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Canon EF-S 17-85mm f4-5.6 IS USM

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251 596047 Apr 12, 2013
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80% of reviewers $569.41
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• Focal Length & Maximum Aperture: 17 - 85mm; 1:4-5.6
• Lens Construction: 17 elements in 12 groups
• Diagonal Angle of View: 78° 30' - 18° 25'
• Focus Adjustment: Inner focusing system, with focusing cam
• Closest Focusing Distance: 0.35m - 1.15 ft.
• Zoom System: Ring USM
• Filter Size: 67mm
• Max. Diameter x Length, Weight: 3.1" x 3.6", 16.8 oz. / 78.5 x 92mm, 475g


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Registered: Jul 8, 2006
Location: Canada
Posts: 0
Review Date: Jun 18, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Great range, solid build and IS
Wicked barrel distortion at 17mm.

This lens replaced my 18-55mm kit lens so by comparison it's absolutely fantastic. Way better colour accuracy, faster and great range. Seriously, you can't beat that range. Too bad 17mm is nearly useless without Dxo software. The barrel distortion is tragic. Still, colour accuracy is very good, it focuses accurately and quickly and the IS is great to have. It's a bit pricey given that it's not an L. I've thought about the 24-105 F4 L IS but I just can't get my head around the price, the size and the weight. I don't know if a thousand dollars plus is worth the difference. Guess I need to try it out. As an all around lens you'll be happy with it but if you're picky you might want to look at something else.

Jun 18, 2008
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Registered: May 20, 2008
Location: United States
Posts: 94
Review Date: Jun 17, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $425.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Sharp on the long end, light weight, versatile
Distortion on wide end, soft on wide end

Why not add my 2 cents to the other 217 reviews?

I bought this lens 2.5 years ago when $425 was a screaming deal and was overall fairly pleased. I used it extensively for 2 years before selling it.

I found images very sharp on the long end, especially when stopped down one stop, but even at 5.6 I found it quite sharp. The IS was extremely valuable, as I was often hand holding in marginal conditions.

All the bad things people say about performance on the wide end I also found true...CA, distortion, soft. The distortion was a problem for me because many many of my images had a water horizon low in the frame. I think many people could happily use this lens at 17mm and not notice the distortion.

I paired this with a 10-22, which is fantastically sharp wide, so I only used 17mm when I couldn't change lenses or when it was dark and IS was badly needed. Pairing these two lenses makes a very light weight kit and avoids many of the failings of the 17-85.

For a general lens I think this would please many people, and at current used prices of $350 or even $300 or below, I think it is a very good value. Right now my shooting doesn't require a small, portable walk-around lens, but if/when it does I would buy another.

Jun 17, 2008
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Registered: May 23, 2008
Location: Finland
Posts: 3
Review Date: May 23, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: IS, USM, colours are "alive"
Some images get CA, wide end is lacking

This is a lens that gets a lot of bad rap.

Some complain about the plastic feel, which I don΄t get. I have the 50mm f1.8/II, that΄s plastic for you. I still think nothing can beat the nifty fifty in terms of price/quality.

This lens is heavy, and the feeling at the top of my mind is of quality. It is as heavy as my Sigma 70-300mm.

And the images one can get with this are amazing, compared to the kit lens (which I replaced with this one). The colours are so vibrant and alive. The sharpness is there. Even at 17mm/F4, I get nice images with this one.

So far I have not noticed any vignetting with my 400D at 17mm, but some images have had CA.

Sure, this is no L-series lens. Neither is the price. I got mine used and in perfect condition for 250 euros.

This one is my second best lens. Due to the limited usefulness of the nifty fifty, this one sees a lot more use, and this will be my travel lens for years to come (whith the nifty in my pocket in case for some special occasions).

May 23, 2008
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Registered: Nov 29, 2007
Location: United States
Posts: 131
Review Date: May 15, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: range, price (used), build quality, BIG upgrade over the kit lens
barrel distortion at 17mm, CA

Having messed around with friends' DSLR's, i knew right off the bat that when it came time for me to buy one, i wanted nothing to do with the kit lens. This lens is (in my opinion) a MASSIVE upgrade from the kit lens. Saturation, sharpness, IQ in general, is leagues away from the kit lens. Its range is very handy for a general use lens, and you can generally get nice depth of field if you know what you're doing. I haven't really noticed any of the softness that other reviewers have complained about. Build quality I was fairly impressed with. Obviously, it's not an L series, but the lens has some heft to it, which is a good thing in my book. I can't really comment on AF, as I practically never use it, but on the rare occasions I have, it's been fast and accurate.

This lens is not without faults, though. As noted in practically every review I've ever read, the barrel distortion at 17mm is a bit much. It's completely gone by 24mm, though. CA can also be a problem, but it's never been a consistent issue with my images, it seems to come and go depending on the subject.

