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Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 DX
© KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Recommendations

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Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 AF-S

Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 AF-S (77mm filters, 26.5 oz./751g, 1.25'/0.36m close focus, about $1,425). enlarge. This free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this link directly to this lens at Adorama, at Amazon, at B&H or used at eBay (see How to Win at eBay). when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Thank you! Ken.

July 2015    Nikon Reviews    Nikon Lens Reviews   Other Reviews



Ideal for: Perfect for use on DX digital and film as a fast midrange zoom.

Not for: Won't work on 35mm or FX cameras, except at longer focal lengths.


Introduction       top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Recommendations

Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

I buy only from these approved sources. I can't vouch for ads below.

Introduced on 22 July 2003, this heavy professional lens was too good to be appreciated on the DX DSLRs of the time, which had no more than 6 megapixels.

Today, the much higher resolution of current DX cameras makes this lens much more relevant today than when it was new.

This is a excellent professional lens for DX cameras, and priced accordingly.

Nikon has made about 185,000 of these 17-55mm lenses as of 2011.

It has a fast f/2.8 aperture instead of Vibration Reduction (VR). It's better for moving subjects, because VR can't do anything to stop subject motion.

Flick the manual-focus ring at any time for instant manual-focus override. Moving the switch to MF is merely an optional autofocus lock-out.


Compatibility       intro     top

Everything works perfectly on every DX Nikon, and even on Nikon's cheapest digitals like the D40, D40x, D60, D3000, D3100, D5000 and D5100.


Use on FX and 35mm

On FX and 35mm cameras, at most zoom settings the corners turn black. Don't bother with this lens on full-frame cameras.

At the longest focal lengths it illuminates the entire FX field, but is never as super-sharp at the corners as you'd want from a $1,400 lens.

On DX as designed, of course it's always super-sharp.


Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 AF-S

Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 AF-S. enlarge.


Specifications         top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Recommendations


Name        top

Nikon calls this the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 17-55mm f/2.8G ED DX.

    AF-S and SWM: Silent Wave Autofocus Motor.

    G: Gelded for cost-reduction and removing compatibility with older cameras.

    ED: Magic Extra-low Dispersion Glass.

    DX: Won't work well on film or FX cameras.


    IF: Internal focusing; nothing moves externally as focused.

    Aspherical: Specially curved glass to give even sharper pictures.

    ∅77: 77mm filter thread.


Optics        top

14 elements in 10 groups.

Three of these are ED glass and three are aspherical.


Diaphragm        top

Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 AF-S

Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 AF-S at f/22. enlarge.

9 rounded blades.

Stops down to f/22.


Coverage        top

DX cameras only.


Focal Length        top


Shot on DX, it gives angles of view similar to what a 26-85 mm lens gives on an FX or 35mm camera.


Angle of View        top

79° ~ 28° 50' on DX.


Close Focus        top

1.25 feet

0.36 meters.


Maximum Reproduction Ratio        top



Hard Infinity Focus Stop?        top


You have to let the AF system focus at infinity.


Focus Scale        top



Depth-of-Field Scale        top



Infra-Red Focus Index        top



Aperture Ring        top



Filter Thread        top

77mm, plastic.

Does not rotate.

Moves in and out with zoom.


Size        top

Nikon specifies 3.4" (85.5mm) diameter by 4.4 " (110.5mm) extension from flange when zoomed to 40mm. It gets longer at other focal lengths.


Weight        top

26.505 oz. (751.45g), measured in 2011.

Nikon specified 26.6 oz. (755g) in 2003.


Hood        top

Plastic bayonet HB-31 hood, included. ($27 to buy separately.)


Case        top

Soft folding CL-1120 case included. ($15 to buy separately.)

A tube sock is about as useful, and easier to find in a dark bag.


Included        top

Snap-on 77mm front cap.

LF-4 rear cap, the newest one with the fatter lip to keep dust off the mount.

HB-31 hood.

CL-1120 case.


Quality         top

Lens made in Japan.

LR-4 rear cap: Made in Thailand.

LC-77 front cap: Made in Thailand.


Packaging        top

Box, Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 DX

Box, Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 AF-S.

Microcorrugated cardboard box.

Floppy case on top.

Hood in white cardboard sub-box below.

Lens held by two pieces of gray pulp-formed cardboard at top and bottom.

Lens in semi-translucent semi-clear polyethylene bag.

Paperwork slipped-in on the side of the lens.


Announced        top

22 July 2003.


Nikon Product Number        top



Price, USA         top

July 2015: $1,540 USA, $1,540 gray (see gray vs. USA), $450-850 used.

August 2011: $1,425 USA, $1,400 gray (see gray vs. USA), $600-1,300 used.

July 2003: $1,250, USA new.


Performance       top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Recommendations

Overall   Autofocus   Bokeh   Coma   Distortion   Ergonomics

Falloff    Filters   Focus Breathing   Lateral Color Fringes

Macro    Mechanics    Sharpness   Sunstars   Zooming


Overall       performance     top

The Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 AF-S is sharp, handy and tough. Distortion is ordinary.


Autofocus       performance     top


AF Speed

AF speed is normal, not particularly fast or slow.


AF Accuracy

AF on my D7000 was always perfect at every distance and every focal length, yay!


Manual Focus

Manual focus is great.

Just flick the focus ring with your middle finger at any time for instant manual focus.

You don't have to move any switches unless you want to.


M/A - M Switch

Nikon goofed. This switch is supposed to be labeled "A - M."

The "M/A" position means autofocus. It's called "M/A" because you also can focus manually simply by grabbing the focus ring in this position.

