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Canon 55-250mm IS
EF-S II (2011-)

© 2013 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specs   Performance   Recommendations

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Canon 55-250mm IS II

Canon EF-s 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II (58mm filters, 13.8 oz./391g, 3.6'/1.1m close focus, about $300, works on Canon APS-C cameras only). I got mine at at Adorama, and you also can get it at Amazon.

My biggest source of support for this free website is when you use those or any of these links when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It helps me keep adding to this free website when you get your things through these links — but I receive nothing for my efforts if you buy elsewhere. Thanks for your support! Ken.

 

November 2013   Canon Reviews   Canon Lenses   All Reviews

DEAL: Previous model 55-250mm IS, refurbished for $160. Same great optics!

NEWER: Canon 55-250mm STM.

 

Introduction         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Recommendations

Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

This Canon 55-250mm IS II is one of Canon's most popular lenses because it's super sharp, focuses very close, has a perfect telephoto zoom range, has Image Stabilization for sharp hand-held photos in dim light, and is small, light and inexpensive.

You can pay more to get a lens that works better while being rained-on or blasted in a sandstorm while being beaten around by a news photographer, or that works on expensive full-frame cameras, but even if you pay more for something like a 70-200mm f/4 L IS, you'll have a bigger lens to carry around, it won't be any sharper, and it won't have as broad a zoom range! There are many reasons this 55-250 is among Canon's best selling lenses.

This 55-250 requires you to move a switch on the lens to get from auto to manual focusing; you can't just grab the focus ring.

The reasons you might want to pay more than twice as much for another lens with a more limited zoom range are if you shoot a 35mm or full-frame camera on which this lens won't work, if you need instant manual focus override (you have to move a switch to get to manual focus), or if the plastic lens mount isn't tough enough for you. Otherwise, this lens is sharp, light inexpensive and works great.

This new 55-250mm IS II lens has the same optics as the previous 55-250mm IS lens, with slightly different cosmetics.

 

Compatibility

As an EF-s lens, it will only work on Canon's APS-C cameras.

It will not work on 35mm cameras, it will not work on old 1.3x cameras, and it certainly won't work on full-frame digital.

 

Versions

The original version is recognized by its silver-colored focal length scale.

This newest version is marked "II" and is all black, with a silver trim ring, as shown in this review.

 

Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS II

Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS II. bigger.

 

Specifications         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Recommendations

Name

Canon calls this the Canon Zoom Lens EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II.

   EF: Electronic Focus. All modern Canon lenses focus with a motor in the lens.

   -S: Only works on newer, small (APS-C) DSLRs.

   IS: Image Stabilization, which means no tripod needed except at night. See Why IS Matters. Canon claims 4 stops.

   II: Second version.

 

Optics

12 elements in 10 groups.

A UD glass element to reduce chromatic aberrations (color fringes and halos).

Lead-free glass.

Pumper zoom; the front extends a lot as zoomed to longer focal lengths.

Front-group focus; the front rotates and extends slightly as focused more closely.

 

Diaphragm

Canon 55-250mm IS II

Front, Canon 55-250 IS II (EF diaphragm not visible).

7 rounded blades.

Stops down to f/22-32.

 

Optical Image Stabilizer

Rated for up to four equivalent stops of shake correction.

 

Close Focus

3.6' (1.1m) at all focal lengths.

 

Maximum Reproduction Ratio

1:3.2 (0.31x).

 

Focal Length

55-250mm.

On the APS-C cameras for which it is designed, it gives angles of view similar to what an 88-400mm lens would give on a 35mm or full-frame camera. See also Crop Factor.

 

Angle of View

27.7º - 6.25º  diagonal.

 

Maximum Aperture

f/4 - 5.6.

 

Lens Mount

Plastic.

 

Size

2.6" (70mm) diameter x 4.3" (108mm) when set to 55mm.

Gets longer at longer focal length settings.

 

Weight

13.785 oz. (390.85g) actual measured.

Rated 13.75 oz. (390g).

 

Included Accessories

Just caps.

 

Optional Accessories

ET-60 hood.

LP1019 pouch.     

 

Introduced

July 2011.

 

Price, USA

2013 October: $299.

Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS II

Box, Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS II.

