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


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

Whenever I review a camera system (such as last week’s EOS 100D), I usually start off by publishing a full review of the kit as a complete system, after which I follow up with a post that focuses purely on the lens. Today’s post is just that – a comprehensive review of the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM standard zoom lens – and I think you’ll find this more interesting than usual since it’s Canon’s first new budget EF-S kit lens since…I don’t remember…since whenever the older EF-S 18-55mm IS II zoom was released. I believe it was in 2007 – although I recall there were a couple of minor updates to that lens which came and went without anyone really taking much notice of it – but I can’t tell you this for sure. What I can tell you is that this one, the IS STM, is quite a different lens altogether, even though the basic numbers (focal length and max aperture) appear to be the same, and that’s what is reviewed here today: the new and improved standard 18-55mm standard zoom lens in the Canon EF-S line. I hope you enjoy it

This lens was announced a couple of months back, along with two new EOS bodies – the tiny EOS 100D/Rebel SL1, which I reviewed last week, as well as the new ‘regular’ Rebel, the 700D/Rebel T5i – and is naturally sold by itself or in kits with these two bodies

It’s an EF-S lens, so it’ll work with Canon’s crop-sensor DSLR cameras only – not that you’d be interested in this $250 lens if you have a full-frame camera, but I’m just getting it all out there – and, to be frank, it’s a pretty nice lens. It’s not the best in terms of build quality, with its plastic mount and all that, but it’s an improvement over its predecessor in every way, and that’s a good thing to hear about a product that’s supposed to be an upgrade, right?

Canon EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM

Canon EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM

Compared to the older EF-S, the new STM version feels better in the hand – the zoom ring feels smooth, the (electronic) focus ring is slightly broader, and it just feels better overall – even though it’s still rather plasticky, and unfortunately not quite as nice as the EF-M STM zoom. I don’t quite understand why this is so, considering the EF-M zoom and this EF-S go for around the same price, but oh well. This lens does, however, include the STM bit from the EF-M – the stepper motor AF mechanism – which does just what it did on the EF-M: it provides silent, fast, accurate autofocusing…with a non-rotating front element…plus full-time manual focus. Nice. Pretty high-end features for a rather cheap kit lens, don’t you think? See why I feel it’s better than the older one? See why I think it’s one of the best 18-55mm kit lenses on the market?

Buy yours from B&H Photo – Or Amazon!

 

If you agree, and you’re getting one, please use my links to make your purchase – it’ll be a great help. If you don’t, read on – maybe I’ll convince you before the end!

Specifications You Would Want To Know

  • Focal Length: 18-55mm (29-88mm equivalent)
  • Diagonal Angle of View: 74° 20’ – 27° 50’
  • Maximum Aperture: f3.5-5.6
  • Minimum Aperture: f22-38
  • Construction: 13 elements in 11 groups
  • Number of Aperture Blades: 7 (rounded)
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 25cm (throughout the zoom range)
  • Maximum Magnification: 0.36x
  • AF Motor: STM (stepper motor)
  • Focus Mechanism: Internal
  • Image Stabilization: Yes, 4 stops
  • Filter Size: 58mm (non-rotating)
  • Dimensions: 69mm (diameter) x 75mm (length)
  • Weight: 205g

Size And Build

First of all, it’s larger than its predecessor – it’s got the same filter size so the diameter is pretty much the same, but at its minimum length (when set to around 30mm) it is longer than the older EF-S. A bit heavier too, according to specs, but you don’t feel that. I expected a more compact kit lens, especially since it was announced with the tiny EOS 100D, but I’m not complaining – with this lens, the 100D is still a very small kit. And besides, if you stick a tiny lens on the 700D, it might not handle too great. This lens works perfectly well with the 700D, while also allowing better handling when paired with the small 100D. So yeah, the size is fine

The EF-S STM stuck on a Canon 100D

The EF-S STM stuck on a Canon 100D

The build quality, like I mentioned earlier, is an improvement over the previous EF-S standard zoom. It’s not like it’s significantly better built – it’s still all plastic, including a plastic mount – but it just feels better. And little things, like a smoother zoom ring (that has no wobble) and a slightly broader (and smooth) focus ring make the entire experience better. The focus ring, as I pointed out in my EOS 100D review, is a bit too loose for my liking, though. And although this is because it is an electronic focus ring – where the ring isn’t a mechanical control but instead an electronic control that adjusts a motor which changes focus – I find it a bit too loose. A bit of resistance would make it easier to use

