Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 vs Canon 17-55mm f2.8 and Tamron 17-50mm f2.8

On full frame cameras the 24-70mm f2.8 lens is the go-to lens for travel, sports, wedding, street, and landscape photography. On cropped sensor cameras the equivalent focal length to a 24-70mm is roughly 17-50mm. This latter focal length gives you wide, normal and telephoto lens perspectives in a relatively small package that fits on cropped sensor cameras. If you are looking for a fast all-purpose lens for your Canon camera whether a Rebel, 20D, 30D 40D, 50D, 60D or the 7D, then you have four choices:

Note: To see all future reviews please note this blog is no longer active, please visit me over at oopoomoo.com

Canon EF-S 17-55 f2.8 IS USM

  • Image Stabilized
  • Ultrasonic lens (no focus noise)
  • UD glass
  • internal focus
  • close focus 0.35m
  • filter size 77mm
  • weight 645g
  • cost $1200 CAN

Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 EX DC HSM OS

  • optical stabilized
  • hypersonic motor motor (HSM) – no focus noise
  • internal focus
  • two low dispersion FLD glass elements
  • close-focus 0.28m
  • filter size 77mm
  • weight 565g
  • cost $775 CAN

Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 XR Di II VC

  • vibration compensation
  • LD (low dispersion) glass
  • internal focus
  • close-focus 0.29m
  • filter size 72mm
  • weight 570g
  • cost $579 CAN for the VC version and $450 CAN for the non VC version

There is also the Tokina 16-50mm AT-X 165 Pro Dx but I did not have an opportunity to test this lens.

A Bit of History

When I picked up my first cropped sensor Canon camera (a Rebel Xsi) I wanted a light, fast lens for hiking and backpacking. I tested out the Tamron 17-50mm lens (the f2.8 XR di II LD versionwithout the vibration compensation feature). I found it to be surprisingly sharp and I picked up a new one for a sale price of $350 CAN! It was perfect for landscape photography especially for me because I almost always use live view and manual focus on the Rebel to make landscape images. I owned the lens for a year or so and took many landscape photos with it in all sorts of conditions. It was a super performer for the price! But… be aware that the Tamron  lens is really lacking as an auto-focus lens. It was painfully slow to focus and was noisy when focusing. I tried using it with dogs and sports and it was not really suited for action photography.

©Darwin Wiggett - Tamron 17-50 f2.8 lens

©Darwin Wiggett - Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 lens

And Then…

Sigma sent me their 17-50mm f2.8 lens to try it. I was incredibly happy with the Tamron in terms of sharpness and so my first tests were to see if my budget priced Tamron was as sharp as the more expensive Sigma lens. I did the standard tests in the studio using a lens chart to check sharpness at all apertures and at various focal lengths. And then I took the lenses out in the field and photographed the typical kinds of subjects that I shoot to see how the lenses performed in terms of contrast (snap) and colour rendition and also things like flare control and distortion. Rather than bombard you the reader with tons of detailed comparison shots the conclusion of all these tests was the same. Both lenses performed the same optically but with the nod going to the Tamron in the 17-35mm range at f2.8 (better edge sharpness).

©Darwin Wiggett - Sigma 17-50mm lens at f14

But… the Tamron was terrible auto-focus performer! I’ve found that using live view at 5x magnification and manually focusing lenses gives me much sharper images than using auto-focus even in bright contrasty light. This result is consistent across cameras I have tried from the Canon 1ds Mark III, Canon Rebel Xsi and Rebel T2i, Canon 60D, Canon 7D and the Nikon D300s. On workshops and tours I often illustrate this to participants using their own cameras. To try it yourself, simply set your camera to aperture priority and use the smallest number on your aperture dial like f2.8. Use the center focus point on your camera and let the camera focus on a contrasty part of the subject. Now go into live view and magnify the area (e.g. 5x) where the camera auto-focused.  Switch your lens to manual focus and adjust the focus to see if you can get the image sharper than the auto-focus. Often you can easily improve on the sharpness. Check out the scene below. I had the Canon Rebel Xsi mounted on a tripod and the auto-focus was set to ‘one shot’ with the center focus point selected. I had the aperture set to f2.8 and let the camera auto-focus. Then I rephotographed the same scene using manual focus in live view.

The auto-focus test scene

Below are the results of the test using the Sigma 17-50mm lens at f2.8. The image is magnified to 100% view. The top photo is auto-focus, the bottom is manual focus in live view.

