DSLR Lenses

Canon 55-250mm IS lens

Written by Gail Bjork

The Canon 55-250mm IS lens, much improved over its non-IS predecessor, gives great image quality. Here are tips for using this reasonably priced zoom lens.

55-250mm ISIn some photography circles, Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS* lens is just a toy. According to them, build quality is so-so and it doesn’t have the features of lenses costing hundreds and thousands of dollar more, etc.

The build quality is the same as the 18-55mm IS kit lens, often packaged with the XSi. Like the kit, the 55-250mm IS  is a treasure for many Canon digital single lens reflex camera owners.

At the time of this writing, the lens sells for under $300.00 U.S., certainly not expensive as far as the cost of most interchangeable lenses.

On my Canon XSi/450D with a focal length multiplier of 1.6, the 55-250mm lens has an effective focal range of 88-400mm. This is a very useful zoom range for many types of scenes.

Image quality

While it’s not made as well as lenses costing hundreds or thousands dollars more, it is not junk either. The lens is lightweight and compact compared to more expensive lenses with similar focal lengths. More importantly, it offers surprisingly good image quality, particularly for those who don’t fret over every pixel when viewing a digital image at 100 percent.

Most images are reduced in size when processed. With minor edits such as adjusting brightness and contrast and sharpening, a well-exposed image taken with the 55-250mm IS lens can hold up well against photos taken with more expensive lenses.

I have no hesitation recommending the Canon 55-250mm Image Stabilized lens to anyone who wants a very good lens for a very good price.

* Important Note: this lens is much improved over the Canon lens with the same focal length that does not have image stabilization.

Using the 55-250mm IS

AV mode and image sharpness

The Canon 55-250mm lens gives me sharp images with good contrast and beautiful color. But sharpness with any interchangeable lens is not a given…sometimes you just have to work at it.

Image sharpness improved since switching to aperture priority mode. I use smaller apertures when needed that give deeper depth of field, resulting in sharper images.  For sharpest images, the “sweet spot” for this lens seems to be between F8 and F11, though it varies with focal length and distance the lens is from a subject.

My only complaint about this lens is that the focal length is not suitable for some wildlife photography. I wish Canon made a less expensive lens with a focal length of 400mm.

Lens fastness

The Canon 55-250mm is not considered a fast lens. Not surprisingly, it does best in good light. However, with image stabilization enabled and raising the ISO, you can get some very good hand held low light shots. With my Canon XSi, I have no hesitation bumping the ISO up to 800, even 1600 if I must.

Shooting RAW

I’ve tried the RAW + JPEG setting when using Continuous Mode and the 55-250mm lens. Forget it with the XSi.  The camera only takes about six shots then takes a breather, negating the effectiveness of burst mode.

Lens flare

The lens exhibited flare in some photos I took of a sunset. I didn’t use a lens hood, though it probably wouldn’t have helped since the lens was pointed very close to the setting sun. Moving the lens slightly eliminated the flare.

I don’t consider this a major problem since lens costing hundreds of dollars more can also be susceptible to flare. A lens hood helps!

Useful links

Sample photos taken with the Canon 55-250mm IS lens:

Photos by Gail Bjork

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.

4 Comments

  • Bill, it sounds like you have a back focus and/or front focus problem. You should call Canon about it because it is a problem that needs to be calibrated by them. If you are experiencing the problem with only 55-250mm lens and not others, it is probably a camera problem.

    If Canon wants you to send in the camera with the lens, ask them if the adjustments could potentially cause problems for other lenses you may own.

    Unfortunately these types of focus problems, while uncommon, can be had with other brand cameras and lenses, even Nikons. The T2i is a very fine camera and the 55-250mm IS lens is well regarded (I’ve had no problems with mine).

    Call Canon tech support for assistance.

  • Gail,
    I have not had any luck getting any decent much less any good photos with my 5 month old T2i and the Canon 55 to 250mm lens.  Most photos are not in focus, especially at 250mm.  The focused area seems to be a very narrow egg shaped beam that is always on the wrong area.  If I am shooting a sailboat on the water, the sailboat is completely out of focus and a small area in front of or behind the boat is in focus.   The subject looks to be in focus at the time that I take the photo but it is not when I review it on the camera’s LCD or on my computer.  I have tried shooting subjects in the various Auto modes and I have tried several manual settings including increasing the aperature.  Also, a lot of low light photos that I have taken are extremely painfully grainy.
    I can out shoot the T2i with my Nikon D40 with the cheapier 55 to 200mm Nikon lens in any light.  My older, cheaper, slower, and less technical Nikon provides me with better color and focused photos, in most cases, as well as less grain.  
    Right now I am completely disenchanted with my Canon camera and lens.  I thought I would be spending more money on a new camera and in return would get much better photos, but what a joke.
    Please let me know if you have any advice as I am willing to try it.
    Thanks,
    Foe Dog Raffer

  • Thanks for an informative article.  I am new to DSLR and have an EOS 1000D with both the 18-55mm and 55-250mm lens.  At the moment I find it difficult to get sharp pictures on the 250 especially near the big end. This is partly due to the subject(birds) and the need to crop a fair bit.

    I will follow your advice re aperture priority.
    Thanks again.

  • I’m waiting for my lenses,I choose this 55-250 for the good echoes i heard about it,your article is quite interesting and confirms my choice ,thanks 🙂