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Canon EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 Lens Review

by Bob Atkins, 2004 (updated February 2011)


Canon

The EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 is an unusual Canon EOS  lens. It is 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.

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.

Where to buy

Canon has now updated the kit lens to a version 2, which includes IS. Both lenses are available via Photo.net's partners. Their prices are fair and you help to support photo.net.

Specifications

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

Performance

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....?

18mm

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.

20mm

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.

28mm

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.

50mm

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.

Flare

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!

Where to buy

Canon has now updated the kit lens to a version 2, which includes IS. Both lenses are available via Photo.net's partners. Their prices are fair and you help to support photo.net.

All text and images © Copyright 2004 Bob Atkins. Note: Photo.net wishes to thank Adorama for the loan of a demo lens for this review.

Readers' Comments


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Axel Farr , April 13, 2004; 10:24 A.M.

Neue Seite 1

Hello Bob,

you did a great job in testing the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. Since it is only available as a set to the EOS 300D, the only tests I have seen so far are more related to the camera than useful to compare the lens to other lenses in the Canon sortiment.

I own an EOS 300D with the kit lens since October 2003, and I was very pleased with the lens' image quality for the relative low price. Yes, it is worse than an EF 50mm 1/1.8, but most of Canons lenses have that in common with the EF-S lens. Instead, I was very surprised of having a walk-around lens bought right with my first D-SLR, because I was not willing to spend another 700€ for an EF 17-40mm L USM lens.

One of the firsts test I did was a comparision between the EF-S 18-55mm 1/3.5-5.6 with my EF 24-85mm 1/3.5-4.5 USM lens. The later is one of Canon's more advanced amateur lenses with "true" USM (ring-formed with FTM) and distance scale, just like the EF 28-105mm 1/3.5-4.5 you have used to compare the EF-S 18-55mm with. But the difference between the EF 24-85mm and the EF 28-105mm is not only the price (the 24-85 being nearly twice as expensive): The image quality of the 24-85mm lens is by far superior. The only disadvantage I found was the fact that due to the increased angle of view of a 24mm lens the lens is by far more exposed to flare than the EF-S 18-55mm lens, a fact which ruined some of my images taken with the EF 24-85mm lens, not only digital images, but also some images taken with my APS camera (EOS IX) and with 35mm (EOS 30).

For me, when I am outside the EF 24-85mm lens is the perfect companion to the EOS 300D, because it is good enough to make full use of the 6.5MP resolution of the EOS 300D. But when I take photos inside a building, the larger angle of view of the EF-S lens makes it superior.

The difference between 18 and 24mm on the shorter end is quite a bit, as your diagramm shows, and on the longer end the 85mm are something like 135mm on 35mm. The EF 24-85mm become something like a 35-135mm lens on a film body, so the focal range on a Canon D-SLR is much more usable than that of a 28-105mm or 28-135mm zoom lens. Plus, the additional imaging angle of the lens at 24mm (some 80°) is not so immense that you must fear to get the sun into frame (which can be a problem if you have a full-frame lens starting at 20mm or even 16mm).

 

Image Attachment: picture-crw_0536.jpg

Stanley Rogouski , April 13, 2004; 11:39 P.M.

I have the kit lens and the image quality is pretty good but what isn't emphasized in this review is just how slow it is at 55mm, even with the image quality the Rebel can get at iso 800, /5.6 is still a major limitation. 3.5 at the wide end isn't bad but /5.6 at just above normal is almost unusable in anything but extremely bright light.

Of course, the kit lens is also so small that you can literally keep it in your pocket while you swap it out with a 35/2.0 (which you can also keep in your pocket). I shelled out the money for a 17-40, but it's pretty heavy and ungainly on a 300D. You can't put *it* in your pocket and the Rebel works best when it looks like a toy camera. Nobody thinks it's a serious camera so you can snap candid photos of people without them noticing and you don't have to worry about getting it stolen. Unlike an F100, it doesn't look like it costs 1000 bucks.

Bob Atkins , April 14, 2004; 01:05 A.M.

You're way off base about f5.6 being too slow. Many consumer lenses are f5.6 at the "long" end. This lens is equivalent to a 28-90 zoom on a full frame camera and typical consumer 28-90 zooms are often f5.6 at the long end.

In bright sun f5.6 will give you 1/800s at ISO 100. 3 stops off bright sun (which is full overcast cloudy) will still give you 1/100s, which is fine for handholding this lens. Of course you can go to ISO 200 or even ISO 400 and still get pretty much noise free images. Even ISO 800 is still very good (better than ISO 800 film).

There's no doubt at all that the 50/1.8 is a much better low light lens, but to suggest f5.6 isn't usable is simply not true and quite misleading.

