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

Started Apr 8, 2014 | User reviews
Pritzl Senior Member • Posts: 1,473
EF-S 55-250 STM; worth the upgrade?
5

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.

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Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM
Telephoto zoom lens • Canon EF-S • 8546B002
Announced: Aug 22, 2013
Pritzl's score
4.0
Average community score
4.4
70Der Regular Member • Posts: 344
Re: EF-S 55-250 STM; worth the upgrade?

I can't wait to get this lens. My 55-250 vers I is super super sharp but I hadn't used it for like 6 months since I got an L lens and when I tried it I was shocked how loud and noisy it is and slow to focus. So I'm excited for the new one. My 18-135 STM is insanely quiet and sharp and quick.

fishy wishy
fishy wishy Veteran Member • Posts: 9,335
Re: EF-S 55-250 STM; worth the upgrade?

A lot of the differences you quote sound possibly like the differences between a worn lens and a brand new one. You describe play in the barrel and more noise for the older lens. I don't recognise the annoying "buzz" from the stabiliser. These 55-250 lenses are bargain basement consumer lenses and not built for a professional service life. The new price of them is creeping close to the price of a used third party 70-200 f2.8... I know which I'd choose, even though I was pleased with the image quality of the original 55-250.

Is the "widening" of the newer lens at closer focus distances... which is focus breathing.

quiquae Senior Member • Posts: 1,533
Re: EF-S 55-250 STM; worth the upgrade?
2

fishywisht wrote:

A lot of the differences you quote sound possibly like the differences between a worn lens and a brand new one. You describe play in the barrel and more noise for the older lens. I don't recognise the annoying "buzz" from the stabiliser. These 55-250 lenses are bargain basement consumer lenses and not built for a professional service life.

You must have a great copy. My 55-250 IS II, purchased brand new, does not have any "play," but it certain does buzz a lot when IS is engaged, as did every single sample I've played with in the stores. The noise is significantly more annoying than 24-105L and 100L, which are quieter but not noiseless. In contrast, STM lenses are totally inaudible. I can live with the noise since I don't shoot video, but autofocus speed and accuracy is making me ponder moving to 55-250 STM.

The new price of them is creeping close to the price of a used third party 70-200 f2.8... I know which I'd choose, even though I was pleased with the image quality of the original 55-250.

The two lenses fill such different needs that it's silly to compare them. 70-200 f/2.8 from various vendors weigh about 1.5kg and are big enough to double as blunt weapons. 55-250 STM weighs 375g and is small enough to get lost in a garment bag. I know which I'd choose when I need to travel light, although it won't be the same lens I'd choose for handheld indoor sports.

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Hoogineer
Hoogineer Regular Member • Posts: 211
Re: EF-S 55-250 STM; worth the upgrade?

quiquae wrote:

fishywisht wrote:

A lot of the differences you quote sound possibly like the differences between a worn lens and a brand new one. You describe play in the barrel and more noise for the older lens. I don't recognise the annoying "buzz" from the stabiliser. These 55-250 lenses are bargain basement consumer lenses and not built for a professional service life.

You must have a great copy. My 55-250 IS II, purchased brand new, does not have any "play," but it certain does buzz a lot when IS is engaged, as did every single sample I've played with in the stores. The noise is significantly more annoying than 24-105L and 100L, which are quieter but not noiseless. In contrast, STM lenses are totally inaudible. I can live with the noise since I don't shoot video, but autofocus speed and accuracy is making me ponder moving to 55-250 STM.

I don't think my 55-250 IS II buzzes very loudly when IS is engaged, but it is really noisy during AF.  It also has a horrible tendency to hunt for focus, focusing in and out, especially when the subject is noisy (e.g. a bird in the trees), even when using a specific AF point.   Granted, this might have more to do with pairing with the 600d, which only has the single cross-type AF point in the center.

Personally, I think IQ on the 55-250 IS II is sufficient for my amateur purposes, but I really would love better AF performance (although IQ looks much better on the STM version according to The Digital Picture).

 Hoogineer's gear list:Hoogineer's gear list
Canon EOS 7D Mark II Sigma 30mm F1.4 EX DC HSM Canon EF-S 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 IS STM Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM +2 more
OP Pritzl Senior Member • Posts: 1,473
Re: EF-S 55-250 STM; worth the upgrade?
1

My 55-250 v1 is certainly old but it has been treated gently, much like most of my gear. No drops, bumps or scratches as far as I can recall. The buzzing/ticking sound from the IS was always there and it takes a little while to settle. The play in the barrel, while admittedly worse now, was also present when I first purchased it. On the AF front, there is absolutely no comparison.

Don't get me wrong, it's still a really great value lens at $150 new, $100 used but the STM version is better in every way. Whether the $200 extra outlay is worth it is a decision others will have to make.

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OP Pritzl Senior Member • Posts: 1,473
Re: EF-S 55-250 STM; worth the upgrade?
1

Hoogineer wrote:

I don't think my 55-250 IS II buzzes very loudly when IS is engaged,

Perhaps buzzing isn't the best word to describe it. It's like a low ticking sound. I don't think it ever recorded on video on the few occasions I did use it for that but I found it disconcerting when looking through the view finder.

but it is really noisy during AF. It also has a horrible tendency to hunt for focus, focusing in and out, especially when the subject is noisy (e.g. a bird in the trees), even when using a specific AF point. Granted, this might have more to do with pairing with the 600d, which only has the single cross-type AF point in the center.

The AF was hit and miss for sure. Sometimes a little adjustment in AF point positoin would fix it and sometimes not. The STM just feels a lot more reliable in that regard.

Personally, I think IQ on the 55-250 IS II is sufficient for my amateur purposes, but I really would love better AF performance (although IQ looks much better on the STM version according to The Digital Picture).

