Canon EF-S 55-250mm F/4-5.6 IS STM telephoto lens review

Canon 55-250mm F/4-5.6 IS STM is the latest entry level telephoto for crop cameras. It features image stabilization and latest STM focusing system. It is an affordable lens, but it turned out to perform rather good. In fact, even more than that.

As always, if you prefer video review, everything discussed here on my Youtube review:

First of all, there were three lenses of 55-250mm range and you can see how the look like at Wikipedia. If you think about saving a litlle bit of money buying some of the older generations my advice is not to do it. This latest STM version has visibly improved optics and auto focus system – this is the lens you want to have.

It covers the range of 88-400mm in 35 mm equivalent – that is pretty much everything a typical amateur might want. If you need longer lens chances are you are shooting birds or wildlife and in this case you will already be aware of what lens you need.

Aperture goes from F/4 to 5.6 on maximum telephoto. That’s nothing special but is typical aperture for a budget lens. It will be fine in daylight and even in some lower light situations thanks to excellent image stabilization, but ultimately if you shoot a lot in low light you will need to upgrade to a lens with 2.8 aperture and those can be expensive and rather big.

Since I already mentioned image stabilization, let’s say it is an almost essential feature on a telephoto lens. I was able to go as low as 1/10 of a second on maximum telephoto and still get sharp images. This of course depends if you can lean on something or if it’s windy etc… but the bottom line is image stabilization works splendid on this lens.

Focusing system uses STM technology – stepper motor. This means the lens is very quick and silent during auto focus operation. Silent focusing is essential for video recording; so if video is your thing this is the lens to have.

Build quality is OK but nothing special and in this case you can really see this is affordable lens. It is entirely from plastic including the lens mount. You don’t need to be afraid of that; I have some plastic lenses that survived over a decade of use and still work.

Zoom ring is wide and close to camera body – this is good since it is more used than manual focus ring which on this camera is all the way at the top. Manual focus is not mechanically linked on this lens – this is the case with all Canon lenses using STM system.

Really good thing about this lens is the fact front element does not rotate when you focus – this is essential when you use polarizing filter; and you should use it a lot for landscape photography. If this is your first contact with this filter here’s a quick demo how much it improves contrast and colors…Left image without filter, right one with one.

Of course, its usefulness depends on angle from the sun and it removes around 2 stops of light (now image stabilization really comes in handy), but still this is the filter you want to carry around always in case you need it.

This is a very light lens – 375 grams and only 11 cm long what makes it very portable.

55-250mm turned out to be very sharp corner to corner and on all focal lengths. Once I saw see the images on PC only thing I could say is – WOW! For a budget lens this is awesome performance.

Geometric distortions are not a problem. I noticed just a tiny barrel distortion at 55mm and slight pincushion at 250mm, but this will only be seen when taking images of geometrically straight object and noticed probably only be people who know how to spot such things. In other words – you will never notice it in real life.

It was very hard for me to find an image with chromatic aberrations – this lens really controls it excellent. Even when they do appear, it is very easy to remove them on PC.

Vignetting or light fall off is visible at open aperture. At 55, 70 and 100mm it is not that big of a problem. At 135mm and especially above that it is very pronounced with maximum aperture. 200 and 250mm show significant light fall off, but as soon as you stop the lens just by on F-stop it almost completely disappears.

Bokeh produced by this lens is not that great, it has harsh transitions and a bit rough concentric rings in blurred light sources. There are much worse lenses than this, but i don’t advice buying it if bokeh is something you really care about.

Lens hood is not bundled with this lens – only L lenses by Canon are delivered with the lens hood by default. Still this is not a problem since this lens has a very good resistance to flare. What you see below is the worst I was able to get, and this is not bad at all.

So to round things up, 55-250 is a serious piece of kit. It is very sharp across the frame at both ends of zoom range. It is very resistant to flare and has a high performing image stabilization. Its only weakness are a bit strong light fall off but only wide open at maximum telephoto and a bit harsh bokeh. This is excellent choice for landscapes, sport in good light or wildlife when the animals are at normal distances, for example in a ZOO.

You can also do portraits with this lens but there is a better choice for that and that is 50mm STM prime lens which will give you better subject seperation and much better low light performance.

This lens is a part of the affordable trinity for crop cameras. If you combine 10-18mm IS STM, 18-55 IS STM and this 55-250mm IS STM you have covered all focal lengths from 16 to 400mm equivalent with image stabilized high performing lenses and with them you can shoot just about anything. Only thing not covered with this trinity is low light and background blur and for that i would recommend getting 24mm F/2.8 pancake and 50mm STM F/1.8 lens. That’s all you will ever need and most important you will not need to sell your kidney to afford it.


If you found this review helpful, please support my work buying anything from Amazon by following links from my blog, as I will receive a small percentage from every item sold although you don’t pay any more than you would otherwise: Amazon Canon 55-250 STM.

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