April 10, 2014

Canon EF-S 17-85 mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM Lens Reference Page - Updated

Canon EF-S 17-85 mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM overview

This article stands as a reference page for the Canon EF-S 17-85 mm F/4.0-5.6 IS USM Lens as it participates and is referred to, in many of the illustrations of my articles.

Since it is a quite old lens, I do not consider of value to offer another technical review of this lens, therefore I shall remain to the apposition of features and discuss some of the widely known issues concerning this lens based on experience gained through its use for several years.

The Lens

Canon EF-S 17-85 mm F/4.0-5.6 IS USM Lens was originally introduced in the market in September, 2004 as a companion to the Canon EOS 20D DSLR.

Features & Specification

Release date:September 2004
Original Price:87,000 yen
Lens groups:12
Lens elements:17
No. of Diaphragm Blades:6 (circular aperture)
Minimum Aperture:22-32
Closest Focusing Distance (m):0.35
Maximum Magnification (x):0.20
Filter Diameter (mm):67
Maximum Diameter x Length (mm):78.5 X 92
Weight (g):475

The EF-S 17-85 mm F/4.0-5.6 IS USM lens offers a 5x zoom ratio which enables a broad shooting range from wide angle to telephoto which is quite similar to the EF 28-135  f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens since its focal range is equivalent to 27-136 mm in the 35 mm format.
The lens’s optical design capitalizes on the merits of the reduced image circle to realize a compact, lightweight body that is 4.8 mm shorter and 65 g lighter that the comparable EF-series lens.

Canon EF-S 17-85 mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM lens group drawing
The green element is an Aspherical lens
Drawing by courtesy of the Canon Camera Museum.
Moreover, the effective positioning of a double-sided glass-molded aspherical lens element ensures exceptional image quality throughout the zoom range.

The lens incorporated 2nd generation of Canon’s high-performance Image Stabilizer (IS), which compensates for approximately three shutter speeds (versus two of the original) to allow the handheld capture of shots that would otherwise be blurred by camera shake.

Other performance-enhancing features include a full time manual focus override, and a 0.35 m minimum focusing distance throughout the entire zoom range for close-up magnifications.

The EF-S17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM zoom lens featured an environmentally conscious design that anticipated the EU’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHS) Directive, which was then due to take effect from July 2006. The RoHS Directive requires the elimination* of lead, mercury, cadmium hexavelent chromium, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) and polybrominated biphenyls (PBB).

* Certain exceptions exist depending on application

Packaging and Contents

Canon EF-S 17-85mm F/4.0-5.6 IS USM w/ box

Canon EF-S 17-85mm F/4.0-5.6 IS USM box contents

Canon EF-S 17-85mm F/4.0-5.6 IS USM aside box

Canon EF-S 17-85mm F/4.0-5.6 IS USM caps removed

Canon EF-S 17-85mm F/4.0-5.6 IS USM caps removed - extended

Canon EF-S 17-85mm F/4.0-5.6 IS USM front element and filter thread.

Canon EF-S 17-85mm F/4.0-5.6 IS USM metal EF mount and contacts

Using Filters and the EW-73B Hood

The EF-S 17-85 mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM features a 67 mm filter thread which is quite common in the EF-S series of medium zoom lenses. Therefore, the price of UV, Protection and CPL filters is in the still affordable range.

Canon EF-S 17-85mm F/4.0-5.6 IS USM w/ EW-73B hood and UV filter

The petal shaped EW-73B Hood attaches and locks in the outer perimeter of the filter thread.

Canon EF-S 17-85mm F/4.0-5.6 IS USM - w/ EW-73B hood top view

Canon EF-S 17-85mm F/4.0-5.6 IS USM - w/ EW-73B hood side view

Canon EF-S 17-85mm F/4.0-5.6 IS USM - EW-73B hood mounting lock detail

Mounting on a Camera

Canon EOS 50D Digital Camera with EF-S 17-85 IS USM lens installed
Canon EF-S 17-85mm F/4.0-5.6 IS USM mounted on Canon EOS 50D (Reference).

