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Reviews, Tech Talk

Canon EF-M 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM: Review


As you know, I received a Canon EOS M mirrorless camera last week for reviewing purposes, and along with it came one of two new Canon EF-M lenses, the 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM, so for those of you who were wanting more about this lens – what it really feels like, how it performs – here’s a complete review on (hopefully) everything you’d want to know about it!

Yes, Canon came up with a new lens mount for its EOS M system – the EF-M mount – which, being designed specifically around the APS-C sensor size, is smaller than the standard EF mount, and helps keep things compact on the body. Along with the 18-55mm standard zoom lens, Canon released the 22mm f2.0 STM pancake lens for this mount – a really nice, slim prime that, together with the compact EOS M body, will form one of the more compact mirrorless systems you could own as of November 2012. There are probably more EF-M lenses on the way, but if you need a wider selection for your EOS M system, or if you already have a bunch of Canon EF/EF-S lenses, Canon’s got you covered with its $199 lens adapter that allows you to use all existing Canon DSLR lenses on the EOS M – with full compatibility. Great. But to get started, these two lenses look pretty damn good, especially considering the price

Both the 18-55mm and the 22mm lenses come with Canon’s new stepper autofocus motor (STM), which I can immediately tell you means silent autofocusing. They both look and feel really good too – and overall, I have to say I’m impressed with the general sense of the current EF-M lenses; and although I wasn’t too happy with the EOS M overall, I’m looking forward to seeing what Canon will add to this system next year

EF-M 18-55mm

Ok, I haven’t had much experience with the 22mm pancake so I can’t go too deep into that, except that from everything I can see, it should perform very similarly (if not better) than the standard zoom – but this is a review of the 18-55mm, so I’ll get on with it!

If you’d like to buy this lens, please use my affiliate links as it really helps keep my blog online! Thanks
Canon EF-M 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 on Amazon
Canon EF-M 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 at B&H Photo

Canon EF-M 22mm f2 on Amazon
Canon EF-M 22mm f2 at B&H Photo

Specifications You Want To Know

  • Focal Length: 18-55mm (29-88mm equivalent)
  • Maximum Aperture: 3.5-5.6
  • Minimum Aperture: 22-38
  • Construction: 13 elements in 11 groups
  • Number of aperture blades: 7
  • Minimum Focal Distance: 25cm
  • Maximum Magnification: 0.25 (1:4)
  • AF Motor: STM (stepper motor)
  • Focus Mechanism: Internal
  • Image Stabilization: 4 stops
  • Filter size: 52mm (does not rotate when focusing)
  • Dimensions: 61mm (diameter) x 61mm (max length)
  • Weight: 210g

Size and Build

This lens is compact – not as compact as the pancake, obviously, but quite compact for an 18-55mm zoom. And it’s solid. With its 210g weight, at this size, it seems a bit heavier than it is, and it really feels a well-built product. Compared to the EF-S 18-55mm kit lens, which is wobbly and plasticky, with a horrible little plastic focus ring, and a zoom ring that feels like a toy, the EF-M is almost on a different level altogether – it doesn’t have that plasticky feel, there’s absolutely no wobbliness, and the zoom and focus rings are nice, comfortable and smooth. Very nice indeed. Add the metal lens mount and the 7-blade diaphragm and it’s even nicer!

As you can probably tell by the pictures (see more pictures below), the lens body is basic – there are no buttons or switches, no distance information window, no depth of field scale, nothing. Whether you like this simplicity is up to you, but I think it makes sense, as all this can be controlled via the body – so why clutter the lens? I think this lens benefits from this simplicity in terms of usability as well as looks – because, to be honest, unlike the rather plain and ugly EOS M body, this lens looks really good – sleek, minimalistic, cool

Overall, holding it in my hand, I feel very impressed with the overall quality and feel of this zoom…and that’s a good first impression to get from any photographic product

Focusing

The focusing mechanism used on the current EF-M lenses is internal – meaning nothing moves while the lens is focusing. Unlike the EF-S 18-55mm, the EF-M version doesn’t extend when focusing, nor does the filter thread move – nothing moves! This is a feature associated with high-end (pricey!) lenses, and I’m really pleased to see this feature on this one…a kit lens

The focusing motor, the STM (stepper motor) system works silently. They say it’s ‘almost silent’ – but using it, I never heard it – so I shall call it silent. That’s really impressive too. It’s hard to comment on the focusing speed of this STM lens, as you can only use it on the EOS M body, which is slow to focus even with a fast Canon USM – so I guess you could assume this lens would focus faster on another camera; the only problem being there’s no other camera that uses the EF-M mount!