Overall, as my first lens on my first DSLR, this lens has done everything I've asked of it. Eventually I'm sure I'll upgrade, but for now this lens is on the camera 24/7.

May 15, 2008
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Registered: May 14, 2008
Location: Germany
Posts: 0
Review Date: May 14, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $420.00 | Rating: 6 

Pros: wide zoom range, IS, compact design, fast AF, fair price, nice haptic
imagequality, CAs, vignetting, fstop 4.5-5.6

dont buy it new. there are much used on the photographer market.

May 14, 2008
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Registered: May 6, 2008
Location: Netherlands
Posts: 0
Review Date: May 6, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 7 

Pros: Price (Back then with the cash back), Range.
Soft, Build, Lens extens when hanging on sholder.

I bought this lens after reading many reviews, and wanted it as a replacement for the kit lens. In the beginning i found i promising lens, but is just started with a SLR, comming from a none SLR 8MP Sony camera.

I find the sharpness of a picture very important, and notice that the pictures from my 70-300 are sharper that my this lens. I specially look at faces and hair and am missing the detail in some of the pictures taken with the 17-85. If i look at other pictures i have taken, even with the 10-22, there is more detail.

I want to move to the L-series 24-105. Because it supose to be (and hopefully) sharper, good build quality and preparing me for a full frame camera in the future, when they get more affordable Smile.

On this site, ppl are definetly positive about that lens, scoring a 9 vs. 7,8 for this lens, but other reviews are as positive about the sharpness of 17-85 vs the 24-105. This makes me think that i won't gain from getting the 24-105 because i find sharpness very important.

Despite the negative things, this lens is recommended because .. hey ... it's NOT a L-series lens and the price is nice for the Range, IS and USM. Focus is fast, at least on my 400D.

May 6, 2008
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Registered: Apr 27, 2008
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 0
Review Date: Apr 27, 2008 Recommend? no | Price paid: $340.00 | Rating: 6 

Pros: decent range, fairly good price, wide angle useful for landscapes, IS v useful
chromatic aberration unacceptable, soft at f22, barrel distortion and heavy vignetting at 17mm,

originally was really chuffed. much better range than the kit lens. recently but i have noticed much more technical defects.

whn i can afford it i will purchase the 24-105 f4 L IS USM. i would recommend you do the same if you have the £. i am quite fussy bout my glass lately.

having said that i have some decent images from this lens and its not all bad. cant wait to upgrade though

Apr 27, 2008
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Roy W
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Registered: Apr 15, 2008
Location: Spain
Posts: 2
Review Date: Apr 16, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Good range and colours, IS and a good all round walkabout lens.
wide end, but nothing that can't be fixed in CS2

Many hate this lens, but I have some fantastic captures

Apr 16, 2008
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Registered: Apr 12, 2008
Location: N/A
Posts: 1
Review Date: Apr 12, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $500.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: The best range. IS works. Fairly rugged and problem free. Good image quality.
Chromatic aberation. Distortion.

I have had this lens for nearly three years and shot thousands of images, first on a 350d and now on my 30D, most with this lense. Though not all were taken with this lens, many of my images, hundreds?, have been published in local newsletters, been included in calendars, including covers, and sixty or seventy images hang framed on peoples walls. I've been in shows and had a couple of one-person shows. Landscapes, historic places, portraits, group shots, wildlife, and flowers, wild and garden, not to mention family and friends. This lens is on my camera at least 70% of the time.

I would mention that I have a beautiful 17" printer, and so blow my pics up, full-frame and cropped. At that size--most often 17"x22" and sometimes larger, you see what an 8 meg camera can do and you see what a good job this lense can do. I have two L lenses and have owned two others and while this lens is not an L, it can provide excellent image quality. Leaving speed aside, I can "get" ninety percent of the images I am trying to get.

When I go light day hiking, as I often do, sometimes in fairly steep or rugged terrain, and only want to carry one lens, this is it. It has been used outdoors a lot, and I do mean a lot. And in some pretty severe conditions too. And it works as well as the day I bought it three years ago. No lens droop like the 28-135, which was my walkaround lens on my film cameras.

Given its range, on Canon 1.6 crop cameras(Ds and ds), there is no other comparable walkaround lens, no matter the cost. There are lenses that have better image quality, but not by as much as you'd expect, and there are faster lenses, but given the image quality at iso800 and even higher of every current and recent Canon digital body, that is less of an issue than it once was.

