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Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens Review - the Rebel and Rebel XT Kit Lens

by Bob Atkins, 2004


[Note: Photo.net wishes to thank ADORAMA for the loan of a demo lens for this review]


The EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 is an unusual Canon EOS  lens. It was designed only to be mountable on the Digital Rebel (EOS 300D) body since it has a reduced image circle (enough for the Digital Rebel sensor, but not enough for full frame 35mm) and it sticks further into the camera body than a normal EF series lens. [Editor's Note: A variant of this lens is also part of the Canon Rebel XT when sold as a kit with a lens. That lens is called the Canon EF-S 18-55m f/3.5-5.6 II. It has been reported that the newer model has the same optics as the old model and the only differences are cosmetic.]

The "S" in EF-S stands for "Short back focus". Back focus is the distance from the rearmost point of the last optical surface of the lens to the film or sensor. There are certain advantages in lens design in having this distance small for wide-angle lenses, but the limit in SLR cameras is determined by the requirement that the SLR mirror must not hit the lens when it flips up. The mirror on the Digital Rebel is smaller than that of full frame 35mm cameras because the sensor is smaller and the mirror only needs to be large enough to cover the area of the sensor. This allows the use of a lens with a shorter back focus distance.


Focal Length & Maximum Aperture: 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6
Lens Construction: 11 elements in 9 groups (1 aspheric element)

Diagonal Angle of View:

75° 20' - 27° 50'
Focus Adjustment: Inner focusing system with MM
Closest Focusing Distance: 0.28m / 0.92 ft. to infinity
Zoom System: Rotating Type
Filter Size: 58mm
Max. Diameter x Length, Weight: 2.7" x 2.6", 6.7oz. / 69mm x 66.2mm, 190g


The EF-S lens was greeted with what perhaps amounted to over expectations by some people. They reasoned that since it didn't have to cover the full 35mm frame and since it could be made to operate closer to the film than a standard lens, it's performance would be much better than expected for a $100 lens. Well, maybe, but what they failed to realize was that the  reduced back focus distance is only present between about 18mm and 22mm. From 22mm up, the back focus distance of the lens isn't any shorter than can be used with a regular EF lens, and the image circle (or at least the illumination circle)   is actually large enough to cover a full 35mm frame (though obviously not at high quality judging from the MTF curves below). The difference in minimum back focus distance between an EF lens and an EF-S lens is also pretty small. Maybe 1 or 2mm. So while reduced image coverage and shorter backfocus may help a little at the wide end, it's not really reasonable to expect them to make a $100 kit lens work like a $1000 "L" series lens! If you really want all the highly technical stuff, here are the MTF curves (from Canon, not from me!). The solid/dashed, blue/gray and thick/thin lines represent different apertures and spatial frequencies. These are explained on the Canon USA website. If you compare them with other Canon MTF charts, be sure to note that the horizontal axis only runs from 0 to 13mm, not 0 to 22mm because the lens is only specified for use with 22.7 x 15.1mm sensors which have an image circle of about 27mm (vs. 43mm for 35mm full frame)

MTF curve for Canon EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 lens for Digital Rebel (EOS 300D)   MTF curve of Canon EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 lens for Digital Rebel (EOS 300D)

Before anyone asks (and they will ask)  "Why didn't you test it against the 24/2.8 or the 28.2.8 or the 28-135IS or the 35/2 or the 24-85 or any or all of the other Canon lenses covering between 18-55?", I'll tell you. I have a life and there's only so much time for lens testing. Plus I didn't actually have every other lens, plus - and this is the most important point of all - it's a $100 lens. You don't need to agonize over whether or not to buy it. If it's halfway decent and you want a general purpose lightweight lens for a Digital Rebel, it's good enough.

I should add that I actually tested two different EF-S 18-55 lenses, but all the images here are from one lens. While there were very minor differences in image quality between the two lenses, just as there are likely to be between any two lenses, they were small enough - certainly less than the differences between different lenses - that they would not affect any of the conclusions drawn in this article. I also took many more shots than you see here. The images reproduced in this article are examples. The text refelects the results from the full set of images.

So is it good enough....?


First let's take a look at the "lens testing range" that I used! It's actually mostly my neighbor's garden, but it provides a convenient subject with detail in the center of the image and tree branches against the sky in the top corners. The areas outlined in yellow are those used in the test at 18mm. At other focal lengths the center was the same, but different branches occupied the top corners of the frame. Note that the images were shot over several days, so there maybe a change from sunny with blue skies to cloudy with gray skies, however all the shots at any particular focal length were taken under the same conditions.

Canon EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 lens for Digital Rebel (EOS 300D)

Since I don't have any other lenses that cover 18mm, the test at 18mm was done using only the 18-55 lens, shot at apertures from wide open (f3.5) to f16. The first set of images below shows the center performance as a function of aperture. It's pretty clear that it doesn't change much. I think there is a hint of sharpening going from f3.5 to f5.6 and a hint of softening going from f5.6 to f16, but you have to look hard to see a difference.

