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Nikon 17-55mm f.28 DX lens vs. Canon EF-S 17-55 mm f2.8 IS USM

Luis Lucero , Jun 18, 2007; 05:13 a.m.

I'm new to photo.net forums, and I'm very pleased by the level of the discussions I have read here. I have learn already a lot from other members questions and answers concerning digital photography. Therefore, I'm confident that you guys can help me on an important decision. I would like to know how the Nikkor 17-55mm f2.8 DX lens compares to the similar focal length Canon EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 IS USM, in terms of resolution, distortions, and other critical performance parameters, or any other considerations that in your opinion I should be aware of. I do not have any of those lenses at present time, nor any of the DSLR cameras to use those lenses either. After many years of practicing film photography as a dedicated advanced amateur in 35mm and various medium formats, mostly black and white with high quality equipment, and now closer to retirement, I'm thinking of "going digital" beyond the basic level of a "point and shoot". But I haven't decided yet between the Nikon and Canon DSLR cameras yet. I believe that learning of the differences between these two lenses, meaning the 17-55mm/2.8 zoom range from the two brands, will significantly add reasons to decide which way to go. Let's say, the Nikon D80 or Canon 30D roads. No offenses meant to Nikon or Canon enthusiasts, please. Thank you very much for any "light" on this matter.


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Rainer T , Jun 18, 2007; 05:31 a.m.

The following two tests might be interesting to read ...



... however, note, that the raw MTF numbers cannot be compared between the two systems (since two different cameras were used), but the general trend can be compared.

You'll find, that these two lenses are pretty much behaving the same ... except two points ... the Nikkor is better built, the Canon has image-stabilisation. The Nikkor is in Nikonland, what the Canon is in Canonland ... the best available standard-zoom for a crop-sensor DSLR.

Rather than just looking on these two lenses, I would take the D80 and the 30D in my hand and do a bit of playing and testing with them.

Tim Knight , Jun 18, 2007; 05:40 a.m.

Checking Photozone, they are basically the same, the Nikon score 4.1 out of 5 and the Canon scored 4.0 out of 5. Maybe you need to check out the reviews between the two cameras. Look at the whole package from manual control to flash units. Good luck, I am sure either unit would be a great camera/lens combo.

Elliot Bernstein , Jun 18, 2007; 07:09 a.m.

I would buy the camera that feels most comfortable in your hands and has all the features you want/need. And then get the lens. Consider the d200 as well - image quality is the same as the d80 but it has a few nice features that a well advanced photographer may need and appreciate.

Peter Hamm , Jun 18, 2007; 07:54 a.m.

For the most part, Canon and Nikon lens quality is a wash. Some Canons are better, some NIkons are better. I'd get the camera that you liked the controls better of, OR... I'd look at the lenses you want to get down the road, and base your purchase on that.

Brent Andersen , Jun 18, 2007; 09:02 a.m.

I agree with the above and have owned both lenses. Optically they're pretty close. The Nikon is much better built, but the Canon has IS. The Nikon is more money. They both focus close. Choose a system that will work for you and both Canon and Nikon offer a good selection of lenses. For what it's worth, right now I prefer Nikon's subframe cameras and lenses.

Sanford Edelstein , Jun 18, 2007; 09:42 a.m.

I haven't used either but my guess is that they are so close in performance that they shouldn't be the basis for your decision - camera feel is more important. Nikon can use the old manual focus lenses which was one of the deciding factors for me.

Patrick P , Jun 18, 2007; 10:27 a.m.

I read a few people complain the Canon lets dust in. The lenses are about the same size and weight but the Canon is a tiny bit smaller and lighter. IS is a big bonus for shaky hands. For the price of the Nikon lens (about 200 dollars more than Canon) I'd expect to have VR. Although you could argue at this wide angle VR isn't so important. As for the 30D vs D80, they are pretty equal. Although Canon tends to outperform Nikon at higher ISO.

Erik Loza , Jun 18, 2007; 10:31 a.m.

What all these guys have said ^^^^. Go to a camera store, physically handle the body of each you are looking at, then decide at that point. Guarantee you that it would be tough for most of us to tell which image was taken with which lens.

Shun Cheung , Jun 18, 2007; 11:00 a.m.

I consider the 17-55mm/f2.8 mainly an event-photography lens, i.e. weddings, parties, etc., although I also use it for landscape and travel. For event photography, your shutter speed is limited by people movement and normally you don't want to be slower than 1/30 sec anyway, and most people should be able to hand hold a 17-55 at 1/30 with reasonable results, especially on the wide end. VR would be a plus but IMO not a major improvement. For something longer such as 70-200, VR is a big help for indoor, low light situations where you cannot use a tripod.

One important issue to keep in mind is that the Canon is an EF-S lens and cannot be used in any one of the higher-end EOS 1D-family and 5D DSLRs, as the mirror will hit the rear-end of the lens. If you will always stay at the 30D level or below, there is no problem. If you ever plan to upgrade to a full-frame or 1.3x Canon body, any EF-S lens will be useless on those bodies. Whether Nikon will also go full-frame is not completely clear at this point. But any DX lens can be used on all high-end and low-end Nikon DSLR so far, and they can also be used on full-frame with serious vignetting.

Finally, I would check the build quality yourself. All high-end Nikon zooms have an all-metal barrel and the barrel does not extend much when you zoom. The consumer-grade Nikon zooms such as the 18-200 DX, 18-70 DX have a barrel that extends significantly when you zoom to the long end. The advantage is that the lens can be much smaller, but that extended barrel is vulnerable should you drop you lens. The first time I saw the Canon 17-55 EF-S, I was surprised that it also has that kind of extended barrel design.

Don't get me wrong, Canon makes excellent DSLRs and is clearly ahead of Nikon on the high end, but Canon has this semi-incompatible pro/consumer divide. Once you start getting EF-S lenses, you are on the consumer track. You certainly can jump later on, but you'll have some incompatible lenses.

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