 

Performance         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Recommendations

Overall    Autofocus    Bokeh   Breathing   Color

Coma   Distortion   Ergonomics   Falloff    Filters

Lateral Color Fringes   Macro   Mechanics   Sharpness

Stabilization

 

Overall     performance      top

The Canon 55-250mm IS II is optically superb and handles very well for a mostly plastic lens. The biggest negative is that the focus ring and filter thread rotate during autofocus.

It's a kit lens sold with many less expensive Canons, and it's excellent. There is no reason to pay more for a telephoto lens for a Canon APS-C camera.

If you can't get brilliant, sharp and colorful photos with this lens, you're doing something wrong.

 

Autofocus     performance      top

Autofocus is fast and quiet, making only a soft motorized sound as it focuses.

Video AF is limited by the camera, while regular AF is fast and quiet.

 

Auto/Manual Switching

You have to move a switch on the lens, by your thumb.

 

AF Speed

AF is fast, as Canons always are.

This 55-250 can focus from infinity down to 3.6 feet (1.1 meters) in less than a second.

 

AF Accuracy and Consistency

I saw no autofocus error on my Canon SL1.

 

Manual Focus

You have to move a switch, and then it feels plasticy — because it is. It works fine, but it's more work and doesn't feel as nice as lenses that cost five times as much.

 

Bokeh     performance      top

Bokeh, the quality of out-of-focus areas as opposed to the degree of defocus, is usually pretty good.

For the softest backgrounds, zoom to 250mm, get as close as possible and shoot at f/5.6.

 

Focus Breathing     performance      top

Focus breathing (the image changing size as focused) is mostly of interest to cinematographers who don't want the image changing size ("breathing") as the lens is focused among different subjects.

The image from the Canon 55-250mm IS gets bigger as focused more closely.

 

Color Rendition     performance      top

The color balance of this 55-250 seems the same as my other Canon EF lenses.

 

Coma     performance      top

Coma, or saggital coma flare, is when points of light in the corners turn into batwing-shaped blobs. This is often a problem with fast normal or wide lenses.

I see none in this lens; it's super sharp in the corners wide-open.

 

Distortion     performance      top

The Canon 55-250 II has no visible distortion.

For more critical use, use these values in Photoshop's Lens Distortion tool to remove the distortion. These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.

On APS-C at 10' (3m)

Correction factor

55mm
+1.5
70mm
0.0
100mm
-1.0
135mm
-1.5
200mm
-1.0
250mm
-1.0

© 2013 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

Ergonomics     performance      top

Canon EF-S 55-250 IS.

Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS II.

Ergonomics are swell for zooming, but balky for focus.

As covered above, the focus ruing and front of the lens rotate as autofocused.

The AF - MF switch falls right under your thumb, and you don't need it: just turn the ring at any time.

 

Falloff (darkened corners)     performance      top

All new Canons since late 2013 have both a lens profile and ability to correct this in-camera, so it's not likely to be an issue.

For users of older cameras, here is the falloff as seen with no corrections, a.k.a. correction for peripheral illumination DISABLED.

Even with no in-camera corrections, falloff isn't visible except wide-open at the long end. If it bothers you with an uncorrected camera, stop down to f/8, and it goes away.

I've greatly exaggerated what little there is by shooting a flat gray target and presenting it against a gray background:

 

Canon 55-250 IS II uncorrected falloff

Wide Open
f/5.6
f/8
55mm Canon 35mm f/2 IS falloff Canon 35mm f/2 IS falloff Canon 35mm f/2 IS falloff
100mm Canon 35mm f/2 IS falloff Canon 35mm f/2 IS falloff Canon 35mm f/2 IS falloff
200mm max. is f/5.6 -> Canon 35mm f/2 IS falloff Canon 35mm f/2 IS falloff
250mm max. is f/5.6 -> Canon 35mm f/2 IS falloff Canon 35mm f/2 IS falloff
       

© 2013 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

Filters, Use with     performance      top

The plastic 58mm filter threads are big enough that even thick or stacked filters won't cause any vignetting.

Go ahead, use any big, fat thick filter, and you'll still be able to add a second one, too!

It's easy to cross-thread the plastic threads, be careful.