Canon EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 lens for Digital Rebel (EOS 300D) - 18mm center

However, as shown below, the situation in the corner of the frame is quite different. Wide open the image is pretty soft. Stopping down only 1/3 stop to f4 shows a perceptible improvement, but it's still soft. Stopping down one more stop to f5.6 shows a large change with the image sharpening up significantly. Stopping down another stop to f8 again shows an improvement, but further reduction of aperture to f11 and f16 doesn't really buy you any more sharpness.

Canon EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 lens for Digital Rebel (EOS 300D) - 18mm corner

So overall, at 18mm the lens is good in the center but poor in the corner when wide open. Best performance comes at f8. Stopping down to f16 doesn't get you any more corner sharpness, but does soften the center of the image slightly. Conclusion: At 18mm shoot at f8 or f11 for best image quality. Image quality under those conditions is certainly quite acceptable.


I did have a 20-35/3.5-4.5 on hand, so at 20mm I was able to compare the two lenses directly. Note the image magnification here is quite a bit higher than that used for the 18mm test to better show the differences between these two lenses.

First let's look at the corner of the image:

Canon EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 lens for Digital Rebel (EOS 300D) - 20mm corner

It's pretty obvious here that the corner image quality is still pretty bad wide open for the 18-55 lens. The 20-35 is a lot better. Stopping down to f8, the 18-55 gains a lot of sharpness and the 20-35 gains a little. The 20-35 is better at both apertures.

Below are sections from the center of the image:

Canon EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 lens for Digital Rebel (EOS 300D) - 20mm center

Here all the images are pretty similar, though the 20-35 is maybe a little softer than the 18-55 at f4. Differences in the center of the frame are much lower than at the image corners. I'd say the 18-55 maybe has a very slight edge here, not bad for a $100 lens! Again the 18-55, when stopped down a bit, is a decent lens.


Moving on now to 28mm and using a 28-105/3.5-4.5 as the comparison lens let's first take a look at the center of the image:

Canon EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 lens for Digital Rebel (EOS 300D) - 28mm center

Not a huge amount of difference. Again it looks as if the 18-55 may be slightly sharper than the 28-105 at f4 but things are even at f8. Stopping down from f4 to f8 doesn't change the 18-55 image much but it does slightly sharpen the image from the 28-105.

Corner performance is shown below:

Canon EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 lens for Digital Rebel (EOS 300D) - 28mm edge

Not a huge amount of difference here. Both lenses are pretty similar and stopping down doesn't really do a whole lot. Again a very creditable performance from the 18-55, certainly more than acceptable at 28mm.


The final test was done at 50mm and the 18-55 was compared with both a 50mm prime and a 28-105/3/5-4.5. First let's look at the edge of the image at f5.6 (wide open for the 18-55).

Canon EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 lens for Digital Rebel (EOS 300D) 50mm edge

Not much doubt here that the 18-55 is the worst of the group. The 28-105 is clearly sharper, and the 50mm prime sharper still. So what happens when we stop down to f11?

Canon EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 lens for Digital Rebel (EOS 300D) - 50mm edge

Well, things now look more equal, however the 18-55 still seems less sharp then the 28-105, though not by very much. The 50mm prime is best, which shouldn't be a big surprise.

Below is the center performance of each lens at f5.6. Pretty similar quality, but the 18-55 is maybe just a little softer than the other two lenses.

Canon EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 lens for Digital Rebel (EOS 300D) = 50mm center

Again I think the 18-55 gets a decent rating at 50mm. Not as good as a 50/1.8 (get one if you can find one!), not quite as good as a 28-105/3.5-4.5, but still very usable.

Zoom Range

Just in case you're wondering how much difference an 18mm setting makes makes, compared to say a 20-35, 24-85, 28-105 lens or even the old 22-55, here's a shot with approximate frame lines. The gain over a 24 or 28mm lens is significant. The gain over a 20mm lens (interpolate between 22mm and 18mm) isn't huge.

Canon EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 lens for Digital Rebel (EOS 300D) - zoom

Purple Fringing

Does the 18-55 exhibit the dreaded digital "purple fringing"? The short answer is yes, it does. It's visible at all focal lengths and apertures. Purple fringing is normally mostly due to chromatic aberration from the lens (we won't get into debates about whether blooming or the sensor optics - microlenses and filters - are involved). Most lenses - especially wide angle lenses - especially zooms - show some degree of purple fringing and the18-55 is no exception to this. There's nothing you can do to reduce chromatic aberration in a lens if it's there to start with, Stopping down does not help. You can play tricks in PhotoShop post-exposure which can reduce the effect.

Canon EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 lens for Digital Rebel (EOS 300D) - purple fringing

Above are 200% crops from 3 frames shot at 50mm. On the left is a shot from the 28-105 at 50mm. The "fringing" here is actually more red than purple, but its visible. The center shot shows the 50/1.8 lens performance and you can see that color fringing is slight. On the Right is the 18-55, which is clearly showing a significant amount of purple fringing. As I said above, stopping down doesn't help.