Sigma 17-50 at f2.8: top=auto-focus, bottom=manual focus in live view

The auto-focus on the Sigma/Rebel combo locked in really well. The manual focus is a tad sharper but not by much. Below are the results of the Tamron lens on the Rebel Xsi:

Tamron 17-50 f2.8: top=auto-focus, bottom=manual focus in live view

What can you say? The auto-focus on the Tamron lens is terrible! It is slow, it searches, it hunts, it creeps, it’s noisy. I have tested and tried several Tamron lenses (from their 70-200 f2.8 to their 10-24mm lens) and the problem is the same. If, like me, you mostly use manual focus and a tripod, then the Tamron is easily the best buy of the group (especially the non VC version of the lens) and optical performance is really fine. But if you want a sports, travel, portrait lens where you can rely on auto-focus, then I would pass on the Tamron. Also note I did not test the vibration compensation (VC version) of this lens, other reports on the web suggest that sharpness of the VC version is lower than the non VC version. Test before buying!

And so, after testing the Sigma 17-50 f2.8 against the Tamron lens, I decided to sell the Tamron and keep the Sigma. The Sigma was just as good optically (except at f2.8 where edge sharpness was lower) but it had fast and accurate auto-focus and it had optical stabilization for hand-held shots.

And So What About the Canon 17-55mm f2.8?

This is Canon’s flagship lens for cropped sensor cameras and numerous reports state that this lens is super sharp and an all around great performer but it comes at a high price ($1200 CAN). Is the overall quality and performance of the Canon worth the extra cost (more than $400) over the Sigma?

I took the two lenses out over a weekend and ran them through a few tests such as:

  1. Optical performance (sharpness, vignetting, flare etc.)
  2. Auto-focus tests
  3. Image stabilization tests
  4. Close-focus capabilities

Here is what I found:

Optical Performance

I compared the sharpness of both the Sigma and the Canon lenses using manual focus in Live View. When precisely focused I really could not give the nod to one lens over the other when it came to center sharpness at all focal lengths and apertures. But at f2.8 in the focal range of 17 to 35mm the Canon had significantly better edge sharpness than the Sigma.

Edge sharpness at 17mm at f2.8 (Sigma top, Canon bottom)

It’s easy to see here that the Canon lens is really good wide open even at the edges. The Sigma lens does not match the edge performance of the Canon until stopped down to f8! After f8 the two lenses perform equally well.

Another weakness of the Sigma Lens are fringing artifacts at the edges of the frame when the lens is shot from 17- 35mm in high contrast light. The Canon also suffers these effects but to a lesser extent.

Edge fringing at f2.8 at 17mm - Canon top, Sigma bottom

The fringing on both lenses is more controlled and equal once the lenses are zoomed out to 35mm or higher.

The Canon lens appears to be optimized for best performance in the aperture range from f2.8 to f8. Images at f11 are decent but less sharp overall and images at f16 or higher are terrible!

Canon 17-55 at f5.6 (top) and f22 (bottom)

I found that although center sharpness on the Sigma is as good as the Canon at f2.8 and f4 that overall image sharpness from edge to edge is best with the Sigma in the f5.6 to f11 range with good performance up to f16. The Sigma is better than the Canon in the f11 to f16 range and therefore is a better choice for landscape work requiring large depth-of-field.

Sigma lens at f16 top photo, Canon lens at f16 bottom photo

The Sigma lens also records images with more contrast and ‘pop’ and with a more accurate colour cast than the Canon lens which tends to record scenes flat and washed out and cool in colour tone.

Sigma lens top photo, Canon lens bottom photo

Sigma lens top photo, Canon lens bottom photo

In numerous tests I found this same difference in contrast and colour between the two lenses. All comparisons were shot at the same exposures, white balance etc. The Sigma lens simply had a more pleasing rendition of scenes for my tastes.

As far as flare is concerned it depends. Sometimes the Sigma gave more flare (e.g. at 17mm) sometimes the Canon was more prone to flare (e.g. at 28mm).

Auto Focus Tests

I tested both the Sigma and the Canon lens for accuracy of auto-focus vs manual focus in live view and both lenses returned similar results. Live view gave slightly better results for both lenses. Only in dim light did the auto-focus capabilities start to falter.