Reverse Mounting for Macro Photography

Here is a glimpse of my complete Transportable super Macro Rig which incorporates a reverse mounted Canon EF-S 17-85 mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM lens on a macro bellows which will result at approximately 7.5 X magnification, the Sunwayfoto DRH-77 Focusing Handle as a means of focus ring extension and my custom O-Shped Macro Flash Bracket
For the record, the macro bellows is clamped via its Arca-Swiss® compatible rail on a lead-screw driven Hejnar PHOTO MS-3_8 Linear Motion Macro Focusing Stage, which permits very precise fore-aft movement for multiple exposures and photo stacking. Then the rig is clamped on a Benro HD-38 3-way head mounted on a Benro A-298 EX Versatile Transformer Tripod. (More on these in the upcoming Create a Transportable Super Macro Rig article).

Canon EF-S 17-85 mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM reverse mounted on bellows w/ SCV macro flash bracket & Sunwayfoto DRH-77 Focusing Handle
Example of Canon EF-S 17-85 mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM reverse mounted on bellows w/ SCV macro flash bracket & Sunwayfoto DRH-77 Focusing Handle.

Known Issues

Chromatic Aberration (CA)
and the Canon EF-S 17-85 mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM Lens go hand by hand. Depending on the subject aberration is not always evident but when it comes to high contrast surfaces it is always there if you enlarge by 100% or even 200% in order to make it more noticeable in the example below.
Shooting RAW is the cure. Post processing with Canon's own Digital Photo Professional software coming free with your camera is all it needs to be done since the necessary algorithms are already embedded for all Canon EF and EF-S lenses.

Canon EF-S 17-85 mm Chromatic Aberration sample magnified 200% in Canon Digital Photo Pro
Canon EF-S 17-85 mm sample shot magnified 200% in the edit window of Canon's Digital Photo Pro showing severe Chromatic Aberration around the roof tiles and the chimney.
Canon EF-S 17-85 mm Chromatic Aberration processing in Canon Digital Photo Pro
Selecting the "Tune" button in the "Lens aberration correction" section you can set the required amount of aberration correction based on the preview of the magnified window on the top right.
Canon EF-S 17-85 mm Chromatic Aberration processed in Canon Digital Photo Pro
After pressing the "ok" button changes are applied to the image. For consecutive images of the same subject a "Recipe" may be saved into a file and then the file applied to a group of images.
Canon EF-S 17-85 mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM sample shot processed with Canon Digital Photo Pro
Sample photo processed from RAW with Canon Digital Photo Pro 3.12 with Chromatic Aberration correction enabled. Camera: EOS 7D, Lens: Canon EF 17-85 IS USM, Focal Length: 17mm (27.2mm) ISO: 100, Exposure: 1/320 sec, Aperture: 4.0

On the other hand, I have found DxO Optics Pro 9 software very useful in this kind of corrections as they are performed automatically upon processing of each image based on the precise DxO labs camera and lens tables inherent in the software. However, DxO is a little slower in processing than Canon's DPP but we can't have it all, can we?

Canon EF-S 17-85 mm Chromatic Aberration sample magnified 100% in DxO Optics Pro 9
Another black sample showing a green cast against the white background and some red and green shades in the fabric mesh (on the left) and the automatically corrected image on the right.
Canon EF-S 17-85 mm Chromatic Aberration sample 2 magnified 100% in DxO Optics Pro 9
Going back to the prvious sample shot magnified 100% in the "Customize" window of DxO Optics Pro 9, showing the severe Chromatic Aberration around the roof tiles and the chimney. Nevertheless, with auto correction enabled we can see that the image is already corrected in the lower preview window.
Canon EF-S 17-85 mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM sample photo processed with DxO Optics Pro 9
Same photo of the building mentioned previously, processed from the same RAW file with DxO Optics Pro 9 this time and with all Optical Corrections (i.e. Distortion, Vignetting, Chromatic Aberration and DxO lens softness) enabled in auto mode. Plus a little micro contrast enhancement.