Note that such aberrations are MUCH more visible when you shoot a dark line against a very light background. In the above images, the white background is blown out and registers at or close to 255, 255, 255 R,G,B. The fringes are actually the result of the blue/purple component of the intense white background being slightly displaced due to chromatic differences in image magnifications (otherwise known as lateral chromatic aberration). On a "normal" subject, even though it's there you may not even notice it. How much of an issue it is depends on what you shoot and what your requirements are.  Below is a 100% crop of the corner of a shot taken with the 18-55 set to 50mm (F11) on a more "normal" subject. There's not a lot of blue in this image and there are no regions where there is an abrupt change in the blue content, hence the result of a small shift in the blue component of the image is virtually unnoticeable and chromatic aberration effects don't cause a significant loss of image quality.

Canon EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 lens for Digital Rebel (EOS 300D)

If you routinely shoot images of tree branches against white skies, then purple fringing will be a matter of great concern for you. If you don't, then it may not matter all that much. It's never a desirable quality in a lens, but sometimes it's not as much of a handicap as you might think.


Like every lens, there's some flare if you have a bright object in or just outside the frame. The solution for this when the light source is outside the frame is an efficient lens hood or other method of shading the lens. I didn't do a lot of flare testing but I did take few shots with the sun just outside the frame at 50mm and f5.6. The full frame view is shown below

Canon EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 lens for Digital Rebel (EOS 300D) - flare

Below is a comparison of the 18-55, 50/1.8 and 28-105/3.5-4.5. Quite surprisingly, while all 3 lenses suffer from flare, the 18-55 seems to show least effect. The top row of images are without any shading. The bottom row if images are with the lens shaded (with my hand!). Note that a standard lens hood would probably not have been very effective for the zoom lenses, since it has to stay outside the frame at the widest lens setting, and an 18mm (or 28mm) lens hood on a 50mm lens isn't very efficient and won't block any light source which is only just outside the frame.

Canon EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 lens for Digital Rebel (EOS 300D) - flare

Finally here's a shot at 18mm (at f11) with the sun actually in the frame. Yes there's flare, but it's no more than you might expect in this extreme situation.

Canon EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 lens for Digital Rebel (EOS 300D) - flare

Overall I'd say the flare performance of the 18-55 is above average. It's still a good idea to use a lens hood though, and an even better idea to use more efficient manual shading (hat, hand, card) under really tough conditions.

Close-up Performance

The 18-55 is actually pretty good. It gives 0.28x (a little over 1/4 life size) at the closest focus distance (11" from the sensor plane, about 5" from the front of the lens) at 55mm and distortion is very low. In comparison, the best a 50/1.8 II can do is 0.11x (1/9 life size). Barrel distortion is pretty bad when close focused at 18mm and corner image quality isn't great, but who uses an 18mm macro lens? (I should know better then to ask that if I don't want angry email from the 18mm macros shooters club, but I'll risk it).

Canon EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 lens for Digital Rebel (EOS 300D) - macro

55mm macro shot. Coverage = 5mm x 7.5mm

Summary and conclusions

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. In the mid range (28mm), performance is pretty good at both center and edge. For a cheap, plastic mount, low end consumer lens, the 18-55 is certainly better than I would have expected. It's not a rival for an "L" series lens, but much of the time it can hold it's own against Canon's full frame coverage mid-range consumer lenses, especially in the center of the frame.

Considering the price ($100) and the zoom range (18-55mm), this lens doesn't really have a lot of competition. I'll rule out the 16-35/2.8L since it's over $1300. I'm sure it's better. If it's not heads will role at Canon... Yes, there's the 17-40/4L, also certainly better based on published reports, but it's around $650 and it covers less range. The 20-35/3.5-4.5 is a bit closer in price ($340) and sharper wide open at the wide end (20mm), but it's not quite so wide and the zoom range is smaller. The 28-105/3.5-4.5 isn't really an alternative if you're looking for a wide-angle, though it only  costs around $200 and performs better in the 50mm region. It also zooms to almost 2x the focal length of the 18-55 - but again, it doesn't give you the wide-angle end. The 50/1.8 II is cheaper ($70) and better, but it doesn't zoom and it's not a wide-angle. Of course ALL of the alternatives can also be used on a full frame digital or film body, so that's an important factor if you're shooting with both media.

There is a low cost, small sensor coverage Sigma 18-50mm lens, but it's normally only sold as a pair with their low cost 55-200. There may be a few places selling it on it's own (gray market imports). I haven't seen any reports of image or build quality on this lens. It's possible it may be a viable alternatve to the Canon lens, but my experience with low end Sigma lenses hasn't been positive in the past.

So for $100 you can't really go wrong with the Canon EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6. Other lenses will certainly outperform it over various parts of its range and if you ever intend to shoot film again (and some of us do), the 18-55 will be useless to you since it won't mount on any film camera and even if you modify it with a hacksaw, the mirror of a film SLR will hit the rear of the lens at 18mm - and even if it didn't there would be severe vignetting. So if you want to shoot digital AND film, the other choices will allow you to do that and the 18-55 won't.

