Although we would all love to use the high octane optics of Canon’s L-series lenses, their price points can be out of the range of many photographers. In the distant past, cheap lenses used to be… well, cheap. But not anymore, as Canon has been stuffing more and more optical quality and features into their affordable lenses. This includes the highly capable Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM.
Over the past few years, upgrades have steadily come in the form of better autofocusing performance, upgraded optics, and higher levels of build quality. In the case of the 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM, the lens has some very tasty features which include image stabilization and a very healthy focal range.
The Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM has been designed for the EF-S lens mount providing an equivalent focal length of 88-400mm. This range will be very useful for portraits as well as wildlife and distant action shots. It only requires an accompanying wide-angle zoom lens to cover the standard to wide-angle side of things.
Considering that the lens has such a long reach, it’s reasonably compact at only 111.2mm long and weighs in at a very reasonable 375g. Optically, the lens consists of 15 elements arranged in 12 groups, with an Ultralow Dispersion element and Super Spectra coatings to improve image clarity and reduce lens anomalies. Internally, there’s also a seven-blade rounded diaphragm, topped off at the front with a 58mm filter thread which is non rotating to fit the likes of circular polarizing filters.
The lens barrel may be made of plastic, as with the mount, but as the lens is so lightweight, this shouldn’t be a huge problem if the lens is looked after properly in the long run. However, it would have been nice to see a metal lens mount for added sturdiness and protection.
The lens features a large zoom ring, with a just wide enough focusing ring, which is smooth to turn but has no hard stops. Manual override is also available on the lens via ‘focus-by-wire’ which essentially electronically links to the autofocus motor, rather than a direct attachment to lens elements.
As for the other lens features, there is a switch for auto and manual focus and an on/off switch for the image stabilization system. The system itself offers 3.5 stops of compensation.
The Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM in Use
As the 55-250mm is an EF-S Mount lens, it can happily strap to the likes of an EOS 80D or EOS M3 and still feel very well-balanced. The STM autofocus motor is surprisingly quiet in use and especially on a crop sensor Canon DSLR, snaps into focus quite efficiently.
The lens is quiet enough for video work and very smooth in operation. On that point, when shooting video with AF Servo, the STM motor is arguably just as efficient as what can be found on high-end lenses.
The image stabilization system works extremely well and is much-needed when the focal length can reach the equivalent of 400mm. While the internal workings of the system can be felt, there isn’t any audible noise and it’s quite amazing how low the shutter speeds can get. For instance at the 250mm range, it’s quite possible to have shutter speeds at 1/10th of a second.
Lens anomalies are handled very well with this lens, with color and contrast looking good with a natural rendition to both. Chromatic aberration and light falloff in the corners are well controlled and well within acceptable limits. The lens is also respectable at keeping lens flare and ghosting at minimum levels, but as a lens hood is not supplied.
The EF-S 55-250mm has a variable aperture which means although image stabilization can help out in low-light conditions, the lens still needs plenty of light for good exposures. Image quality is respectably sharp at the widest apertures, but in general, it produces the sharpest results between f/5.6-f/8.
The lens can produce reasonable background blur or bokeh, especially at the longest focal lengths. The effect is largely pleasing and most noticeable with close-up subjects. It seems to look its best with simple and uncomplicated backgrounds.
Summing up, having a lens that can go from medium telephoto to a long 400mm is great fun to use. The lens may not have the ultimate resolving power of higher-end Canon zooms, but at this price point, it has respectable optics and plenty of scope for creativity.
How Does It Compare?
The Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM offers a unique focal range in the affordable price bracket, which means comparable zoom lenses are a bit thin on the ground. If you don’t mind spending a touch more, the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM can provide a longer focal reach, along with respectable optics. Considering the extra reach that this lens provides, it’s definitely worth the extra cash.
Then of course, if you’ve convinced yourself to spend that bit more, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM or cheaper still in its original form. Obviously the EF 70-200mm f/4L is getting on for twice the price of the EF-S 55-250mm, but you’re not just getting far superior optics, but also build quality to last the ages.
|Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM||Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM|
|Minimum Focusing Distance||85cm||1.5m|
The main takeaway of the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM is that it provides a wonderful set of features as a cost effective telephoto lens for a very affordable price. The STM motor works far better than you would expect on a budget lens and the only complaints in the optical departments is slight lens flaring, but this is without a lens hood.
The inclusion of image stabilization will help to get those low shutter speeds and although the lens is made of plastic, it’s still feels of high enough quality to take regular use. Therefore, don’t be put off by the budget price point of this lens as it provides wonderful images, only surpassed by much higher-priced zoom lenses.