Customer Review

654 of 673 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Upgrading your lens for Rebel XTi? 17-85 USM IS vs 28-135 USM IS vs 17-55 2.8f USM IS vs 24-105 4.0f USM IS, January 8, 2008
This review is from: Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens for Canon DSLR Cameras (Camera)
Folks, I know you want it short. But I am covering quite a bit of information and condensed it so that you can get good information and are able to digest it in less than 5 min.

It is quite surprising how many people are being "tortured" with the question on which lens is the right lens when it comes to finding the perfect lens to upgrade the Canon XTi Rebel kit lens (18-55) or even for the Canon 40D (which is often sold with the 28-135 USM IS lens).
I read about 500+ reviews and many of them I found very interesting but really did not answer my question on what a good lens is for the Rebel XTi... and with good reasons because YOU have to know what you want or need and then make a call. Here were the criteria I used and I hope you can leverage from these:

1. I wanted a lens which has a great picture quality to have a true upgrade feeling from the Canon 18-55 kit lens (during day light that lens is actually very good and with its light weight is a great carry around lens - however in low light or for really nice portrait shots this lens has limitations not to mention its built quality)

2. I wanted a versatile "Walk Around" lens with good zoom range to cover most of the picture I take (landscape and portraits) in addition to my telephoto lens (70-300mm)

3. If possible a low weight lens - however image quality was a higher priority for me

4. I wanted a Canon lens (though there are very good alternatives from Tamron and Sigma - however they have some disadvantages but given the lower price worth considering)

5. I wanted an Image Stabilizer (IS) and a low noise focus motor, i.e. Canon's USM

Many people are looking for a great "Walk Around" lens to avoid changing lenses all the time yet at the same time want great picture qualities. So, your criteria may be different and therefore your choice certainly a good one may differ from mine.
As one disclaimer upfront - I am not going into the professional details, i.e. vignetting differeneces at different aperture values or zoom ranges - to make it simple for many readers in this field who just want to make a good decision to buy a great lens without going through the trouble of returning lenses.

You will find many reviews on the cropped camera lenses (EF-S) and still people often don't get it right. So, if you have a cropped camera like the Canon Rebel XTi or Canon 40D then the cropped factor is 1.6. In other words no matter what lens you put on these cameras you will get the following zoom ranges which are different from the product names for the lenses:
Canon Lens Min Zoom Max Zoom
17-85: 27.2 - 136
28-135: 44.8 - 216
17-55 f2.8: 27.2 - 88
24-105 f4.0 L: 38.4 - 168
Source: Canon's website

I went through the extra burden of testing all the lenses myself and not just rely on reviews. So, I went ahead and rented them for 1-2 days and then made up my own verdict so to speak. I also took pictures in similar conditions, looked at them on the computer and printed them out to compare the lenses:

1) The first upgrade lens from Canon which comes to mind is the EF-S 17-85 USM IS f3.5-5.6 lens. This lens would have been a great kit lens but did not meet my requirements for an upgrade lens. It has a very good zoom range and it is still light weight. But the image quality is not as sharp as I would like it to be. And if you commit to spend more money (like $500 for this lens) then you don't want to waste it by just getting a bit more zoom range and an Image Stabilizer.

2) The first lens I actually tried was the EF 24-105 f4.0 USM IS L (luxurious) lens from Canon and I was really happy about the image quality. I was very close to buy this lens but wanted to check out other lenses first. Following drawbacks for me: it is not a wide-angle lens which is useful for landscape shots or even travels shots when you can't afford walking back 5-10 feet. Plus a wide angel lens can give you a nice effect on the picture itself. Another drawback is the aperture value of f4.0 in low light. An aperture factor of f2.8 is faster in low light (the lower the value the larger the aperture - think the Iris of your eye is getting larger and therefore you can see better in low light) and with a running kid or pet at home that is a true advantage. However, with the Image Stabilizer this would not be a big issue. (For more advanced people you can stop down one step to get enough light into the lens in low light conditions but if the object is in motion that may be tricky.)
A big plus however is the option to use this lens for any non-cropped canon camera. However, I am ok with using the Rebel XTi and if I want to upgrade to another body later then the 40D would be a great way to go. So, I don't mind to buy EF-S lenses. The EF-S lenses have the advantage that they are generally lighter weight than the full frame lenses.

