The standard stabilised zoom lens for Canon's entry-level digital SLR cameras.Supplied as a basic kit lens with entry-level Canon DSLRs, the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens covers a focal length range equivalent to 28.2 to 88mm in 35mm format. This is a good choice of focal lengths for general photography and will suit subjects as diverse as scenery and portraiture. Equipped with built-in image stabilisation (which Canon claims offers up to four f-stops of shutter speed advantage) it will focus as close as 25 cm at all focal length settings. . . [more]
Supplied as a basic kit lens with entry-level Canon DSLRs, the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens covers a focal length range equivalent to 28.2 to 88mm in 35mm format. This is a good choice of focal lengths for general photography and will suit subjects as diverse as scenery and portraiture. Equipped with built-in image stabilisation (which Canon claims offers up to four f-stops of shutter speed advantage) it will focus as close as 25 cm at all focal length settings.
The light weight (200 grams) of this lens is because it's largely made from hard polycarbonate plastic - right down to the mounting plate. Two contact plates on the mount interact with the eight contacts on the camera body, transferring distance and focusing information.
Designed exclusively for Canon cameras with APS-C size image sensors, its optics have been made from environmentally friendly lead-free glass. Consisting of 11 elements in nine groups, it features one high precision aspherical element. Build quality is good for a largely plastic, entry-level lens (and better than the non-IS lens that preceded it) although not up to the standard the EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens that is offered in the EOS 500D Enthusiast kit (RRP $2,199 with camera body).
The Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens. (Source: Canon.)
Like most entry-level zoom lenses, the EF-S 18-55mm lens is a double-barrel design in which the outer barrel is fixed while the inner one moves. Extending approximately 80 mm out from the camera body (with lens cap attached) when the lens is set between 24mm and 35mm, it protrudes roughly 5 mm further when the lens is zoomed back to 18mm or out to the 55mm focal length.
The focusing ring is a narrow band attached to the inner lens barrel with thin parallel ridges to provide a grip. It was quite solidly mounted on the review lens but, at approximately 3 mm wide this ring is much too thin for ease of use and the mouldings in the grip are quite shallow. No rubber coating has been added to improve grip quality and feel.
As an adjunct to the main barrel, the zoom ring is a 40 mm wide cylinder that rotates through just under a quarter of a turn. A ridged rubber coating has been applied to a 26 mm wide band on the ring to provide a secure grip. Behind this band is a narrow metal ring with engraved markings for the 18mm, 24mm, 35mm and 55mm settings. An indicator mark engraved on the non-moving section of the lens barrel is used to set focal lengths.
On the left side of the main barrel are two sliders; one for switching between auto and manual focusing and the other for turning the stabilisation on and off. There are only two stabilisation options: on and off so, presumably, the system is designed to support panning.
Without a USM focusing motor, Full Time Manual (FTM) focusing is not supported, which means you can't focus manually when the slider is on AF because the focusing ring is locked. When the AF/MF slider on the outer barrel is set to MF turning the ring rotates the inner barrel through roughly a quarter of a turn.
No lens hood was supplied with the review lens, which means potential for images to be flare-affected when you're shooting against the light. (The optional EW-60C hood is too narrow to be really effective but better than no hood at all.) The front of the lens is threaded to accept 58 mm diameter filters.
The review lens was tested on the EOS 500D body where it proved to be a comfortable fit. Regardless of which focusing mode you use, the front element rotates, which makes this lens difficult to use with angle-critical attachments like polarisers and graduated filters.
Autofocusing accuracy was above average in the AF mode and noise levels during autofocusing were acceptably low - although not totally silent. Accurate manual focusing was compromised by the poor design of the focusing ring and the relatively small focusing movement of the lens.
The low price of this lens is reflected in some aspects of the optical performance of the review sample and comparison tests using Imatest showed it to be less capable of matching the performance of our test cameras' sensors that more expensive Canon lenses. Edge softening was noticeable at apertures ranging from the widest to about f/11, where the differences between centre and edge resolution declined. The graph below plots the centre and edge resolution from our Imatest tests against lens aperture and focal length.
Lateral chromatic aberration was mostly within the low band but became moderate at small lens apertures and longer focal length settings. Our Imatest results can be seen in the graph below, which plots the CA values against the focal length setting, with a red line marking the border between 'insignificant' and 'low' and a green line separating 'low' and 'moderate'.
Coloured fringing could be seen around contrasty edges in shots taken at all focal lengths in bright, outdoor conditions when the images were magnified to 100%. An example taken from the 18mm focal length sample image is reproduced below.
Vignetting (edge darkening) was noticeable at the widest apertures at the 18mm focal length but barely visible at 55mm. It was eliminated by closing the lens aperture by a couple of f-stops. Barrel distortion was noticeable at the 18mm setting but had been largely corrected by between 24mm and 35mm. No pincushioning was evident at 55mm.
Flare was very well handled and bokeh (out-of-focus blur) was good for a lens of this type. The image stabilisation system proved to be quite effective, enabling us to use shutter speeds as slow as 1/13 second with a 28mm focal length setting.
Buy this lens if:
- It's offered with a camera body. As a kit lens, it makes a good match for Canon's entry and lower mid-level DSLRs.
- You want accurate exposure metering under a wide range of shooting conditions.
- You want fast and accurate autofocusing.
- You enjoy taking backlit shots.
Don't buy this lens if:
- You can't tolerate moderate coloured fringing with contrasty subjects.
- You need edge-to-edge sharpness in your images.
18mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/11.
Corner softening shown in a crop from a 100% enlargement of the above image.
55mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/105 second at f/13.
Corner softening shown in a crop from a 100% enlargement of the above image.
Vignetting at 18mm f/3.5.
Vignetting at 55mm f/5.6.
Close-up; 55mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/60 second at f/5.6.
Close-up; 28mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/13 second at f/11.
Autofocusing accuracy; 55mm, ISO 200, 1/91 second at f/7.
Depth of field; 41mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/22 second at f/11.
Backlighting; 55mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/5.6.
Backlighting; 18mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/181 second at f/8.
Contre-jour lighting just before sunset; 55mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/181 second at f/9.5.
18mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/91 second at f/6.7.
Picture angle: 74 degrees 20 minutes to 27 degrees 50 minutes
Maximum aperture: f/3.5 to f/5.6
Minimum aperture: f/22 to f/38
Lens construction: 11 elements in 9 groups
Lens mount: Canon EF-S
Diaphragm Blades: 6 (circular aperture)
Minimum focus: 25 mm
Filter size: 58 mm
Dimensions (Diameter x L): 68.5 x 70.0 mm
Weight: 200 grams
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