Review Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 STM IS (C APS-C)
Many photographers buy a camera including a kit lens. These are usually compact, highly affordable standard or all-round zoom lenses, with a range from wide angle to short telephoto lens. For an additional cost of a couple tenners, they are very attractive lenses. The demands we put on such a lens are getting higher. For example, it must also be suitable for video. Our main objection with the Canon 18-55 mm IS II test was that the AF was not suitable for video, because it was too slow and made too much noise. Now Canon has released a new version of this lens, the Canon 18-55 mm STM IS, with a completely silent stepping motor. The lens design has also been renewed. We have tested this Canon 18-55 IS STM on a Canon 650D, so that we can make a comparison of the two lenses.
Field of view @ 18 mm
FOV @ 55 mm
The Canon 18-55 STM IS has a picture angle corresponding to the view angle of a 29-88 mm lens on a camera with a full frame sensor. The zoom range is perhaps not as broad as other kit-lenses, such as the Canon 18-135 STM IS. Even so, this lens suitable for many subjects. For close-up photography over the whole zoom range, it can be operated from a distance of just 25 cm.
The Canon 18-55 STM IS is equipped with a nice broad zoom ring, a switch for image stabilisation (on/off), an AF/MF switch and a narrow ring near the front lens, with which you can focus manually. This ring for manual focusing is an improvement over its predecessor, where this ring was much narrower. This lens is marginally larger than its predecessor. The lens body is made of high quality plastic, so that the total weight of this lens is limited to two ounces. The bayonet and the lens body are of high-quality plastic. This is a solid lens for consumers and we believe that this lens is a bit more solidly built, with less slack, than the Canon 18-55 IS II.
The new AF stepping motor is an asset to Canon photographers with a modern camera that features the hybrid AF sensor (Canon 650D, Canon 700D), because during video recordings you have the option for silent and (for Canon) fast AF during video. The autofocus uses internal focus, leaving nothing moving when the camera focuses. Couple that with the very high speed of the AF during shooting and the fact that the AF is completely noiseless, and you don't even notice that the camera has focused (if you have it off beep at least). From our measurements, it appears that the AF of both the Canon 650D and the Canon 700D with the Canon 18-55 IS STM both precisely and reproducibly focus. A top performance, also in comparison with much more expensive lenses.
To minimize the chance of blurred results, the Canon EF-S 18-55 mm F3.5-5.6 STM IS is equipped with Canon's 4-stop Image Stabilizer technology, with which you can use 4 times longer shutter speeds without a perceptible increase in image blur. In our practice test, the shot made with image stabilization and a shutter speed of 1/6 of a second appears to be measurably sharper than a shot made without image stabilization at a shutter speed at or above 1/200 of a second. That's a gain of 5 stops. Again a top performance, even in comparison with much more expensive lenses.
Starting at full aperture, this lens gives quite a sharp picture. It used to be the maxim that you must stop down 1 or 2 aperture stops before you reach the maximum sharpness. In the example below, you can see that the sharpness at maximum aperture is already as good as after 1 stop stopping down. The sharpness in the corners is also almost as high as the sharpness in the center. In comparison to the Canon 18-55 mm IS II, the sharpness is similar; in comparison to the Canon 18-135 mm IS STM, the Canon 18-55 mm IS STM renders sharper.
Look in our list of tested lenses per focal length or the lenses we have tested lenses with a Canon mount to compare this lens's performance to other lenses.
At maximum aperture at all focal lengths you can encounter visible vignetting. If your camera – like our test camera Canon 799D – has a lens correction profile available, then vignetting can be effectively corrected in the jpg files (move your mouse over the image).
This lens has characteristic (for a standard zoom lens) development from visible barrel distortion at 18 mm to a light pincushion distortion at 55 mm. Above 35 mm, you see no distortion in the pictures, but at the lower focal lengths the distortion is easy to recognize in practice. In the picture below, made at a focal length of 18 mm, you can clearly see the barrel distortion. The roof edge of the warehouse is visibly distorted.
A shot made with a large aperture offers a smooth, uniform background blur (bokeh), which emphasizes subjects in the foreground. Generally, the larger the sensor, the longer the focal length and the larger the aperture, the more beautiful the bokeh. Because this lens can only be used on cameras with an APS-C sensor, the longest focal length is limited to 55 mm and the lens with f/5.6 is not that bright, you'd expect the bokeh of the Canon 18-55 mm IS STM would be not so beautiful. But you would be mistaken. For a lens on a camera with an APS-C sensor, the bokeh turned out surprisingly beautiful. The Canon 18-55 mm IS STM has a circular aperture that yields an attractive, round bokeh, as you can see here and below.
Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 STM IS @ 55mm f/7.1, 1/160
The Canon 18-55 mm STM IS is equipped with lens elements with Super Spectra coating to prevent internal reflections. Canon claims that this coating absorbs the light that is reflected from the sensor of the camera or the internal lens elements. It works extremely effectively. Even in direct bright backlight, the flare zone is very, very small (move your mouse over the image). We did not encounter any ghosts. A lens hood begins these days to serve more to protect the front lens, as an alternative to a (UV-)filter, than to protect against flare. And that's a good thing, because filters are often an unnoticed source of flares.
The Canon 700D offers the possibility of correcting the jpg files saved in the camera for chromatic aberration. This fix is extremely effective: in the corrected jpg files there is no visible chromatic aberration. If you use RAW files or uncorrected jpg files, then you can see colored edges at sharp contrast transitions due to chromatic aberration. This is correctable in Lightroom or Canon Digital Photo Professional software, which you get free when buying a Canon camera.
Conclusion Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 STM IS review
WYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens if you store the files in the camera as jpg, where you have all available in-camera lens corrections applied. This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: "What you see is what you get".
Pure RAW score: This table shows the performance of this lens when the files are stored in the camera as RAW files. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera.
Many advanced photographers are often condescending about the kit lenses that you can get for a couple of tenners when buying a camera. This test clearly shows that in the case of the Canon 18-55 mm STM IS, that is not justified. On all fronts, this lens, in respect to image quality, performed solidly. Compared to more expensive lenses, there is more chromatic aberration and vignetting, whereby it scored lower (in the RAW score). But you can correct well for this, such as with the correct Canon 700D (see the jpg score) or using software. On some items, such as the virtual absence of flaring and the 5 stops image stabilization, this lens can compete with much more expensive lenses. The Canon 18-55 mm STM IS may be slightly more expensive than its predecessor, but it is more than worth the price difference. In particular, the fast, silent and accurate AF will certainly appeal to both photographer and videographer.
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.