The EF-M 18-55mm also features a focus-by-wire manual focus ring, which is comfortable to use. If you’re wondering what focus-by-wire is, it is basically an electronic control ring that focuses the lens for you using the AF motor i.e. isn’t a mechanical focus ring…although to be honest, it feels quite similar!

Zooming

The zoom mechanism causes the lens to extend by a couple of centimeters as you reach the 55mm end compared to the 18mm end. Very much acceptable for a kit lens. And yes, it is a rotary system – you turn the zoom ring to zoom in and out. Much like any other zoom available today

Macro Capabilities

With an MFD of 25cm throughout the zoom range, this lens is not a bad option for some close-up work, you know. Shooting at 55mm, you can get a 1:4 or 25% magnification with this lens, which looks more than it sounds – it allows for some pretty cool close-up shooting. Very versatile, isn’t it? Good, good

Image Quality

Now to the big one! And yes, I was very happy with the image quality of the EOS M system as a whole – and as that is obviously thanks to this lens as well, I think it’s safe to start out by saying this lens performs very well optically

The photographs I took with this lens were sharp overall – with the best quality images coming with the lens stopped down to around f5.6-8 – with very nice, natural, bright colors. The pictures just looked good – isn’t that what it’s all about?

Bokeh is something that I really liked on this lens. I guess the 7-blade aperture helped? But yeah – the quality of the background blur that this lens produces is very nice and smooth – compared to similar lenses of this price (the EF-S kit lens!), the bokeh produced by the EF-M is lovely

Distortion? A bit of barrel distortion is visible at the 18mm end, which reduces as you go past the 25mm mark – and at 55mm it gets a very slight pincushion effect. In this aspect, it performs much like any other decent standard zoom – pretty well, in fact

Flare is very well controlled on this lens. I shot with the camera pointed directly at the sun, and saw no flare – so that’s a big plus

Chromatic aberration isn’t really an issue either – mild color fringing will be visible on rather extreme cases of contrast between darks and lights – again, just like any other standard zoom lens…but it’s never a severe issue, and even the worst-case color fringing produced by this lens can be fixed easily in Photoshop. Good CA control, overall

Vignetting – again, nothing noticeable. I’m not the type to take shots of plain white subjects to see how the light fall-off changes over different apertures – simply because I don’t use a lens like that in real life – but in normal scenarios, I didn’t notice any severe vignetting. Wide open, there’s obviously a bit of light fall-off, but no – not a real problem

Oh and with the 7-blade diaphragm design, this lens produces very nice sun stars when you shoot images with visible points of light – see some of my night sample shots to get an idea of what I mean

Image Quality Sample Images: Crops

Overall, this lens performs very well optically. Sharp, colorful, low distortion, little CA, no flare – can’t really complain, can you? It does a good job wide open, but go a couple of steps down to find the lens’ sweet spot – and it’s here that the lens is really shines

Product Image Gallery

Sample Image Gallery

You’ve probably seen these images in my EOS M review published not long ago – but just in case this is the first one you’re seeing, here’s a bunch of sample images taken on the EOS M using the 18-55mm f3.5-5.6. No crops, no pixel-peeping – just normal photographs taken with this system, just like you would

Final Thoughts

Taking this lens out of the box, I was expecting another rather cheap and plasticky kit lens, similar to the EF-S 18-55mm. It is a kit lens, after all, isn’t it? But no, this kit lens appears to be of a different class entirely – nicely built, solid, with smooth zoom and focus rings, and a high quality grip – it’s good to see Canon (or any brand) producing something of this class at this price


