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Canon EF-S 55-250mm F/4-5.6 IS Lens Review
Tested with the Canon Rebel T3i SLR

Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS zoom lens with Canon Rebel T3i SLR body

March 5th, 2011: The Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6G IS telephoto zoom is designed to be the ideal complement to the standard EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II wide-angle zoom lens, the same lens that is sold in a kit with the Canon Rebel T3i SLR.

The Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS zoom lens provides users with an affordable way to achieve telephoto zoom focal lengths from 88mm to 400mm (35mm equivalent). The telephoto capabilities of the Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS zoom provides the benefits of longer focal lengths for capturing distant subjects, such as at athletic events, family gatherings and vacations.

The Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS zoom incorporates Canon's Optical Image Stabilization system which provides up to four stops of correction to help create blur-free images while shooting handheld or in challenging lighting conditions. In other words, if the slowest shutter speed you could formerly hold a 250mm lens steadily was 1/250th of a second, with Canon's 4-stop stabilization correction, you could hand-hold at shutter speeds as slow as 1/15th of a second.

Automatic panning detection automatically turns off the Image Stabilizer in either the horizontal or vertical direction when following moving subjects.The EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS also employs a Canon UD (Ultra-low Dispersion) lens element to help suppress the effects of secondary chromatic aberrations (colour fringing).

The compact telephoto Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS zoom lens has a manufacturer's recommended selling price (MSRP) of $299.95 in the US, and $359.99 in Canada (dealers are free to sell for less).

•  Canon EF-S 55-250mm F/4-5.6 IS Telephoto Zoom Lens: Major Features
•  Canon EF-S 55-250mm F/4.5-5.6 IS Zoom Lens: Sample Images

Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS telephoto zoom lens front lens view
The Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS uses 58mm size filters

Canon EF-S 55-250mm F/4-5.6 IS Zoom: Major Features

  • High Zoom Ratio Lens: Equivalent to a focal length of 88-400mm in the 35mm format (when used on Canon EOS cameras compatible with EF-S lenses)

  • 4-stop Image Stabilizer: Canon’s latest optical Image Stabilizer (IS) technology provides up to 4-stop compensation for image blur caused by camera shake and slow shutter speeds. Photographers normally shooting handheld at 1/250 sec can switch on IS to obtain a similarly steady and blur-free result with a shutter speed of just 1/15 second.

    The inclusion of automatic panning detection makes it easier for photographers to track wildlife and other moving subjects. To ensure consistently accurate results at all zoom positions, the IS system has been optimised for the specific focal length range of the lens. Since the IS system is based within the lens, the results are visible through the viewfinder when framing the image.

  • Appealing background blur: The Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS zoom lens incorporates a circular aperture. This helps create an even background blur when depth of field is minimised, giving photographers more creative options for portraiture and similar types of photography.

  • Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS zoom lens at 55mm focal length   Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS zoom lens at 250mm telephoto position
    55mm field of view (FOV)
    88mm FOV with Rebel T3i SLR
    250mm field of view (FOV)
    400mm (FOV) with Rebel T3i SLR

  • Super Spectra coatings: Employs Canon’s patented Super Spectra coatings to suppress flare and ghosting – more prone to occur with digital cameras due to reflection off the image sensor. By increasing light absorption, coatings reduce reflections off lens element surfaces to deliver crisp, undistorted images with natural colour balance.

  • E-TTL II flash integration: The lens transmits distance information to the E-TTL II flash system of all current model digital EOS cameras, improving flash exposure metering when used in conjunction with Canon’s range of EX Speedlite flash units.

  • UD Lens Element: Minimises chromatic aberrations that could otherwise cause reduced contrast and colour fringing.

  • Close Focus: Minimum focus distance down to 1.1 meters from the subject.

  • Rounded 7-blade diaphragm: renders more natural appearance of out-of-focus image areas.

  • The Canon EF-S 55-250mm F/4-5.6 IS lens is designed as a reasonably priced telephoto zoom lens dedicated for use with Canon APS-C format SLR camera's like the Canon Rebel T3 and the T3i. The lightweight and compact zoom lens weights 390 grams and measures 70 x 108mm (maximum diameter x length).

    One of the factors contributing to the lighter design of the EF-S 55-250mm IS telephoto zoom is that the lens features a polycarbonate lens mount. Manufacturer's have been making lenses with non-metal lens mounts for years, and all in all we see little cause for concern, especially since the lens is relatively lightweight as a whole and intended for more casual shooters who are less likely to make frequent lens changes.

