EF-S 55-250MM f/4-5.6 STM

on B&H – http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1001311-USA/canon_8546b002_ef_s_55_250mm_f_4_5_6_is.html

on Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Canon-EF-S-55-250mm-F4-5-6-Cameras/dp/B00EFILVQU

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Having recently retired my old EF-S 55-250mm STM lens after purchasing a set of telephoto “L” glass, I feel like it’s about time to write a review for it. While I am happy to have upgraded to a better lens, the EF-S 55-250mm STM has served me well and I’m somewhat sad to let it go. The image quality and design of this lens is more than acceptable given it’s affordable price.

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Despite the all-plastic construction (including the mount), the build quality of this lens is not bad at all. The lens feels solid and sturdy, yet light and not a burden to carry. The focus and zoom rings are smooth, athough they do make soft noises when turned. I’ll be mounting this lens on my trusty Canon 70D APS-C camera to test the results. The image quality of this lens is quite impressive, as can be seen in the sample image below. It defnitely gives quite a bit of bang for the buck compared to similar lenses that Canon offers.

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Wide open at its maximum aperture this lens produces images that are somewhat soft and slightly lacking in contrast, however the difference is barely noticeable and definitely excusable. Shown below are two cutouts of images taken with this lens at 200mm focal distance, ISO1600, and f/8 and f/5.6 respectively

EF-S 55-250mm STM at f/8, 200mm, ISO 1600

EF-S 55-250mm STM at f/8, 200mm, ISO 1600

EF-S 55-250mm STM at f/5.6, 200mm, ISO 1600

EF-S 55-250mm STM at f/5.6, 200mm, ISO 1600

As you can see, the sharpness and contrast at f/5.6 is quite bad. Stop down the f/8 and the issue is virtually gone. I definitely would not recommend shooting with any lens wide open, especially not with this one. The image stabilizer on this lens is able to compensate for around 2-3 stops of light, so chances are you won’t be needing to shoot wide open. While this lens is quite sharp at the center beyond f/8 or so, the corners do suffer in terms of sharpness and image quality in general. Here I’ve compared it to an image shot with my Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM.

EF-S 55-250mm STM at f/8, 200mm, ISO 1600

EF-S 55-250mm STM at f/8, 200mm, ISO 1600

EF 70-200mm f/4L USM at f/8, 200mm, ISO 1600

EF 70-200mm f/4L USM at f/8, 200mm, ISO 1600

Aside from the poor image quality in the corners, I’m also unhappy with the lack of full time manual focusing (FTM). The STM focusing motor that this lens has is fast and silent, althought it’s not rare for it to focus on the wrong place, and having to switch to manual focus to correct it can be very annoying. I also wish they had made it so that you can see what focus distance the lens is set to, either through the use of a little window or distance markings on the focusing ring. I do appreciate the image stabilizer that this lens has, however it’s not exactly necessary for plane spotting as you’ll be using a decently fast shutter speed to freeze the moving planes. In addition, you won’t really notice much difference with or without image stabilizer provided that you have decently steady hands, except for handheld video work.

My final verdict is that while this lens does give you an acceptable amount of bang for the buck, it’s still lagging behind in many areas. For just a bit more you can get a significantly better lens such the EF 70-200mm f/4L USM that I currently use and highly recommend. While Airliners.net quality photos are possible with this lens, you’re going to need vastly superior lighting conditions, plenty of skill and experience, and a lot of luck on your side.