Top Three Fast F/2.8 wides with Image Stabilization

Image stabilization or 'IS' is what Canon calls it, Vibration Compensation or 'VC' is a Tamron term, and Anti Shake 'OS' a.k.a Optical Stabilization is Sigma's phrase. Yeah that last one didn't match up very well, but it's an all important feature for today's run and gun hand held DSLR video renegades. It's also going to provide you with sharper images in low light situations when you can't use flash. When photographing with an Image Stabilized lens, you can also keep some of that ISO noise down. Sure a fast F/2.8 or better will help get that light through, but Image Stabilization is equally as important. Which lens is right for you? In today's economy, that question often comes down to 'What price is right for you'. So what's the options for Wide lenses between 16-55mm with a fast F/2.8? Here's the top three for Canon DSLR's (not full frame).

First is of course Canon's 17-55mm with IS. Some say it's super sharp, and built with such quality it should be labeled with other 'L' class lenses, but Canon doesn't seem to stamp L on any of their EF-S mount. Of course, it's also priced close to other L lenses so it's above what some young shooters want to invest.
find-price-button Canon EF-S 17-55mm F/2.8 IS Zoom

I'm going to throw off the order of things and skip down straight to most inexpensive. If you're looking for the cheapest price, Tamron has been doing well with today's market and offers a 17-50mm F/2.8 with VC (Vibration Control) that has worked very effectively for me on my 18-270mm. Some may argue it's not better than Canon, but I find that the VC with Tamron is super quiet compared to the IS on some Canon lenses (especially the 24-105mm).
find-price-button Tamron SP AF 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di-II VC

Here's the middle ground in the top three list of fast wide lenses offering Image Stabilization. Although i'm talking about Canon options, keep in mind that both the Tamron and Sigma are available in other makes such as Nikon and Sony. The Sigma 17-50mm F/2.8 is still incredibly cheaper than the Canon 17-55mm and just slightly more than the Tamron 17-50mm. This is one of Sigma's recent lenses offering a 17-50mm F/2.8 with OS. Sigma's been getting great reviews as of late, and their designs keep getting better. Normally Sigma's are way over priced compared to the Tamron brand, but in this range of lens it's not a huge difference. Personally I think Sigma has an edge in quality of glass and build so if you could afford to, this Sigma is a great option for a fast wide with optical stabilization.
find-price-button Sigma 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC OS HSM Zoom Lens

31 thoughts on “Top Three Fast F/2.8 wides with Image Stabilization

  1. @ Em - I went out and about the Tokina 11-16 2.8 for my Canon 60D and flycam nano and love it! Balancing it took a few minutes. I would love to get a ring light, but right now I have to spend the money on another camera body. Could you take a look at this video I put together and provide some feedback. It's for an engagement video I did.


  2. Emm

    Post author

    @Chris - The F/2.8 is nice and wide, but when flying you'll still need to stop down a bit. This will block out light much like the 10-22mm. This is why I was adding lights to the setup httpss://

  3. Chris

    @Em. A few months ago I rented the Canon 10-22 3.5-5.6 for flying with my flycam nano for a wedding I did. I loved it, howver once the lights went down I found it useless. Will the Tokina 11-16 2.8 be much better? Thanks.

  4. Chris

    @ Em: What wide lens (other than Canon 10-22) do you recommend for fly cam nano work? I was thinking Tamron?

  5. @ Seth: Canon's 17-40mm f/4L is fantastic on the 5D. It's very cheap for an "L" lens. The 16-35mm f/2.8L is twice the price, but naturally better in low light. For an even wider perspective (and even less noticeable motion)for an amazingly low price, I got the Rokinon (Bower, Samyang, ProOptic) 14mm f/2.8. It's much wider than the 17-40mm, a stop faster and half the price.

  6. Andario

    I know about the audio, I rather pick up the less noisy lens to begin with (I don´t make money out of it, and the idea of having a big, bulky boom mic at all times with me is something that´s simply not going to happen, hence the importance of picking up a lens as quiet as possible).


  7. Emm

    Post author

    @Andario - I have Canon lenses, but regardless the in camera microphone will pick up any noise. Best just to invest in good audio.

  8. Andario

    Yes, that´s what I understood. AFAIK, you can get noise from both the AF motor and/or from the stabilization system. Since the Sigma has HSM, the AF noise should be minimal (I guess), but if Sigma OS is noisy, it might defeat the theoretical advantage over the the "super quiet" Tamron you mentioned, hence my question.

    So I take it you didn´t get to compare both? Which one did you keep anyway?

    Thanks again.

