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Here's a brief look at the Canon EF-S 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6 IS zoom lens.  Scroll down for the review.

Lens

Canon EF-S 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6 IS zoom lens

Box contents

Front and rear caps, and a users manual.

Cost

$199 retail by itself, or $100 as part of kit.

Build quality

OK to Good

Additional information

Basic kit lens with select camera bodies.

Specifications below

 

Optical configuration

11 elements in 9 groups

Angle of view

74°-27°

Aperture

6 blades, circular

Full frame and APS-C

APS-C only, 35mm equivalent, 29-88mm

Depth of field and focus scales?

Nothing

Minimum focus, image plane to subject

9.8"  (250mm)

Minimum focus, end of lens barrel to subject

4.9"  (124mm)

Hard stop at infinity focus?

No

Length changes when focusing?

Yes

Focus ring turns in AF?

Yes, lens barrel itself

Filter size

58mm

Filter ring rotates?

Yes, lens barrel itself

Distance encoder?

Yes, Canon type

Max magnification

0.34x

Min. F/stop

F/22-36

Sony teleconverter compatible?

N/A

Length changes when zooming?

Yes

Dimensions W x L (my measurements)

2.75" x 2.7"   70mm x 69mm, widest at buttons

Maximum  extended length (my measurements)

3.3"  (84mm)  at 55mm                                                    

Weight bare (my scale)

7.1oz  (200g)  7.8oz (222g) with caps


Requisite product shots.

october08/can1855box.jpg
Box and contents

october08/can1855ft3.jpg
Front element

october08/can1855bk2.jpg
Rear shot, plastic mount

october08/can1855sdex.jpg
Side shot fully extended

 
 
The 6.3mp EOS Canon Digital Rebel was used for this review. 
 
This is the basic "kit" wide to telephoto zoom lens available for your Canon APS-C sensor camera, and isn't designed to be use on full frame/film cameras.  The lens has been redesigned twice by Canon, the "IS" is the latest and greatest.  Canon claims a four stop improvement when using IS.  It has a AF/MF button and a stabilizer on/off button on the side of the barrel.  It's made in Japan--wow!  It has a silver ring near the end of the zoom ring, reminiscent of Sigma(!) though thankfully not gold. It also has a prominently displayed "image stabilizer" written (in NASA type font) on the top portion of the front of the zoom ring.  Canon says they use one asperical element in the construction of the lens.  Fit and finish are good, though typical of "kit" lenses, it has a plastic barrel and mount, and a wobbly barrel extension, see below.
 
Zoom control is smooth and even, the barrel runs in and out at different lengths like most cheap kit lenses, and is fully drawn in around 30mm.  It extends out a maximum of .6" (15mm) at 55mm.  The focal length numbers are checked at; 18mm, 24mm, 35mm, and 55mm.   
 
Auto-focusing is quiet, smooth, mostly accurate and quick.  I notice a little hesitation once in a while.  Manually focusing is so-so, you have a decent 1/5 turn from close-in to infinity.  When holding the focus ring (aka zoom extension barrel) for manual focusing, it wants to wobble slightly when extended out, movement which is visible in the viewfinder.  Don't worry about this as you shouldn't be manually focusing anyways, that's why they make it auto-focus!  The filter ring turns when focusing so watch your grads and polarizers.  The closest focusing distance from lens barrel to subject is 4.9" or 124mm.

 

Aperture/focal length guide for the Canon EF-S  18-55mm F/3.5-5.6 IS. This lens misreads the middle focal length marks in the EXIF data; the 24mm mark reads 23mm,  35mm reads 34mm etc, no big deal.  Also, 38mm didn't show up, but 37mm and 39mm did.

 

Maximum aperture

F/3.5

F/4

F/4.5

F/5

F/5.6

Range

18mm-23mm

24mm-28mm

29mm-37mm

39mm - 46mm

47mm - 55mm


Flare and ghosting.  Overall, good control, but there always seems to be a small color blob in the image if the sun is close, especially around 26mm.  See shot below.  Use your hand to block it.  The lens doesn't come with a hood, and will cost $29 (retail) if you decide you want it.  Based on experience, the little kit lens hoods do nothing.  Save your money, your hand is free.  
 
This lens is multi-coated and has the regular green/magenta look of most modern lenses.    
 
Filter size.  58mm.  
 