With action sequences of people running, cars on the highway and moving dogs, I saw absolutely no difference in the ability of the Sigma and Canon lenses to track focus. As well, with static subjects both lens were zippy and fast to auto-focus and for me they seemed matched in their abilities.

Image Stabilization Tests

Handheld images using auto-focus and image stabilization (Canon) and optical stabilization (Sigma) returned fairly similar results but I got a slightly higher percentage of sharp shots in the 1/15th to 1/30s range with the Canon lens. So nods in this department to Canon.

Close-focus Capabilities

The clear winner in this category is the Sigma lens. Not only does it focus closer (see images below) but when photographing close subjects (e.g. head and shoulders or closer, the Sigma is significantly sharper at all apertures than the Canon lens. The Canon does not seem to like close subjects and optical performance really suffers. This is not a good lens to use for close-up work!

sigma at closest focus at 50mm

Canon closest focus at 55mm

Sigma close detail sharpness at f8

Canon close detail sharpness at f8

Conclusion

Which lens you choose all depends on your budget and on your needs. If want the best overall optical performance for your dollar then the  Tamron SP AF17-50 f2.8 Xr Di II is a fantastic buy! Although I did not this test the lens directly against the Canon lens, I think it is just as sharp at all apertures but it costs almost 1/3rd the price of the Canon lens! But the Tamron is not a lens to buy if you rely on auto-focus. This is a good landscape lens when used on a tripod and focused manually in live view. But do not try action photos with this lens or you’ll be disappointed.

If you want a lens with good all around performance at the a reasonable price, then the Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 lens might be the lens for you. The Sigma is as good as the Canon lens in terms of auto-focus, it’s a sharp as the Canon lens when stopped down to at least f5.6 and it is a much, much better lens for close-up subjects. As well the contrast on the Sigma lens is snappy and the colour rendition is accurate. The Sigma is a better landscape lens than the Canon because it has better performance in the f11-f16 range which are apertures often needed for depth-of-field. Also the lens is the lightest of the bunch. I would recommend this lens for nature and generic photography.

If you want to photograph people, sports, or action or hand-held street photography where  wide apertures like f2.8 or f4 are regularly used then the Canon 17-55 f2.8 lens lens is the best choice. It’s sharp edge-to-edge when wide open (with little fringing), has great image stabilization and zippy auto-focus. The drawbacks are its heavier weight, poor close-focus performance, flat contrast and cool colour rendition and large price tag.

In short, none of these lenses are perfect but some work better for some purposes than others. As always try before you buy but hopefully this review will help narrow your choices.


©Darwin Wiggett - Sigma 17-50mm lens at f11


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56 Responses to “Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 vs Canon 17-55mm f2.8 and Tamron 17-50mm f2.8”

  1. I had bought the Tamron lens in Nikon mount and had exactly the same experience you did with the autofocus: it was slow to lock on even in good light, often wouldn’t look on at all in moderately dim light (in which my Nikon lenses had no problems) and wasn’t very accurate.

    Rather than return it, I sent it to Tamron with a strongly worded complaint. It came back a couple of weeks later with a ticket saying it had been repaired.

    The ticket didn’t specify what had been done to it, but it made a night-and- day difference — autofocus speed and accuracy both were vastly improved. I would now have to rate its AF performance as being as good as or better than that of any of my Nikon lenses.

    My lens had a very low serial number, and I wonder if some of them might have been shipped with insufficient inspection or buggy firmware. At any rate, users who are dissatisfied with AF performance and don’t want to return or trade their lens might want to look into having it serviced.

    My remaining complaint about the Tamron lens is that its stabilization system seems very noisy in operation, and I still probably wouldn’t give it a top recommendation for that reason alone. However, after the AF repair I can’t complain about its optical results.

  2. There is never a clear winner.

  3. Nice review…Few points to consider.

    What is the closeup distance used in the final test?
    How was the closeup focusing performed? Manual, Auto focus, Liveview?
    Was micro focus adjustment performed prior to the review?

    Looks like Sigma is a pretty good lens. Thanks for the info.
    -Jay

    • Hi Jay,

      All tests of sharpness were in manual focus using live view at 5x for optimal sharpness. You can not do micro focus adjustments on a Rebel camera

  4. Thanks for the detailed review. Great information.

    The Tamron 17-50 was my very first lens and has been my all around favorite for some time. I have since bought more expensive lenses but I still like it for the wide angles and great DOF. I’ve never done the experiement you described with the autofocus but I’ll hae to give that a try.

