18-55 IS vs 17-55 IS

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by amoda, Feb 19, 2010.

  1. amoda macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 9, 2006
    #1
    Hey everyone,

    So I've been hearing about this amazing lens, the 17-55 f2.8 IS. Reading review after review people constantly raved about it's amazing optical qualities.

    Now I happened to run onto these technical reviews by photozone.de:

    17-55
    18-55

    In it they individually test the lens' MTF, CA, and distortion. I then compare them and I find the differences in all sections...tiny. Also, according to those tests, the 18-55 is superior optically than the 17-55!

    I know that there are extra things to the lens than IQ (USM, build, AF etc) but I'm on a budget and spending $1300 CAD on a lens for those stuff seems unnecessary at my level.

    I currently have the Sigma 30mm f1.4 and the 18-55 IS. I was originally hoping on selling both and replacing them with the 17-55, but now i'm not so sure. Are those lab tests, just tests? For those of you who have used both lenses, are the differences greater in the "real world"?

    Otherwise, I might just spend $400 on a flash.

    Thank you for any info!
     
  2. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #2
    The fixed f2.8 max aperture on the 17-55 makes it dramatically more flexible in different lighting conditions... particularly low light. Fast glass costs $$$.
     
  3. nutmac macrumors 68040

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    Mar 30, 2004
    #3
    While the differences may not be as dramatic as they once were, after looking at the numbers, I don't share your conclusion. With very few exceptions, 17-55mm consistently beats 18-55mm. Were you looking at the numbers from similar focal length and aperture?

    Anyway, as the previous poster pointed out, 17-55mm has a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture across the entire 17 to 55mm focal length range. 18-55mm, on the other hand, starts at f/3.5 (about 1/2-stop slower than f/2.8) at 18mm but gradually rises to f/5.6 (full 2 stops slower than f/2.8) at 55mm.

    That said, 17-55mm may be now considered a mid-age lens. Canon even as a patent for its replacement, 17-55mm f/2 (!) IS USM. EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 USM points to where it may be headed, as indicated by its out of this world resolution figures.
     
  4. toxic macrumors 68000

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    Nov 9, 2008
    #4
    making choices based on one review site is a poor decision.

    those tests are done for CA, distortion, and resolution (ll/mm). It does not measure flare resistance, contrast, bokeh, etc. the 18-55 IS is exceptionally sharp considering how cheap it is (whether or not one believes in photozone's results) - but it has poor bokeh, poor flare resistance, cheap construction, micromotor AF, and a pink color cast. and it doesn't have a constant f-ratio.

    in other words, it's like the 50/1.8 - anything else you buy won't get you as much performance per dollar, but that doesn't mean it competes with the expensive 50's.

    Canon has patents for all sorts of lenses. that doesn't mean they'll ever be made.
     
  5. amoda thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 9, 2006
    #5
    :eek: Oops! No, I wasn't. :eek: The scores do look more impressive now.

    Yes, I know that's being f2.8 does offer a big advantage. That's why I was thinking of getting rid of the 18-55.

    The only reason I bought the 30mm 1.4 was for low-light situations (which i'm usually in) but it seems like the 17-55 could be capable too. I'm also looking into replacing my xs with a t2i, which I'm hoping will have similar high-iso performance as the 7D.

    So, in summary, what route do you guys suggest? To sell my lenses and purchase the 17-55, or to keep my lenses and purchase a flash (a used 270 or 430EX most likely)?

    Again, thank you!
     
  6. Jaro65 macrumors 68040

    Jaro65

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    #6
    If you get into situations where you could use a stronger flash, then the flash should be your priority. If you don't feel that's the case, then you may as well spend your money on a lens upgrade.
     
  7. El Cabong macrumors 6502a

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    Dec 1, 2008
    #7
    I'd keep the lenses and get a flash. The 30mm 1.4 will do much better than the 2.8 zoom in low light w/o flash, and the flash will, of course, allow you to shoot with your 18-55mm in any situation, not to mention its ability to give you a lot of new ways to light your scene/subjects. In short, the flash will open up many more shooting possibilities than that f/2.8 lens.
     
  8. Nostromo macrumors 65816

    Nostromo

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    Deep Space
    #8
    The 17-55 is a very good lens. The only reason it is not an L-lens is that it has less dust sealing and isn't quite as robust. The optical quality is in the L-range.

    The 2.8 constant maximum opening has an advantage for autofocus precision.

    The other lens seems to be the kit lens. I know, Photozone raves about it. Because it's good FOR A KIT LENS. But it is no match for the 17-55/2.8. There's a reason why the 17-55 costs several times as much.

    If you are interested in quality gear, get the 17-55.
     
  9. jackerin macrumors 6502a

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    #9
    And that it's EF-S.
     
  10. 2contagious macrumors 6502a

    2contagious

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    UK
    #10
    For low light shots, I'd keep the prime lens, too instead of getting rid of it and buying a zoom lens.

    You could have a nice set of three primes:

    30mm, f1.4
    50mm, f1.4
    85mm, f1.8


    or

    30mm, f1.4
    50mm, f1.2 (L lens)
    85mm, f1.2 (L lens)



    That's what I would do for low light stuff :eek:
    Obviously the first option will turn out a lot cheaper, as the 50mm and 85mm L lenses are very expensive.
     