Then there’s the AF motor and mechanism: internal, silent focusing – doesn’t get much better than that. Optically, it is very sound too, taking sharp, punchy, bright images consistently – yes, it’s a very good little lens overall. I’m obviously not going to say it’s the best lens Canon’s ever made – it’s not supposed to be – but at $299, it’s a very good deal, and thanks to this (and probably the 22mm) I can actually see people using the EOS M system more than the body deserves

If you’re getting one, please use my affiliate links – you know why!
Canon EF-M 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 on Amazon
Canon EF-M 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 on B&H Photo

Canon EF-M 22mm f2 on Amazon
Canon EF-M 22mm f2 on B&H Photo

And yes, that’s all I have for you on this lens. If you have any questions, leave a comment – I don’t have this set-up with me as I post this review, but hopefully I’d be able to think back to my experience using it and answer your question. I’ll be back with a couple of other new posts later this week…so I’ll see you later! Until then

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By Heshan Jayakody
All content in this post is my own

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Discussion

18 Responses to “Canon EF-M 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM: Review”

  1. nice review of this kit lens. it definitely looks a cut above the EF-S kit lens grade in terms of build…and also in terms of IQ. if only the body wasnt so ordinary

    Posted by Bob Wright | November 13, 2012, 07:25
    • thanks! it definitely is of a higher grade than the Canon EF-S that i was expecting. good to see Canon do a good job on the lens at least, even if the body was pretty boring and not that impressive at all

      Posted by pixelogist | November 13, 2012, 07:29
  2. great review! thanks

    Posted by Shane | November 13, 2012, 07:25
  3. solid review! as is the EOS M camera review. thanks!

    Posted by Shane | November 21, 2012, 08:18
  4. I was on the fence about purchasing this lens. Because of this review, I think I may just climb off the fence and buy it. Thanks!

    Posted by Paul Racicot | December 17, 2012, 09:15
  5. Hai, love ur blog but i wonder how a human would look with the objectiv because i want My new objektive to be very sharp and make the human on the pic stand out:) thx!

    Posted by Emmy | March 5, 2013, 04:41
    • Hi Emmy. I’m not quite sure what you’re asking here. If you’re asking about shooting people and portraits, this lens is pretty good. It is very sharp, and can give you reasonably shallow depth of field (to make the person stand out in the picture) – and the range of 18-55 is suitable, I guess. It is not perfect – a prime lens would be even better – but the EF-M lenses only has a 22mm prime lens, which is a bit too wide for general portrait use, so yeah..this lens should do the job if you’re using the EOS M system! hope this helps :) cheers

      Posted by pixelogist | March 5, 2013, 06:19
  6. Was wondering if anyone has had a severe issue with chromatic aberration with the ef-m 18-55mm lens.

    I just purchased the eos m camera with this lens and my images had severe CA, even with lens correction enabled in camera. Unable to remove the fringing in software. Talked to a Canon rep who feels the lens is defective. Am sending it back for a replacement, hoping I’ll fare better with the next one.

    Has anyone else had this problem?

    Posted by Rhonda | August 23, 2013, 11:30
    • No, I can’t say that I noticed anything this severe. At most, I noticed a bit of CA that you would expect from a lens that costs this much. And with lens correction enabled, even this wasn’t really noticeable. I’m afraid you have got a defective one – your next one should do much better!

      Posted by pixelogist | August 23, 2013, 15:35
  7. super review, really good lens, isn’t it? for a kit lens, at least. i’ve been using it for a while now, on my 100D, and wow – not just the image quality, but the feeling i get when using, it makes me want to take more pictures with it. thanks Canon!

    Posted by Ty | November 7, 2013, 21:36
    • Sure, it’s a super little lens, and great value. Compared to the older EF-S kit lens, it’s not FAR superior in terms of image quality, even though it IS a tad better, but the build quality and the way it feels and works – that makes it so much nicer to use

      Posted by pixelogist | November 8, 2013, 09:37

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