The best 17 - 85 EF-S replacement?

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by hana_mohalo, Sep 2, 2011.

  1. My camera is 50D, my main lens has always been the 17-85 I got 5 years ago. I've come along way in skill to know that I've definitely outgrown this lens. The wide angle is important to me, but this lens is just too soft a focus and I mainly due editorial fashion photography but use it as my walk-around lens since it's got a lot of focal zoom. (Though at either end, images fall very flat! Especially around 50 + the photos look so point and shoot). The amount of post-process sharpening I do ruins the skin even though I shoot 100 ISO, so I spend a lot of ps time trying to perfect skin and sharpen and still I feel my images look flat. I get better results with my thrift found sigma 28-70!
    I've researched the lenses available at this focal length and wanted to hear from someone who has used the 17-85 before, I want to know if there is a noticeable improvement between the 17-85 and any of these, I kind of want a wow factor:
    • Choice one: Canon 15 - 85. First thought is that it is 2 cm wider which excites me and it keeps. It's a little bit faster. I love the photos on the flickr group. The large amount of zoom appeals to being a walk-around as well. Of course I am wondering if this isjust the same as the 17-85 plus 2 CM? How will it perform zoomed, how are lines: worse or better?
    • Choice 2: 17-50 sigma/tamron 2.8 Among my comparison charts and looking at flickr pools, both the tamron and sigma's photos look as great at canon's 17-55, I might be fooling myself here, but it doesn't look like there is a 500$ difference at all. I like the constant aperture, this is a lot faster than my canon. I lose a bit of mm, but for my photoshoots I really don't go above 50mm using the wide angle anyway.
    Argh, the many options for this range makes me slightly crazy! Which lens is the best contender?
  2. If you otherwise liked the functionality of the 17-85, image quality aside, the 15-85 would be a better version of the same thing.
    If you are looking at lenses with smaller focal length range and larger aperture, don't overlook the more costly but very excellent Canon EFS 17-55mm f/2.8 IS.
  3. Thanks Dan, I do like this short focal length. So what makes the canon 17-55 a better investment than it's tamron or sigma versions? And this 17 -55 would give a greater image clarity and quality than the 15-85 overall or are they very similar?
  4. I would not agree about the 'flatness' of the EF-S 17-85mm lens, given its range and purpose, especially. It's still a favorite for general shooting for me on my older APS-C bodies.
    You are just not going to find anything much better with the same sort of range, since you are coming up against the laws of physics and optics here. You might try the newer EF-S 15-85mm lens, but to really get superior performance to the 17-85 you are going to have to accept at the very least, shorter focal length ranges and the need to frequently swap lenses in shooting (or carry two cameras).
    Do check the tests at since not all shorter range lenses necessarily are all that much better at their extremes.
  5. I went through exactly the same choice, boiling it down to the Tamron 17-50 non VC vs. the 15-85. I ended up with the 15-85, which is a much better lens than the 17-85 (which I had before). Here's my list of pros and cons:
    • long range: big plus for the canon
    • wide range: noticeable plus for the canon
    • speed: obviously a plus for the Tamron, but for an outside walk-around, I did not care that much.
    • Focusing: the canon is USM-FTM. Big plus for me.
    • Weight: Tamron wins by a lot.
    I get nervous about any lens with a zoom factor of more than 3, because you start getting problems, particularly at the ends. The 15-85 is a pleasant surprise. Yes, it has a little pincushion and barrel distortion, and under some conditions, I have had a very small amount of CA, but all of these are trivial to fix in postprocessing if they are noticeable, which they usually are not. In fact, in LR, one click takes care it. The lens largely avoids the kinds of optical weaknesses that are hard to correct.
    So, you win some, you lose some. They are not entirely substitutes. For my purposes, the 15-85 was the better choice, but if someone wanted to give me a Tamron 17-50, I'd love to add it.
  6. Thank you for the responses. I looked at photozone and this site gives me a better understanding of the tech specs the lenses have - I kind of starting understand the glass of large zoom range which is why for portraits I've chosen to invest in a fixed focal lens - the 85 f1.8. I still want to replace my wide angle at this point I feel do not need more than 50mm for my work, so I have crossed the 15-85mm off my list. I'm going to see if I can try before I buy! Putting so much money on the 85, sigma and tamron look golden but I think ultimately it will come down to testing them and seeing first hand how they compare with my 17-85.
  7. The 15-85 is my fav lens on the 7D: petite, sharp, ripping fast AF, great range and IS. My 15-85 review:
  8. I always found the 17-85's performance to be kind of lame, don't get me wrong, it was usable for a lot of stuff, and the IS + FTM USM made it a flexible choice, but I suspect that you'll find the IQ from the 17-50s or the 17-55 to be vastly superior.
    The advantage of course to the Sig is that it's boatloads cheaper than the 17-55, and has HSM, plus OS. reportedly it's optical performance is on par w/ the EF-S 17-55, The advantage to the 17-55 is that it's... well... er... it's made by Canon, lets see... what else... oh yeah, FTM USM (The sig doesn't I believe have FTM focusing), other than that? not much. The Tamron of course has two varieties, the cheaper of which doesn't have IS, and is sharper than the more expensive VC version. neither have a USM equiv AF, or FTM focusing of course....
    OTOH, the 15-85 is reportedly vastly superior (for most users) to the 17-85.... to bad it's more expensive than the fast zooms offered by Sig and Tamron.
  9. For a general walk-around the 15-85 IS is very nice.
    However, if you're doing a lot of indoor shooting and/or shooting with flash then a f/2.8 zoom will probably be a better choice.
    I have both Canon 17-55/2.8 IS and Tamron 17-50/2.8 non-VC. Both are deadly sharp. The Canon has slightly better AF and it has stabilization, but it's much more expensive. The Canon is a little contrastier wide open. The Canon has nice bokeh at 55 mm (where it counts) but it's lousy at shorter focal lengths, while the Tamron has so-so bokeh throughout the range. FWIW the Tamron shoots slightly wider; the Canon is more like 18 mm at the short end.
  10. I own both the Canon 15-85 and the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 (not VC). I love both my lenses. I like the redundancy, because I do photograph events, family, children, and portraits... paid. So, I like back up zoom (not counting primes), if one lens was to fail.
    Anyways, when I travel or family events (personal use) I often use the 15-85mm. It was a great range. I have had the Tamron 17-50 for a longer time frame, but I missed the 28-105 (from back in the film days). So, sometime last year Canon had a sale on the 15-85, I picked one up for $620... I'm not really sure I would have bought one for much more than that.
    For paid/professional work I use the Tamron 17-50, and a couple primes (85mm and 50mm) depending on the subject. It is very sharp, and for candid-style children shots it works well. I would think the Canon 15-85 might work just as well.
    Only thing, that I don't know. If I was traveling overseas to a "new" place... I'm not sure which lens I would take. The 17-50 f/2.8 comes in really handy in churches, night shots where flash is not allowedor useless. The "Image Stabilization of the 15-85... might be enough to match the f/2.8... roughly.
  11. Thanks for all the reviews, very helpful. My heart is so set on the immensly expensive 85mm 1.2 that I'll get the tamron to save, and with it's reviews I'm really confident in it!

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