- Absolutely lightweight with a compact design
- Four-stop Image Stabilizer
- Wide-angle to short telephoto range
- Aspherical lens elements to control distortion
- Super Spectra coatings
- 25m close-focusing distance
- High-speed AF
- Circular aperture diaphragm
Canon EF-S 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 was first announced on February 7, 2011, along with Canon EOS 1100D/ Rebel T3 and EOS 600D/Rebel T3i. Though the lens is almost identical to its predecessor in terms of specifications and features, it sports a revised exterior, a different IS algorithm, and a new color scheme to boot.
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Design and Performance
Canon 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 IS II is a lightweight lens with a plastic exterior, though of a high-quality. The outer of the lens has a black matte appearance, while the barrel of the lens has a smooth texture (only visible when extending towards 55mm). The lens uses Canon’s all-electronic EF-S mount. This EF-S mount lens can only be mounted to Canon’s DSLR cameras with APS-C sensors. The rear rubber ring prevents it from fitting on the full-frame cameras.
The lens mounts by aligning the molded white-coloured plastic square on the side to the white square on the camera’s mount. It rotates clockwise for an approximate 60 degrees to lock. The lens has 58mm filter thread that is made of plastic. The lens is not constant which means both the minimum and the maximum aperture sizes decrease as you increase the focal length.
The focal lengths are marked on the lens. Apart from this, the lens does not have any marked information regarding the depth-of-field indicators or distance scales. The zoom ring rotates 90 degrees with markings 18,24,35, and 55mm in an anti-clockwise direction from wide to telephoto. The zoom action is smooth and precise with a 26mm wide grip. The 3mm wide manual focusing ring rotates from infinity to 0.25m at less than 60 degrees. The manual focus ring also rotates on autofocusing. So you should be careful of not gripping it when in use as it can damage the motor.
On the upper left of the lens barrel sits two small switches that control the focusing and IS systems. Both the switches are well-placed within an easy reach of the thumb. One switch is to enable or disable autofocus (“AF/MF”). The switch for IS (“Stabilizer ON/OFF”) sensibly designed with a small ridge in it which we think is good. You may notice a slight sound when the IS is active, but mostly audible when your lens is close to your ear.
You get an optional Canon EW-60C lens hood which is bowl-shaped with a bayonet-mount. The lens hood has a smooth black finish on the inside and reverses onto the lens that gives you a good option for storage. The length of the lens gets increased by about a half inch when the hood is attached to it.
Sharpness: Considering its entry-level price point, the lens performs quite decent. It shows an excellent sharpness at 18mm wide-open at f/3.5, a combination that usually displays the downside of most of the consumer-grade lenses. Even if the performance at 18mm at f/5.6 is not that sharp but it is not bad either. And for a lens at this price point, this is actually very good.
As you start zooming out the focal range, the performance improves at f/3.5 and achieves its optimum sharpness at 35mm wide at f/5.6. However, diffraction starts to peep in as you set the aperture to f/8 but even that is acceptable. The performance gets average as you set the aperture to f/16. The telephoto performance of the lens provides an average performance at 55mm with starting aperture set to f/5.6. However, we found a better sharpness with the combination of 55mm and f/8.
Chromatic Aberration: Usually we see some form of chromatic aberrations in the corners in the wide-angle lenses, but with Canon 18-55mm IS II, it is even apparent throughout the middle of the frame. In the high-contrast areas, the chromatic aberration shows up as magenta fringing. But it can be corrected in post-processing. The CA is prominent in the zoomed in angles than the wider angles but sadly it always makes its presence in the corners. However, the chromatic aberration gets blurred when you set the aperture to a certain point that produces much less sharp results.
Vignetting: The shading in the corner is not that a grave concern in this lens. Though there is some visibility when you use the lens with its widest possible combination i.e. widest angle (18mm) and widest aperture (f/3.5). Using this particular setting, we noticed that the extreme corners came out much dark than the center of the frame. However, this darkness is almost negligible at f/8.
Distortion: Distortion is a common problem for wide-angle zoom lenses. There is a lot of barrel distortion when the lens zoomed to wide angle (18mm). While there is no distortion in the middle, you get a bit of distortion at the telephoto end. With Canon 18-55mm IS II, the distortion is fairly linear which meets at almost no distortion level at 40mm. However, this distortion can be easily corrected with almost any image processing software.
Autofocus Operation: The lens is not a USM lens but it still uses a lens-based motor. Though the lens focuses pretty fast but is noticeably slower as compared to that of a USM lens. The manual focus override is unavailable when the lens is set to autofocus mode. If you want to focus manually, you need to operate the AF/MF switch to override the autofocus.
Macro: The lens has a decent macro capability with a reproduction ratio of 1:2.9 (0.34x). The minimum close-focusing distance of the lens is 25mm which is just under 9 inches.
Should You Buy this Lens?
The lens is priced at $199.99 and features the wide-angle to mid-range zoom flexibility. Canon’s new optical lens-shift IS system yields up to a 4-stop image-shake correction. The lens also includes new IS algorithms that distinguish between the normal photographing and the time when the camera pans to automatically provide the utmost level of image-shake correction.