Canon EF-S 55-250/4-5.6 IS Lens Review
by Bob Atkins, July 2008
The EF-S 55-250IS is a
relatively new lens designed to supplement the EF-S 18-55IS "Kit Lens"
for the Digital Rebel line of DSLRs. Like the EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 IS,
the 55-250/4-5.6 IS uses Canon's new low cost IS system. Nevertheless,
Canon claims up to 4 stops of additional stability, which is as good as
(or even better than) lenses with Canon's traditional IS
control. Canon suggests that sharp images can be obtained at shutter
speeds as low as 1/15s.
Like the image stabilized EF-S 18-55IS, the EF-S 55-250IS seems to
be Canon's answer to low-cost DSLR bodies with stabilization built in,
which are currently being offered by Sony, Pentax and Olympus. With
those DSLR bodies a stabilized lens is not needed to make a stabilized
system, thus potentially lowering lens cost.
The EF-S 55-250IS has been designed to meet a low price by
the extensive use of plastics - even the lens mount is plastic. However,
the optics of the lens haven't been compromised too much, and in fact
the 55-250IS uses a special element of ultra-low dispersion (UD) glass
in order to minimize aberrations. The front of the lens rotates during
focusing, which can be inconvenient when using a polarizer.
The EF-S 55-250IS is designed for use only with small (APS-C)
sensor Canon cameras introduced after the Digital Rebel. It will not
physically mount on cameras with larger sensors (EOS 5D, EOS 1D(s)
series) and it will not mount on early APS-C DSLRs such as the EOS
D30, D60 and 10D. It cannot be used with any Canon or 3rd party TC,
nor can it be used with the original Canon extension tubes.
Despite the relatively low cost and plastic construction, the EF-S
55-250/4-5.6IS is optically pretty good. Sharpness holds up all the way
to 250mm. At maximum aperture there is quite noticeable vignetting and
this shows up quite clearly if, for example, you're photographing flying
birds against a blue sky. Stopping the lens down a stop or two
minimizes the vignetting, but that's probably not something you really
want to do if you're capturing action and want to keep the shutter
speed up. Vignetting can be corrected using Canon's DPP RAW conversion
software, in fact DPP can do it automatically during the conversion
process. It can also be corrected in JPEGs by many image editors
The 55-250mm range covers a variety of applications from
portraiture at the short end of the range to sports and wildlife work
at the long end. In terms of angle of view, the 55-250IS is the
equivalent of an 88-400mm lens on a full frame 35mm camera. When
paired with the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS, (compare prices) (review), you get two lenses,
which cover the whole range from 18mm to 250mm (29mm to 400mm in full
frame equivalent terms). In addition, both these lenses are small and
light and when paired with a camera, such as the
Canon Digital Rebel XSi (review), they make a very
Overall, I can certainly recommend this lens if you're looking for
a small, light, inexpensive telephoto lens for an APS-C DSLR. It
doesn't have quite the reach of the 70/75-300 zooms, but it matches
better with the EF-S 18-55IS kit lens, it's optically as good as or
better then the non IS 75-300 zooms - plus it has IS!
There are several alternative lenses which cover a similar focal
length range, but all are either significantly more expensive or lack
IS. The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM, (compare prices) (review), is a better-built lens, has
more telephoto reach, and can also be used on full frame cameras. It
doesn't show the vignetting that the 55-250IS does, but it's about
double the price. The Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM, (compare prices), is cheaper and
has a longer reach, but it lacks IS and I don't think it's as sharp
since it lacks a UD element. The Sigma 70-300/4-5.6 APO Macro is
interesting, it has 1:2 macro capability and has two SLD (super low
dispersion) elements. However, it lacks stabilization, which can be
very useful indeed for a handheld telephoto lens.
Where to Buy
The Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS, (compare prices), is
available from amazon.com. It's normally in stock and overnight
shipping is available.
Newcomers to the Canon line of DSLRs and lenses might like to take
a look at an overview of
the Canon EOS DSLR system.
|Focal Length & Maximum Aperture
||12 elements in 10 groups, including one UD-glass element
|Diagonal Angle of View
||27° 50'- 6° 15' (with APS-C image sensors)
||DC motor, gear-driven (front focusing design)
|Closest Focusing Distance
||3.6 ft./1.1m (maximum close-up magnification 0.31x)
|Max. Diameter x Length
||2.8 in. x 4.3 in./70 x 108mm
Canon 55-250IS Example Images
This image shows the degree of vignetting to expect when photographing
with the EF-S 55-250IS wide open at 250mm.