Review Canon EF-S 55-250 mm f/4-5.6 IS mk2 & Canon 650D (C APS-C)
In early 2007, the Canon EF-S 55-250 mm IS lens was released. This compact and inexpensive lens is a surprisingly light telephoto zoom lens that offers additional built in image stabilization. The image stabilization has “automatic panning detection”, which means that the image stabilizer works in one direction only as soon as the camera is following a moving subject. Because the lens is equipped with an EF-S mount, it only fits cameras with an APS-C sensor, like the Canon 60D or the Canon 600D.
In mid 2011, the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II appeared, with identical specifications in comparison with the first version. According to Canon, the design of the Canon 55-250 mm housing has been improved. This lens is sold separately, but is also often sold as a kit lens with a camera like the Canon 650D. What has the Canon 55-250 mm IS mk2 to offer us? Is there a difference in image quality compared to the first version?
The 5x zoom range of the Canon 55-250 mm has a viewing angle corresponding to the viewing angle of a 88-400 mm zoom lens on a camera with a full frame sensor. The large zoom range and long focal length of the Canon 55-250 mm lets you focus on details which you would not easily distinguish with the naked eye. You don’t see a heron in the image on the left, made with a focal length of 55 mm, whereas you won’t miss the heron in the image at the right, made with a focal length of 250 mm. Although the Canon 55-250 mm is not a very fast lens, the built-in image stabilization ensures that you still can take sharp pictures in low light. This makes it an ideal lens for many applications where you want to apply a telephoto lens, such as nature photography or sports photography.
Construction and autofocus
The construction of this lens does not feel cheap. Or it must be that the lens is very light and the housing is made of plastic. Also the mount of the Canon EF-S 55-250 mm IS mk2 is made of plastic. The autofocus is very fast in good light, but in low contrast the Canon 650D and the Canon 55-250 mm IS mk2 begin to hunt. Both autofocus and image stabilization are switched on by a switch on the lens, which is more user friendly than using a menu.
The autofocus and image stabilization of the Canon 55-250 mm make significantly more noise than more expensive Canon telephoto zoomlenses, like the Canon 70-200 mm 2.8 or the Canon 70-300 mm L.
The Canon EF-S 55-250 mm f/4-5.6 IS II is supplied with a lens cap and dust cap. A lens hood (ET-60) and lens case (LP1019) are available as optional accessories.
Image stabilization Canon 55-300
To counteract vibrations, the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II features Canon’s Image Stabilizer technology, which should deliver 4-stop gain, according to the specifications. This means that four times slower shutter speeds can be used without a perceptible increase in image blur. Automatic panning detection automatically turns off the Image Stabilizer in either the horizontal or vertical direction when following moving subjects.
In our Canon 55-250 mm image stabilization test we realized a gain of about 2 to 3 stops by using image stabilization: an image taken hand held at a focal length of 250 mm with a shutter speed of 1/100 seconds without image stabilization is as sharp as an image made with a shutter speed of 1/13 seconds and image stabilization enabled. Both images are already less sharp than the image taken using a tripod.
In-camera lens correction
This Canon 55-250 mm review is done using a Canon 650D, with in-camera correction for vignetting and chromatic aberration. The graphs below are the results of jpg files created with the Canon 650D.
Users of RAW files don’t have to worry about higher vignetting and chromatic aberration. Our test shows that there’s little difference between RAW and JPG files:
Vignetting Canon 55-300
We used Imatest to determine the amount of vignetting in the Canon 55-250 mm jpg files and RAW files. The lens correction on the Canon 650D test camera was used for jpg files. But the vignetting is low and there is no difference between the average vignetting in corrected jpg files and uncorrected RAW files.
In practice, you will have little trouble with vignetting using the Canon 55-250 mm lens, whether you enable in-camera correction or not. At full aperture the vignetting is just visible if you take a picture of a solid blue sky.
Vignetting measured in this Canon 55-250 review is slightly better than the vignetting in reviews on other websites of the first version of this lens. Possibly Canon made a small improvement, but this difference may have other causes (different copies tested or differences in the test methods).