The EF-S 18-55mm STM

The EF-S 18-55mm STM

The two switches – the Image Stabilization toggle and the AF/MF switch – click pretty nicely into place, and feel alright, so overall: build quality is better than expected. However, note that this obviously depends on what you expect from it. I opened the box with my experience of the old EF-S kit zoom in mind, so I was pleasantly surprised to find it was noticeably better in these areas. Expect it to compete with lenses costing $1000 or more and you will be sorely disappointed. This is a $250 lens, and compared to other lenses in this price category, it’s pretty good. I wish it were more like the EF-M zoom, especially in terms of build quality, but I’ll take it anyway

Focusing

The EF-S 18-55mm IS STM uses Canon’s stepper motor (STM) mechanism, which first appeared (and greatly impressed me) on the EF-M lenses. It’s sort of like the budget version of Canon’s famous USM mechanism, and I think it’s fantastic. It allows cheaper glass to have features that were previously ONLY found on high-end lenses costing upwards of $1000

What features, you ask? Well, I already mentioned them, didn’t I? Internal focusing – the filter doesn’t rotate, the lens doesn’t extend, nothing moves when you focus. Focusing is silent. Fast. And it’s accurate. Compare that to the old EF-S standard zoom, with its noisy AF system that had to rotate and extend its front element when focusing – something that had ‘cheap’ written all over it – and you realize what a difference this upgrade makes. On top of that, this lens has Full-Time Manual Focus, which allows you to manually fine-tune focus even when autofocus is turned on. Nice. Very nice

Canon EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM

The EF-S STM at around 30mm – it’s most compact form

Focusing was fast, too. In daylight, it was pretty much instantaneous. I didn’t do any scientific tests to give you an idea of how fast this locks focus, but it never struggled in daylight. At night, it was obviously slower, but still rarely failed to lock focus, and was never really sluggish – it never really frustrated me. Its predecessor often frustrated me when shooting in low light – so this is definitely an improvement in AF speed and accuracy too

Manual focusing was decent. I always prefer using a manual focus ring to these new electronic focus rings, and this lens has a focus ring that’s a bit too loose, so it wasn’t a fantastic experience for me – but I was able to adapt pretty fast. Can’t complain

So yeah…basically, the fast and silent AF, thanks to the stepper motor, is the main reason why I’d take this lens over most other kit lenses out there…and why it is that much better a product than the EF-S 18-55mm IS II

Zooming

Not much to write here – it zooms like any other lens would zoom. You twist the ring, the lens zooms in – you twist it the other way, it zooms out. The barrel extends while you zoom, which is very acceptable for a lens of this  category – and as the zoom ring is fairly smooth, with no wobble, I found it pretty pleasant to use

The lens is longest at 55mm, and retracts to its shortest length at around 30mm

Macro Capabilities

This lens’ ability to take close-ups is almost identical to its predecessor. With an MFD of 25mm through the zoom range, it gives you pretty decent macro shots at 55mm, with a maximum magnification of 0.36x. Not bad at all

Image Quality

You know how important this section is, so let me get to it without further ado

Well, you’ve probably read my EOS 100D review, and if you have, you will know that I was very pleased with the images that the kit produced – and as the lens is half of the kit, I was obviously pleased with the performance of the 18-55mm IS STM

The images just looked good, you know. Without trying to analyze what exactly makes them look good (that comes later) I think it’s enough to know in the beginning that the images produced by the 100D/18-55mm IS STM looked very good: natural, without being bland or overly neutral, colorful in its own way, and just pleasing overall. I noted in my 100D review that I felt the images lack a bit of punch, in some cases, and that’s true – but like I mentioned there, it’s a personal preference, and this is just compared to other systems that I’ve used recently. It’s not a bad quality about this lens (or body) at all – it’s just how this system’s images look. Its signature, if you like. So if you think these images look great (check out the sample image gallery) you will love this system. And if you feel like me, a quick bump of contrast/saturation in Lightroom – or shoot using the Vivid Picture Style – should be all you need

The sharpness of this lens is good overall. Again, like when talking about build quality, this is all about expectations. The lens is sharp – as sharp (or sharper) than its predecessor – but compare it with a $1000+ and you will be disappointed. But for what it is, I feel it performs well throughout the frame. Sure, it’s rather soft when wide open – especially in the corners – but it sharpens pretty nicely when you stop down a bit – even near the edges of the frame. By around 5.6 (or f8 at 55mm) you should be getting some very nice images – nice and sharp in the center, and acceptably sharp in the corners. Check out the sharpness crops below if you’re curious about how it performs at different apertures/focal lengths in the center and corner

When shooting wide open, the smooth bokeh is a very nice feature of this lens. Thanks to the 7-blade (circular) aperture, the bokeh produced by this lens is pretty smooth, and very pleasing. Again, watch those expectations – it’s definitely nicer than the old EF-S kit lens, and I’d say better than 90% of similarly priced zooms out there, but don’t compare it to L glass, for example