3) The EF 28-135 USM IS f3.5-5.6 lens has a great zoom range (44-216) but does not have a wide angle (basically anything less than 35mm). However, if zoom range is your top criteria then I'd get the 24-105 L lens without a doubt over this 28-135 lens. For example when you are in full zoom and you are not in bright daylight your pictures will not be as sharp. I tried this lens and the image quality is simply not as good as the 24-105 L lens or the 17-55 f2.8 lens. The 24-105 is also more solidly built. It is a lot of metal built with this lens and it is sealed against dust and water. However, if budget is a constrain to you then the Canon 28-135 lens is a better option for you and according to many folks out there considered to be a better choice than even the EF-S 17-85 USM IS lens.

4) The EF-S 17-55 f2.8 USM IS lens was the last lens I tested and chose over the other three lenses. First, my expectations toward a great image quality (like the 24-105 L lens) were fully met. This lens is using similar components like the L lenses (but it is not fully sealed like the 24-105 L lens is) and shoots extremely well in low light conditions. Plus for a f2.8 (main advantage is large aperture which is very useful for taking great shots in dim lights and faster than f4.0 lenses). Also this lens has less weight (640g) in comparison to the Canon 24-70 EF L f2.8 lens (950g). So, you get a great lens with an acceptable weight. Even the zoom range is fully acceptable to me on my Rebel XTi which comes to 27-88mm. I can take very good portraits shots (without hitting someone's nose with the lens if you will) and it has very nice blur as well (meaning a sharp face in the front and with a blurry background). The only drawback is a flare on some pictures at the bottom of the image when you take pictures using its built-in flash due to the larger lens diameter. However you can either put a better (external) flash light or use Photoshop to correct this issue. I am not a professional photographer and for me this is ok. If you are a professional photographer then you are most likely not as interested in this article anyways.

The bottom line is that for a true upgrade lens to your kit lens for the Rebel XTi I would recommend the EF-S 17-55 f2.8 IS USM lens. It is worth the investment. This type of lens along with any other L lenses from Canon will always keep its value and you can certainly sell this lens a lot easier if that is the final information you were looking for... ;)

I hope this article helps you in directing your decision on which lens to buy. If you are still not sure about what to do then I can only recommend testing the lenses of your choice in a store or ideally rent them or ask your buddies to lend you a lens for a few days.

Good luck and enjoy taking great pictures to treasure your memories!

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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 14 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 6, 2008 3:02:12 PM PST
Thank you very much for the information. I'm going to buy the lens you recommended.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 11, 2008 8:54:26 AM PST
F. Akerley says:
Is this lens concidered a wide angle lens???

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 22, 2009 12:48:13 PM PST
Cardopolis says:
Actually, anything wider than a 24mm (no crop factor) is considered ULTRA-WIDE by most lens makers.

Posted on Nov 29, 2010 12:43:17 PM PST
Jill Clardy says:
Thank you for your very informative and thorough review.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 9, 2010 11:26:13 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Apr 19, 2011 12:09:48 PM PDT
Max Richter says:
While I suppose it's possible that I'm mistaken, I'm fairly positive that EF-S lenses are specifically designed for 1.6x crop frame Canon DSLRs like the Rebels, x0D series, and 7D, and when on a crop body, their focal length is just what the name of the model suggests. (i.e. EF-S 17-55mm = 17-55mm, EF-S 17-85mm = 17-85mm, etc.) However, if you are using an EF lens on a cropped body, the 1.6x crop factor will apply, making an 85mm equal to about 135mm on a full-frame, etc.

If you have a full-frame camera, then EF-S lenses won't work on them, so forget about it. If you have a cropped-frame body and are using EF lenses, multiply 1.6 by the focal length on the lens, but if you're using EF-S lenses on your cropped-body, what you see is what you get.

Posted on Mar 23, 2011 10:53:23 AM PDT
Casp says:
Thanks for your time and effort in writing such a great review! Very helpful and Much appreciated.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 19, 2011 10:17:44 AM PDT
Nope. You still have to multiply by 1.6
The field of view has a 35 mm equivalent focal length of 27-88m

All lenses are marked in their focal length which is a physical property.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 20, 2011 4:37:29 PM PDT
Max Richter says:
What I believe that means is this:
The stated focal length is, as you said, a physical property, so 10mm is always 10mm.
However, to have the equivalent field-of-view I get with my cropped-frame DSLR and 10-22mm on a full-frame, you'd need a 16-35mm.
So I'm thinking you may have misunderstood what I was trying to say; while you have to multiply by 1.6 to get the 35mm equivalent, that only matters if you're trying to match the field-of-view you currently have with an APS-C body to what you'll have with a full-frame...