To me it seems like buying the Digital Rebel Kit which includes the 18-55 for $999 (vs. Body only at $899) seems like a no brainer. It's a great "walking around" lens with the same angular coverage as a 28-90 lens on a film camera. It's small, it's light, it's cheap and as long as you know it's limits, its a good performer. Of course there might be times when  a 20-35 or a 50 or a 28-105 would yield a technically better image, but lenses are only useful if you carry them with you. A lightweight 18-55 on the camera is better than a bag full of larger, heavier "L" lenses left back in the car or at home!

Photo.net again wishes to acknowledge ADORAMA for the loan of a demo lens for this review.

Where to buy

This lens is not sold separately and is only available bundled as a kit with a Canon Digital Rebel or Canon Rebel XT. The Canon Digital Rebel has been replaced by the Rebel XT and new models of the original Rebel are now difficult to find. You can buy the Rebel XT kit which includes the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 II and the Canon Digital Rebel XT body. The kit is available from the following photo.net affiliate stores. Buying via these links helps to support the photo.net website.

All text and images © Copyright 2004 Bob Atkins. Visit Bob Atkins Photography at www.bobatkins.com

Readers' Comments

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Gary Ferguson , January 24, 2004; 10:00 A.M.

Makes you question the practical usefulness of MTF charts. On Canon's web site the MTF charts for these two lenses aren't massively far apart, you might even conclude that wide open the 18-55 at 24mm had a resolution edge over the 24-70, certainly not a verdict you'd reach after looking at these examples. Maybe the individual 18-55 looked at here was substantially below standard?

Leon Jeter , January 24, 2004; 10:27 A.M.

The previous comment brings up the quality-control spectre! This test may indeed help us to decide which EOS lens or lenses to order, but if we must worry about lens-to-lens variation in quality, then even such careful tests seem to lose value. The prospect of buying, then testing, then re-selling EOS lenses at a monetary loss is daunting. Maybe the industrious among us need to be testing three specimens side-by-side of a certain EOS lens and posting the results.

Bob Atkins , January 24, 2004; 02:32 P.M.

You have to be very careful about MTF tests. Most people don't know how to interpret them - indeed most people don't know what they are.

For example I believe the Canon published MTF curves are theoretical curves which don't include the effects of diffraction and flare.

Even on measured MTF tests you don't know how well they are done.

This is a $100 lens. There's no reason it should be any better than any of Canon's other $100 lenses. The fact that it's EF-S means only that it can get slightly closer to the film (sensor) plane than an EF lens - but that's nothing of an advantage unless you're at the very wide end, and even there it's not *that* much of an advantage. I think Canon have said that above 35mm it's no advantage at all.

Sigma have what is, by all accounts, a decent 12-24 zoom in an EOS mount that has full 35mm frame coverage, so clearly you can make an extreme wideangle lens with a 43mm image circle without resorting to a different mount and reduced image circle (though the Sigma lens is 6x the price of the 18-55).

The EF 22-55 was dismissed by most people as a junk lens when it was brought out along with the IX series of APS bodies. For some reason Canon hit the jackpot with the EF-S lens concept and people started to praise the 18-55, a lens which pretty much looks, feels and costs about the same as the 22-55. "Where's the beef" one might ask.

I seriously doubt there's much of a lens to lens variation. Modern quality control is pretty good. I've tested mutiple samples of several Canon lenses and never found any significant differences. To me, the 18-55 seems like a lens that's worth the $100 you have to pay for it. It's a low end, all plastic, 28-90mm equivalent for the 300D. If I bought a 300D, I'd probably get the 18-55 with it. The images presented here are pretty much what I would have expected.

Zibadun -- , January 24, 2004; 06:33 P.M.

Hmm. Strange review... In the next issue: A Disposable Camera vs Leica M7.

Bob Atkins , January 24, 2004; 09:21 P.M.

Yes, and the disposable camera will win.

Charles Mackay , January 24, 2004; 10:04 P.M.

Useful test since it shows what aspects of image quality are different between the two lenses, allowing the user to decide if the cost/weight/speed tradeoffs are worth it for his or her particular application. I wish there were more of this type approach in reviews generally. Great job.

Hong Hua Hoe , January 25, 2004; 01:12 A.M.

It also helps convince my better half, who does not share my passion, on why I forked out 12x more for a lens!!!

Leonard Richmond , January 25, 2004; 02:26 A.M.

Bad copy of the lens, Bob. I looked through samples from my 18-55, and that's not what I see. Granted, it's hard to make meaningful comparisons without really closely matched pictures, but some things are easy to compare.

For example, the chromatic abberation you show at 55mm, f/8, edge. Twig-size branches against a white (overcast) sky at 55mm, f/6.3, edge of my 18-55 show absolutely NO chromatic abberation.

Next I grabbed some of the samples and took them into Photoshop and looked at them at 100% (instead of 200%). The differences in "edge performance wide open at 35" disappeared (well, one looks sharper on the vertical window edge, the other looks sharper on the horizontal one).

Looking at "center performance at 35mm and f8" at 100% mostly showed just a difference in exposure. After darkening the 18-55 image down to match the 24-70 (using levels) and adusting the color to account for the redder 18-55 you mention (again with levels),the images look very much alike.