Stanley Rogouski , April 14, 2004; 01:20 A.M.

"Even ISO 800 is still very good (better than ISO 800 film)."

I agree on this. Using the 35/2.0, I can pretty much handhold at night. No need for an expensive 1.4 lens.

But if you're shooting wide open at the 55mm end of the kit lens at ISO 800 you're not going to get great images. It's a very good 18mm lens but it's too bad Canon is making the cheap 50mm lens so hard to get in order to force people to buy the 1.4. That and the kit lens would still only be 175 bucks, cheaper than a 28-105.

Nikon makes enough of the cheap 50mm lens to keep in stock. Canon should just raise the price to 100 bucks if their margin isn't high enough. It's unaccepable for one of the two 900 pound guerillas of photography not to sell a cheap 50.

Kudos to them for offering a cheap kit lens for the Rebel but boo for dropping the ball on a good cheap prime lens.

BTW. Even though I own the 17-40, I almost never use it. It scares people. The 35/2.0 and the Rebel are an ideal fit. They almost seem designed for each other.

Stephen Lutz , April 14, 2004; 05:58 P.M.


Rocco

I have the Digital Rebel with the kit lens. I didn't really want or need the kit lens, but it came with the camera, which I bought used, so I figured why not? I have both the 16-35mm 2.8L and the 28-70mm 2.8L, as well as the 28mm 1.8 and 50mm 1.4 and it is unfair to compare the kit lens to any of them. Of course the L zoom lenses and primes are better, have snapper color, and faster AF. I shot with the Rebel and kit lens exclusively for about two weeks, just to see how it performed in general photography situations, and it was fine. There was distortion and some softness in some pictures, but nothing awful, and nothing a little perspective correction or sharpening in software couldn't resolve. For general photography and, especially, for web use, this lens is perfectly adequate. In fact, for web use it is hard to tell the difference between the kit lens and the 16-35 2.8L. Where the L lenses and primes shine is when you want to make big prints. At 8x10, 11x14 or 13x19, the L lenses and primes provided obviously, dramatically superior results, even wide open.

This is to be expected from lenses that cost so much more money than the kit lens. I would expect, and demand, no less.

However, life is full of compromises, so if you are looking for a camera/lens combination to take snapshots to print at 4x6, and for web use, this lens is perfectly adequate. Of course, that is its intended application, right? Here's a photo I took of a friend's minature poodle. I made her a 4x6 of this and she loved it! What more can one ask from a lens/camera combination?

Stanley Rogouski , April 15, 2004; 02:08 P.M.

"However, life is full of compromises, so if you are looking for a camera/lens combination to take snapshots to print at 4x6, and for web use, this lens is perfectly adequate. Of course, that is its intended application, right?"

I'm not quite sure where this dogmatic sense that some lenses are meant for snapshot sized prints and others for larger prints came from. I've gotten perfectly good 8 x 10s with the Rebel Kits lens or my cheap 80-200mm zoom and could quite possibly get larger (if my printer were capable of it).

At the same time, my 35mm/2.0 and my 17-40 have taken photos that can't print at 8 x 10.

It seems to me that the lens is a distant third factor after the format/size of the medium and the quality of the light. Thus, the Rebel/10D/D100/D70 sensor can pretty much give you a decent 8 x 10 as a matter of course, whatever the lens you're using.

The limitations of the Rebel Kit lens (to me) seem more to do with the speed and the speed of its focusing. I can't see why you would want a $1000 camera for web sized photos anyway. The A75 fits nicely into your pocket and costs $250. The Rebel doesn't.

Ilkka Nissila , April 15, 2004; 02:08 P.M.

Bob, what happened to the reviewer who once wrote critical reviews? And complained about PoP "reviews"? f/5.6 not slow? A lens that is soft at f/5.6 is unuseable without a tripod except in most unusual photographic situations such as in bright sunlight.

Is something that is better than iso 800 film "very good?" I think the question to be asked is there anything worse than iso 800 film?

Just because something is cheap doesn't mean that its existence is justified or that people should actually buy it. Cheap (as opposed to durable and well-made) products place an unnecessary enviromental burden on the globe just like all single use stuff. Also, consider all the time and money people put to be able to photograph interesting subjects, and then the do it with a $100 lens? Sounds very irrational to me.

Stanley Rogouski , April 15, 2004; 02:51 P.M.

"Just because something is cheap doesn't mean that its existence is justified or that people should actually buy it. Cheap (as opposed to durable and well-made) products place an unnecessary enviromental burden on the globe just like all single use stuff."

