The Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 USM was first made available in the US as the kit lens for the Canon 20D. Prior to that time, a non-USM version was bundled with the Canon Digital Rebel (300D) kit. Both lenses carry the same optical elements and, thus, image quality evaluations are identical. As a result, the reviews set forth below may relate to one or the other. Obviously, the USM version will have faster focusing than the non-USM version. In August 2007, Canon released a stabilized version of this lens, which may begin appearing in DSLR kits soon.
The Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens has reasonable center sharpness, especially when stopped down. Corners are very soft on the wide end of the focal length range. Even with the lens stopped down, corners are still soft. This lens performed especially well at short distance on the ISO 12233 chart.
The 18-55/3.5-5.6 is a very good lens for $100. It’s weaknesses show up at the ends of its zoom range (18mm and 55mm), especially in the corners of the frame when used wide open where resolution and contrast can be rather poor. To get decent sharpness in the corners requires stopping to f8 at 18mm or f11 at 55mm – but you still won’t get the same image quality as you would from a a prime or “L” series zoom lens.
Under controlled conditions (stopping down two stops at 18mm) the lens can provide very decent results – certainly more than enough for casual users who are the target group anyway. However, technically the resolution is mediocre all-in-all and at 18mm @ f/3.5 it’s downright poor.
DSLR makers, in attempts to offer cameras in kit form at the lowest possible prices, have been creating no-frills, bare-bones, moderate- wide-to-tele zooms. Surprise! Optically, many are terrific. This is one.
The results from this lens are nowhere near as bad as people make out. They’re good, but that’s as far as I’ll go. When you show all your photos to your family and friends, or even if you exhibit some of them, you can virtually guarantee that not a single person will think “hang on a minute, that chromatic aberation is a bit obvious” or… “Ooo, Margaret, will you just look at the softness of those images taken at f5.6. Tut, tut…. if only they’d used an L series optic.”
At 55mm, it can magnify the subject to 0.28x normal size. Even the Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens, my best macro zoom lens, can only achieve closest focus distance of 0.5m and magnifies the subject to 0.19x normal size. Of course, this is far from the 1:1 magnification you can get on true macro lenses. But to achieve this kind of close focus distance is an amazing feat on zoom lenses.
Where to Buy
First off, consider going to your local camera store (and I don’t necessarily mean Wolf Camera at the mall). By going to your local camera store, you’re supporting your community and you just might build a lasting relationship with people you can rely on when you need some help or answers. If you’re buying online, I recommend sticking with Amazon, B&H Photo or Adorama. These three vendors are reliable, trustworthy and generally have the best (legitimate) prices. Additionally, purchasing your gear through these links helps support this site.
[tags]canon, EF-S, 18-55mm, f/3.5-5.6, USM, lens, review[/tags]