Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS Review

by admin on January 21, 2012

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS

The Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS telephoto zoom lens is designed for the consumer grade user who desires an affordable tool that offers Canon optical quality, a wide range of focal lengths and image stabilization at a reasonable price. The EF-S mount on this lens will only work on EF-S mount cameras.

The lens itself produces a reduced image circle that will not produce an acceptable image without significant vignetting on digital SLRs with a larger image sensor. The most sought after element of the EF-S 55-250mm lens is the image stabilization system. This lens is capable of shooting effectively in low light conditions down to shutter speeds of 1/15. Canon claims low light effectiveness and blur free images while shooting up to four stops lower than normal with similar lenses that are not IS equipped.

Despite having the optics that make IS available, the EF-S 55-250mm lens is surprisingly light and compact. Additionally, Canon strove to increase image quality in this value lens by including a UD optical element designed to reduce chromatic aberrations, thereby increasing image quality throughout the entire range of focal lengths the lens covers.

Overall, this lens is a decent performer for the price and makes a great complement for the beginner photographer who is happy with the stock lens that came with their current Digital Rebel series (or other EF-S mount) camera body and is looking to increase their photo shooting versatility.

The Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS is Canon’s cheapest telezoom with stabilization. It is also available in a double zoom kit with the entry-level DSLRs. This review is about the first version of the Canon EF-S 55-250mm. In July 2011 a new version came out. This was only a cosmetic update, the optical quality is identical so this review is valid for both versions.

People that are looking for a little more reach to bring distant objects closer or to take portraits, will like this lens. It offers decent image quality at an affordable price level.

Lens Specifications

Focal Length Range 55-250mm
Maximum Aperture f/4-5.6
Lens Construction 12 elements in 10 groups, including one UD-element
Diagonal Angle of View 27º 50’ – 6º 15’ (with APS-C image sensors)
Focus Adjustment DC motor, gear-driven
Minimum Focusing Distance 1.1m / 3.6 ft.
Maximum Magnification 0.31x
Filter Size 58mm
Max. Diameter x Length, Weight 2.8’’ x4.3’’, 13.8 oz. / 70 x 108mm, 390g
Aperture Blades 7 rounded aperture blades
Image stabilizer Yes, 4 stops

Whats in the Box

The lens comes in the usual Canon box. In the box you can find the lens, rear and front caps, a manual and a warranty card.Canon EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Lens

There is no lens hood included, if you want one, you will have to buy it separately. The original hood for this lens is the Canon ET-60, which can be found for approximately $20. There are also several third party options available at lower prices. A hood is important, not only to protect the lens but also to prevent lens flare.

Build Quality

The Canon’s EF-S 55-250 f/4-5.6 IS build quality is pretty decent. It is not comparable with L glass or other more expensive lenses, but it is a step up from the Canon EF-S 18-55 kit lenses. The lens is plastic built but feels quite solid. The focus and zoom rings are relatively smooth and we did not experience any lens creep when pointing the camera up or down. The manual focus ring is actually a real one, in contrast to the kit lens that has a small ring on the extending part of the lens. The focus ring and the front element rotate while focusing and the lens doesn’t feature full time manual focusing. This is a downside but understandable due to the price range the lens is in. The switches feel a bit cheap but still work perfectly after 2 years of usage.

You get a plastic lens mount. The lens is relatively light and plastic can easily cope with the weight of 13.8 oz. or 390g. A metal lens mount would be nice to have, but isn’t necessary and would only increase the selling price. It is not advised to lift the camera by grapping the lens, always take hold of the body, the plastic lens mount could break off.

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Rear View

Canon EF 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS Rear View

The lens has a small 58mm filter size. Filters of this size are relatively cheap. Since the front element rotates while focusing, the use of polarizers and gradual neutral density filters are a hassle

Canon EF 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS Front View

Canon EF 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS Front View

Size Comparison

The Canon EF 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS is a relatively compact lens. It is not much bigger than the Canon EF-S 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 IS kit lens.

