I'm looking into what upgrade options exist for the EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens. For me, this is a superb general purpose lens with a great walk-about focal range, which is why it's my default, go-to lens - it lives on my camera pretty much full time as part of the default trio I carry (with an EF-S 10-22mm and EF 70-300mm).

However, whilst I'm quite happy with this lens, recently I've been thinking that it would be nice to have something faster for use in lower-light scenarios (indoors, late evening), especially at the long end. I'm aware of the excellently regarded Canon EF-S 17-55mm f2.8, but would ideally prefer a bit more reach. I already have a couple of primes which I would use when I know in advance that such a situation will occur (or if I can carry more of my gear), so I'm only interested in the general purpose scenario.

My camera is a Canon 700D which I've had for just over two years and have no plans to upgrade in the near future. If I were to upgrade, it would not be to full frame (most likely it would be a 760D/77D).

I have seen this question, but a lot has changed in the 4 years since it was asked, plus the only recommendation was the 17-55mm (probably because there wasn't anything else at the time).

Summary of basic criteria:

  • Broadly similar focal length range. The wide end is more important to me than the long end, so it needs to be at least 18mm (sacrificing length is OK)
  • Faster than f/3.5-5.6 (variable aperture is fine)
  • Similar or better image quality (sharpness/distortion)
  • 3rd-party lens are fine

I'm not going to put a price limit in place, because I'm OK with buying second-hand and/or waiting for a price drop. Plus, it's good to dream…

  • 2
    "but a lot has changed in the 4 years since it was asked" Actually, it hasn't much. The 17-55 is probably still the only option which meets your criteria.
    – Philip Kendall
    Feb 20 '17 at 10:00
  • Agree with @PhilipKendall the Canon lens line up hasn't changed much
    – Crazy Dino
    Feb 20 '17 at 10:39
  • Admittedly not much has changed from Canon - but Sigma and Tamron have put out some great lenses - none of which existed four years ago. I'm mainly aware of the primes Sigma has released to great acclaim, but I'm assuming they've also released good quality zooms as well Feb 20 '17 at 11:22
  • Sigma have certainly released some fine lenses, but nothing that particularly meets your criteria. The 17-70 isn't much better than your 15-85, particularly at wide angle.
    – Philip Kendall
    Feb 20 '17 at 11:29
  • 1
    even if there would be new developments, it would still be a duplicate. any new info should be added to the old question.
    – ths
    Feb 20 '17 at 14:39

How about the Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC MACRO OS HSM C. It meets your criteria:

  • 17-70 is not a huge range but it's a pretty decent range for most purposes
  • It's faster (2.8-4.0) than your lens (3.5-5.6)
  • Better image quality according to DXOMark. Here is the link comparing your lens, the sigma, and the loved 24-70L. I specially selected the full frame 24-70L because it was mentioned on another answer and to show that L quality on full frame doesn't means L quality on an ASP-C sensor, since most of the lens surface is wasted.
  • It's a third party brand but sigma is doing really well the last years with the new lenses line up.
  • According to DxO Mark the EF 15-85 is a little better at some focal lengths and apertures (such as f/4 from 50-70mm) and the Sigma is slightly better from about mid-frame to the edges at other focal lengths and apertures (such as f/4 and 35mm). At the extreme ends, where most zoom lenses are used the most, the Sigma is not better on either end.
    – Michael C
    Feb 21 '17 at 6:55
  • The EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II and the EF 24-70mm f/4 L both perform much better than the retired EF 24-70mm f/2.8 you included in the comparison. The Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC also beats it fairly handily.
    – Michael C
    Feb 21 '17 at 6:57
  • The Sigma also has considerably more barrel distortion at focal lengths wider than 24mm than the EF 15-85.
    – Michael C
    Feb 21 '17 at 7:18
  • @Michael DxO reports a better average number but going deeper and exploring charts "exterrestris" could decide if having a faster Sigma with a penalty at some specific focal lengths and apertures makes sense. As I said, I included the 24-70 (not the II version) because it was mentioned in another response. Also, sigma barrel distortion is easily corrected in photoshop automatically.
    – Marcos
    Feb 21 '17 at 16:35
  • 1
    This is what I've changed to. I had the opportunity to try it out at a photography show, and pretty much immediately decided that I'd switch to it - simply due to how much lighter it was than the 15-85mm. The speed increase is welcome, but a significant weight difference wasn't something I was expecting Aug 13 '17 at 22:59

The EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens is a perfect example of a lens that attempts to be too much of too many different things and as a result doesn't do much of anything as well as a more limited lens. For a detailed look at the lens, please see: What's wrong with the Canon EF-S 15-85mm?

That being the case, it's not likely anyone will come up with anything anytime soon that has even longer reach, wider maximum apertures, and higher image quality. To improve in any of these areas one must be willing to compromise in the others.

  • If you want better image quality and/or faster apertures one must be willing to give up such a wide zoom ratio (5.67:1). Examples: EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L III, EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS, EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II, EF 24-70mm f/4 L, EF 24mm-105mm f/4 L IS. None of these lenses have more than a 3:1 zoom ratio.
  • If you want even more reach one must be willing to give up image quality: Examples: EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS (two versions), EF-s 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
  • The Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC Macro does give closer focusing capability in exchange for reach on both ends but image quality is only comparable to the EF-S 15-85, not better.

There really are no better options available now than there were when this question was asked over four years ago: Upgrade from EF-S 15-85 IS

  • Did you mean EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS rather than EF 24mm f/4 L IS?
    – Crazy Dino
    Feb 21 '17 at 12:33

I had a similar lens, except mine was Sigma 17-70. I upgraded to a Canon 24-70 F2.8 L Series on my Canon 50D. I lost a bit of wide angle, but the quality improvement was amazing and such a step up and built like a tank. Its now on my camera 99% of the time.

If you have the $$ it could be a possible upgrade route

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