While 200% differences may be of interest, it would take an awfully large print to see the equivalent of even 100%. At that level of blowup, the differences seem to become quite minor, a commendable level of performance from the $100 18-55 lens.

Besides, you should expect the more mid-range 24-70L to be better than the wider angle 18-55 a priori - the design is tougher for wider angles. Just compare the 24-70L and the wider 17-40L ($800 at B&H) and you'll see the same kinds of differences (the Pop Photo tests certainly show that). That would be the "fairer" comparison to make (though it's still $800 mail-order price vs. $100 list price).

The 17-40L vs. 18-55 comparison was made with numerous matched shots from a number of different people, wide open & stopped down, near and far focus distances, throughout the focal length range of the 17-40L, a month ago in a forum at DPReview. Results overall? 18-55 as good as the 17-40L, even at 200%.

Mark Ci , January 25, 2004; 12:48 P.M.

On Canon's web site the MTF charts for these two lenses aren't massively far apart, you might even conclude that wide open the 18-55 at 24mm had a resolution edge over the 24-70, certainly not a verdict you'd reach after looking at these examples.

This is a naive reading of the chart. Remember the EF-S lens is not full frame. If you compare performance at 13mm from center on both charts, the L lens is far better. (Not that there's a direct comparision, since the focal lengths are different).

Bas Scheffers , January 26, 2004; 04:39 A.M.

If this is just a "bad copy" of the lens, and I will do my own test shortly, then all I can say is: the only thing worse than a bad lens is an unreliable lens. They should all perform the same to begin with and why are some better than others? And can my "good copy" go bad on me all of a sudden with me not noticing untill it is too late.

I guess you get what you pay for. Now where is that better quality EF-S standard zoom?

James Hill , January 26, 2004; 04:44 A.M.

How bout the other features the L lenses have? Faster Auto Focus, Full time manual focusing, USM, Sealed, not sure what this is called, but the front spins when focusing on the 18-55mm, hence forget having filters, like graduated neutral density, polarizers etc, unlike other lenses. There's more to the L series than the consistant glass quality (which is debatable as well), i know this is just an article, comparing the quality of the glass, but don't forget what other features are on offer.

Axel Farr , January 26, 2004; 05:21 A.M.

I want to remind two things about this comparison:

a) the EF 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 used for this test might be worse than others. Mine is not as good as other lenses I have, but not so worse as shown here.

b) it is useless to compare the 18-55mm to a "pro level" L-class lens. The EF 24-70mm is neither a bargain, nor will anyone having such a lens consider to buy an EOS 300D as his primary D-SLR.

Having taken images with both the EF 18-55mm and the EF 24-85mm 1/3.5-4.5 USM, I consider the later as a perfect update, at least for the time that no other EF-S lens is available. 24mm on the 300D are "nearly" comparable to 35mm on a full-frame SLR, at least as long as you frame your slides or get prints from a conventional lab, because you have to compare the sensor size to 22,5x34,5mm² for the part of the image still visible after framing or reproduction. The EF 24-85mm is tack-sharp compared to the (wide open) litte bit soft 18-55mm. But used when facing the sun, it suffers much from flare, caused by the much wider image angle (it is a full-frame-lens, where the 18-55mm lens only covers an image angle comparable to a 28mm lens full-frame). So I am still waiting for an EF-S 14-55mm lens with better image quality than the EF-S 18-55mm.



Victor Yushenko , January 26, 2004; 10:55 A.M.

1. Alex you are not correct. I own 300D and 70-200 2.8 IS, which is more expensive then 24-70. If you only have 2k to spend then 24-70 is a great combination. I am a beliver that glass should always cost (much) more then a body.

2. I do not think that there is a great deal in quality difference. I think most of the differences in reviews are due to the people ability and knowledge. Not seeing a particular defect proves nothing (maybe you test scenario was not proper), while seeing it proves everything. Unless I'll see two different images produced by different lenses of the same kind I do not think I will belive that lenses are so different in quality.

and lastly great review. I will always prefer Bob Atkins revew over some at dpreview.

Leonard Richmond , January 26, 2004; 11:07 P.M.

"This is a $100 lens. There's no reason it should be any better than any of Canon's other $100 lenses. The fact that it's EF-S means only that it can get slightly closer to the film (sensor) plane than an EF lens". - Bob Atkins

But there are 2 very good reasons.
(1)The other $100 lenses he's talking about have to cover the fullframe of 35mm film.
(2) They cannot have lens elements that come that close to the sensor plane, so wide angle lenses require a retrofocus design.

Those differences are more important in optical design than Bob gives credit for.

Smaller coverage lenses, and wide angle lenses that have don't need to have such a retrofocus design are much cheaper and easier to make. And that's even AFTER having to blow up the image much more. That's also true for slower versus faster lenses, and for variable aperture versus fixed aperture lenses.

Have you seen how good Canon's lenses are for its small digicams? DRReview's 300D test report on page 20 says "In some crops the G5 does appear to be resolving more detail than the EOS 300D, that is an eye-opener in itself." The 300D had the Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 lens at f/10 on it.

