. Not a wide angle lens, neither is it a telephoto. This is considered a standard 3 x zoom that caters for roughly 85% of all the general pictures that you take. That said, this lens is not really a good lens if you’re into wildlife photography, sports, structure and landscape. If any of that category seems to be ALL the types that you need, you can now skip this write-up and consider spending 30 minutes of your life reading Lord of The Rings instead.

I consider this lens as the best lens for a walkabout. That includes close proximity events (weddings comes to mind), portraits and family shots. I had this lens on during my walkabout for the last Independance Day shots that I took here.

If you have done your homework correctly before embarking on this read, you should have known by now that the closest contender to this lens is the Tamron 17-50 F/2.8. And let me tell you, this is the one truly capable contender to this lens, according to the research that I have done so far over the internet. The Tamron is by far sharper, and gives more contrasty picture, and better flare resistant than the Canon. It is also almost 3 times cheaper. If those criterias are important to you, and you are budget conscious, please do yourself a favour and save some cash. The Tamron is still a worthy piece of glass. Read a comparison between the two lenses here.

(Hehehe …. 5 paragraphs and I still have not disclosed why I choose the Canon! Hehehe ….. wait lar, wait, on the way, on the way!)

The Image Stabilizer

What? Still reading? You’re not convinced yet? Okay then. Image Stabilizer on paper promises 3 stops stabilization. In practise, it does work. Check this out, smooth waterfall picture at just 1/6 of a second, handheld!

1/6 of a second, HANDHELD! (I know you Sony and Pentax users are probably laughing at us by now)

The other thing that wins over the Tamron is the USM focusing. It’s very fast and accurate even in low lights condition. I have not the Tamron, so I really do not know the difference. But this has been highlighted many times over the internet community. Being a Canon lens, it would naturally benefit from the circuitry between the lens and the body, thus faster focusing is achieved, as expected. Most of my focusing are spot on. No qualms there.

And of course, the f 2.8 aperture is a godsend! Very low light photography is now possible. Although it cannot beat the EF 50 mm f1.8 lens in terms of the diameter of the hole, it still produces good bokeh, another plus point for portrait photography.

77 mm filter thread size means expensive filters too

Lovely bokeh produced by the lens

Lovely bokeh produced by the lens

Other minor plus points includes the better body build quality. And the quiet FTM focusing (Tamron is reported to be noisy, so is my kitlens and my EF 50 f1.8). And the extra 5 mm compared to the Tamron might matter in some rare cases.

Note to self: Need to post some pictures of Image Stabilizer in action, also comparing this lens with the 50 mm f1.8 lens and the kit lens, the only other two lenses that I have.

See more pictures of this lens here.

  1. andychin.com says:

    good acquisition!