In 2006, the Canon EF-S 17-55 mm 2.8 IS was released. Because of the short-back focus design, the Canon 17-55 mm is only suitable for camera's with an APS-C sensor, like the Canon 60D or Canon 600D. The high quality of this lens has been an important argument for many demanding amateur photographers to choose for Canon. Indeed, the combination of a popular viewing angle, a large aperture and a built-in image stabilization is quite unique. But this EF-S lens also has a price tag of more than 1000 euro, which is in the same price range as the professional Canon L lenses. Meanwhile, Sigma released the high quality Sigma 17-50 mm 2.8 DC OS HSM and Tamron the Tamron 17-50 mm 2.8 DI II VC LD SP XR. Both lenses are cheaper alternatives for the Canon 17-55 mm. Many people forget that the performance of a lens also depends on the quality of the camera. We therefore repeated our Canon 17-55 mm review with the Canon 650D. On a modern SLR camera like the Canon 650D, the Canon 17-55 mm 2.8 IS performs, thanks to in camera correction of chromatic aberration and vignetting, even better than in our previous review where we used a Canon 7D to test the Canon 17-55 mm lens.
Reflected specular high lights on the water surface yield diffraction bokeh, caused by the Canon 17-55 mm 2.8 IS, where the specular high lights turn into stars.
Field of View Canon 17-55 mm IS @17 mm
FOV Canon 17-55mm IS @55 mm
The crop factor of this lens is 1.6, and the equivalent focal length of the Canon 17-55 mm 2.8 IS is thus 27-88 mm on camera with a full frame sensor. This lens comes in handy as a somewhat limited "walk-around" lens, but the largest focal length is still too limited for a portrait lens.
Construction and autofocus
The housing of the Canon 17-55 mm is made of plastic and the mount of the Canon 17-55 mm 2.8 IS is metal. While focusing, the filter does not rotate, which is important for users of a polarization filter or a gray gradient filter. The focus ring and zoom ring run smoothly. The resistance of the zoom ring is not constant. The autofocus is of the HSM type and is silent and very fast. With the Canon 7D it focuses from 15 meters to 1.5 meters in 0.16 seconds. Hunting in low light is rarely observed. The built-in image stabilization can be switched on or off by a lever on the lens. Both autofocus and Image Stabilization are quiet, but (only for the photographer) audible in a silent environment.
In recent Canon SLR cameras like the Canon 650D, there's an option to correct jpg files in the camera for lens aberrations. In this review, the correction of vignetting and chromatic aberration was enabled for jpg files. We've compared uncorrected RAW files for vignetting and chromatic aberration with the corrected jpg files.
Image stabilization Canon 17-55 mm
The image stabilization of the Canon 17-55 mm 2.8 IS is quiet, but not completely silent, as in some L lenses. The effectiveness of the built-in image stabilization is measured on a Canon 650D with a focal length of 55 mm. The stabilization of the Canon EF-S 17-55 mm IS is effective. In our test we realized a gain of 3 steps: one from handmade shot without VR at a shutter speed of 1/50 sec is as sharp as a recording with VR and a shutter speed of 1/6 second. For a nice large print it is advisable to choose a faster shutter speed.
Canon 17-55 Vignetting
The Canon 650D Lens aberration correction corrects the jpg files created with the Canon EF-S 17-55 mm IS for vignetting. The vignetting of RAW files is significantly higher than that of jpg files. The vignetting corrected in jpg files is visible when shooting a solid blue sky, but in practice it will rarely be disturbing. Additionally, you can vignetting fight with some programs.
Move your mouse over the image for the Imatest results for vignetting of uncorrected RAW files.
Distortion Canon 17-55 mm
Distortion by the Canon 17-55 mm, expressed as a percentage, is high at all focal lengths. At 17 mm the distortion of the Canon 17-55 mm IS is disturbingly present. Lightroom has good correction profiles for distortion of Canon lenses. Pity that Canon does not yet offer in-camera correction of distortion.
Canon 17-55 Bokeh
Due to the large aperture of the Canon 17-55 mm, f/2.8, playing with depth of field is fun, since a fast lens with a circular aperture can give beautiful background blur.
Click on the image to the right for a crop showing the bokeh of the Canon 17-55 mm at 55 mm f/2.8.
Reflected specular high lights on the water surface yield diffraction bokeh, caused by the Canon 17-55 mm 2.8 IS, where the specular high lights turn into stars. See the illustration to the right of the specifications at the top of this page.
The following images are crops made at a focal length of 55 mm, with a Canon 40D. The blurry circles look rather nice. Dark or light rings are hardly noticeable. The bokeh of this lens is nicer than the Tamron 17-50 mm 2.8 and comparable to the Tamron 28-75 mm 2.8.
Canon EF-S 17-55 mm/2.8 IS @ f/2.8
Canon 17-55 @ f/2.8
Digital cameras show more internal reflections than analog cameras, because the sensor reflects light. Canon uses Super Spectra lens coatings to minimize internal reflections as much as possible. Coatings also help to achieve true color balance and increase contrast.
In back-lit situations, this image is taken at a focal length of 55 mm, we see a big flare and some aperture spots.
Resolution Canon 17-55 mm
The sharpness of this lens is pretty constant over the entire image. The resolution, expressed in LW/PH, reached in the center at f/4.0 at all focal lengths have a high value. The difference between the performance in the center and in the corners is generally low, which is good. Only at 55 mm must be stopped down to f/5.6 for an optimal picture.
The chromatic aberration of the Canon EF-S 17-55 mm 2.8 IS was our last test with jpg files from the Canon 7D at all apertures and focal lengths already sufficiently low. Thanks to the lens aberration correction of the Canon 650D scoring jpg files created with the Canon 17-50 IS still slightly better. But even without in-camera correction of chromatic aberration throws this lens eyes to a high standard zoom lens: The RAW files at a magnification of 100% in the farthest corners just visible. That will be invisible in print.
WYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens if you save the files in the camera as jpg, where you have all available in-camera lens corrections applied. This score will give you for this lens/camera combination test: "What you see is what you get".
Pure RAW score: This table shows the performance of this lens if the file is stored in the camera as a RAW file. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera.
High sharpness except full aperture in the corners
Fast and constant f/2.8
From f/4.0 low vignetting
Very fast autofocus
High distortion at 17mm
Sensitive to flare
Large and heavy
On a modern SLR camera like the Canon 650D, the Canon 17-55 mm 2.8 IS not only in resolution but also, thanks in camera correction of chromatic aberration and vignetting, even better advantage than in our previous test on a Canon 7D. The Canon 17-55 mm 2.8 IS is light and strong performance in terms of sharpness, distortion and vignetting better than the other standard zoom lenses from Canon. Downsides are called the high sensitivity to light and the high purchase price. The Sigma 17-50 mm 2.8 and the Tamron 17-50 mm 2.8 are interesting alternatives to the Canon 17-55 mm 2.8 IS which featured in this Canon 17-55 mm review.
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