WHAT? How can a zoom be as good as, or horrors, even BETTER than the 50 f/1.4 at optimum aperture? And how much would a 35-140mm (equivalent) f/2.0-3.0 full frame lens that good cost? Obviously much more than the entire G5.

The G5 isn't some magical exception. The S50 has a great lens. That same lens is on my S30, and you know how inexpensive that whole camera is. How can Canon make a 35-105 f/2.8-4.9 zoom for much less than $100 that's as good as the 50 f/1.4?

So there's EVERY reason to believe that a slow, subframe, variable aperture zoom can perform better than a faster, fullframe, fixed aperture lens for the same price, or perform equally as well for a much smaller price. We've been doing it for 25 years. Why do you think we have so many slow, variable aperture lenses? Because that allowed optics designs that gave us smaller, lighter, cheaper and BETTER lenses.

Don't get me wrong. Faster is nice. Fixed aperture is nice. Larger format is nice, if you have something to take advantage of that increased size (think medium format versus 35mm format film).

But substantially cheaper, smaller, and yet optically excellent has its good points, too.

Leonard Richmond , January 27, 2004; 12:50 A.M.

I seriously doubt there's much of a lens to lens variation. Modern quality control is pretty good. I've tested mutiple samples of several Canon lenses and never found any significant differences. - Bob Atkins

Try telling that to Stephen Reed about his 24-70L.

"It took three tries to get a good 24-70 2.8L. Made me sick to my stomach to have fronted so much money for a lens manufactured under obvious poor quality control."

See the same picture from his first (bad) 24-70L at http://www.pbase.com/image/25404411/original.jpg and his third 24-70L (a good one, finally) at http://www.pbase.com/image/25403968/original.jpg

He tells his story at http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1029&message=7383740

And that's a $1300 (B&H) lens! What kind of quality control do you think they do on much cheaper lenses?

Yaron Kidron , January 30, 2004; 10:27 P.M.

Good article Bob. Not a grand surprise, but to the point-- do you feel the 18-55 is worth a $100?

Brian Cincotta , January 31, 2004; 02:35 P.M.

I don't understand this "review" at all- first of all you are comparing a consumer lens to a professional lens.Secondly, the 18-55mm lens can only be used on a digital Rebel body-another consumer camera. I wasn't surprised by the 24-70 L lens outperforming the 18-55.


Chris Suman , February 06, 2004; 02:37 A.M.

Gary Ferguseon, you need to look carefully at the axis range of the MTF chart before you make such a comment. Note that the edge sharpness begins to drop off at 10 on the 18-55mm versus 17 on the 24-70mm. It's not even close. And this test reflects the MTF charts almost perfectly.

Axel Farr, you are also incorrect in your assumption. I know several people with the 300D and both the 18-55mm and 24-70mm 2.8L.

I found this review actually VERY pertinent and useful. They both have their uses. The EF-S weighs and costs practically nothing, and it has a useful wide angle view. The 24-70mm is much sharper across the frame, faster and is weather resistant (put a bag over the body), but it's quite heavy and a bit bulky.

IMHO, the 24-70mm 2.8L is a *good* lens for the 1.6x crop-ifer bodies (10D, D30, D60, Digital Rebel), but it's an *fabulous* lens on a full frame body (any film EOS, 1Ds). You're paying a lot for the ultrawide-to-telephoto zoom range, edge contrast and sharpness that you're never going to be able to use on a cropped sensor. If all you use is a cropped sensor DSLR for normal shooting, save your money or spend it on a good telephoto zoom. The 18-55mm is definitely good enough for normal use, and the 18mm wide range is very useful.

Doug Vann , February 08, 2004; 07:18 A.M.

When I bought my drebel I had the Canon 28-70L lens as well as the 18-55S and 200f2.8II. I basically did the same type of comparison between the kit lens and the 28-70L using same settings, tripod, remote etc. I found very little difference between the 2 lenses unless you magnified many times. But realistically if you were getting a print done would you actually be making a print so big that the differences would show up? I have found that a good comparision is between the 8x10's I have had printed from the kit lens and the 8x10's I previously had done with my 35mm Elan 7. The 8x10's from the drebel using the kit lens are WAY BETTER than any 8x10's I ever got from my 35mm - and I was using the 28-70L lens on my 35mm....... I think what this all says is that if you came from 35mm photography to the drebel you will probably be very impressed with the prints you get even from the kit lens.

Jacek Polczynski , February 24, 2004; 10:04 A.M.

I made comparison 17-40 and 18-55 and published results on my web page. Unfortunately it is in polish, but you can find source file and conduct your own research. Page address: http:\\jacek.polczynski.com menu Technique.

Greetings, Jacek

Stefan Engström , February 26, 2004; 06:16 P.M.

the EF-S lens does sell on ebay at the current rate of 20-30 per month. Can't see who would buying it other than 300D owners who went for body only when they bought their camera, but I guess there are a few of those out there.

Landrum Kelly , February 29, 2004; 07:51 A.M.