  11. toxic macrumors 68000

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    Nov 9, 2008
    #11
    the L primes are not desireable so much for low-light ability as it is for their optical qualities and DoF control (meaning higher creative boundaries due to ultra-thin DoF). shooting at very low f-stops all the time can be extremely limiting since only one thing can be in focus.
     
  12. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #12
    Isn't the IS on the 17-55 f2.8 is going to give you two stops of advantage on hand-held shots making it almost equivalent to much faster primes when it comes to keeper shutter speeds on stationary subjects?
     
  13. El Cabong macrumors 6502a

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    #13
    Yes, IS negates the larger aperture advantage somewhat when shooting stationary objects, but the OP didn't specify shooting primarily stationary objects, and also mentioned the possibility of buying a flash, which both indicate wanting to take (a least a few) pictures of things that move (as opposed to a tripod purchase, which would be appropriate for non-moving things - and much better for that purpose than blowing money on the 17-55 f/2.8).
     
  14. Mike P. macrumors newbie

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    Tampa Bay Area
    #14
    I have no idea what those test mean but I say go for the 17-55. I just received that and the Canon 50mm 1.4 yesterday, which buy the way is an excellent low light lens. I upgraded from the 18-55 IS after realizing that I need something better on my Canon 7D. The 18-55 was a nice "kit lens", definitely, but the 17-55 is a huge upgrade. I mean come on, its got USM. Big difference there. I mainly got it because i'm getting into video so constant aperture and quiet, fast focusing was a big concern for me.
    That's just my opinion. Oh, if you plan on getting a flash go with the II version of it. Wether the 430EXII or 580EXII. They recharge faster and operate quietly. Hope that helped

    P.S.
    The 17-55 2.8 is the heaviest and the longest(width & height) while the 18-55 is most likely the lightest and shortest lens in the EF-S line.
     
  15. amoda thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 9, 2006
    #15
    Hey everyone,

    Sorry for the disappearance and, again, thanks for the help! I appreciate it!

    I am mostly in low light and shooting people, which usually aren't the most stationary of objects ;-).

    After taking everybody's advice into account, and reading other material, I've decided in going with the 17-55. I'll keep the 30mm 1.4 for the moments that f2.8 just doesn't cut it and sell the 18-55.

    In a few months I'll be picking up a T2i so the constant aperture will come in handy for the videos (as Mike P. mentioned). I figure that a T2i with a 17-55 2.8 IS & 30mm 1.4 combo should keep me happy for years to come.

    Hats off to you all!
     
  16. mattyb240 macrumors 6502a

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    May 11, 2008
    #16
    What about a Tamron 17-50 VC then you have change to spare for a flash? Other accessories like a tripod etc etc.
     
  17. Mike P. macrumors newbie

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    Aug 27, 2009
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    Tampa Bay Area
    #17
    mattyb240 has a good point there.
    I never used a Tamron lens so I can't say too much about them. However the money that you saved over the 17-55 can get you a nice flash or tripod/head combo.
    One thing to consider though, is that the Tamron does not have USM or any variation of it. It doesn't have full time manual focusing either.
    Best of luck with your purchase amoda. I'll think you'll be happy whichever route you decide on.
     
  18. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #18
    Even if the subject is moving... isn't the DOF on a wide-aperature prime such as f1.4 or f1.2 almost razer thin?... It would seem to me that the chance of an OOF shot must be significantly higher? Therefore, in what indoor shooting situations is a super fast prime better than an f2.8 zoom with IS?
     
  19. El Cabong macrumors 6502a

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    Dec 1, 2008
    #19
    Yes, the DOF will be razor thin, which means focusing will have to be done with greater care. However, the reason a larger aperture is better in more indoor situations than having IS is inherent in the advantages each provides: when you're shooting with a larger aperture lens, you can use faster shutter speeds, whereas with an IS lens you can shoot more reliably with slower shutter speeds. Because you're trying to maximize shutter speed when shooting movement, having IS doesn't provide any advantage at all for non-telephoto focal lengths (e.g. at 50mm, IS doesn't make much difference until you shoot slower than ~1/50 s, whereas capturing action requires around 1/125-1/200 s, with faster speeds for quicker movement), whereas an f/1.2 or f/1.4 lens provides about a 2-stop advantage in shutter speed over an f/2.8 lens (i.e. you can reduce your exposure time by about a factor of 4. IS lets you shoot two stops slower, that is, increase your exposure time by a factor of 4 without worrying about hand shake, but that doesn't help when you're trying to use faster speeds). Additionally, any lens can be stopped down to apertures with more accommodating DOFs, so long as the shutter speed remains adequate.

    Of course, when you're shooting stationary objects, it's a different story. In those cases, however, I'd rather have a tripod than IS, if I were forced to choose only one.
     
  20. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #20
    I completely agree with everything you say. There are trade-offs involved with every lens choice. I just don't see "2contagious" recommendations for a set of 3 wide aperture primes being more beneficial than the 17-55 f2.8 IS... whether the subject is moving or stationary.
     

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