Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 USM IS - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Canon EOS (APS-C)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published April 2006

Special thanks to Marek Musial for providing this lens!


Announced at the PMA '06 the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 USM IS is one of the most anticipated lenses for Canon users since the introduction of Canon APS-C DSLRs. So far users had the choice between two standard zoom options within the native Canon lens lineup - the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 (kit zoom) and the EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 USM IS. The latter is a decent lens but not really significantly superior to the simple kit lens so there was no real upgrade path for the more ambitious users who often ended up with third-party alternatives. With the introduction of the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 USM IS Canon closed this gap but at a steep price of a little less than 1000 EUR/$. Some may wonder why such a pricey lens wasn't marketed as a true Canon L grade lens - obviously a marketing decision.

The EF-S naming refers to the Short-back focus design which is only compatible to APS-C EOS SLRs starting with the EOS 300D (Digital Rebel). EF-S lenses feature a protruding rear element which requires a special mirror design to avoid a collision of the mirror and the rear part of the lens. <

The optical construction is made of 19 elements in 12 groups including three aspherical elements plus two UD (ultra-low dispersion) elements. The min. focus distance is 0.35m resulting is a max. object magnification of ~1:6 at 55mm. The lens features 7 circular aperture blades. Typical for most large aperture Canon zooms the filter size is 77mm. Unfortunately Canon decided NOT to include a lens hood which is a little bizarre regarding the pricing of the lens.

The image stabilizer provides an equivalent effect of a 3 f-stops gain in shutter speed for hand-held photography (at cost of slower shutter speeds). The IS works for static scenes only so there's no 2nd mode for panning - a fate shared with the EF 24-105mm f/4 USM L IS. However, regarding the nature of the lens this isn't a big drawback because action photography isn't really a primary application. The IS mechanism can detect the lack of motion so it can remain activated on a tripod.

The EF-S 17-55m f/2.8 USM IS isn't a designated L grade lens and while this may not be really obvious based on the naked specifications it shows up regarding the build quality. This doesn't mean that it isn't decent but the outer construction is made of good quality polycarbonate (except for the metal mount) whereas the recent L grade zooms are magnesium-alloy constructions. Nonetheless the lens feels quite solid (similar to the EF-S 10-22mm USM) and the zoom and focus control rings operate reasonably smooth though not damped. The lens does not provide any protection against dust or humidity. Normally you would expect a little more here regarding the high price tag.
As you can see in the product shot above the lens extends when zooming towards the long end of the zoom range. Thanks to internal focusing the front element does not rotate so using a polarizer remains easily possible.
The lens has an extremely fast and near silent USM (ultrasonic) AF drive including full-time manual focusing (FTM) in one-shot AF mode.

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