My Canon EF-S 15-85 f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Mini Review

The Canon EF-S 15-85 f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens was released in October 2009 along with the Canon EOS 7D and is the replacement for the Canon EF-S 17-85 f/3.5-5.6 IS lens. I managed to finally find the EF-S 15-85 IS lens, so sold My 18-135 IS which I got with My 7D as a part of a kit.

The EF-S 15-85 IS lens makes a great standard zoom lens for anyone who is using a Canon APS-C camera (With EF-S lens mount) and gives crop camera shooters a lens capable of covering a wide to medium telephoto zoom range. The EF-S 15-85 IS has the equivalent focal length of a 24-135mm lens on a full framed camera, and is the EF-S equivalent to the EF 24-105 f/4 IS.


The Canon EF-S 15-85 IS is Canon’s first newly designed consumer grade lens which now features a cleaner look, and a better build quality compared to previous Canon consumer grade lenses. The lens is well built, and feels very solid with smooth zoom and manual focus rings, and the zoom ring feels fluid and tight, so zoom creep shouldn’t be a issue. The EF-S 15-85 IS uses a duo cam zoom mechanism, and extends out as you zoom towards 85mm. The front of the lens doesn’t rotate, so using a polarising filter isn’t a problem. The lens has a distance scale which helps when manually focusing, but the lens doesn’t have a Infrared scale. The lens has a EF-S lens mount and will only mount onto Canon cameras which supports EF-S lenses, and will not work on a full frame camera because it has been specifically designed for the APS-C sensor. The lens mount is metal, and the lens has a 72mm filter thread.


The Canon EF-S 15-85 IS features Canon’s ring type Ultrasonic focusing motor which is very quick and silent when focusing, it is allot better then the kit lenses which uses Canon’s slower and nosier DC focus motors. The EF-S 15-85 IS lens also features full time manual focusing, so you don’t need to switch the lens into manual focus if you want to manually focus the lens, or make adjustments after using autofocus. The minimum focusing distance is 0.35m, and the lens has a minimum magnification of 1:5 at 85mm.

Picture Quality

The EF-S 15-85 IS has superb picture quality! It’s very sharp, even wide open, and has good colours and contrast and is noticeably better then the EF-S 18-135 IS that I had before I got this lens. I have looked back at photos I shot with my 5D MkII and 24-105 IS lens, and the 15-85 IS is about as sharp (If not sharper) then the 24-105 IS on the 5D2. I also compared the results to my first 24-105 IS which I used on my 40D, and came to the same conclusion, the 15-85 IS performs as well as the 24-105 IS. Unfortunately the 15-85 IS has a variable aperture rather then a constant aperture like the 24-105 IS, but if you regularly shoot stopped down like I do since I mainly shoot landscapes, it’s not really a issue.

There is noticeable barrel distortion at 15mm, but it’s about as bad as the 24-105 on a full framed camera, vignetting is also noticeable in the corners when shooting wide open, but this is typical of all EF-S lenses since they have a smaller imaging circle then a normal EF lens, the amount of vignetting is about as much as the 24-105 IS when used on a full framed camera. Vignetting can be reduced by enabling the “Auto lighting optimiser” feature available on the 40D, 50D, 500D, and 7D, and can also be corrected using the supplied Canon software program “Digital Photo Professional” so it is easy to correct in post production. There is some noticeable Chromatic aberration, but again this can be easily corrected in post production, and it is only really noticeable when viewing the photos really close up (100% zoom). Unfortunately Canon doesn’t offer Chromatic aberration removal in camera, Nikon cameras automatically removes Chromatic aberration with every shot which is one feature I wish Canon would implement.

The corner performance from this lens is really good, the lens holds plenty of detail across the entire frame, and it does very well for a non L series lens, and in some cases performs better. This lens performs better then my 17-40 f/4 L that use to be my standard zoom lens for a few years, the 15-85 IS is really sharp! I tried the lens out on my old 300D which isn’t as demanding on lenses, and the results were razor sharp, almost prime lens quality sharpness! The lens performs very well on my 7D which is allot more demanding on lenses, and it looks like Canon have designed the 15-85 IS to be optimised to perform with the future of high megapixel/pixel density sensored cameras, but it performs very well on older generation cameras.

Image Stabiliser

The Canon EF-S 15-85 IS features Canon’s 4 stop image stabiliser which seems to work as well as Canon claims. The Image stabiliser will allow you to shoot hand held at slower shutter speeds and avoid camera shake with up to 4 f/ stops of extra hand holdability compared to a lens without IS. The Image stabiliser in the 15-85 IS can detect when the camera is mounted on a tripod, so you can leave the Image stabiliser switched on, but it is recommended you switch it off to conserve battery power. The Image stabiliser is very silent, you can barely hear the stabiliser when it is working which is great when shooting video since the stabiliser won’t be picked up by the cameras microphone, making the 15-85 IS an ideal lens for shooting video.

The Lens Hood

The EF-S 15-85 IS doesn’t come with a lens hood, so you will have to purchase one separately as it is Canon’s policy not to include lens hoods with non L series lenses (which is disappointing considering how much this lens costs, and even third party lens manufacturers include a lens hood).

the lens hood is very well built though, and this would have to be the best built lens hood (for standard lenses anyway) Canon have designed this hood with a textured finish which should be more resistant to scratches then the other lens hoods with the “Smooth finish” The new 100mm Macro IS L Lens hood also features the new textured finish to it’s lens hood, so it looks like this will be the standard for all new lens hoods.


The EF-S 15-85 IS is a great lens, with good build quality, and very good performance across the frame, the only real down side is the vignetting and barrel distortion at 15mm, but these can be corrected in post production so shouldn’t be a big issue unless you don’t do any post processing to your photos, the lens is very sharp, and the image stabiliser works very well, and is ideal for those who plan on shooting video. Overall this lens would be ideal for someone who is looking at upgrading their kit lens, or someone that wants a good walkabout zoom lens for a APS-C format camera, this lens is worth the money and is definitely worth taking a look if you are out lens shopping, I can highly recommend the Canon EF-S 15-85 IS.

Journal Comments

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