Coma.  Moderate at 18mm from F/3.5-5.6, nearly gone at F/8, 24mm light at F/4, no problems elsewhere.     
 
Color.  N/A.
 
Lateral color fringing.  Average control across the zoom.  Stopping down doesn't help with this kind of color fringing.  See small sample crop below.
 

october08/can18brl.jpg
Moderate to strong barrel distortion. 18mm

october08/can55pin.jpg
Light to moderate pincushion distortion at 55mm.


Barrel and pincushion distortion.
  The distortion at 18mm is moderate to strong.  It disappears rapidly, and by 24mm, it's flat.  From then on pincushion starts, and results in light to moderate distortion at 55mm.  See pictures above.  

Lens Bokeh.  Not bad at the wide end, but too busy at the long end.
 

light fall-off, directly below.  Mild at 18mm and F/3.5, stopping down helps out, but there isn't a problem even wide open.  At the long end there is nothing.  You can't see this stuff in real pictures.  Very good control here for a wide-zoom kit lens. 
 

    18mm @ F/3.5

  18mm @ F/5.6

october08/ckit1835lf.jpg

october08/ckit1856lf.jpg

 

Examples of ghosting and color fringing below. 

 

    18mm @ F/3.5 ghosting

  18mm @ F/5.6 color fringing crop

october08/can1855ghs.jpg

october08/can1855cf.jpg


The left shot above shows the pesky little ghost that appears when the sun is close to the image at the wide end, the other wispy stuff are clouds.  The right shot is lateral color fringing, cropped from the edge of the image.  This kind of color fringing doesn't get better by closing the aperture down.  It's not bad, and is about the same as other kit lenses.  
 
Corner softness.
 
18mm corners below.
 

    18mm @ F/3.5

  18mm @ F/4.5

october08/can1855cn35w.jpg

october08/can1855cn45w.jpg

 

55mm corners

 

    55mm @ F/5.6

  55mm @ F/8

october08/can1855cn56t.jpg

october08/can1855cn80t.jpg


The 18mm corners on the Canon 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6 IS lens are sharp, even at F/3.5.  Just 2/3 of a stop down at F/4.5, they reach maximum sharpness.  The 55mm corners are as sharp as the centers, even at F/5.6.  Excellent results for any lens, much less a "kit" lens.  The exposure differences are from light fall-off wide open at each length. 
 
Center samples next.
 
18mm centers
 

    18mm @ F/3.5

  18mm @ F/4.5

october08/can1855ctr35w.jpg

october08/can1855ctr45w.jpg

 

55mm centers

 

    55mm @ F/5.6

  55mm @ F/8

october08/can1855ctr56t.jpg

october08/can1855ctr80t.jpg


Clearly, this lens has no issues with soft centers when the aperture is wide open.  The centers are as sharp at their maximum apertures as they are a stop down or two.  I showed the sets above with only 2/3, and a full stop difference, but it makes no difference when compared to F/8.  Don't be fooled by the trees in the background at F/8, the antenna is the focus point.  F/11 seems to soften ever-so-slightly.  Again, excellent results.
 
 

Check out the close focus shot.

Below, check out the sample (284kb) and click to see a 100% cropped portion of the full image.  The sample shot was taken with the 6.3mp Canon EOS Digital Rebel.  The subject is a standard US stamp, 1"x 3/4" or 25.4mm x 19mm.  Also, note the macro shot was taken as close to the subject as focusing allowed; In this case a short 4.9" or 124mm, measured from the front of the lens barrel to the subject.  Compare this macro with other Nikon and Canon lens reviews only.  Do not compare with Sony mount lenses, as they were taken with the 12.2mp Sony A700.
 
This lens has a large reproduction size at 0.34x, and produced a very sharp image at F/8.  

october08/can1855mac812a.jpg
100% crop, F/8 click me


Conclusion.
 
Gosh, this wrap-up is going to be quick.  The Canon EF-S 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6 IS lens has no real shortcomings.  It's plenty sharp wide open to F/8, at all focal lengths, even in the corners.  Focusing is quiet, accurate and fast.  Light fall-off is very low.  The only average items are; ghosting, when the sun is close to the image, though only a single blob is seen, your hand will eliminate this for the most part, and color fringing, but only when viewed at 100%.  Image stabilization works well, but I was never able to come close to the four stops claim by Canon.  I'm pretty steady, so your results may vary.  This is an excellent lens, and a killer deal for less than $200!