Summary

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 17-55mm gallery, taken with Canon EOS 350D / Rebel XT

Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM
Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0L USM
Canon 17-85mm telephoto uniformity test
Canon 18-55mm telephoto uniformity test
Canon 17-40mm telephoto uniformity test
17-85mm EF-S at 85mm f5.6
Mean corner fall-off: 77.5%
18-55mm EF-S at 55mm f5.6
Mean corner fall-off: 83.8%
17-40mm EF L at 40mm f4
Mean corner fall-off: 82.2%

The following images were taken with the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM lens using a Canon EOS 350D / Rebel XT digital SLR. Each image was recorded using the 350D / Rebel XT set to Evaluative metering, Large Fine JPEG mode and Parameter 1. The individual file size, exposure mode, shutter speed, aperture, ISO and lens details are listed for each image.

The crops are taken from the original files, reproduced at 100% and saved in Adobe Photoshop CS2 as JPEGs with the Very High quality preset, while the resized full images were made in Photoshop CS2 and saved with the High quality preset. The three crops are typically taken from far left, central and far right portions of each image.

Landscape: 3.52MB, Program, 1/250, f8, ISO 100, 17-55mm at 21mm (equivalent to 34mm)

Canon 17-55mm lens at 21mm f8Canon 17-55mm lens at 21mm f8 lower left cropCanon 17-55mm lens at 21mm f8 middle right cropCanon 17-55mm lens at 21mm f8 middle right crop

This landscape shot, taken at 21mm f8, proves the EF-S 17-55mm is perfectly suited to everyday photography. As the crops illustrate, the field is sharp and detailed across the frame.

Portrait: 2.03MB, Aperture Priority, 1/3200, f2.8, ISO 100, 17-55mm at 55mm (equivalent to 88mm)

Canon 17-55mm lens at 55mm f2.8Canon 17-55mm lens at 55mm f2.8 bottom middle cropCanon 17-55mm lens at 55mm f2.8 middle right cropCanon 17-55mm lens at 55mm f2.8 lower right crop

This example, taken with the lens zoomed-into 55mm and wide open at f2.8 is pin sharp at the point of focus and nicely blurred with a pleasing bokeh at the background.

Opened to f2.8 and zoomed-in, the depth-of-field is very small, as illustrated by the first crop where the sleeve is already out of focus.

Note: vignetting will be visible at f2.8, especially with backgrounds like this. See our labs results for more.

Macro: 2.04MB, Program, 1/6, f2.8, ISO 100, 17-55mm at 55mm (equivalent to 88mm)

Canon 17-55mm lens at closest focusing distance

Canon 17-55mm lens at closest focusing distance left crop

Canon 17-55mm lens at closest focusing distance middle cropCanon 17-55mm lens at closest focusing distance right crop

The image stabilisation features of the EF-S 17-55mm allow you to take shots under very dim conditions.

This macro shot was taken zoomed-in and as close as the lens could focus, but even at an exposure of 1/6, any camera shake has been eliminated.

Again with the aperture wide open, the lens enjoys a very small depth of field, as seen here by the edges of the bottle, already becoming soft.

Action: 3.04MB, Manual, 1/100, f2.8, ISO 1600, 17-55mm at 21mm (equivalent to 34mm)

 

Canon 17-55mm lens at 21mm f2.8

Canon 17-55mm lens at 21mm f2.8 lower left crop

Canon 17-55mm lens at 21mm f2.8 upper middle cropCanon 17-55mm lens at 21mm f2.8 middle crop

This photo of a snowboarder demanded the low-light benefits of the 17-55mm. Even with the 350D set to 1600 ISO there wasn’t enough light for a normal lens to deliver a balanced exposure with the popup flash.

By opening the 17-55mm to f2.8 though, there was sufficient light gathered to capture this shot with the popup flash. Note while the lens can focus quickly, we manually focused on a fixed point.

Also note the relatively low noise levels of the 350D even at its maximum of 1600 ISO.

Night: 3.38MB, Manual, 30 seconds, f2.8, ISO 1600, 17-55mm at 17mm (equivalent to 27mm)

Canon 17-55mm lens at 17mm f2.8 Canon 17-55mm lens at 17mm f2.8 upper left cropCanon 17-55mm lens at 17mm f2.8 middle cropCanon 17-55mm lens at 17mm f2.8 lower right crop

The bright f2.8 aperture of the 17-55mm will also appeal to astro-photographers with EF-S bodies. This 30 second exposure of the Southern Milky Way was taken with the lens zoomed-out to 17mm and with its aperture wide open. The 350D was set to 1600 ISO.

There’s some trailing due to the exposure time, but the stars are impressively sharp with only a little coma affecting bright points at the corners.        

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