EF-S 55-250 STM; worth the upgrade?

Started 3 months ago | User reviews thread
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Pritzl
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EF-S 55-250 STM; worth the upgrade?
3 months ago

I recently purchased this lens as an upgrade to my 55-250 version I. I suspect there may be others weighing a similar decision given how popular this lens line is as a small, light, decent quality telephoto. Hopefully some of you will find this evaluation useful.

So, how much of an improvement is it?

Build quality is significantly better. Even though it's supposedly lighter by a few grams, the new version feels denser somehow. There is no play at all and the focus/zoom rings are smoother in operation. The non-rotating front element is useful if you want to use a circular polarizer or graduated filter. I find it useful as well even for my Raynox close-up filter as the protruding clips stay level when focusing making them less likely to strike my hand or other obstacles. The fact that it maintains its physical length while focusing also helps with macro photography with the afore-mentioned accessory. It also features manual focus override in AF mode so long as the metering sensor is active. Last but not least, the centre pinch cap is a welcome relief.

AF and IS: AF is of course silent and smooth for video but what was a pleasant surprise was how much faster and more confident it was even for stills. This elevates it to a pretty decent action/wildlife lens in good light at moderate distances. The IS is also a tad quicker to kick in and no longer produces that annoying buzz the first version had. I would say it's also about half a stop more effective at the long end although there is a caveat regarding the real focal length of this lens. More on that later. On the negative side you pretty much have to turn IS off when you mount it on a tripod or you will get blurry photos.

IQ: Both contrast and sharpness are improved, most notably at the long end. It's surprisingly sharp at 5.6 in the centre with only a minor improvement at f8. The borders are just a little bit soft wide open (though eminently usable) and sharpen up nicely at f8. Also unlike version I, it holds this performance well through f11 with only diffraction limiting it at f16. Another confident performance across the board.

Focal length: this surprised me a bit but both the wide and long ends appear to be a little wider than in version I. Assuming the latter to be accurate, the new STM version seems to be more like a 50-215mm lens. It's not a huge deal but does explain why it has a lower maximum magnification in spite of the smaller minimum focus distance.

Conclusion: It's an improvement in most regards on its predecessor. I find these improvements inspire more confidence in me when using it. The question is if the price premium is justifiable.

If you have an earlier version and the improved build, AF and IS are important to you, then the ~$200 difference is definitely worth it. The confidence these inspire makes a big difference. If you're only concerned about IQ though you could be disappointed. While it's there, I'm not sure if it's significant enough on its own to warrant that much over the original version.

If, on the other hand, you are considering your first telephoto then nothing comes close in this price range. You would need to look at lenses that are 2-3 times as expensive and twice as heavy for anything better. And, if you want to shoot video, then it's a no-brainer.

 Pritzl's gear list:Pritzl's gear list
Fujifilm X10 Canon EOS 70D Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Tokina AT-X Pro 12-24mm f/4 DX II Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM +5 more
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