Posted on Nov 8, 2011 3:13:18 PM PST
C. Doré says:
Uwe, Thanks very much for your very informative review. I am now leaning towards the EF-S 17-55 f2.8 USM IS lens, but I have one reservation. I see you have had your EF-S 17-55 f2.8 USM IS lens for over 3 1/2 years now. Several other reviewers have complained about getting dust inside this lens. Have you experienced any dust inside your lens? And, do you always keep a filter on the lens to prevent dust?


Posted on Sep 3, 2012 3:37:34 PM PDT
brennanyama says:
you misunderstand how to apply the 1.6x FOVCF (as many, MANY people do). Yes, you apply the 1.6 crop factor to get an equivalent view for a full frame camera, but this only applies to EF lenses!!

Focal length is literally the length between the sensor and the focusing element in the lens. This does not change regardless of the size of your sensor. This is why the FOVCF is a "crop factor" not a multiplier (you cant just multiply the numbers you get to get an equivalent for a full frame--you need to know how to use this. I see people making this mistake all the time.

In the case of the 17-55 EF-S, the FOV equivalent on a full frame sensor is STILL 17-55!!! However, obviously you cant mount this lens on a full frame (back element of the lens extends out and will hit the mirror), and if you where able to (like how can you can mount DX lenses (crop lenses) on a FX (full frame) nikon camera), the entire outside portion of the image will be black because the lens circle is only made to fully cover a APS-C sensor size; however, the field of view you get from the full frame and the crop sensor will remain the same. Conversely speaking, the opposite is true, if you had a 17-55mm EF (full frame) lens, and mounted it on a APS-C sensor, you FOV you would see is THE SAME as with the 17-55 EF-S lens (seems simple when I say it, but so many people get this wrong its infuriating).

If you look at the 24-70 EF f/2.8 lens, it's a different story as this lens was designed with the full frame in mind. If you mount the 24-70 on a full frame camera, the 24-70 APPEARS much wider than if you mount the lens on an APC-C camera (like the xti, rebel, 50D, 60D etc), because the image if fully projecting onto the sensor, whereas on the APS-C sensor, a bunch of the image is being lost around the outside of the sensor. Taking the standpoint of a crop sensor user, looking through at 24 mm on the 24-70 will be the same FOV as if you were looking through 24mm on say, the kit 18-55mm kit lens (obviously the 24-70 will be a much better image, but the FOV will be exactly the same). However, if you want the EQUIVALENT view that a crop sensor sees with an EF lens relative to a full frame camera, you apply the 1.6x FOCVF to the focal length to get 38.5-112mm. To clarify this, if you get a 24-70 EF lens and mount it on a crop sensor body, the FOV you would see is the same that a full frame camera would see with a lens with the focal length 38.5-112mm. This is why 24 mm is considered extremely wide on a full frame--to know what an equivalent EF-S lens (on a APS-C body) focal length would need in order to match the FOV of a 24-70 on a full frame, you DIVIDE the FOVCF (1.6) by the focal length: 15-43.75. This is why the 24-70 EF L lens is most often compared to the 17-55 EF-S IS lens--the FOV you see with a full frame on the 24-70 is similar to what you see on 17-55 on a crop sensor, and they both have a maximum aperture of f/2.8. The FOVCF was made so that full frame users who were used to the wide FOV of a full frame, could get a good idea of what would happen if they mounted their EF lenses to an APS-C body (say, if they converted from full frame to APS-C (there are some advantages of doing so outside of cost), or if they had a couple backup APS-C bodies). For APS-C users who are used to the narrower FOV of an APS-C body (as most amateur digital photographers are now), the FOVCF is a useless parameter that should only be used if they're converting from crop sensor to full frame and have multiple EF lenses.

Hence, why APS-C users looking for an L grade lens covering a general purpose focal range should get the EF-S 17-55 2.8. It has the IQ of a lens like the 24-70mm L (if not better), retains the same constant 2.8 aperture, has a more useful focal range on a crop sensor, 17-55 versus 24-70, and you get IS on the 17-55. The only real problem I can see is that APS-C users looking for a high quality telephoto zoom lens are essentially limited to the 70-200 EF f/2.8, which is expensive, and leaves you missing the 15mm of focal length between the 17-55 and 70-200. The only EF-S telephoto is the 55-250mm f/3.5-5.6 (see a focal length pattern emerging here?), which is OK, but not great if you want great IQ, and a constant max aperture of f/2.8
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