  5. It seems one of the general rules of life that a faster lens will perform worse stopped down than an equivalent slower lens. Hence why it’s often a poor choice to have the most expensive lenses for landscape as they are typically only expensive because of their maximum aperture. Good review!

  6. Hi, Interesting article. I am the owner of the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 along 4 other photographers in my office (3 of us use the Nikon version while another 2 use the Canon version). One of the guys have upgraded to the VC version while the rest of us are still using the non-VC version. What we found (with so many copies of the same lens, is that the Tamron lens is notorious for front or back focusing straight out of the box. Most of us had front focusing issues and had to send it back to Amplis Foto (Canadian Distributor for Tamron) to have the lens adjusted. However, once these lenses come back from Amplis, they are SUPER sharp autofocusing. Looking at your Tamron test, you had a copy that either front or back focuses. Check out my friend’s photo of his new Tamron: http://www.flickr.com/photos/flyboy604/5181071484/in/photostream
    You can clearly see 2 to 3mm front focusing. He sent the lens back to Amplis and it came back tack sharp (check out his photostream and you will see a lot of his latest photos at f/2.8 – f/3.5). I am of the opinion that in terms of image quality, the Tamron will give the Canon a run for its money. Now, build quality, the Tamron has a lot to be desired.

    Thanks for the review!

    • Great to know that Amplis will fix the lens and make it perform the way it should! thanks for the very useful information that people who own or want to buy the Tamron will want to know about.

      Darwin

  7. Great review. Thanks for posting this. I’ve been looking for it all over the internet! I think I’m going to get the Sigma :O

  8. [...] In short, none of these objectives should be considered in absolute perfect, but each can give their best for some purposes than others. As usual, if possible try before you buy … ” Go to the test comparing complete with numerous photos supplied: [...]

  9. Michael Crouch Says:

    I purchased the Canon 17-55mm is refurbed at what I thought was a great price. Got it and found out immediately that while quite sharp this lens was a bit far sighted. Not terrible but enough to know that any Macro was impossible. Also noticed that landscapes lacked zing. Took it to a 30th birthday party and Wow, it was great. Seem to use flash sparingly and pictures were just really nice. Told my wife it was my people lens. I take it to social events. When we traveled, I left it home. Haven’t used the other lenses but I have to say your review on the Canon was absolutely spot on.

    • Thanks Michael for your added thoughts on the Canon lens. Good to know I am not out to lunch here. d

    • Rose McGillicuddy Says:

      Been busy comparing lenses as thinking about upgrading from the kit 18 – 55 for my Canon 600D.

      Michael – is that you from the Wairarapa a few years ago? Amazing if so – would love to hear from you!

      Cheers
      Rose

  10. I’ve been tossing around the Nikon 17-55 2.8 and the Sigma 17-50. For the money difference I think the Sigma is the way to go. Thanks for the practical tests anyone can perform.

  11. [...] Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 vs Canon 17-55mm f2.8 and Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 (darwinwiggett.wordpress.com) [...]

  12. [...] f2.8 lens comparison An interesting review / comparison of three (Canon mount) 17-55 zooms. Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 vs Canon 17-55mm f2.8 and Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 Darwin Wiggett __________________ Members see all embedded images, and they don't see ads in threads. [...]

  13. Thank you for this review. It’s really well done and I like how you focus on real world circumstances (with example photos) rather than a more technical review with charts and such. I just got a Sigma 17-50mm (before reading your review). I LOVE Sigma lenses because I think the whole “pop” and what you may have mentioned, “warmth.” So for me it was between the Sigma and the 17-40mm L. I assume the L is sharper, but I have read that the Sigma actually stacks up well against it, in the center at least. Also heard from a sales rep the Sigma is “just as sharp” … I imagine the store would have wanted more money so I’m confused why they would lie…Or perhaps just not know any better. I hear the edges apparently lose it when compared to the L. Which is totally believable without seeing any test shots. That’s a common tough spot for lenses, but that’s ok with me given all the other features the Sigma has including the f/2.8 vs f/4.