The lens has three issues: chromatic aberation, distortion, and lower-light image quality. Chromatic aberation: I'd guess that 10% of all my shots have either red or more rarely cyan CA, mostly back-lit scenes and angled sunsets with sharp light on one side and darkness on the other. I only shoot RAW so I can get rid of 90% of this in PS Raw Processing in one quick step. Some images take more work and are impossible to perfect, but I have not had one unuseable image due to CR. Distortion: There is some at the wide end, but, if you pay attention when you shoot, you can either have it in your image intentionally or mostly not have distortion. I never correct for distortion, though I sometimes crop. I have not had one image that I have had to throw out because of distortion. Finally, image quality: compared to an L lens, this lens gives you 85% of the color/contrast/perceived-sharpness in low-light shooting. (I'd say 90% in better lighting).

In conclusion: Even for less than a thousand dollars, it simply cannot be beaten in terms of range. For the non-professional using a Canon crop camera, I believe it is the perfect lense. For the professional, it is imperfect, but a workhorse if you forget that its not an L and if you are willing to do modest post-processing.

Apr 12, 2008
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Registered: Mar 4, 2008
Location: Netherlands
Posts: 0
Review Date: Mar 4, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Focal range, IS, exceptional autofocus, really wide (more like 16mm), image quality, resistance to flare, nice bokeh, useability
Zoom action, distortion on wide end, some chromatic aberration on wide end, shade not included, collects some dust inside

This is an underrated lens IMO. I finally bought one after lots of reading and thinking, and after 2000 shots I'm not disappointed.

This is a great all-round lens, and that's exactly why I bought it: to bring less gear while not having too much limitations. I have better, more expensive glass for most of the 17-85mm range, but this is the only Canon lens that fully covers this very useful range. Because of this, it sees a lot of use. I use it on a 30D. It used to be overpriced (like the 17-55 F/2.8), but today the price is okay.

Although it's rather slow, I especially like it for portraits. The 50-85 range is ideal for this, and the 17-85 performs great here. Besides, it's the only large-range zoom which produces nice bokeh.

The max aperture breaks down like this:
17-24mm F/4
24-35mm F/4.5
35-50mm F/5
50-85mm F/5.6

IS works great, and gives you two to three stops extra handholdability. 17mm at 1/7 second is no problem.

This lens performs quite well, and good enough for its price.
I have never seen the vignetting at 17mm other people complain about. Maybe they should try removing a filter (I don't use a UV filter on this lens).

The lens is sharp wide open and doesn't need stopping down. This is great - the rated speed is really useable. Take note of this when you compare this lens against others which seem to be faster.

Autofocus on this lens is spectacular. It's super fast (like the 17-40L) and never misses, at any focal length. In low light it works faster and more accurate than the 17-40L. I have yet to see a faster focusing optic.

On the downside:
This lens collects some dust on the inside over time. Until now, I have not seen any loss of sharpness or other degradation.

The zoom ring is not damped well, it's a little 'sticky', especially when you grip it firmly. The wide range (17-24mm) is very close together, making it hard to make fine adjustments.

At 17mm there's a lot of barrel distortion. Fortunately this is easy to correct. The lens is also a little wider than 17mm, so you won't loose to much angle of view when you 'debarrelize' and then crop your shot. This distortion disappears very quickly when you zoom in. At 20mm it's already gone for the most part. Nevertheless, at 17mm there's severe distortion.

The weakest performance is 17 to about 24mm. Below 20 mm you will see some CA. Up to 24mm there's a little softness in the extreme corners at any aperture, but nothing to be scared of. Of course CA can be corrected. After reading too many reviews the CA on this lens is not half as bad as I expected. It's not much worse than on the 17-40L.
From 24mm up, it's very good without real flaws.

The new 18-55 IS is sharper, but the 17-85 has WAY better autofocus, a better zoom range, better build quality and especially better brilliance and contrast.

I highly recommend this lens. You can find lenses that are tchnically better, but this lens is not bad at all, is reasonably priced, has all the modern bells and whistles and does it all. It will spend a lot of time on your camera.

Mar 4, 2008
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Registered: Jan 22, 2008
Location: Canada
Posts: 0
Review Date: Feb 24, 2008 Recommend? no | Price paid: $550.00 | Rating: 3 

Pros: Focal length, IS
Build quality, Soft, Soft, Soft ... so freakin' SOFT

I have had this lens for over two years now. I have taken thousands of shots with it in 11 countries. I remember doing all the research before I bought it and was skeptical after reading the reviews. I am sad to say that my skepticisms was warranted. Needless to say, I have taken this FM website to heart for every purchase since.

Honestly, don't buy this lens. The focal length is what sold me, but the 85mm end is useless if you care at all about your pictures being sharp. The IS is good to have (I guess), but frankly, I can get MUCH sharper images from my 70-200 4.0L without IS.

At the end of the day, I have taken some descent shots with this lens. For a while, I used it as my primary walkaround. However, I got tired of how 'on and off' the quality can be. After too many disappointments, I have replaced it with the Tamron 17-50 and picked up a very impressive 24-70 2.8L to cover the focal length.

