Review: The Canon 17-55 f2.8 IS USM

Review: The Canon 17-55 f2.8 IS USM

If there's one lens that stays on my camera most of the time, it must be the Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM. It's versatile, sharp, relatively light-sensitive, has great color and contrast and amazing image stabilisation.

I can keep it on my camera all day, and get a great variety of shots: it allows me to get establishing shots, close ups, and with the 3x crop mode on the 600D, it even allows me to get tele-shots and image stabilised macro shots. You can go from large depth of field wide-angle shots to nicely blurred backgrounds in seconds.

The image stabiliser allows me to do most of my shooting hand-held, which gives me great flexibility and speed in the kind of shots I make (quickly change from a low-angle close-up to a wide-angle shot) and without the bulk of a shoulder-rig or adjusting a tripod. I've found that bumping up the ISO just a little allows me to use the lens in most low-light situations as well. I always keep a 50mm f1.8 or 35mm f2 handy just in case, but haven't needed them upto now.

Another virtue of the lens is that it focuses quite close for a walkaround zoom, which allows you to do wide-angle close-ups or nice detail-shots when zoomed in. Of course, specialised lenses will get you even closer, but those are mostly primes. Having all these types of shots in just one lens, makes it incredibly useful.

Now that Canon's full frame offerings are becoming more affordable, I'm sure many more people will make the switch to full-frame. But looking at the lens-offerings for full frame cameras, there's no full-frame compatible lens that has exactly what the 18-55 f2.8 IS offers. Okay, there's the Canon 24-70 F2.8 L USM, surely a wonderful lens, but much heavier and it doesn't come with the image stabilisation that makes the 18-55 such a great lens for video.

The closest contender would be the Canon 24-105 f4 L USM: it has an even better range than the 17-55 and has IS. Drawbacks are that it has a constant aperture of F4, not F2.8 (which admittedly will be compensated by the increased light sensitivity of the larger sensor), it doesn't focus as close as the 17-55 and that it's bulkier, heavier and pricier.

Of course, going full frame has may other benefits than just the lens choice, but anyone with a crop body and a 17-55 f2.8 IS USM can rest assured that he or she has one of the most versatile and top-notch lenses available for crop cameras, a lens for which there isn't an exact equivalent in full-frame territory.

Update: sadly, Canon doesn't provide the Canon EW-83J Lens Hood with it, but because of the large diameter of the lens, I highly recommend getting one.

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