    I think another thing worth mentioning in your review is the focusing for the lenses. You talk about manually focusing them…But my gripe with this Sigma 17-50 is that the focus ring is narrow and turns when you autofocus. It has no full time manual. My hand holding the lens seems to get in the way and I have to learn to compensate for it. Also it’s EXTREMELY touchy. It’s VERY hard to manually focus the Sigma. You have to ever so slightly turn it to bring it out of focus. The zoom seems to turn the wrong way too. Which I read elsewhere, but didn’t fully appreciate it until my muscle memory went to go and turn it the wrong way on several occasions without thinking.

    • Tom,

      In my opinion both the Sigma and the Tamron are sharper than Canon’s 17-40L lens which I think is not a great lens overall.

      thanks for the mention of the focus ring on the Sigma, you are correct, it is small and cumbersome and has no full time manual. these are practical considerations when looking at a lens to buy that would fit your photography style.

      Darwin

      • Really? Wow, I’m still kinda in disbelief about the L’s sharpness. I just always assumed they were the sharpest lenses out there. The 135mm L I have certainly is the sharpest thing I’ve ever used. I’m even more glad now with my decision. Thank you for the reassurance! Now I’ll see what I can go capture in Big Sur in a few weeks!

  14. [...] OS HSM.. It offers a fast focus (HSM) has stabilization. Somehow, i stumbled upon this review.. Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 vs Canon 17-55mm f2.8 and Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 Darwin Wiggett Anyone here who actually owns or has used the Sigma [...]

  15. Fritzer Says:

    what an exellent review…exactly what i needed.
    I’m still not realy sure yet; canon or sigma, but i realy tend to buy the $igma. The fact that the canon is a tad better for low light/portrets makes me doubt. And the fact that sigma had compatibility problems with newer bodies in the past.

    • If it helps, that Sigma is SHARP and nice. There’s only two things I’m not happy about with that lens, but neither are show stoppers. First, the zoom seems to turn backwards from other lenses (Sigma included). Second, you can’t really use the manual focus all too well. You can, but it has no resistance and its too fine. So it takes patience. Oh and third, I always seem to have my hand in the way for the auto-focus because that focus ring turns when focusing. No full-time manual.

      But other than that, if you’re gonna use auto-focus (which seems fine and fast for me) then the Sigma is a wonderful lens. That said, obviously I haven’t tried the other lenses, but this review is really good.

      If it helps, I use the Sigma on a 7D without issues.

      • i liked the review, just bought the sigma 17-50mm last 13 days ago now and it performed as reviewed. A bang for a buck for this lens! optically performed very good to excellent or vice versa. of course, there is no perfect lens for a standard zoom lens yet. important thing is you get what you pay for with an excellent optical performance in a great price! – Jojo Sacdalan (Philippines)

  16. This is a late addition, but may yet help some people looking at it in the future. Darwin, as you mention, there’s no way for the Rebel models to micro-adjust the focusing. I think that may have been an issue for your old version of the Tamron.

    While I agree with you about the focusing speed of the Tamron, mine (an older model, without VC) has been an excellent combination with my Rebel t2i. I think that may just be luck, however; every body and every lens will be slightly different. I’ve tried using live view (magnified) to touch up the focus, and haven’t found it necessary at f-stops above f/4 or f/4.5, depending on the focal length. For landscape use at f/8 or f/11, mine works great on autofocus. In fact, I use this lens so often when hiking and backpacking that I’m a little afraid to upgrade to a t3i… I might have to make the jump up to a 60d or 7d just because they have micro-adjust on the autofocus.

    Thank you for the excellent and thorough review of the three models, though I think it bears keeping in mind that there can be a moderately large sample variation between the “same” lens. The third-party manufacturers (Sigma, Tamron, Tokina) seem a little more guilty of this than the main manufacturers, but even Canon and Nikon (et. al) have it as well. My guess it that it’s not until you get up to Leica levels of manufacturing that the quality controls get really tight. I’m not saying things are manufactured poorly… Just that things a tiny bit out of spec can make a big difference when you’re dealing with 18 megapixels stuffed into an APS-C size. That’s why some bodies have micro-adjust in the first place, I think.

    Anyway, I feel like I’m starting to lecture a bit, so I’ll stop there. Thanks again for the review.

    • Hi Mark, thanks for the great input! I talked with the Sigma and Tamron reps and they said that with Canon cameras in particular are problematic with auto-focus and that the settings on the cameras are widley variable. Of course Canon will blame the lens manufacturers and on it goes. Who to believe???