The IQ is definitely better. It is sharp across the frame at almost all focal lengths and apertures below f16. Version I (and II as well I believe) had a couple of weak points, mostly above 200mm. e.g. to match the centre sharpness of the STM wide open @250mm you need to set version I at f8. Even then though, the borders are clearly softer. At every other aperture at this focal length, the STM is significantly sharper all the way to f16. The latter is important to me as my primary uses for this lens are telephoto isolation where I need f5.6 and macro where I need f11 or greater and the older version's IQ started falling apart at those apertures.

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OP Pritzl Senior Member • Posts: 1,473
Re: EF-S 55-250 STM; worth the upgrade?

quiquae wrote:

The two lenses fill such different needs that it's silly to compare them. 70-200 f/2.8 from various vendors weigh about 1.5kg and are big enough to double as blunt weapons. 55-250 STM weighs 375g and is small enough to get lost in a garment bag. I know which I'd choose when I need to travel light, although it won't be the same lens I'd choose for handheld indoor sports.

Exactly. I considered the slightly lighter 70-200 F4 IS for a while but it's still twice the weight of the 55-250. I just could not justify it for an occasional use lens as that would just mean I would be more likely to leave it at home.

 Pritzl's gear list:Pritzl's gear list
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Hoogineer
Hoogineer Regular Member • Posts: 211
Re: EF-S 55-250 STM; worth the upgrade?

Pritzl wrote:

Don't get me wrong, it's still a really great value lens at $150 new, $100 used but the STM version is better in every way. Whether the $200 extra outlay is worth it is a decision others will have to make.

I hear what you're saying.  I got my EF-S 55-250 IS II for $150 new on Amazon during a less-than-24-hours August 2012 price drop.  If I didn't already own my telephoto, I think the STM would be the obviously better choice.  I used to think the 70-300 IS USM was the better choice if you could nab the refurb for < $300 from the Canon Store, but STM's IQ at 250mm appears to be greater than the older, longer lens at focal lengths > 200mm.  So, I think the STM is probably the new superior choice until you consider the 70-200 f/4L.  Now, it's possible an an APS-C body that a 55-250 IS STM makes more sense (new vis-a-vis new), but maybe a used/refurb copy of the 70-200 f/4L challenges that.  When comparing the two lenses on The Digital Picture (both on a 60d), the 70-200 doesn't look significantly sharper than the 55-250 IS STM, although you are getting faster aperture and reportedly better colors.

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OP Pritzl Senior Member • Posts: 1,473
Re: EF-S 55-250 STM; worth the upgrade?
1

The 70-200 F4 is a fantastic lens. However, for me, I would not consider a telephoto lens without IS. Unfortunately, the IS version of that lens is neither cheap nor light and I decided my photography does not rise to the level that that lens offered for me to overlook both factors.

There is only one real downside for me with the 55-250, F5.6 max aperture at 250mm. (Not being a pro, weather sealing and tank-like build quality are not a big deal to me) That's a price I'm willing to pay though for the savings in price and weight. Its IQ is close enough to the L glass that I wouldn't be able to tell the difference anyway.

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Abu Mahendra Veteran Member • Posts: 5,187
Re: EF-S 55-250 STM; worth the upgrade?

The Canon EF-S 55-250STM is THE light-and-small travel telefoto zoom for APS-C.

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OP Pritzl Senior Member • Posts: 1,473
Re: EF-S 55-250 STM; worth the upgrade?

fishywisht wrote:

Is the "widening" of the newer lens at closer focus distances... which is focus breathing.

Just wanted to confirm that the shorter effective focal length does indeed appear to be related to focusing distance. It seems to be a side effect of the new internal focusing mechanism. A tad disappointing for my macro shooting @250mm with the DCR-150 (goes from 1.7x to 1.45x) but the sharpness improvement counterbalances that. I might even get the DCR-250 now for >2x magnification.

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chrisg23 New Member • Posts: 5
Re: EF-S 55-250 STM; worth the upgrade?

I'm pretty new to DSLR's having my T5i less than 2 weeks so far, but I just got this lens yesterday to complement my 18-55STM lens, and I LOVE it.

I've been able to take some very good pictures, especially considering I"m still figuring everything out with the settings.

Lawrencew Veteran Member • Posts: 4,861
IS sound comparisons between STM and non-STM

Hoogineer wrote:

quiquae wrote:

fishywisht wrote:

A lot of the differences you quote sound possibly like the differences between a worn lens and a brand new one. You describe play in the barrel and more noise for the older lens. I don't recognise the annoying "buzz" from the stabiliser. These 55-250 lenses are bargain basement consumer lenses and not built for a professional service life.

You must have a great copy. My 55-250 IS II, purchased brand new, does not have any "play," but it certain does buzz a lot when IS is engaged, as did every single sample I've played with in the stores. The noise is significantly more annoying than 24-105L and 100L, which are quieter but not noiseless. In contrast, STM lenses are totally inaudible. I can live with the noise since I don't shoot video, but autofocus speed and accuracy is making me ponder moving to 55-250 STM.

I don't think my 55-250 IS II buzzes very loudly when IS is engaged, but it is really noisy during AF. It also has a horrible tendency to hunt for focus, focusing in and out, especially when the subject is noisy (e.g. a bird in the trees), even when using a specific AF point. Granted, this might have more to do with pairing with the 600d, which only has the single cross-type AF point in the center.

These videos were with the old non-STM version. Putting aside the background noise, you can hear the IS "ticking" away in operation

http://youtu.be/JLr-t7-cXWE

http://youtu.be/yFF_vlraiSo

Whereas this on with STM is totally silent in operation

http://youtu.be/XQjpBanmhV8

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