The image of a blue sky below was made with a focal length of 55 mm and the image of a flock of geese on a gray day, taken with a focal length of 250 mm.
At a focal length of 55 mm, the Canon 55-250 mm IS mk2 shows slight barrel distortion. Pincushion distortion occurs above 100 mm, but will be visible in critical cases, like architecture photography, only. However, in most cases, the distortion of the Canon 55-250 mm IS mk2 will not be visible.
Yet it is a pity that Canon doesn’t offer include in-camera correction of distortion in the lens correction menu of Canon EOS cameras.
For shots taken at large aperture, a circular aperture diaphragm creates smooth, even background blur which is ideal for emphasizing subjects when they are photographed against a background that may distract attention.
The image on the right shows test setup shot with a focal length of 250 mm. If you zoom to a focal length of 55 mm, the perspective is much less compressed.
Below is an image area of the picture is taken at a focal length of 55 mm.
Canon indicates that the lens elements of the Canon 55-250 mm IS mk2 feature Super Spectra coatings to eliminate internal reflections and flare. The “Super Spectra coating” absorbs light in the lens that is reflected by the image sensor or internal lens elements. Yet we encounter more visible flare and ghosting with this lens than with the more expensive Canon lenses like the Canon 70-200 mm or the Canon 70-300 L.
250 mm @ Canon 650D:
Canon EF 70-300 mm f/4-5.6L IS USM vs Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS mk2
Thanks to the high resolution of the Canon 650D, the Canon EF-S 55-250 mm IS mk2 offers a decent performance over the entire zoom range. At the shorter focal lengths it performs best. The sharpness of the Canon 55-250 mm IS mk2 wide open is at the edges slightly less than in the center. At a focal length of 250 mm also the center is soft, but stopping down 1 stop leads to a significantly sharper image.
With the much more expensive Canon L lenses you will make significantly sharper images. As an illustration you see above two crops of images made of a heron with the Canon 650D and Canon EF-S 55-250 mm (right) and the Canon 70-300 mm L (left).
The jpg files from the Canon 650D and the Canon 55-250 mm IS mk2 at all focal lengths showed no visible chromatic aberration. This is not surprising, since lens correction was enabled.
But even without lens correction, this lens shows little chromatic aberration. We have looked at the RAW files on screen. At aperture 4 – 5.6 there is – even at 100% magnification – no visible chromatic aberration present. At aperture 11, some chromatic aberration is visible. But this is easily corrected with photo-editing software.Note: There are, at the moment we publish this review, very few reviews available for the Canon EF-S 55-250 mm IS mk2 (version 2011). There is a large number of the older Canon EF-S 55-250 mm IS reviews (version 2007) on the internet. Since we have the impression that the mk2 version optically differs little with the first version, we provide here an overview including mainly reviews of the old version:
Conclusion Canon EF-S 55-250 mm IS review
- Fairly good optical performance at a very attractive price
- Light weight
- Built-in image stabilization
- Not a very fast lens
- Lower sharpness at 250 mm
- Both autofocus and image stabilization are noisy
In terms of price / quality, the Canon 55-250 mm IS mk2 has a lot to offer. If you’re looking for a cheap, compact, lightweight telephoto zoom lens with reasonably good optical performance, this is a good choice. Unfortunately, we haven’t tested the first version of the Canon EF-S 55-250 mm. But the vignetting we have measured in this review is lower than the vignetting in other reviews of the first version of the Canon 55-250 mm. Perhaps Canon made a small improvement here. But this difference may be due to other causes, such as different tested copies and / or differences in test method.
Anyone serious about photography with a telephoto lens, I would recommend to spend some more money and go for a heavier and more expensive lens like the Canon 70-200 mm f/4 or the Canon 70-300 L. In particular, the sharpness at the longer focal length may be an important consideration here. But a fast telephoto lens makes it also easier to focus in low light or to freeze a moving subject. In addition, the bokeh of fast telephoto lenses is more attractive.