Barrel Distortion
Barrel distortion is also very evident on the Canon EF-S 17-85 mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM lens at the wide end especially focal lengths close to 17 mm (27.2 mm in 35 mm equivalent).
Another matter that should be taken into consideration while shooting with wide angle lenses, especially buildings, is the height and tilting of the camera in relation to the building lines, in order to avoid severe distortions.
Nevertheless, once again if you shoot in RAW there is a lot you can do in post processing even with Canon's Digital Photo Professional software.

Canon EF-S 17-85 mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM sample photo processed with Canon Digital Photo Pro
Sample photo processed from RAW with Canon Digital Photo Pro 3.12 with auto distortion correction enabled. Barrel distortion is easily corrected, but the perspective cannot be manipulated with the Canon's DPP software.
Camera: EOS 7D, Lens: Canon EF 17-85 IS USM, Focal Length: 17mm (27.2mm) ISO: 640, Exposure: 1/13 sec, Aperture: 4.0
Canon EF-S 17-85 mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM sample photo processed with DxO Optics Pro 9
Same photo processed from the same RAW file with DxO Optics Pro 9 with all Optical Corrections (i.e. Distortion, Vignetting, Chromatic Aberration and DxO lens softness) enabled in auto mode. Plus a little micro contrast enhancement and slight increase in color saturation. However, DxO has another very useful feature called "Force Parallel" where the user can manipulate the perspective vertically or horizontally by drawing two parallel lines.

ERR-01 and Diaphragm Ribbon Cable
Many photographers have faced the famous ERR-01 problem with their Canon EF-S 17-85 in the past and many more are prone to face it in the future as old copies of this lens get older. Although this error informs the user for lack of communication between the camera and the lens, suggesting the cleaning of the contacts at the lens mount, most of the times the error concerns a broken contact on the diaphragm flat flex (ribbon) cable which passes the signals from the camera to the lens diaphragm controlling the aperture.
It is a quite common error between older EF-S but also older EF zoom lenses like the almost identical in construction EF 28-135 f/3.5-5.6 IS USM or the popular EF 24-105 f/4 L IS USM, since the flex cable is continuously bent at a specific point when zooming in-out.
If it ever happens to you, first of all do not panic!
Loosing aperture control does not mean that the lens is useless. You can still capture great pictures until you manage to have the diaphragm assembly and/or the ribbon cable replaced.

All that needs to be done is to set your camera in AV (Aperture priority) mode and then set the aperture at the widest available aperture on the lens, which obviously on the EF-S 17-85 is f/4.0. When zooming in, the aperture will be automatically set in the camera as well, up to f/5.6.
If your camera has an ISO setting to AUTO better set it there so it takes priority automatically maintaining a hand holdable shutter speed. Otherwise you can manually control the shutter speed playing with the ISO settings.

Talking from own experience, my EF-S 17-85 decided to fail during a trip in the middle of nowhere. Having no other option available at the time, I managed to capture some decent pictures even with a stuck diaphragm as you may see in my album The Legend of St. Theodora's Chapel.

The legendary St. Theodora's chapel in Vastas, Arcadia, Greece
Sample photo with stuck aperture from the "The Legend of St. Theodora's Chapel" album.
Lens: Canon EF 17-85 IS USM, Focal Length: 17mm (27.2mm) ISO: 250, Exposure: 1/40 sec, Aperture: 4.0

Fixing the ribbon cable has two options. First and most advisable option is to pay a visit to an authorized Canon service center where it will cost between US$ 170.00 to 200.00 or EUR 120.00 to 150.00 depending on the country and region and about a week to replace the whole diaphragm assembly including the ribbon cable.
On the other hand if you consider the cost high for an old lens and are skillful enough to be confident that you can disassemble the lens - but also put it back together afterwards :) - then and only then there is a second option of replacing the diaphragm assembly or the ribbon cable by yourself.