What has really turned me off this lens is the build quality. I take care of my equipment, but this thing is falling apart at the seems. After a few months of use, I found that it was filling up with dust. After a year, it moved and shook as if the focus ring, zoom ring and body were three pieces of cheap plastic put together by a child. What really pisses me off is how it extends to it's longest point if it is hanging off my shoulder.

Perhaps it may be better for a studio photographer who leaves their equipment sitting on tripods all the time. I am a nature photographer and have taken this lens from my home in the Canadian Rockies to the beaches of Bermuda, to the Savannah of Kenya and Tanzania, to the top of Kilimanjaro, to the badlands of Ethiopia and beyond. As I said: I take care of it, but expect it to hold up to my lifestyle ... which it simply does not.

Feb 24, 2008
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Registered: Jan 20, 2008
Location: United States
Posts: 0
Review Date: Jan 20, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Weight doesn't seem terrible. Very nice having 17-85mm on a 20D with 1.6 crop. Pretty decent resolution. Color and contrast are pretty good. Image Stablization is nice to have. Good all around lens.
17mm shows noticable distortion. I don't like how the lens extends when it is tipped down or pulled from my bag...just a pet peeve. Slight softness.

This is a real step up from the 18-55 kit lens and shouldn't get harshed on as much as it does. I am kind of an amateur, just recently getting a 20D (which I love), but when I get a FF rig I will need to ditch this glass. By the time I can afford a FF on the used market, there will be plenty of these lenses out there, making my lens that much less valuable. But for now, I do like the flexibility of this unit. It does good for landscape photos and even gets good images of the kids, despite its 'slowness'. It's obviously no L lens, maybe I will get a 17-55 or 17-40 at some point, but I'm always surprised how much I find myself on the 85mm side of this lens. I think it's a good 'compromise' lens, just wish it costs less, like about $300.00. I read the good/bad/ugly before I bought and still really like it. I would like to be a PhotoGog purist but have come to the realization that I just have to take the shot...spice it up in PS. That's just life in the digital world.

Jan 20, 2008
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Registered: Oct 2, 2006
Location: Iceland
Posts: 9
Review Date: Jan 17, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $600.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Relatively sharp, IS works great.
A bit slow

In my opinion this lens is better than it's reputation. People tend to compare with L lenses. If this was a L quality the price would be at least double. What you pay is what you get.

I sold mine for a 17-40 and a 24-70. Still I sometimes miss the IS and having the range in one lens. The 10-22 compliments this lens well as this one shows some disortion at the wide end.

My copy was sharp, sharper than both copies of 10-22 I've had but not as sharp as the L lenses. Autofocus is fast and quiet and the IS can do wonders.

I have tried the 28-135 IS and the 17-85 beats it in every way.

Have a look at competing lenses from Sigma and Tamron but I prefer to stick with Canon.

I recommend this lens to the group it's marketed for.

Jan 17, 2008
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Ashish Gumaste
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Registered: Jan 1, 2008
Location: United States
Posts: 16
Review Date: Jan 1, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 6 

Pros: Good Built quality, Good focal Range for day to day shooting
not encountered yet

When I decided to buy EOS 400D (Rebel XTi), I had two options, one with 18-55 kit and another was 17-85 IS USM Kit.

17-85 lens really gives a nice range for general purpose and the IQ is also bad. I encountered some distortions at 17mm.

I think I'm getting what I have paid off. It's not an L series lens, so we cannot expect those qualities out here and I'm in a learning stage, so this is the perfect for those who are in this stage.

I recommend this lens for the beginners.

Jan 1, 2008
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Steven Park
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Registered: May 29, 2007
Location: United States
Posts: 660
Review Date: Dec 4, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $400.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Range, Range, Range...... Too convenient for crop Camera!
Distortion @17mm.

Even though this lense performs the worst in all my lense collections, I find myself using this lense more and more simply because of convenience. My 24-70L is in my bag most of time ever since I got this lense.

In no way this lense is comparable to my 24-70L but for $400, it does the job most of time.

Only thing that I can complain about this lense is distortion at 17mm. It is the worst. I say becuase I have 17-40mm & 10-22mm also. But this is a minor complain.

In all, I love this lense for the price, range it covers, and it's capability to produce decent images.

Dec 4, 2007
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Dave Quail
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Registered: Jan 3, 2007
Location: South Africa
Posts: 0
Review Date: Nov 8, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $495.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: I have been very happy with this lens. IS is a plus. Sharpness and overall colour balance is good.
Non so far

Nov 8, 2007
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Canon EF-S 17-85mm f4-5.6 IS USM

Buy from B&H Photo
Reviews Views Date of last review
251 596047 Apr 12, 2013
Recommended By Average Price
80% of reviewers $569.41
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating

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