The "M/A" position means autofocus. It's called "M/A" because back in the old days, when Nikon had almost caught up to Canon who had been doing this for ten years before, Nikon was trying to show off that you could focus manually while in the AF position.

Paint over the extra M if you're easily confused.


Bokeh       performance     top

Bokeh, the character of out of focus backgrounds, not simply how far out of focus they are, isn't important at the short end because depth-of-field is so deep, and bokeh is very nice at the 55mm end.

If you look very closely to see it, bokeh isn't that good at the middle and wide end, but so what, very little is out of focus at those settings. If you want great bokeh, shoot at 55mm.


Coma       performance     top

I can't see any coma (saggital coma flare).


Distortion       performance     top

The Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 AF-S has the usual distortion as we expect in a zoom: strong barrel at 17mm, little to none around 20-24mm, and pincushion at longer than 24mm.

This can be corrected for critical use by plugging these figures into Photoshop's lens distortion filter. These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.

DX at 3m/10'

© 2011 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

*Some waviness remains.


Ergonomics (handling and ease-of-use)       performance     top

Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 AF-S

Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 AF-S. enlarge.

Ergonomics are easy. This is a smooth, heavy lens that feels great.

Zooming is very well spread out logarithmically along the zoom ring. The zoom ring is appropriately stiff for the amount of glass that's pumping in and out.

Focus is smooth, dry and undamped. It flicks with a fingertip.


Falloff (darkened corners)       performance     top

Falloff on DX is invisible at every setting.

I've exaggerated this by shooting a gray field and placing these on a gray background. There is so little falloff at middle apertures at 24mm and longer that it's not even visible with gray fields!


Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 G falloff on DX at infinity, no correction.


© 2011 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.



Falloff on FX

Don't use this lens on 35mm or FX, but if you do, here's what happens:


Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 G falloff on FX at infinity, no correction.


© 2011 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.



Filters, use with       performance     top

There is no problem with vignetting, even with combinations of thick 77mm filters.

The filter ring never rotates, with does move in and out with zooming.


Focus Breathing       performance     top

Of interest mostly to cinematographers focusing back and forth between two subjects, the image from the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 AF-S gets slightly smaller as focused more closely at the 17mm end, and has no change in size at the longer settings.


Lateral Color Fringes       performance     top

There are no lateral color fringes on the D3 or D7000, which corrects them automatically.


Macro       performance     top

Close-focus is pretty good.

Here's what you get at the closest focus distance at 55mm:

Nikon 17-55mm at Macro setting

Nikon 17-55mm at closest focus distance on DX.

It's sharp, too, even at f/2.8.


Mechanics and Construction       performance     top

Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 AF-S

Rear, Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 AF-S. enlarge.

The Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 AF-S is built well for 2011. It's mostly metal, with plenty of plastic.


Filter Threads




Plastic bayonet.


Hood Mount



Barrel Exterior



Focus Ring

Metal; rubber covered.


Zoom Ring

Metal; rubber covered.


Depth-of-Field Scale






Aperture Ring




Dull-chromed brass.




Zoom-ring settings are engraved and filled with paint.


Mounting Index Dot

Engraved white dot.


Identity Plate

Debossed metal, 18k gold filled.


Serial Number

Laser engraved onto bottom rear of barrel, near mount.


US Model Signified by

"US" prefix to serial number.


Rain seal at mount



Noises When Shaken

Moderately loud clunking.


Made in




The front pumps in and out for zooming, so a hit to the front of the lens could jam or damage the zoom mechanism.


Sharpness       performance     top

Warning 1: Image sharpness depends more on you than your lens.

Warning 2: Lens sharpness doesn't mean much to good photographers.

With those caveats, the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 AF-S is very, very sharp on a 16 MP DX camera.

It's super-sharp and contrasty at all apertures everywhere in the DX image, and only slightly less contrasty in the far corners at f/2.8.

The 17-55/2.8 DX is a very sharp lens on DX.


Sunstars       performance     top

With its rounded 9-bladed diaphragm, I doubt that the 17-55 will ever make any sunstars on bright points of light.


Zooming       performance     top

Zooming is firm, and very well spaced.

It takes two fingers to move the ring, and it's very easy to set a precise focal length. It's less easy to whack it quickly from one end to the other.


Recommendations       top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Recommendations

The Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 AF-S is a tough f/2.8 pro lens.

If you need a fast midrange zoom, it's the only lens I'd consider for DX cameras. I'd never use a Sigma or Tamron; they always feel so junky in my hands.

Personally, I shoot the 35/1.8 DX in low light, and pass on zooms in good light. If I do use a zoom, it's a lighter-weight 18-55mm, or longer-range 18-200mm VR.

I wouldn't bother with the hood. I'd leave it at home in the box for resale later.

We're all different, which is why Nikon makes so many different lenses. This 17-55/2.8 is a superb lens for anyone who needs a big, fast, tough midrange zoom for DX. For most uses, the all-plastic 18-55mm VR does the same thing for much less money.

Don't even consider the full-frame FX 16-35mm f/4 VR for use on DX; this 17-55mm lens is a much better idea on DX. You're wasting most of the performance of the 16-35 if you're only using it on DX; leave the 16-35mm for FX shooters.



I'd leave either a 77mm Nikon Clear (NC - UV) filter, or a 77mm Hoya Super HMC UV on the lens at all times. I would leave the hood at home.

If I was working in nasty, dirty areas, I'd forget the cap, and use an uncoated 77mm Tiffen UV filter instead. Uncoated filters are much easier to clean, but more prone to ghosting.


Help me help you         top

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Thanks for reading!



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


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August 2011