    Although the Canon EF-S 55-250mm F/4-5.6 IS telephoto zoom is designed to be light and portable, the lens still provides a solid feel when attached to a camera like the Canon Rebel T3i SLR.

    In terms of ergonomics, the zoom ring is located in the middle of the lens slightly below the front activated manual focus ring. The Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS offers a fairly wide manual focus ring and the zoom ring is also easy to operate.

    The Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS zoom incorporates Canon's optical image stabilization (IS) technology allowing for hand held shooting at up to 4 stops faster than would normally be possible without the use of a tripod.

    Two switches are found on the side of the lens. The 'AF / MF' switch offers control over autofocus or manual focus operation, and the second switch is used to activate or turn off the optical image stabilizer feature. When using a tripod, the IS feature should be turned off.

    Even though the Canon EF-S 55-250mm telephoto zoom does not incorporate an ultrasonic motor (USM) for faster and quieter focusing like many other Canon lenses, we found that the lens did a pretty good job in terms of the time it took to focus on the subject (based on our tests using the lens with the Canon Rebel T3i SLR).

    Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS zoom lens at 250mm with the Rebel T3i SLR
    Taken with Canon EF-S 55-250mm F/4-5.6 IS zoom at 250mm focal length
    (400mm equivalent in 35mm terms) at 1/2000 sec F/5.6, 800 ISO

    With respect to the optical qualities offered by the Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS telephoto zoom, the lens provides a pleasant bokeh (out of focus background detail) thanks to its 7-blade rounded diaphragm, while some vignetting (darker image corners) may occur when shooting at the upper telephoto end with the aperture wide open at F/5.6 (vignetting is kept to a minimum at F8 and above).

    In general, we found the Canon EF-S 55-250mm F/4-5.6 IS zoom delivered very decent sharpness throughout the focal range when coupled with the Canon Rebel T3i SLR.

    Lens distortion is generally well handled for this type of consumer oriented lens, with some pincushion effects visible in the upper telephoto zoom range. Ghosting and flare is also well controlled for this type of a lens, although when shooting under bright sun and backlight conditions we would recommend using a lens hood.

    The Canon EF-S 55-250mm F/4-5.6 IS zoom does not come supplied with a lens hood or a storage pouch case. Canon does manufacture an optional ET-60 dedicated lens hood.

    The filter diameter on the Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS zoom is 58mm, which is a common size, so finding filters to use with this lens is easy and relatively inexpensive compared to buying filters for larger diameter lenses.

    Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS zoom lens side view

    Canon EF-S 55-250mm F/4-5.6 IS Zoom Review Conclusion:

    In terms of general optical performance the Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS zoom offers good value for the money. The lens is compact and light weight making it a good choice for hiking and traveling.

    Although the lens does not focus as fast as some other lenses in the Canon lineup, the EF-S 55-250mm IS zoom will serve its Canon APS-C format SLR user target audience of family and travel photographers well at a reasonable price.

    While also not ideal for fast action and low light photography, you can get some decent results from the EF-S 55-250mm IS zoom in these situations with a little practice focusing, and making use of the higher ISO settings on your camera to allow for a faster shutter speed to minimize potential subject blur.

    For fast action and indoor sports photography and above par image quality, we would recommend considering the higher end Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L EF IS II USM telephoto zoom lens, although at a very significant price point premium.

    To help decide if the Canon EF-S 55-250mm F/4-5.6 IS telephoto zoom lens is right for you, check out our image sample gallery below. See the latest US deals on the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS zoom lens Compare Canadian prices here.

    EF-S 55-250mm IS Zoom Lens Sample Images Using the Canon Rebel T3i

    Canon EF-S 55-250mm F/4-5.6 IS Zoom Specifications

    Focal Range 55-250mm (88-400mm equiv. in 35mm terms with APS-C type sensor)
    Maximum Aperture F/4
    Minimum Aperture F/22
    Format Canon APS-C Format Cameras
    Maximum Angle of View
    (APS-C format)
    Minimum Angle of View
    (APS-C format)
    Maximum Reproduction Ratio 0.31x
    Lens Elements 12
    Lens Groups 10
    Optical Image Stabilization Yes up to 4 stops compensation
    Diaphragm Blades 7
    UD Lens Element Yes
    (Ultra Sonic Motor)
    No (DC micro motor)
    Minimum Focus Distance 3.6ft.(1.1m)
    Focus Mode Auto / Manual
    Filter Size 58mm
    Dimensions 70 x 108mm (Diameter x Length)
    Weight 390 grams
    Optional Accessory ET-60 Lens Hood

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