Lens distortion is noticeable at the extreme ends of the zoom range. Nothing severe, and can easily be corrected in Lightroom. No big deal at all. See the sample shots below to get a better idea

Other lens aberrations are less noticeable. Vignetting can be seen when shooting wide open, especially at the 18mm end, but reduces a lot when you stop down. Chromatic aberrations are visible if you pixel-peep, in extreme conditions, but they don’t ruin your image – and are not easily noticed when viewing images at regular size. The important point to take note of here is that the 100D (and the 700D, I would assume) has built-in lens aberration correction, which automatically fixes chromatic aberrations and vignetting in-camera, based on a lens profile. Obviously, this kit lens is profiled, so these aberrations are nothing to worry about: they’re fixed in-camera, automatically. Check out my EOS 100D review (under the Features section) to see how nicely this works

Flare is controlled pretty well too. I noticed flare in one instance, when shooting a night scene that included a street lamp (you might spot it in the sample images gallery) but nothing to worry about. I hardly noticed it in any other case

Image Quality: Sharpness Crops

Image Quality: Distortion


The RAW vs. Corrected JPG shot above is a RAW file with no distortion correction applied (on the left) followed by a corrected JPEG of the same shot – to give you a better idea of how distortion (and vignetting) affects real-life images

Image Quality: Vignetting


All shots taken with Lens Aberration Correction turned OFF

Yeah, well – that’s that. Based on what I expected and what I got, I was generally pleased with every aspect of this lens – a true upgrade – and optically, it’s definitely better than the lens it replaces. The images look sharp, colorful and bright, with few lens aberrations or distortions to speak of. Very good

Product Image Gallery

The last shot is a comparison between the older EF-S 18-55mm IS II (the smaller of the two, on the left) and the new EF-S 18-55mm IS STM. Sorry about the poor quality of this shot – but you get the idea of the size, right?

Sample Image Gallery

What I liked/didn’t like

Positives:

  • Silent, fast AF
  • Non-rotating front element
  • Full-Time Manual Focus
  • Better-than-average build quality
  • Fairly smooth zoom ring with no wobble
  • Solid image quality performance – good sharpness, nice colors
  • Nice bokeh – thanks to the 7-bladed circular aperture
  • Little distortion/lens aberration

Note that many of these positives are written taking into account the price category of this lens and how it compares to competition – so don’t buy this lens expecting its sharpness and bokeh to rival a lens costing 5 times as much as this one does

Negatives:

  • Plastic mount
  • Loose focus ring
  • Electronic Focus Ring (I’m not a fan)
  • Larger than its predecessor (not a big deal, I’m just filling out this section)

Conclusion

And there you have it – the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM standard zoom lens! Well, what do you think? I was personally impressed with it. Looking at it from every angle, it just seems to be, in every aspect, a better product than your average kit lens – it sort of raises the bar for what is acceptable for a lens of this category – and that’s fantastic

As you can see, from the “like/didn’t like” section, there’s not much wrong with this lens. The plastic mount and loose focus ring are not great, sure – but there’s a lot to like about this EF-S STM zoom. Again, I emphasize the fact that much of what I like of this lens is due to its performance in its price category – but yeah, there’s definitely a lot to like about this zoom. The STM is the key feature for me – it really makes this lens stand out. Full-Time Manual Focus is fantastic too. And of course, the image quality – pretty sharp, nice (natural) colors, with pretty smooth bokeh, and no serious lens aberrations/distortions. And did I mention it’s going for just $249?


Yeah, it’s a true upgrade to the EF-S 18-55mm IS II. Indeed, it was time that that old lens was upgraded to something significantly better – but it’s really nice when it actually happens. Canon has definitely got it right with this lens – and along with the success of the regular Rebels (the EOS 650D and 700D are here to stay) plus the new success of the world’s smallest DSLR (the EOS 100D), Canon, in my opinion, has put itself firmly on top of the entry-level DSLR market

Buy yours from B&H Photo - Or Amazon!

 

Maybe I’ve convinced you by now? If I have, and you’re buying this lens, or one of the kits (good choice!) please use my links when making your purchase – it really makes a difference and helps keep pixelogist online

I hope you enjoyed this review. Please leave a comment if you have any questions or…comments. Until next time

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By Heshan Jayakody
All content in this post is my own
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Discussion

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

  1. thanks for sharing all this great info on this lens..i was wondering about upgrading my current DSLR which is outdated, the Canon 450D…i think the 100D or even the 700D will be a good upgrade especially thanks to this lens. what do u think?