Nikon's kit lens for the D70 is a 3.5-4.5, closer to the 24-85/28-105 kind of consumer zoom than it is to the 28-90. Nikon also makes a cheap 50mm lens very easy to get, while Canon underproduces theirs so people will buy the more expensive 1.4 version.

I think these are legitimate questions. Canon seems confused about who's using the Rebel, people taking photos of their pets or serious amateurs. Nikon aims the D70 squarely at the market that bought the n80. Canon may be right, but, then again, who pays $1000 for a camera? Why not charge another 100 bucks for the kit lens and build it with a USM ring and a slightly wider aperture at the long end.

Bob Atkins , April 15, 2004; 04:55 P.M.

Bob, what happened to the reviewer who once wrote critical reviews? And complained about PoP "reviews"? f/5.6 not slow? A lens that is soft at f/5.6 is unuseable without a tripod except in most unusual photographic situations such as in bright sunlight.

I've learned that the photographer is 100X more important than the equipment when it comes to producing worthwhile images. A sharp lens is still nice to have, but it's not the onlything that makes a lens good or bad. The optics of this lens speak for themselves in the images included with the reviews. They're not "L" class as I've pointed out. It sharpens up when stopped down as I've pointed out. It's sharper in the center or the zoom range than at the extremes as I've pointed out. Yet it's still a very usable $100 lens.

f5.6 is slow to anyone used to using prime lenses. It's not slow to anyone used to using consumer zooms and it's pretty fast for anyone coming from a 35mm P&S camera!

Using your logic, a 100-300/5.6 would be totally useless without a tripod since you'd need shutter speeds 2x to 6x faster than with a 55mm lens to get a sharp handheld image. Even a 70-200/4L would be useless at the long end since it would need 2x faster shutter speeds, and if a 55/5.6 is useless, a 200/2.8 would be equally useless from the viewpoint of "handholdability"

Yes, you do need to stop the 18-55 down to get sharp corners, but this isn't the lens to use for supersharp corners. Get a $70 50/1.8 for that. Wide open the lens is reasonably sharp in the center. 4"x6" prints are good. Flare is well controlled and distortion is low. Sharpness is excellent in a 4x6 print. You probably wouldn't want to make an 8x10 from a wide-open shot at 18 or 55mm, but I'll bet there are some users who wouldn't find such a print unacceptable. You might, I might, but the Digital Rebel and 18-55 lens are aimed squarely at a consumer market, not a serious photographer market.

You have to understand that the images shown in this review are mostly magnifications of very small parts of the image. They may (depending on your screen size and resolution) represent anything from an 11x14 to 20x30 blowup.

The 18-55 is an excellent lens for what it is. A $100 small, light, general purpsoe lens for use on a Digital Rebel. If you expect perfection, you won't find it, you're looking in the wrong place and you haven't read my review in detail. If this was a $400 lens, I wouldn't recommend it. There are better $400 lenses. However at $100 it's good value. In fact a modified 18-55 is now in my lens kit for my 10D (see http://www.bobatkins.com/photography/tutorials/efs-10d.html). It's not the only lens in there of course, but it's a lens I will and do use for some applications.

Stanley Rogouski , April 15, 2004; 05:15 P.M.

"Get a $70 50/1.8 for that."

You can't.

Stanley Rogouski , April 15, 2004; 05:24 P.M.

Greenspun recommends a cheap SLR and a cheap 50 instead of a cheap SLR and a cheap kit lens. The Rebel and 28/2.8 is the amost the exact digital equivalent of a Nikon n65 and their cheap 50.

Bob Atkins , April 15, 2004; 09:48 P.M.

"Get a $70 50/1.8 for that." You can't

Yes you can. You just have to look around. For years nobody wanted them, then suddenly everyone seems to have woken up. If you want one, you'll find one.

If all else fails, look on eBay.

Stephen Lutz , April 17, 2004; 10:58 A.M.

I printed off a couple of my pictures I took with the 18-55 kit lens at 8x10 and they looked fine. At larger sizes they still looked ok, but the ones from the L lenses and primes looked better to me. I guess what I am seeing at larger size is that they look more lifelike, more three dimensional. The photos with the primes and L lenses just have more snap and "presence" IMO.

In any event, I was not trying to damn the kit lens with faint praise. As a general purpose, light, cheap lens it does fine. I used to use the 28-80 kit lens with my EOS Elan, and it took fine pictures. The Rebel kit lens is equally good for general purpose photography. And, since most shots are never enlarged past 4x6, what I meant was that for this application, and for web use, this kit lens is perfectly adequate. When Canon bundled this lens with the Rebel, they obviously wanted people to be able to start taking pictures "out of the box" and get great results for the most common application: 4x6 prints. And, for this purpose, they have succeeded.