Canon could have used a much smaller thread, but used 58mm for compatibility with other lenses so you don't need to duplicate your filters in different sizes. Therefore, even with several stacked filters you won't get any vignetting.

 

Lateral Color Fringes     performance      top

Today's Canon cameras correct for any that might be here.

On an 18MP Canon SL1 with its correction enabled, there are no visible lateral color fringes.

With the correction turned off, there are minor green-magenta lateral fringes at 55mm, none at 100mm, and minor magenta-green lateral fringes at 200mm and 250mm.

 

Macro     performance      top

The 55-250 gets so close that I doubt you'll ever need a dedicated macro lens.

Canon 55-250  IS Macro performance

At close-focus distance at 250mm at f/8.

It's super-sharp; here's a crop from a 18MP image at 100%:

Canon 55-250  IS Macro performance

Crop from above image at 100%, shot at f/8 on a Canon SL1. If this is 6" (15cm) wide on your screen, the full image would print at 35 x 52" (1 x 1.5 meters)!

The sparkles aren't noise; they are the texture of the watch crystal, face and bezel!

 

Mechanics     performance      top

Canon 55-250

Rear, Canon 55-250. enlarge.

The Canon 55-250 IS is all plastic, except for electrical connections and the glass.

 

Filter Threads

Plastic.

 

Hood Mount

Plastic.

 

Identity Ring

Painted on front plastic ring.

 

Focus Ring

Ribbed plastic.

 

Barrel

Plastic.

 

Moisture seal at mount

No.

 

Mount

Plastic.

 

Markings

Paint.

 

Serial Number

Laser engraved into the bottom of the black plastic lens barrel near the mount.

 

Date Code

None found.

 

Noises When Shaken

Very mild rattling.

 

Made in

Taiwan.

 

Sharpness     performance      top

Image sharpness depends more on you than your lens, and lens sharpness doesn't mean much to good photographers. It's the least skilled hobbyists who waste the most time blaming fuzzy pictures on their lenses, while real shooters know that few photos ever use all the sharpness of which their lenses are capable due to subject motion and the fact that real subjects are rarely perfectly flat.

This said, this Canon 55-250 is just about perfect. The only way to get anything other than a sharp picture is to have it out of perfect focus, shoot at f/11 or smaller where diffraction softens the image, shoot at higher ISOs where camera noise reduction softens images, or let the camera or subject move.

Hey, sorry to spare you endless boring charts, but with a lens this good, there's nothing to show other than sharp pictures under all conditions — unless you do something stupid.

The biggest detriment to sharpness will be a lack of proper vision and technique, never this lens. I bought mine directly from Adorama. I can't vouch for anything if you buy from a local store or chain where you never really know who's opened and played with your lens before you buy it. I never buy retail; too many risks, so why pay more?

There is no difference in sharpness at any focal length as you stop down to f/11 in any part of the image; it's super sharp all over at every setting on the 18 MP camera on which I tested it.

 

Canon's specified MTF curves:

Canon 55-250mm IS MTF
Canon 55-250mm IS MTF
MTF at 55mm.
MTF at 250mm.

Sharp-eyed nerds may notice that these are simply reversed from the MTF of the older 55-250mm IS; I suspect the 55mm curve is really the 250mm curve and vice-versa. They have the same optics.

 

Image Stabilization     performance      top

Canon claims four stops improvement. I didn't test that specifically, but I do know I had no problem getting sharp shots at 1/30 at the long end of the zoom range.

 

Recommendations         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Recommendations

This inexpensive Canon 55-250mm IS II offers exceptional optics in an inexpensive package, perfect for school and family sports shooting.

For the price, this Canon 55-250mm IS EF-s is my top lens suggestion for everyone on a budget who needs a tele lens for Canon digital. The older Canon 75-300mm telephotos without IS cost a little less, but since I know how critical IS is to sharp photos in real-world photography, I'd spend the little extra for this 55-250mm.

Even if IS is a mystery to you, the fact that this lens focuses so closely is another reason I can suggest it so strongly. Canon makes no junk, and hey, if you break the plastic mount and if Canon won't fix it under warranty (try first), you can buy another and still be out far less money than I paid for my one 70-200mm f/4 IS L.

 

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Thanks for reading!

 

 

Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

 

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Oct 2013