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An 88-400mm equivalent, this is Canon’s longest EF-S (digital only) zoom, and roughly the low-cost digital alternative to its 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L full-frame “white” image-stabilized zoom that’s so hot with pros. At $280, street, this 55-250mm is by far Canon’s most favorably priced IS tele zoom, with the only glass close to it a 70-300mm IS lens that streets for roughly $550.

Not actually paired in a kit with Canon’s 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS starter lens (yet), this is the system’s de facto kit telezoom. It’s squarely targeted at intermediate DSLR shooters who feel hemmed in by the 18-55mm and crave something longer. While most comparable digital tele-zooms that start at 55mm go to only 200mm (i.e., the Nikon, Sigma, and Tamron), Canon reaches out to 250mm.

This lens replaces the 55-200mm full-framer, a late film-era optic, and boasts a new optical design incorporating a UD element for controlling color fringing and a simpler, less costly IS system. The IS mechanism (the same as in the 18-55mm IS lens) is claimed to produce up to 4 additional stops of handheld sharpness in the 55-250mm. This is the first IS system for Canon that autodetects panning and limits its shake control to the vertical axis.


A bit heavier and longer than the non-IS 55-200mm that it replaces, this lens is still compact enough to throw no shadow at any focal length when used with the Rebel XTi’s built-in flash — surprising for a zoom that extends to the equivalent of 400mm.

Both zoom and focusing rings are rubberized, ribbed, generously sized, and smooth-turning. The AF action is fast and accurate with minimal searching and, by non-USM standards, relatively quiet (again on the Rebel XTi).


SQF data came in within the Excellent range at three tested focal lengths. The lens charted slightly better than Nikon’s 55-200mm VR zoom; at 55mm and 135mm, better than the comparable Tamron; and light-years beyond the earlier 55-200mm at all tested focal lengths.

DxO Analyzer 3.0.1 tests demonstrated very well-controlled distortion, with only Slight barrel at 55mm (0.14%), and Slight pincushion at 135mm and 250mm (0.14% and 0.15%, respectively). Almost into the Imperceptible range, these results compare very favorably with those of the 55-200mm, which produced Noticeable pincushion distortion at 135mm and 200mm (1.35% and 1.60%, respectively).

Light falloff, about average, was gone from the corners by f/5 at 55mm, by f/5.6 at 135mm, and by f/6.3 at 250mm.

Maximum magnification ratios at the uniform close-focusing distance of about 40.5 inches ranged from 1:12.6 at 55mm to a strong 1:2.85 at 250mm.

Using DxO’s blur factor analysis, four different shooters tested two sample lenses and found a somewhat underwhelming 2 to 2.5 extra stops of handheld sharpness with IS engaged.


A natural for globe-trotting vacationers and soccer parents, this is the obvious second lens for Canon EOS 40D and Rebel XSi owners. Clearly it and the 18-55mm IS make an attractive team that promises sharp pictures in dicey light across an amply wide 13.9X zoom range. And you can’t beat that price.


55-250mm f/4-5.6 (55.65-256.41mm tested), f/4-5.6 (f/4.09-6.37 tested), 12 elements in 10 groups. Focusing turns 100 degrees counterclockwise. Zoom ring turns 70 degrees clockwise. Focal lengths marked at 55-, 70-, 100-, 135-, 200-, and 250mm.

Diagonal view angle: 27-6 degrees.

Weight: 14 oz.

Filter size: 58mm.

Mounts: Canon EF-S.

Street price: $280.