    Posted by Chris | July 17, 2013, 16:13
    • Yeah, while the 450D is a good camera, I think you’d notice significantly better image quality and overall performance when compared to the 100D or 650D or 700D. If you feel like you’d like (or you NEED) a smaller camera, the 100D packs in pretty much all the features of the larger 700D in its compact body. If you feel you’re comfortable with the size of your 450D and want similar handling, consider the 700D, which will feel very familiar to you, and still pack in all the upgrades that Canon has been building since the 450D

      Posted by pixelogist | July 18, 2013, 07:18
  2. Apart from build, how does this compare with the EF-M zoom? I love that they included the STM – sure looks like it does its thing in that department – even though the build is not as good, but in other areas? Especially image quality?

    Posted by Chris | July 17, 2013, 19:18
    • Good question. In terms of image quality, I think they were on par with each other. I didn’t do direct comparisons so I can’t say for sure – but I liked the pictures taken by the EOS M system, and I liked the shots produced by the 100D too. So without any direct comparison, I’d say they were very similar to each other. In terms of AF speed, and all that, they were pretty identical too, thanks to the STM technology they share. Only in build quality was the EF-S inferior, and that’s pretty sad – they cost the same, why not give the EF-S a better build?

      Posted by pixelogist | July 18, 2013, 07:25
  3. I am very interested in this lens! You’re absolutely right, features like silent focusing, stationary front element and FTM were purely found on high-end lenses like Canon’s L series earlier. IT’s wonderful to know that I can afford a lens with these goodies for just such a small amount. Thanks for the review – I didn’t know about this till I read it here!

    Posted by Dan | July 30, 2013, 07:46
    • Yeah, it’s wonderful to see these features on a cheap lens like this. It really performs well too. Glad this post gave you the info you were looking for!

      Posted by pixelogist | July 30, 2013, 10:05
  4. This lens is definitely interesting – I’ve been looking for as much info as I could on it before even testing it out, so it’s good to read your review. Definitely one of the best kit lenses on the market, right? I’m gonna test one myself – maybe switch to Canon (Nikon user here) if it’s really something better than my Nikon kit lens

    Posted by Ben | July 30, 2013, 09:27
    • I agree, it’s one of the best budget kit lenses there is on the market. However, I’m not sure it’s worth a complete change of system – if you’re familiar with Nikon, maybe it’s better to stick with it and just upgrade the lens to something better than your current one. If you can’t afford anything more expensive and you really want these features and you’re not satisfied with the Nikon system, then MAYBE you could consider switching! Your choice though!

      Posted by pixelogist | July 30, 2013, 10:11
  5. I’m liking the sound of this lens. Great features, very nice image quality

    Posted by Blu | September 8, 2013, 07:02
  6. super review. super lens too. just got it. i read your review before, btw, and it helped me decide to go to canon. was thinking of nikon as my main option, the d5200. but i went for the 700D body only and got this lens. cheers

    Posted by vikram | November 7, 2013, 18:03
    • Thanks :) Glad to hear you’re happy with your new DSLR! :) The 700D should go beautifully with this lens – it’s a superior product to the old EF-S kit lens. Good choice

      Posted by pixelogist | November 8, 2013, 09:34
  7. hi i have been using a 1100d for 1 year now want upgrade but do i go 600d and still use my 4 lenses i have ef and efs or go 700d with a new usm 18 -55 lens and my other lenses i was told that the ordinary ef and ef s lenses would be still slow on the 700d unless they are upgraded as well for the new usm versions or is this just another money spin gimmick would i see more and better results going for 700d over 600d with all my existing lenses

    Posted by PAUL SWAIN | November 12, 2013, 01:40
    • I really don’t see any major difference between the 600D and the 700D where lens performance is concerned. If you’re existing 4 lenses (what are they, btw?) work on your 1100D, they will be perfectly compatible with a 600D or 700D equally. There won’t be any difference in terms of speed based on the lens

      I don’t know what your 4 lenses are, but I’m guessing one of them is the standard 18-55mm IS kit lens that came with your 1100D. If this the case, regardless of your choice (600D or 700D), it would be great if you can sell it and upgrade to this 18-55mm IS STM. I am not very familiar with the 18-55mm USM lens – but I think the IS STM version (the one reviewed here) is really good and will be a great match for either 600D or 700D

      So when you see that lenses shouldn’t change your mind here, I suggest you go for the newer camera model, which is the 700D :)

      Posted by pixelogist | November 12, 2013, 06:37
      • ok that sounds good to me my lens are 18 – 55efs mk 3
        55 – 250 efs is zoom
        ef 50 mm 1.8
        and a ef 28 – 70 zoom
        i will trade my 100d and the 18 – 55 with it and get the 700d with the 18 – 55 is usm lens that come with it

        Posted by PAUL SWAIN | November 12, 2013, 08:01

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