Support Cameralabs by shopping at our partner stores or donating via Paypal
 






Follow my RSS feed at Camera Labs RSS Feed
 
  Latest camera reviews

Canon EOS 1200D T5
Sony WX350
Nikon P600
Sony Alpha A5000
Sony Cyber-shot HX400V
Panasonic Lumix GH4
Panasonic TS5 FT5
Sony Alpha A6000
Canon SX700 HS
Canon SX600 HS
Olympus TOUGH TG2
Nikon AW1
Nikon D3300
Fujifilm XT1
Olympus STYLUS 1
Sony Cyber-shot RX10
Olympus OMD EM1
Panasonic Lumix GM1
Nikon D610
Sony Alpha A7
Nikon D5300
Canon PowerShot A2500
Sony Alpha A7r
Canon ELPH 130 IXUS 140
Nikon COOLPIX P520
Nikon COOLPIX L820
Canon PowerShot S120
Panasonic Lumix GX7
Canon SX510 HS
Canon PowerShot G16
Fujifilm X20
Panasonic FZ70 / FZ72
Canon EOS 70D
Sony RX100 II
Canon ELPH 330 IXUS 255
Panasonic Lumix GF6
Fujifilm XM1
Olympus EP5
Panasonic Lumix LF1
Panasonic TZ35 / ZS25
Olympus XZ2
Sony HX300
Panasonic Lumix G6
Sony HX50V
Fujifilm X100S
Canon SX280 HS
Canon EOS SL1 / 100D
Panasonic TZ40 / ZS30
Nikon D7100
Nikon COOLPIX A
Fujifilm X-E1
Canon EOS 6D
Nikon D5200
Panasonic Lumix GH3
Canon PowerShot S110
Panasonic Lumix G5
Sony NEX-6
Panasonic Lumix FZ200
Canon PowerShot SX50 HS
Nikon COOLPIX P7700
Olympus E-PL5
Canon EOS M
Panasonic TS20 / FT20
Canon PowerShot G15
Nikon D600
Nikon COOLPIX L810
Canon PowerShot D20
Sony RX100
Panasonic Lumix LX7
Canon SX500 IS
Fujifilm HS30 EXR
Sony HX200V
Panasonic FZ60 / FZ62
Canon 520HS / 500HS
Canon 110HS / 125HS
Nikon D800
Canon EOS T4i / 650D
Canon PowerShot A3400
Panasonic ZS15 / TZ25
Olympus E-M5
Nikon D3200
Fujifilm X-Pro1
Canon PowerShot A2300
Canon SX240 / SX260
Samsung NX200
Sony Alpha SLT-A77
Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Panasonic ZS20 / TZ30
Canon PowerShot G1 X
Sony NEX-7
Panasonic GX1
Olympus E-PM1
Nikon V1
Sony NEX-5N
Canon EOS T3 / 1100D
Canon EOS 600D / T3i
Nikon D7000
Canon EOS 60D
Canon EOS 550D / T2i
Canon EOS 7D

All camera reviews
 
 
   
 
  Best Buys: our top models
   
  Best Canon lens
Best Nikon lens
Best Sony lens
Best budget DSLR
Best mid-range DSLR
Best semi-pro DSLR
Best point and shoot
Best superzoom
Best camera accessories
   
 



Camera Labs Forum

Any questions, comments or a great tip to share? Join my Camera forum and let everyone know!
   
 
  DSLR Tips



 
Free Shipping on ALL Products
Canon EOS 400D / Digital Rebel XTi kit lens upgrade group test Gordon Laing, September 2006 / updated July 2007
 
Canon EOS 400D / Digital Rebel XTi lens group test design

Pictured below from left to right are the Canon EF-S 17-55mm, EF 17-40mm, EF-S 17-85mm and EF-S 18-55mm lenses, each zoomed-out to their widest focal lengths. With a diameter of 84mm and shortest length of 111mm, the 17-55mm is by far the largest of the three lenses pictured, and at 645g, the heaviest too; this is due to the fast f2.8 aperture throughout its range, more of which later.

