The Canon EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM was created for use in Canon’s compact system cameras. It’s a standard zoom lens that has an equivalent focal length of 29-88mm on a full-frame camera, so it’s pretty versatile.
This lens features a stepping motor (STM) for smooth continuous autofocus while in live view or shooting video. It also packs a four-stop optical Image Stabilizer (IS) and Dynamic IS for video.
While not a macro lens, the Canon EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM gives a pretty decent closest focusing distance of 25cm, and those who want to use circular filters will be pleased to see that the 18-55 has a non-rotating front element.
This little lens is packed with features and tries hard to be useful to everyone, but does it do the job well enough? Let’s find out.
The Canon EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM measures just 61cm in length and weighs only 210g. You could be forgiven for thinking that means the 18-55mm isn’t sturdily built, but that’s not the case here.
This lens feels very solid in the hand, and it’s mostly made from metal (the extending lens tube is made of plastic, though), with a metal lens mount. The plastic focusing ring is surprisingly wide for a lens of this size, but one drawback is that it only has a very narrow ridged grip.
The zoom ring is much wider and covered in the same narrow plastic ridging as the focusing ring. This lens accepts 52mm circular filters and has the bonus of that non-rotating front element if you want to use circular polarizing filters.
The 18-55mm features Image Stabilization, which is supposed to offer an advantage of up to four f-stops in this lens. Many IS lenses have the on/off switch for activating IS on the side of the lens barrel, but with this lens you activate it through the camera menu. IS does give you an advantage when you are shooting in low light levels, as it means you can handhold your camera at much slower shutter speeds and still take sharp photos.
Like several Canon lenses, the Canon EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM unfortunately doesn’t come with the EW-54 lens hood or protective bag as standard.
Inside, the lens has an iris diaphragm with seven rounded blades (good for those who like attractive bokeh), and the minimum focusing distance of 25cm gives you some pretty useful close-ups even though it’s not a macro lens.
The Canon EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM in Use
Let’s start with focusing. The Canon EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM has that wide focusing ring, but for some reason only about 3mm of it has a textured surface. This means that manual focusing is harder than it should be when you need to do it quickly.
The autofocus on the Canon EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM is pretty quick when you have the latest firmware installed. There isn’t too much annoying hunting for focus in either good or bad light, either. The STM motor makes AF almost silent, which is a bonus for video and candid photography.
As far as image quality goes, the 18-55mm zoom gives pleasingly sharp results for a budget kit lens. Sharpness is good overall, but images start to lose their sharpness at f/16 and it deteriorates further at f/22 and upwards.
Obvious chromatic aberration starts to appear in the corners of the frame at 18mm and 55mm, and it’s most noticeable at 18mm. It shows up there as purple and green fringing in high-contrast areas, so it’s a bit of an issue with this lens.
There is some significant light fall-off (vignetting) in the corners when the lens is wide open at 18mm, but the Canon EOS M camera can automatically correct this when you shoot JPEGs. Light fall-off is not a problem at all when you shoot at focal distances of 35mm and above, so if you don’t shoot much wide-angle stuff it shouldn’t be an issue.
As with all zooms, lens distortion can be a problem. The Canon EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM shows barrel distortion in the corners when used at the wide-angle end of the focal range. Distortion disappears at the 28mm mark and becomes worse again when you hit the 55mm point.
The 18-55mm doesn’t handle ghosting and flaring very well, but as it’s a kit lens I wouldn’t expect it to.
While the Image Stabilizer is rated for a gain of up to four stops, it’s probably more realistic to say in practice it is efficient for up to three stops. That’s still more than enough to let you handhold the camera in low light without getting blurry images.
How Does It Compare?
For not a lot more money, you could buy the Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM kit zoom lens for the EOS-M compact camera system.
The 15-45mm has a special retraction mechanism to shorten the length of the lens to just 44.5mm when the camera is switched off. This makes it even easier to store the lens and camera.
It has the same IS and STM motor that the Canon EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM features, and gives an equivalent focal length of 24-72mm, so you’re not losing much in terms of versatility.
The 15-45mm has special coatings and the lens placement has been designed to reduce flare and ghosting, which is a problem with the 18-55mm.
However, the 15-45mm is built entirely of plastic, and that includes the lens mount. Plastic lenses aren’t built for performance, but for a price point, and these days more and more kit lenses are being built of plastic.
|Canon EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM||Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM|
|Optics||13 elements/11 groups||10 elements (3 aspherical) /9 groups|
|Diaphragm||7 rounded||7 rounded|
The Canon EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM zoom lens is a budget kit lens that has a few image quality issues at both extremes of the focal length, but if you stay in the middle range you can get some very sharp pictures for a kit lens.
The Image Stabilization and STM motor are nice touches for a budget lens, and 18-55mm gives you a lot of scope for different types of photography (such as landsape and portrait) with one lens.
One plus point is the mostly metal build which makes it far more robust than the EF 15-45mm lens we compared it to above.