  9. Emm

    Post author

    @Andario - I was referring to the Image Stabilization or in Tamron terms 'Vibration Compensation'. The Tamron is much quieter than some of the Canon lenses I have, not sure about the Sigma.

  10. Andario

    Hey Emm. Your comment about the Tamron being "super quiet" is making me rethink the purchase of the Sigma. Since the Tamron doesn´t have an equivalent "HSM", I assumed it should be clearly more noisy than the Sigma, but your comment seems to infer otherwise.

    Could you please confirm which one of those two lenses is more quiet/less prone to pick up noise while shooting video?

    Thanks mate

  11. Nas

    Ok I just brought this camera can someone tell me if I got a good deal . Im new at this and need to know If I am making a good purchase. NIKON 35mm AF-S f1.8 G PRIME for 240.00

  12. Greg

    also emm, is a flickr aggregator. has a lens explorer, you just choose a lens from a list, and it produces an endless page of shots from flickr made by that lens. It's pretty cool. Check it out.

    btw, great blog. Been reading it for a while, and keep coming back.

  13. Greg

    The Tamron has a $100 rebate in effect until 12/31/2010, bringing it to a whopping $549. This may tip the scales for me, but we'll see.

  14. Emm

    Post author

    @Rob - I often do searches on Flickr for lens types. They have tons of images that will give you an idea of it's capabilities. Flickr is like the Vimeo of photos, you can learn a lot from the information they post.

  15. Rob

    I know the T2i 17-50 kit lens isn't f/2.8 throughout, but how much of a leap is the Tamron and Sigma in terms of sharpness? I'm always worried things are going to turn out crap with it. 🙂

  16. Seth

    As a full frame user, I'm thinking of getting the 17-40L, but no IS. Any alternatives/recommendations for 5D users?

  17. Emm

    Post author

    not sure why the title would crack you up. these lenses are for still photography and IS is a great enhancement for long shutters. this article wasnt written only for video.

  18. Zach Fine

    Post's title cracked me up a bit, as the wider the lens, the less useful IS becomes. It takes a lot more movement at 17mm than at 55mm to create noticeable blur. That Tokina 11-16 is definitely on my radar, and at that angle I probably wouldn't even enable IS if it were there, to save on battery life and avoid noise from the mechanism.

    But I do occasionally think of replacing my canon 80-200 f2.8 with the 70-200 f2.8 IS, just for the IS. Would be very useful for video across that entire range of focal lengths.

  19. Got my replacement Canon 17-55mm a couple weeks ago. Soooo much better without the Err 01 warning on the screen. Highly recommended!!

  20. Emm

    Post author

    @Melonmaudic - Tokina 11-16mm is great. I didn't forget the Tokina 11-16mm, since it doesn't have any IS built in and I was doing a range between 16-55mm. Thanks though.

  21. Dennis

    I'm shooting a doc with a 17-55 Canon. Fantastic lens all around, only wish it would go to 85mm... Can't get a tight interview close-up without having to move the camera too close to the subject. Great for handheld stuff, too.

  22. Neil

    I'm a big fan of the Sigma lenses and have decided to go that route for primes rather than the Canon's. I played with the Canon 50mm 1.4 and the Sigma F/1.4 and the Sigma had a much nicer manual focus on it. The Canon had a few millimeters of play on it while the Sigma was solid and moved back and forth like the motion picture film lenses I've used in the past.

    As far as the image quality, I love the bokeh on the Sigma's especially the 30mm which is an awesome "standard" prime for a 1.6 sensor camera like the 60D.

    Of course, if I had the $$$ I'd go with Zeiss but we can't have everything!

  23. Melonmaudic

    You've forget the Tokina 11-16mm. It's an amazing lens. Cheap, good manufacture and work well. But it's a EFs lens.

  24. Emm

    Post author

    @Steve- I don't own the Tamron, I normally fly a Sigma 20mm f/1.8. If I want to change up, I rent the EF-S lenses. But yes, I normally fly at 4-5.6 too which is dark. If I must, I fly with a Z96 LED light on the HD4000.

  25. Good roundup. I've had my Canon 17-55mm for about a year and absolutely love it on the 7D. I rented it once, and was so impressed that I tracked one down on Craigslist shortly after.

    I feel it's also one of, if not the best video lens options available for the 7D, if you are looking for something to shoot a lot of video with.

  26. JR

    Good post. So, speaking of fast lenses, primes are obviously the fastest. But primes never have Image Stabilization... is that because it isn't necessary or are primes harder to shoot video with?

  27. steve

    Are you still flying with the tamron 11-16 on your glidecam? What's the fasted aperture you've been able to get while on your steadicam ?

    I've been using a sigma 10-22 4-5.6, minimum distortion but very, very dark indoors.

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