In 2009, the Canon 15-85 mm 3.5-5.6 IS USM, named Canon 15-85 mm, was introduced. This lens is more or less seen as the successor to the Canon 17-85 mm and has a shorter zoomrange than the Canon 18-135 mm and the Canon 18-200 mm . The zoom range is much larger though than that of the fast Canon 17-55 mm. All the lenses mentioned here are only for cameras with an image sensor of the APS-C format. The crop factor is 1.6 at Canon, the focal length equivalent of the Canon 15-85 mm is thus 24-134 mm.
The Canon 15-85 mm house is made of plastic and the lensmount of metal. During focusing, the filter does not turn. The focus ring and zoom ring are without play and run smoothly. When zooming, the lens is 4 cm longer. The lens feels solid.
The AF drive is of the USM type. The noise is very low and focusing is fast with a Canon 7D; from 15 meters to 1.5 meters in 0.21 seconds. Hunting in low light is rarely observed.
The effectiveness of the integrated image stabilization is measured at a focal length of 85 mm. The gain delivered by the Canon 15-85 mm is about 3 stops.
The vignetting shown by the Canon 15-85 mm IS, expressed in stops, is on the high side at all apertures. Quite often you have to use software to eliminate the vignetting.
At backlight, some flare and ghosting occur. In practice, you should take into account the position of the sun.
Canon 15-85 mm Distortion
The distortion of the Canon 15-85 mm, expressed as a percentage, is high at a focal length of 15 mm.
At the other focal lengths, it is rather low. For example, when photographing buildings, the distortion will have to be lowered by software.
Resolution Canon 15-85mm
The resolution of the Canon 15-85 mm, expressed in lines/sensor height, reaches a high peak in the centre at maximum aperture at all focal lengths. The sharpnes in the corners is pretty low. At 85 mm, the resolution is somewhat lower in both the center and in the corners at f/8.0 than at f/5.6.
WYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens if you store the files in the camera as jpg, where you have all available in-camera lens corrections applied. This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: "What you see is what you get".
Reasonably good sharpnes, especially in centre, put on a 18 MP dSLR
Practical zoom range
Reasonably good price/quality ratio
Sharpnes in corners could be better
High distortion at 15 mm
High vignetting at 15 mm
The Canon 15-85 mm is about € 200 more expensive than the Canon 17-85 mm . For that extra, you get a wider zoom range, half a stop gain, a slightly higher resolution and lower distortion. Not least, the 15-85 mm also feels much sturdier. An alternative to the Canon 15-85 mm is the Sigma 17-70 mm.
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