The 17-85mm and 18-55mm measure 78x92mm and 69x66mm, and weigh 475g and 190g respectively. The EF 17-40mm measures 84x97mm, so shares the same diameter as the EF-S 17-55mm, but is 14mm shorter. This EF lens is a little larger than the EF-S 17-85mm, but at 475g, the same weight.


from left: Canon EF-S 17-55mm, EF 17-40mm, EF-S 17-85mm and EF-S 18-55mm lenses - zoomed out

 

Pictured below are the same lenses zoomed-in to their longest focal lengths. Here the 17-55 and 17-85mm models both extend by 26mm, although the former does so with a single barrel, while the 18-55mm extends by 9mm. The EF 17-40mm performs its zoom within the constraints of its outer barrel housing, so doesn’t physically extend. Clearly the EF-S 17-55mm remains the largest of the group.

So the first thing you’ll notice when upgrading from the EF-S 18-55mm to any of the other three lenses tested here is a considerably larger and heavier overall package. This will apply to almost any lens you upgrade to though, as the EF-S 18-55mm is compact and remarkably light. If size is an issue, you may wish to alternatively consider the Sigma 18-200mm, which at 70x78mm when zoomed-out is virtually the same diameter as the EF-S 18-55mm and only 12mm longer; see our Sigma 18-200mm review for more details.

from left: Canon EF-S 17-55mm, EF 17-40mm, EF-S 17-85mm and EF-S 18-55mm lenses - zoomed in

 


Build quality and focusing

The exterior design and build quality of the EF-S 17-55mm and EF-S 17-85mm are very similar, although the additional weight of the former lends it an air of greater confidence. Both are considerably superior to the build quality of EF-S 18-55mm lens, but remain below that of Canon’s L range of standard zooms, such as the EF 17-40mm.

In terms of focusing, the EF-S 17-55, EF-S 17-85 and EF 17-40mm all feature USM motors; these are much faster and quieter in operation than the EF-S 18-55mm and one of the most obvious benefits when upgrading. Unlike the 18-55mm, all three also employ internal focusing, which means the front element doesn’t rotate while focusing – great news if you’re into polarising filters.

So in terms of design and construction, you may have to accommodate a larger and heavier lens when upgrading from the EF-S 18-55mm, but you can look forward to superior build quality, along with faster, quieter and polariser-friendly focusing.

Aperture

In terms of light gathering power, the EF-S 17-55mm is by far the most impressiveof the group, boasting a bright f2.8 aperture throughout its focal range. This allows it to deliver very small depth-of-fields and comfortably operate under considerably lower light levels.

To put this into perspective, when zoomed-out to wide angle the EF-S 17-55mm at f2.8 gathers twice as much light as the EF 17-40 or EF-S 17-85mm can at f4, allowing you to halve your exposure or ISO. It’s also almost twice as bright as the EF-S 18-55mm when zoomed-out to 18mm and wide open at f3.5.

With the lenses zoomed-in to their longest focal lengths, the differences become even greater. Thanks to a constant aperture of f2.8 throughout its range, the 17-55mm gathers four times more light than the 18-55mm or 17-85mm can at f5.6.

The EF 17-40mm also enjoys the benefit of a constant aperture throughout its range of f4; so while it’s slightly slower than the kit lens when zoomed-out, it’s faster when zoomed-in. Many photographers also value a constant aperture as the exposure won’t change as you vary the focal length.

Finally the EF 17-40mm has one unique advantage in this roundup: unlike the EF-S models, it can also be used on full-frame bodies like the EOS 5D. So if you upgraded to a full-frame body in the future, you could still use the lens – and enjoy its full coverage too. In contrast, Canon’s EF-S lenses cannot be used on full-frame bodies.



Support this site by checking prices below or shopping via our affiliate stores


Canon EF-S 17-85 IS USM


 



 



All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2005-2014 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission.

/ How we test / Best Cameras / Advertising / Camera reviews / Supporting Camera Labs