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

By Cory Disbrow on September 10th, 2012   |    Posted in:  Camera Gear   |    3 Comments

Happy Monday everyone! Today, I’ll be reviewing for you the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens for Canon DSLR Cameras thanks to our friends and partners over at Kingdom Camera Rentals!

As you probably know by now, I don’t provide MTF charts and show 100% samples to show sharpness, fringing, yada yada yada. I like to talk about how I feel the lens handles, and how it actually performs in the field. That said, let’s get started!

Before starting this review, let me make it very clear that this lens falls in the EF-S line of Canon gear. This means that it only works on APS-C cameras, like the 7D, 60D, or Rebel series cameras. If you shoot with a 5D or 1D series camera, this lens is not compatible with your system.

Build Quality

This lens has a very nice feel to it. Many have described it as a “L lens in disguise”. While I won’t go that far, I will say that it is built of a very high quality, much nicer than any other EF-S lens that I have used before. The zoom and focus rings turn smoothly, the AF/MF and IS switches are solid and don’t feel cheap, and the lens certainly feels like it can be a workhorse lens for someone shooting on a crop body.


- The first pro I can think of is the focal length. 17-55mm on a crop body is pretty much the perfect general walk around lens, at an effective focal length of 27-88mm. This is very close to the standard 24-70mm range that many full frame users work as their general purpose lens. You can go from shots that are quite wide..

…to shots that are very tight.

This makes this a very versatile lens.

- Next on the list of pros is the built in Image Stabilization (IS). Having this is huge in my opinion. I know there is an argument that if you are shooting at a wider focal length that you shouldn’t need IS. I call shenanigans on that. I have naturally shaky hands, and having IS saves me in many situations, and helps me get the shot I need, no matter what focal length I’m shooting at. Using the IS can also allow you to shoot with lower shutter speeds handheld, which can keep you ISO down. When shooting on a crop camera that may not handle noise as well as a full frame camera, this is very important. IS for the win.

- Another huge plus for this lens is the fact that it has a maximum aperture of f/2.8 all the way through the full set of focal lengths on the lens. F/2.8 can really help on dark rides, in any low light situation, and can also provide beautiful shallow depth of field, with lots of creamy, smooth bokeh not normally found on a lens made specifically for a crop sensor camera. Take this shot for example.



- The biggest con I can think of for this lens is not a fault of the lens, but the manufacturer, and that is price. For an EF-S lens, this puppy is expensive, clocking in currently at $1179. Ouch.

- Tying into the price being so high for an EF-S lens, if you plan on someday upgrading to a full frame sensor, this lens will no longer be compatible with your system. And with the new Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 Mark II lens out, prices on the original Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L are coming down, both new and used.

- Again leading back to price, if both this lens and the Canon 24-70 f/2.8′s are out of your price range, the Tamron AF 28-75mm f/2.8 is a MUCH cheaper option, without sacrificing much in quality. It doesn’t have IS, but it is f/2.8 throughout the whole range, takes very sharp images (especially on a crop), and will also work on a full frame.

Sample Images


The Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM is a wonderful lens that is very versatile and takes very sharp images. It really is a workhorse for the crop sensor family of cameras. But, that is its biggest limitation in my eyes. With the price of full frame cameras and lenses coming down all the time, it would seem to make sense to invest in glass that you will be able to use after making the jump to full frame. That said, if you are perfectly content with shooting crop sensor bodies for a long time, this lens is a great investment for you, and is a lens you will certainly enjoy in all your photographic uses, not just a trip to Disney.

Visiting WDW Soon?
Rent this lens from Kingdom Camera Rentals!

We recommend renting through Kingdom Camera Rentals, who were kind enough to allow me to play around with this fun piece of glass for a while. If you go through them and use the code “DPB“, you’ll save 20%!

The folks at Kingdom Camera Rentals have many great lenses, camera bodies and accessories available for you rent while on your Walt Disney World vacation. The best part is they will deliver and pick up the gear from you directly at your hotel. You don’t need to worry about packing the gear when traveling or shipping it back, they take care of all of that!

Check out for more information or give them a call, they are great to deal with and very knowledgable. Be sure to tell them you came from Disney Photography Blog or use the promo code DPB when ordering online to SAVE 20% on your order!

Purchase this lens

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  1. Dana   |   Sep 10, 2012

    Great review! I bought a used tamron 17-55 f2.8 about 3 months ago before taking a month-long cross-country road trip. On my road trip, I also brought my Tamron 28-300, a Tamron 60mm and a Tokina 10-17mm fisheye. Let me tell you- that 17-55 was on my camera 95% of the time! It’s definitely a great all-around lens and something I wish I had invested in sooner! Now if they’d only come out with a 17-75 f2.8 I’d be in heaven!

  2. Angela   |   Sep 10, 2012

    I’ve been thinking about getting this lens for a while. I’m also going to get the 5D in the future, so I’m not sure. Thanks for the great review. I guess I need to figure out what I’m going to do.

  3. Lenise @ Kingdom Camera   |   Sep 10, 2012

    Great review on this lens Cory! I agree, the IS is a definite plus. The bokeh you can get with this lens is great. I like your pictures so much, I’m taking this with me next time!



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