Here you see the comparison with and without hood between, from left to right, the Canon EF-S 55-250 f/4-5.6 IS, the Canon EF-S 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 IS and the Canon 50mm f/1.8 II.

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Size Comparison

Size Comparison

Auto Focus

The lens features a gear-driven DC-motor. This is the same type of focusing motor as the Canon EF-S 18-55 kit lenses have. The lens does not feature full time manual focusing (FTM), therefore it is necessary to flip the switch from AF to MF when you want to use manual focus. If you don’t do this, you will damage the autofocus motor. The focus speed and sound is more or less comparable with the kit lenses. But if you compare it to lenses featuring an USM or HSM focusing motor, the AF is noisy and slow. If you take the price into account, the autofocus is good, it is accurate for non-moving subjects and fast enough. It does have some issues with keeping fast-moving subjects in focus when using continuous autofocus (AI Servo).

Aperture

The Canon EF-S 55-250 has a variable aperture of f/4 to f/5.6. You can find in the table underneath the maximum apertures at different focal lengths.

f/4.0 55-73mm
f/4.5 74-95mm
f/5.0 96-153mm
f/5.6 154-250mm

Image Stabilization

The lens features a 4 stop image stabilization unit. This means that you can get sharp images at a 16 time slower shutter speed than without image stabilization. The rule of thumb for determining the minimum shutter speed to get sharp pictures is 1/effective full frame focal length. If you use this lens at 250mm, your minimum shutter speed without IS would be 1/250×1.6 crop, so 1/400s. With the IS turned on, you can get a sharp image at 1/25s. I have personally also gotten many sharp shots at 1/15s zoomed out at 250mm. It depends on how stable your hands are. The image stabilizer is a huge advantage for photographing static objects.

Optical Performance

Sharpness

Sharpness will be assessed using 100% crops of unsharpened raw files of the Canon EOS 450D at 55mm, 100mm, 135mm, 200mm and 250mm and different apertures.

55mm

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Center Sharpness at 55mm

Center Sharpness at 55mm

The center is already quite sharp at f/4 but becomes noticeably sharper at f/5.6.

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Corner Sharpness at 55mm

Extreme Corner Sharpness at 55mm

The sharpness in the corner wide open is good but it improves when stopped down. The corner is at its sharpest at f/11.

100mm

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Center Sharpness at 100mm

Center Sharpness at 100mm

The center is already sharp at f/5 but becomes a bit sharper when stopped down.

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS at 100mm

Extreme Corner Sharpness at 100mm

The sharpness of the corner improves when stopped down, and is at its sharpest at f/11.

135mm

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Center Sharpness at 135mm

Center Sharpness at 135mm

The center is sharp enough at f/5 but becomes quite a lot sharper when stopped down. The center is at its sharpest at f/8.

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Corner Sharpness at 135mm

Extreme Corner Sharpness at 135mm

The corner performance increases when stopped down, but it isn’t tack sharp.

200mm

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Center Sharpness at 200mm

Center Sharpness at 200mm

The image quality at the center at f/5.6 is good, but improves a little when stopped down to f/8.

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Center Sharpness at 200mm

Extreme Corner Sharpness at 200mm

The corner performance increases when stopped down, but it stays relatively soft. It is at its sharpest at f/8.

 250mm

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Center Sharpness at 250mm

Center Sharpness at 250mm

The center is sharp at f/5.6 but becomes a bit sharper at f/8. At f/11 it becomes less sharp due to diffraction.

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Corner Sharpness at 250mm

Extreme Corner Sharpness at 250mm

The corner performance increases when stopped down, but it stays rather soft.

Chromatic Aberrations

Here you see a 300% crop of an image taken at 250mm. You can see some purple fringing. It may seem like the lens has issues with lateral chromatic aberrations, but don’t forget, this is a 300% crop! On the non cropped image you will barely notice any change.

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic Aberrations taken @ 250mm

Distortion

55mm

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Distortion

Distortion @ 55mm

The lens has some barrel distortion at 55mm but it is hardly visible. It is easy to solve in post processing.

