Canon 17-55 impressions (vs 17-40)

Started Jun 17, 2006 | Discussions thread
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Tomm Regular Member • Posts: 285
Canon 17-55 impressions (vs 17-40)

I just rented the Canon 17-55 for the weekend. I already own the 17-40, which I really like, but I was wondering if this might be a better "single travel lens" solution for me.

Here are the positives:

1) The sharpness is amazing, even shooting wide open. It's noticeably sharper than the 17-40. I can apply a gentle unsharp filter to the 17-40 image to make it sort of look like the 17-55 image, but that's not the same as having sharply resolved details in the first place.

2) The color rendition looks truer to my eyes, although in some cases the slightly reddish warm cast of the 17-40 enhances the look of the image.

3) The IS definitely works as advertised. I can handhold it for 1/3 sec at 17mm and get a sharp keepers. Throw in the extra stop wide open (f2.8), and you're talking a 4 stop handholding advantage. Incredible.

4) The extra 15mm actually makes quite a difference. It becomes a workable short portrait lens at the long end. (I prefer shooting longer lenses for portraits, though.)

5) The bokeh is pretty nice and smooth on both lenses.

Here are the negatives:

1) Light falloff (vignetting) is a HUGE problem, not just in the corners but even along the edges. It's definitely very noticeable in the images, especially those with a bright blue sky. Honestly, this is the worst I've ever seen of all of the lenses I've ever used.

2) It's pretty hefty. If I hold the 17-55 in my hand for a few seconds, then hold the 17-40, I feel for a moment like I'm holding nothing. There's that big a difference.

3) The build is worse than the 17-40. The zoom makes that hollow plastic "thunk" sound at the ends, and the lens extends significantly as it zooms. Also, the grooves on the rubber of the zoom ring have this sharp notch in the middle that feels weird when you grab it. The 17-40, in contrast, has a wonderfully smooth zoom that works internally, and it makes a solid "tock" sound at the ends.

4) There's definitely some flare issues. I shot on the beach on a bright sunny day, so I got to put in some nice flare stress tests, and it didn't hold up well. I even got a few shots where flare unexpectedly snuck up on me when I wasn't trying to test for it. The 17-40 is pretty good at handling flare. I'm sure the hood would help, but that adds to the heft and the cost. Speaking of which...

5) This lens is pretty expensive, considering that it doesn't do full frame. The 17-40 goes for ~$700, so I think the 17-55 would be a fair deal at ~$800 including the hood. Instead, it goes for ~$1100, and the hood is extra, which makes for a more painful value proposition.

In summary:

+: sharpness, focal length, color, handholding
-: falloff, flare, ergonomics, build, price

Shooting 17-40, I could improve sharpness and color with Photoshop, carry an extra lens for focal length, and brace myself against something for handholding.

Shooting 17-55, I could use a hood for flare, but it's difficult to repair falloff, and there's nothing I can do for ergonomics and build. Price isn't a critical issue for me, as long as I feel that I'm getting my money's worth.

I'm currently leaning toward keeping the 17-40, but it's close, and I'm vacillating by the hour. I'm going to shoot some more tomorrow to get a better feel for what it can do, and hopefully that'll help me decide whether to switch.

I hope this helps others who are also looking at the 17-55.

  • Tomm

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