A replacement diaphragm flex cable may be easily found on eBay for no more than US$ 5.00 shipped, or in batches of 2 or 5 for almost the same amount, just in case one gets damaged. However, replacing the flex cable needs de-soldering of the faulty one from the diaphragm assembly and careful soldering of the new one.
Diaphragm Ribbon Cable for Canon EF-S 17-85 mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM
Diaphragm Ribbon Cable for Canon EF-S 17-85 mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM
I must warn you that the diaphragm assembly is made of plastic and the heat emitted during de-soldering / soldering may damage the base of the tiny contact pins. If you don't have the appropriate tools or simply don't feel confident enough to get involved with this delicate job, there is always the alternative of getting from eBay a full diaphragm shutter unit assembly with the ribbon cable already attached, which used to cost around US$ 30.00, but now costs just a little more than the ribbon cable shipped.

In this regard, here is a nice post with adequate information and photos on how to disassemble the lens:
EF-S 17-85 IS – aperture change – as simple as possible

Whilst among others, there is also an HD video in YouTube with step by step instructions on the matter:


Disclaimer: Changing a Diaphragm and/or Ribbon Cable of a zoom lens is a delicate and difficult task which may result in misalignment or total damage of the lens. Therefore, any alternative options of replacing the diaphragm and/or ribbon cable described in this post are only informative and in no way may be considered as an encouragement or instigation to perform the task avoiding an authorized service center or trained technician. It is to the readers' own risk to proceed.

Pros
Very good overall construction quality, better than the kit lenses.
Fast and silent AF featuring a ring USM Ultra Sonic Motor.
AF with FTM Full Time Manual focusing enabled.
Focusing distance window.
Non rotating front element.
Metal mount

Cons
Exposed AF and IS switches which may accidentally change. (common to many older EF lenses).
Severe Chromatic Aberration between high contrasting surfaces / background
Barrel distortion at the wide end
Tendency of Diaphragm ribbon cable to break.

Conclusion
Where does the lens stand today? Answering this question may lead to the answer whether one should seek to buy this lens and for which qualities.
At the time of its introduction this lens was undoubtedly a better option than the EF-S 18-55 mm kit lens variations in many respects, equipped with better optical elements, better build quality, ring USM motor, focusing distance window and obviously reach starting from 17 mm and extending to 85 mm. It was bundled with the enthusiast / pro-sumer line of Canon EOS xxD cameras from EOS 20D through EOS 50D included until the introduction of the EOS 7D when it was superseded by the introduction of the very sharp EF-S 15-85mm IS USM.
However, the EF-S 17-85 mm IS USM was never retired since it still serves as a less expensive alternative between the EF-S 15-85 IS USM and the kit lenses, only rivaled now by the newer STM version which are both sharp and fast.
Therefore, if you are seeking an affordable solution featuring a USM motor for almost instant AF combined with the extra reach, then the EF-S 17-85 mm IS USM might be of interest.

I hope you found the reference useful, thank you for viewing.
All Photos: ©2010-2013 S.C.Vlachos

Sample Photo Albums:
All albums with Canon EF-S 17-85 IS USM Label.

Prices and Availability:
In the US the lens is still available brand new for US$ 499.00 (which I consider an out of question purchase since nowadays there are better choices available) or as low as US$ 190.00 used. In the UK prices start from GBP 289.00 for new and GBP 139.00 for used. Further in Germany you can find the lens starting from EUR 349.00 for a new copy or as low as EUR 179.90 for a used one.
All above prices come from Amazon
Nevertheless, the lens is also available New or Used from eBay.

If you are interested in the above product(s) or any other product please consider using the relevant link(s) to make your purchase and help support this site. Your support is needed and greatly appreciated.

Referenced Articles:
Canon EOS 50D Digital Camera with BG-E2N Battery Grip Reference
Create a Versatile O-Shape Macro Flash Bracket
Sunwayfoto DRH-77 Focusing Handle Review
Hejnar PHOTO MS-3_8 Linear Motion Macro Focusing Stage Review
Create a Transportable Super Macro Rig

Relevant Articles:
Canon EF-S 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Kit Lens Reference
Canon EF-S 60 mm f/2.8 macro USM Lens Reference
Samyang 8mm f/3.5 CSII HD Fish-eye Lens (Canon mount) Reference

Relevant Readings:
Canon U.S.A. EF-S 17-85 mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM Lens Overview
Canon Europe EF-S 17-85 mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM Lens Overview

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