Perhaps one thing that we are documenting here is that the sensor is no longer always the limiting factor in resolution: glass can be, and sometimes is. As digicams come out with higher and higher resolution, this is something fairly obvious but still well worth remembering, especially for persons who are shelling out thousands for high-end digital SLRs but mounting mediocre glass on them.

Josh Hansen , August 27, 2004; 09:02 P.M.

The 8x10's from the drebel using the kit lens are WAY BETTER than any 8x10's I ever got from my 35mm - and I was using the 28-70L lens on my 35mm....... I think what this all says is that if you came from 35mm photography to the drebel you will probably be very impressed with the prints you get even from the kit lens.

I actually laughed when I read this. Apparently either; A)Doug had a broken 28-70L, B)refused to ever use a tripod and shot all his shots handheld at 1/10s shutter speeds, C)Used consumer 800 ISO print films for everything he shot, D)Got all his 8x10 prints done at Walgreens, or E) All of the above.

Otherwise, this statement is just madness. It reminds me of snowboarders who, when asked for the reason of why they board, tell you..."I just never could figure out skiing, so I tried snowboarding, and its 10 times better....dude. Skiing blows man". Nothing against the snowboarders here.

Sometimes I think people just give up on film cause they can't figure out how to get good results with it. Then they screw around with digital until they accidentally do something right and are quickly convinced that all print/slide films absolutely blow cause they never accidentally did anything right with film.

behrouz fallahi , September 16, 2004; 02:34 P.M.

I bought a Sigma 18-50 a three weeks ago for 179 dollars Canadian to give it a try over my Canon 10D for a trip I was going to have. I bought it seperately from the 55-200. My main objective was to get wider angle than my other lens (Canon EF 24-85 USM) photographing cityscapes -- buildings, people on patios, narrow alleys, wide streets, etc.

The place I bought the lens from told me that they would take it back within 14 days no questions asked. I still have the lens. I was very pleased with its output over all focal ranges day and night for the money I paid. The only complaint I have is that images are a bit soft, but that I could easily adjust using the unshap mask filter of adobe.

If you can find a place that would take the lens back if you did not like it, give it a try, you might stay with it like I did and never use the money-back guarantee

I almost forgot to mention that it has a metal mount and is an EF mount not EFS, I know that since the mirror in my Camera is till fuctioning :-)

Ross Thomson , September 21, 2004; 08:07 P.M.

I have taken quite a few nice pictures with the EFs lens. the bottom line is that it's cheap and does a very good job for those that wish to buy a 300D.


Ross Thomson , September 21, 2004; 08:07 P.M.

I have taken quite a few nice pictures with the EFs lens. the bottom line is that it's cheap and does a very good job for those that wish to buy a 300D.

Image Attachment: uni2.jpg

Borek Lupomesky , November 18, 2004; 10:53 A.M.

This lens has horrible amount of play on the first element, about 1 mm or so. When you wobble the front of the lens the image in the viewfinder moves very apparently. What's even better is, that the front element wobbles as the lens focuses in AI servo mode and you see that in viewfinder. Apalling, to say the least. I think, that with such loose tolerances any "testing" doesn't have much sense.

Roy Gao , December 02, 2004; 08:33 P.M.

I bought the 300D/Rebel kit several months ago and feel lens is pretty good. Then I got the 50/1.8II and found it is better. So I will use it whenever it is possible. My main target is portrait, so I bought the 85/1.8, 24-70L and 135/2L. Now when I backup my old pictures I am really regret that I should have bought those L lenses earlier.

18-55 is soft unless you stick with f8 and f/11. Corner is always soft at 18mm. Contrast is not good, color is not good either. No way to use polarizor. Without using other high quality lenses, namely 85/1.8, you don't know the potenial of your 300D.

But if you ask me whether it worths $100, I would say get one if you don't have the money to buy L lenses. Since I won't buy a 17-40 or 16-35, I will keep this lens in case I need wide angle for landscape. But I really doubt if I will ever use it again.

Dennis Lee , January 17, 2005; 10:37 A.M.


Dennis Lee , January 17, 2005; 10:38 A.M.

Not a serious test.

Image Attachment: 300d kino 18-55 g3 copy.jpg

Vincent J M , May 26, 2005; 11:50 A.M.

First off I don't own an 18-55. I've been using the first and the second iteration of this lens, the ones which came along with the 300D and 350D. From all the photos I've shot with these lenses, they are both worse than almost all other lenses I've used, except for (possibly) the canon 28-90 kit lens which comes along with the film SLR kits.

When I compare this lens with the canon 20-35 and 28-105, the 18-55 is much worse wide open, and doesn't get any better even at f/8. I am quite surprised at this performance, by f/8 most lenses are pretty darn good, and the copy of the 28-105/3.5-4.5USM I have gives the 28-70L a good run for the money at f/8 between 40-70mm.

It is sad that canon has absolutely NO cost effective lens equivalent of the ubiquitous 28-105 for a DSLR. The 17-85IS is not something I'd get, given that it's an EF-S lens, and at that price. The 18-55 is something I'd not even consider. The alternatives are a very expensive 17-40L or an even more expensive 16-35L. Nikon has a very good 17-55 AF-S ED lens which does a great job.

