Canon 17-55mm vs Canon 17-40mm lenses

First published on: Thursday, 11 December 2008

Tomm wrote up this fantastic review of the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM lens which he rented over the weekend, curious to know how it’ll stack up against his trusty and loved Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM optic.

A summary of the comparison thread at is presented below.

Canon 17-55mm pros

  1. Much sharper than the 17-40mm
  2. More accurate colour rendition than from the 17-40
  3. Image Stabilization (IS), plus a wider maximum aperture at f/2.8 gives the 17-55 a 4-stop handholding advantage over the 17-40 — 1/3 sec shots at 17mm are a cinch with the 17-55mm
  4. The additional 15mm at the long end makes the 17-55 lens a more suitable optic for portraiture than the 17-40

17-55mm cons

  1. A noticeable light falloff (vignetting) not only at the corners, but along the edges (remember that the 17-55mm is an EF-S lens, designed for Canon digital SLR cameras with 1.6-crop sensors, unlike the 17-40 which can be used on full-frame cameras such as the Canon 5D and Canon 1Ds MkII). However, Blueuser points out that stopping down to f/3.5 mitigates the problem, and shares a full-sized image.
  2. The 17-55 is significantly heavier than the 17-40
  3. Build quality seems better on the 17-40, with a smoother zoom action and solid feel and sound. The lens also physically extends when zooming, which might suck in dust.
  4. The 17-40mm handles flare somewhat better than the 17-55
  5. The hood is an optional optional extra for the 17-55, which increases the relatively hefty cost of ownership of this lens — and you’ll need the hood to minimize the flare issue
  6. Not being an L lens, the 17-55 does not have weather sealing nor metal exterior

Other points brought up

  1. Tomm has also posted some sample images from both lenses, and you’ll be able to get a better picture of what “flare” looks like
  2. Elan Remford points out that the 17-55 is a terrific lens for what it offers that no other Canon EF lens offers, and that is fast, wide-aperture, image-stabilized zoom, making it suitable for available light event and portraiture photography, something the Canon 16-35, 24-70 and 24-105 cannot match.
  3. Speculation on the cause of flare: Despite the use of Super Spectra coatings on the 17-55, the flare issue isn’t solved, probably due to the large number of lens groups
  4. Speculation on why the 17-55 has flare issues, unlike the flare-resistant 17-40L and Canon 10-22mm lenses: Comparison images show that the construction and design of the 17-55 probably causes more light to bounce around inside the lens
  5. The 17-55 has very low barrel distortion, especially when compared against the Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS lens. It is also easier to correct for the 17-55mm vignetting in Photoshop than for corner softness that one gets from the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM lens.
  6. Kasoulis shows an example of Chromatic Aberration (CA) distortion produced by the 17-55 when shooting high contrast scenes at f/2.8, 55mm. If you shoot a RAW image, Photoshop’s Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) does a good job of removing both red/cyan and blue/yellow color fringing aka CA.
  7. Lee encountered the flare problem with the 17-55 when shooting weddings, especially from light sources such as spot lights and dancing lights
  8. A hood might help to reduce flare when there’s strong sunlight, but might not do much for shooting at night with street lamps, which the 17-40 handles better in this regard than the 17-55
  9. Light falloff and flare seems to occur even at f/5.6 and f/8, which might make shooting panoramas with the 17-55 a bit challenging.


Canon 17-40mm f/4L USM — Main page

Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM — Main page

Canon Lenses — Main page

blog comments powered by Disqus