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While the 18-55 kit lens that comes with the Canon 350D, 30D etc is a very good lens for the price, it is a little 'plasticky', and keen photographers are likely to want to trade up to something a little better.
The 17-85 IS lens is not the fastest lens in the world, but since it comes with Image Stabilisation, this is not a problem, as long as you're not hoping to stop action. The IS can feel a little spooky at first, as the image in the viewfinder lags as you move the camera, but you get used to it. The IS can get confused when the camera is on a tripod, but fortunately there is a switch allowing it to be switched off. You may also wish to switch it off when you're on an extended trip from base; the IS can be a drain on the camera battery.
The lens is well built, and feels solid. Focussing is very fast and accurate, while the full time manual focussing is useful for tweaks. A distance window is included.
One important note regarding this lens is that it suffers from flare at the wider angles; you should invest in the lens hood (EW-73B). The filter thread is a slightly unusual 67mm. Filters do not rotate as the lens zooms or focuses.
I have been using this lens for around six months, and have found it a vast improvement on the kit lens. I love the image stabilisation, and having a little extra length. On the downside, it is a little larger and heavier, but the quality of the photos makes up for this.