William Nicholls , April 21, 2004; 11:38 P.M.

Whatever the 18-55's merits, it's lame that Canon's "digital" lens requires new mirror tolerances only found in the 300D. Meanwhile the DX Nikkors work on any f-mount even in the diminished image circle limits full frame compatibility. Canon apparently thinks EF-S will be the cheap, entry level option. Fine, but where are the useful range lenses for the other 1.6X bodies? Sigma, I suppose?

E. Haque , May 20, 2004; 10:32 P.M.

It just doesn't make sense to buy 300D with that superb image sensor then pretty much ruin the pictures with this lens. Anyone serious enough about photography (as an art) to buy a dSLR should avoid lenses like this.

guillaume brassinnes , May 26, 2004; 10:51 A.M.

"Anyone serious enough about photography (as an art) to buy a dSLR should avoid lenses like this."

Well that's a point of view, mine is that anyone serious about photography as an art should invest on a 10D instead of the 300D. The 10D is not a pro level camera, that's the field of the 1D's; the 10D is great to fill the expert level gap, which means the 300D is a beginner level camera (which is somewhat confirmed by the "soft" limitations almost forcing you to use the preset modes if you want to do anything creative; which is reverse thinking in my opinion).

If you consider the 300D to be the digital world's equivalent of an EOS30/Elan7 sure, the lens is not adapted. If you consider it like a Rebel Ti (which doesnt have the same limitations as the 300D) it doesnt deserve "L" level lenses...

Ryan Joseph , May 28, 2004; 06:37 P.M.

I own a 300D and the kit lens. There is NO better option that is this wide for the 10D or 300D. Yes it requires modifying to mount on the 10D, but its a minor modification. The fact of the matter is, at this price and being this wide, you cannot complain because there is nothing else. IMHO, this is a great 18mm lens for the money, and works just great at f8.

Stephen Crary , June 10, 2004; 09:58 P.M.

Hi again Bob, Just wanted to add my 2 cents. It looks like the price on these may start coming down when purchasing the kit in the near future. I got The lens and kit today for $899. It may not be important to some, but hey....a $100 saved is better than paying an additional $100! For those that want a better entry level digital or DSLR (my old was a DCT-50, good camera but limited) I think it's a good choice\alternative for photo buffs.

David L , June 24, 2004; 03:27 A.M.

Here's a question, Bob. You claimed wide aperture performance is soft, could it be DOF issue rather than sharpness?

Phil Hawkins , July 29, 2004; 02:14 P.M.

This lens is a toy. It is worth percisely what you pay for it; very little.

Autofocus does not work in low-light situations, the image MOVES when the autofocus does kick in, (can you believe that?) the manual focus is so light that it is amost impossible to manual focus precisely unless you give it TOTAL concentration.

Chromatic aberration qualities are horrible, especially near the edges. I have a great shot I made with this lens, almost totally ruined by CA. If you are going to shoot the kids in the backyard with this lens and print 4x6 prints, then it's ok. But for serious photography, and to get the most that this camera can deliver, move up to the "L" series lenses.

See this photo for an example of the CA deficiencies.

Phil

Phil Hawkins , July 29, 2004; 02:36 P.M.


This lens is a toy. It is worth percisely what you pay for it; very little.

Autofocus does not work in low-light situations, the image MOVES when the autofocus does kick in, (can you believe that?) the manual focus is so light that it is amost impossible to manual focus precisely unless you give it TOTAL concentration.

Chromatic aberration qualities are horrible, especially near the edges. I have a great shot I made with this lens, almost totally ruined by CA. If you are going to shoot the kids in the backyard with this lens and print 4x6 prints, then it's ok. But for serious photography, and to get the most that this camera can deliver, move up to the "L" series lenses.

See this photo for an example of the CA deficiencies.

Phil

Amit Barak , July 12, 2008; 08:22 A.M.

Isn't the newer 18-55mm IS significant improvement compared to the model reviewed here?

Several reviewers on the net say it is. However, I still can't exactly find the logic behind buying such narrow range zoom. As the first DSLR lens 18mm is probably what you want on the wide angle end, but the tele end would better be at 70 or 100mm at least.

Amy Thompson , October 29, 2009; 10:17 P.M.

I just became an owner of the Canon EOS REBEL T1i that came with a Canon EFS 18-55/3.5-5.6 and I was looking for the best answers for shooting portraits with this lense sense a zoom will be a couple months before I own one. I have been reading the manual and practicing so I was cheating a little to ask someone to tell me what the best settings would be. I am very happy with my purchase but I am hoping there is an answer.


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