Canon's EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 is the general-purpose zoom for anyone who loves to shoot portraits or work in low light; note as an EF-S model, it's not compatible with full-frame cameras. The constant f2.8 aperture doesn't come cheap, but it allows the lens to gather plenty of light and deliver nice blurred backgrounds. There's also quick and quiet USM focusing, along with Image Stabilisation. An ideal wedding and portrait lens for cropped bodies. It's also interesting to note the equivalent lens for full-framers, the 24-70mm f2.8, remains an unstabilised model, so this is one range where cropped-frame owners enjoy an advantage.

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Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM


Canon’s EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM is a premium zoom lens designed for EF-S bodies and announced alongside the EOS-30D digital SLR in February 2006. Boasting a constant f2.8 aperture throughout the range, it’s the fastest standard focal length zoom lens available for Canon EF-S mount digital SLRs. The lens also features Image Stabilisation to help combat camera-shake.

The EF-S 17-55mm is only compatible with EF-S mount digital SLRs, which at the time of writing consists of the EOS 300D / Rebel, EOS 350D / Rebel XT, EOS 400D / Rebel XTi, EOS 20D and EOS 30D models. Fitted to these bodies, the lens delivers an equivalent range of 27-88mm.


Featuring a USM focusing motor and Image Stabilisation, the EF-S 17-55mm clearly goes up against Canon’s existing EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM, and while the latter features a longer range and cheaper price, the new model boasts a much faster aperture, allowing very shallow depths-of-fields and improved low-light performance.

The optical design consists of 19 elements in 12 groups with two Ultra-Low Dispersion glass (UD) elements to eliminate secondary chromatic aberrations, along with two aspherical elements to avoid spherical aberrations at wider apertures.

Click here for the Canon EF-S 17-55mm video tour

In this in-depth review of the EF-S 17-55mm we’ll test its low-light capabilities and compare its performance against the EF-S 17-85mm, along with the budget EF-S 18-55mm model. To see how Canon’s premium L glass compares, we’ve also included lab results from Canon’s EF 17-40mm f/4.0L lens, which has the additional benefit of being compatible with full-frame bodies should you wish to upgrade in the future. All four lenses were tested using a Canon EOS 400D / Digital Rebel XTi.

NEW: For an overview of the headline features of this lens, check our Canon EF-S 17-55mm lens video tour.

Testing notes

Note the serial numbers for the 17-55mm, 17-85mm, 18-55mm and 17-40mm lenses were 16104232, 92001769, 9600520205 and 102834 respectively.

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