      For critical focus at f2.8 nothing beats manual focus in Live view (magnified 5x). With apertures like f5.6 or higher, depth-of-field will cover minor auto-focus errors, so yes for landscape photography especially at f11, f16, auto-focus is fine to use. If you plan to upgrade to the 7d from the T2i, I highly recommend you compare the 2 cameras in the field. Although they have the same sensors, the differences in file quality is surprising. Just saying, test before you buy the 7d.

      You stated that – “there can be a moderately large sample variation between the “same” lens” – I totally agree with this statement.

      You also said – “the third-party manufacturers (Sigma, Tamron, Tokina) seem a little more guilty of this than the main manufacturers, but even Canon and Nikon (et. al) have it as well.”

      I have heard this lots on the internet but have never seen any real data or tests that prove this statement on way or the other. I have seen great variability in Canon’s 17-40mm lens and so remain unconvinced that one manufacturer is better or worse than another until I see convincing data. Also where is the data that Leica’s are made with tighter tolerances than other manufacturers?
      Darwin

      • Darwin,

        You’re right in the sense that I’m mostly repeating hearsay from online, and that’s not a rigorous nor fair way to try to collect information (“The plural of anecdote is not anec-data”). I *hope*, given what Leica charges, that they have a very high quality control process.

        For anyone who’s interested in digging a little deeper (careful; this topic can be a bit like Alice heading down the rabbit hole), check out:

        http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2010/03/this-lens-is-soft-and-other-facts

        and

        http://www.josephholmes.com/news-sharpmediumformat.html

        The first talks about the problem in general, including references to a couple of multi-lens studies. The second is a rigorous test (but, again, of a small sample size) in the very-pricey world of medium format digital cameras.

        Thanks for keeping me honest, and thanks again for the original work in putting together the review.

      • Sorry — one more note:

        Thanks for the heads-up on the 7d. Looks like I might have to rent it then, to try it out before buying. I hope I’m not reading too much between the lines of your reply…

  17. Do you guys use live view for manual focus only when mounted on a tripod? Or will you use it to manually focus when hand held as well?

  18. Hi ! After reading your article I’m going to switch my plan from Canon 17-55mm to Sigma 17-50mm.
    But, is the Sigma good enough for night photography ?

  19. I read that the Tamron version hunts alot in low light, how does the Sigma fare in low light auto focusing?

  20. Matthew Wells Says:

    This has been a great help to me. I have the 7D and love it. My first lens was Sigma 150-500 and was stunned at the shot I made at the Blue Angels air show. The only other lens is the lens that came with the camera. I have been looking at the Sigma 17-50 for some time. Searching the web for some sort of news that look like it had been done by somebody without an agenda. I appreciate your info.

  21. I wished every review out there was done and written the same way you did in this piece. It saves us a lot of time and eye-strain researching online. Very informative and gives us the critical information we need to make that decision. Thank God, you didn’t give us graphs and technical talks, would have been a waste of time. If i see a second-hand old tamron 17-50 out there without vc, i’d certainly grab it because i’m so into landscape. Or the sigma if i can already afford it.

    What you did with this piece is bust the myth in my head, that those pricey canon and nikon lenses are the best out there.

    Thank you, it’s good for my wallet. Keep doing what you’re doing.

  22. i heard canon lens was litte weak among their competitor like sigma so if we use it for long time, we can see the performance was decreased,not like sigma. is that true?

  23. [...] EX DC OS HSM? If corner to corner sharpness is critical to you, go for Canon 17-55. The post here is quite accurate about the Sigma corner sharpness at f2.8 – f4.5. Beyond that I doubt you can see [...]

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  25. Great review and replies, Darwin. It’s very important to make the distinction between use and image quality. For those shooting weddings or other low light situations, the Canon is an absolute must-have. This lens is crafted to be used wide open. Personally, I feel if you need to qualify that a lens can’t compare until it’s at f8, then you shouldn’t pay $800 for it. There are plenty of other cheaper lenses that perform quite well at this aperture.

  26. Love this review! Exactly what I had been hunting for over the past week. I wish I would have found it earlier!
    If I’m shooting with a 60D, would you recommend the Sigma or the Canon? I’m leaning towards the Sigma (price wise) and seems like a great lens. I was going to buy the Tamron until reading this review, and about its poor autofocus capabilities. Is the higher price really worth the difference (between Canon and Sigma)? I love shooting sports, events (family, friends, etc), and close ups.