Come on Canon, it's been years with 1.6x DSLR's, we don't have a single decent mid range zoom. What are they thinking?

Sven Felsby , February 09, 2006; 07:32 A.M.

1. the lens tested is certainly representative. I read it because I received a photo from a friend, and noticed the very pronounced chromatic aberration. 2. "Makes you question the practical usefulness of MTF charts" was the first comment. That is surely an understatement. MTF charts just dont make sense when it comes to lens evaluation. There is much more to it than that!

John Clevenger , February 02, 2007; 06:35 P.M.

I just wanted to post some sample photos i've taken with this lens. I was shocked at the clarity the lens yeilds for its price. Both photos are taken at 18mm ISO 100 @ F22 with a 4 sec shutter.

Image Attachment: ADP.jpg

John Clevenger , February 02, 2007; 06:40 P.M.

Here's the other photo.

Image Attachment: Landry.jpg

Nik Korchewski , August 10, 2007; 07:39 A.M.

Good review! I have EOS Rebel XT kit that includes the subject glass Canon EFS 18-55/3.5-5.6 USM II. This lens really good for it's cost. There is a couple of captures + 100% crops that I done with this kit recently:
Now I am thinking of some alternative for this lens. I have use Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 XR Di LD ASP IF that I take from my friend for a few days, but actually I see no difference for $467.

Suzie Blackman , February 21, 2008; 12:31 P.M.

I found this review and the comments really useful. This is my only zoom and it's good to know how to get the best out of it. I've heard a lot of people complaining about it but personally I think it's decent for what it is. The close focusing is a real bonus, as is the 18mm wide angle. You have to spend a lot to get a better general purpose zoom.

K N , February 22, 2009; 07:16 P.M.

Please help a rookie. I read every words from this thread but still can't make up my mind if I should keep my kit lens 18-55mm or replace it with the 20-35mm since I have an option to buy the 20-35mm at $40. Please let me know if it is worth it to pay $40 for the 20-35 to replace the 18-55mm. TIA. KN p.s. I just bought a 28-135mm and love it but it isn't wide enough (sometime).

Debashis Ghosh , May 12, 2009; 01:40 P.M.

I purchased my EOS450D around October 2008 as it offered features I thought were suited to my needs without costing a bomb.

I am now at a juncture where I would like to acquire the EF 24-70 f/2.8 and have wondered for a long time whether or not it would help produce significantly better images. On the other hand I have a 55-250 mm EF-S lens that I am not very fond of. I was looking at buying the EF 70-200 mm f/4 (non IS).

With Bob's review I have a fair understanding of what one can expect from this lens. I concede that given its price I should not expect 'L' quality performance.

As an active EF-S 18-55 mm IS user I appreciate this review posted by Bob Atkins. Novices like me do benefit from the detailed yet relevant and lucid explanation that Bob has presented here.

My question to those who have posted negative/sarcsatic comments here....have you ever taken time out to post lens/equipment review meant for public viewing ? Its easier to ridicule a person as compared to providing a better effort.


Manos Bairaktaris , December 25, 2009; 01:44 A.M.

This lens made me dislike my previously loved 28-135IS lens. When I bought my 300D, I saw it as a necessary evil. I didn't want to spend for the 17-40L and my 20-35 wasn't wide enough for APS-C. After using it alongside my 28-135, I noticed that the images taken with 18-55 are better! Both is terms of sharpness and colour rendition. Then I felt that the 350 Euro weren't well spent on the 28-135IS. The reason might be that the EF-S lenses are optimized for digital sensors instead of film. I don't know that for sure and can't find out, since I can't shoot with EF-S18-55 on my film bodies. Anyway the 18-55 is more than a decent lens. Far better than my old (and given away) EF 28-90 kit lens. When I upgrade my digital camera (staying with APS-C), the EF-S 18-55 IS will be my new kit lens.

Thyme Lang , June 22, 2011; 02:52 A.M.

All photos took in this kit lens look grey or lack contrast. You do not need to buy 'L" expensive lens if you use software to increase contrast of your photos. I use Contrast master plugin in Photoshop 7 to make all my photos good. 


Image Attachment: fileKtpBJa.jpg

Thyme Lang , June 22, 2011; 03:01 A.M.

Another sample image

Image Attachment: filexXrdyO.jpg

Rommel Sharma , June 28, 2013; 05:53 A.M.

I have been using this camera for nearly 2 years and found there is a lot that you can do with it.

Other than shots in the day time, it gives you excellent night shots as well, and a very clear depth of field.

Although the lens that I have (18-55 mm, came with the camera) is not a macro or zoom lens - whatever pictures that were taken within the range have very high clarity and sharpness.

I have even tried close up macro like (but not exactly macro) flower shots and they have come out well although it focuses only a very small point causing a blur around the point of focus unless I increase the distance between the subject and the lens a bit.

Some of the pictures I have taken using Canon EOS 550D can be seen here and you can decide for yourself.


I have given the EXIF data of the images on the site as well and in some cases taken HDR pictures and made minor image enhancements using Google Picasa's desktop software.

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