100mm

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Distortion at 100mm

Distortion @ 100mm

The lens has a very small amount of pincushion distortion at 100mm but it is hardly visible. It is easy to solve in post processing.

135mm

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Distortion at 135mm

Distortion @ 135mm

The lens has a very small amount of pincushion distortion at 135mm but it is hardly visible. It is easy to solve in post processing.

200mm

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Distortion at 200mm

Distortion @ 200mm

The lens has a very small amount of pincushion distortion at 200mm but it is hardly visible. It is easy to solve in post processing.

250mm

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Distortion at 250mm

Distortion @ 250mm

The lens has a very small amount of pincushion distortion at 200mm but it is hardly visible. It is easy to solve in post processing.

Vignetting

55mm

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Vignetting at 55mm

Vignetting @ 55mm

Wide open there is a lot of vignetting but this nearly entirely disappears at f/5.6.

100mm

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Vignetting at 100mm

Vignetting @ 100mm

Wide open there is a bit of vignetting but it is barely noticeable and it entirely disappears at f/5.6.

135mm

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Vignetting at 135mm

Vignetting @ 135mm

At f/5 and f/5.6 there is a fair amount of vignetting. It is not noticeable anymore starting at f/8.

200mm

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Vignetting at 200mm

Vignetting @ 200mm

At f/5.6 there is a big amount of vignetting, the corners are pretty dark. It is not noticeable anymore starting at f/8.

250mm

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Vignetting at 250mm

Vignetting @ 250mm

The corners of the image are pretty dark at f/5.6 but this clearly improves at f/8 to become nearly perfect at f/11.

Flare

The flare is pretty well controlled in the 55-250mm lens. In this picture you have the light source in the top left corner. You notice a bit of flare, but the curtain behind stays clearly visible.

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Lens Flare

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS Lens Flare

Although the flare resistance is good, it is still advised to use a hood to prevent lens flare but also to protect the front element

Bokeh

Bokeh is the quality of the background blur. The rounder and less in focus the point of lights are, the better the bokeh is.

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Bokeh

Bokeh

As you can see, the points of light stay nice and round. This is due to the 7 rounded aperture blades. Of course you cannot expect the same background blur of a f/4-5.6 lens as of, for example, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II. This lens offers a much smaller depth of field at f/1.8.

Competitors

Canon EF-S 55-250IS Canon EF 70-300 IS Tamron 70-300 VC
Min. focal length 55 70 70
Max. focal length 250 300 300
Max. Aperture f/4-5.6 f/4-5.6 f/4-5.6
MFD 1.1m 1.5m 1.5m
USM or equivalent No Yes Yes
FTM No Yes Yes
Filter Size 58mm 58mm 62mm
Compatible with FF No Yes Yes
Image stabilization Yes, 4 stops Yes, 3 stops Yes, 4 stops
Size 2.8’’x4.3’’/70x108mm 3”x5.6”/76.5×142.8mm 3.21”x5.61”/81.5×142.7mm
Weight 13.8 oz./390g 22.2 oz./630g 26.98 oz./765g
Price ± $200 ± $470 ± $410±

Sample Photo

CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4-5.6 IS Sample Photo

Sample Photo

More Sample Pictures

Pro’s and Con’s

PRO’s CON’s
Sharpness in the center Vignetting at large apertures
Excellent price/performance ratio Autofocus speed and sound
4 stop image stabilizer
Good bokeh quality

More User Reviews

Conclusion

The Canon EF-S 55-250 f/4-5.6 IS is an affordable lens that offers an attractive focal length range that allows you to bring distant subjects a lot closer. Starting at 55mm, the lens is the ideal addition to the 18-55mm kit lens. The lens offers decent optical performance with good sharpness in the center wide open at all focal lengths. The lens pretty flare resistant and offers good bokeh thanks to the 7 rounded aperture blades.So if you are looking for an inexpensive lens that delivers decent optical performance in combination with an effective image stabilizer, this is the lens to get!

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