Canon 55-250mm IS
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DEAL: Previous model 55-250mm IS, refurbished for $160. Same great optics!
NEWER: Canon 55-250mm STM.
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.
As an EF-s lens, it will only work on Canon's APS-C cameras.
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. bigger.
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.
12 elements in 10 groups.
A UD glass element to reduce chromatic aberrations (color fringes and halos).
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.
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.
3.6' (1.1m) at all focal lengths.
Maximum Reproduction Ratio
Angle of View
27.7º - 6.25º diagonal.
f/4 - 5.6.
2.6" (70mm) diameter x 4.3" (108mm) when set to 55mm.
Gets longer at longer focal length settings.
13.785 oz. (390.85g) actual measured.
Rated 13.75 oz. (390g).
2013 October: $299.
Box, Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS II.
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 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.
You have to move a switch on the lens, by your thumb.
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.
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, 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 (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.
The color balance of this 55-250 seems the same as my other Canon EF lenses.
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.
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.
© 2013 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.
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.
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:
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.
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.
The 55-250 gets so close that I doubt you'll ever need a dedicated macro lens.
At close-focus distance at 250mm at f/8.
It's super-sharp; here's a crop from a 18MP image at 100%:
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!
Rear, Canon 55-250. enlarge.
The Canon 55-250 IS is all plastic, except for electrical connections and the glass.
Painted on front plastic ring.
Moisture seal at mount
Laser engraved into the bottom of the black plastic lens barrel near the mount.
Noises When Shaken
Very mild rattling.
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:
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.
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.
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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