    • Either the Canon or the Sigma lenses will work equally fine (I picked the Sigma because it was better value for the money). d

    • Sigma makes some wonderful glass, but I’ve found they’re not as forgiving when you drop them on the floor. If you’ve got butterfingers, like me, get the Canon :P

  27. Thanks for the detailed review, wish i cold have read it before buying Canon 17-55. I see Flash shadow on few images. I am using built-in flash of Canon T2i. Any guidance on this issue.

    • @Ram,

      Use an add-on flash. Like the Canon 430EX, since it is higher then the integrated flash on your camera. You’ll never get the lense’s shadow again.

  28. I’m a little surprised at the lack of understanding of some basic aspects of photography, such as flare and refraction and their effect on resolution and exposure. Are you seriouly expecting a crop-sensor lens to be sharper at f22 than at f10? Can you not see that the Canon 17-55 is more susceptible to flare…hence not the same contrast and pop” under your chosen lighting? Take those same shots in less contrasting light and compare the resutls. It’s not that the lens lacks pop…and I don’t even like the Canon 17-55mm. I am further disappointed by your conclusory statements based on less than scientific methodology. I enjoy your layout, but serioulsy question your approach. How many copies of the Tamron have you tested in order to remove sample variances? And don’t get me started on your 7D review…I own one and have tested 4 others. How familiar are you with the autofocus system? It took me a few weeks of dedicated work to get the AI Servo to do exactly what I wanted. For example, did you have the IS on when you tested the bodies? Were you aware that the 7D focuses so quickly that it will snap the shot before the IS has time to settle. It happens with the other bodies too, but it is more pronounced with the 7D, not because it misfocuses, but because the IS is too slow to engage. Were you aware that at the same in-camera settings, jpegs from the 7D have less noise reduction, sharpness and contrast when compared to those coming out of the 60D. However, in post processing, both shots look the same when final adjustments are made. I also own an Xsi and 60D and have test various samples of each. I am not a Tamron/Canon fanboy or a hater. I just choose to be very objective about my evaluations. Please try to do the same. Others will rely on your observations so you should do your best to be as impartial as possible. Believe it or not, I do have issues with the 7D too (just not the same ones you have).

    • I don’t know where you got the idea I thought f22 would be sharper than f10 on a crop resolution camera, I have never stated this ever.In fact I have many articles talking about diffraction problems with aperture numbers like f22

      Also in in my review of the 7D I never complained about the auto-focus system, I found it to be fine. So I am not sure why you are ranting about auto-focus here. I complained about the file quality, not the auto-focus (all my tests were done using live view manual focus). So maybe you should read more carefully first before commenting ;-)

  29. t3i vs t2i…

    [...]Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 vs Canon 17-55mm f2.8 and Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 « Darwin Wiggett[...]…

  30. Great review,I use a Canon 17-55 on my 60D works very well in low light even without a flash.But I always have my 430EX handy.

  31. K D Sand Says:

    Great article!
    After several months of research I bought a Sigma for all the reasons you brought out so well. This is the best review I’ve read by far.
    I’ve been using it for a couple of months and am quite happy.

    Like to add – if you’re like me and you cannot find tune your auto focus you might sweat the purchase a bit but truthfully in the worst case scenario you just send it in and have calibrated when you get it. My copy plays well with my Canon 60D right out of the box. :-)

  32. Thanks this helped. Video mode is all the rage these days. Have you tested the lens with video? Manual focusing will need to be good to get the moving subjects in focus.

  33. I bought this lens starting from the “do I really need a more expensive CANON” point of view. OK it’s obvious that many amateur photographers aim to the best they could get on the market, but do they really need that ? Do I ?
    So far I am happy with it, even I didn’t really experienced a lot with it.
    And I am happy that photographers like you kindly offer us an extra bit of information regarding these lenses, so I could make a more objective decision when purchasing.
    Thank you.

  34. jayasish Says:

    fantastic review; I am planning to buy either sigma or tamron 17-50 for my nikon d7000 ( body only); from your review it seems to get sharper photos at 17mm by tamron; im concerned about wide angle so for me tamron will be better choice; also regarding autofocus one of the reader gave a good tips in this reply, he send to tamron and sorted the AF issue; thats a handy advise if neede; but overall your review is excellent and helpful

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