The Canon 18-55mm EF-M IS is the main “kit lens” of Canon’s mirrorless camera family. It’s small and light, but does it deliver the goods on image quality? (scroll to the bottom for sample pics)
Canon 18-55mm EF-M IS STM — Tech Specs
- Focal Length: 18-55mm (equivalent to ~28mm-88mm field of view on full-frame)
- Mount: Canon EF-M
- Max/Min Aperture: f/3.5 – f/38
- Aperture Blades: 7
- Focus Type: AF / MF via Stepper Motors
- Glass: 13 Elements in 11 Groups
- Filter Thread: 52mm
The Canon 18-55mm EF-M (< link is to used options as low as $100) is a fairly basic “kit” lens designed for the EOS M line of mirrorless cameras. It is not EF or EF-S mount and will not fit on any Canon DSLR. It is equivalent to the EF-S mount 18-55mm IS STM in many respects, but if you put the two side by side, the EF-M incarnation feels a lot more substantial (despite being physically smaller). Image quality is also superior in the EF-M version. Along with something like an EOS M or EOS M3, this lens is a great low-cost option for a high-quality travel photography setup.
As previously mentioned, build quality seems quite nice, and the lens feels good in hand. It feels sturdy, seems to have exterior sheathing of metal or metal composite, and the zoom and focus rings are very smooth turning. The STM focusing technology in this lens allows for continuous AF operation (focus tracking, etc), which is pretty much a necessity given that there is no viewfinder on the original EOS M body.
The Canon 18-55mm EF-M focuses internally, meaning that filters do not turn as the lens is focusing and the distance to subject doesn’t change. This is good when using a circular polarizer (former) and doing close-up photography (latter).
Image quality is pretty good, but not what I would call excellent (more one this below). It definitely out-performs it’s EF-S sibling in overall image quality, but it underperforms most prime lenses or the the far more expensive professional “L” series lenses.
Color rendition is accurate and doesn’t seem to over-emphasize any particular color spectrum.
As mentioned, image quality is good, but not great. I noticed green (predominant) and purple (less pronounced) fringing in many, if not most, photos. This is easily removed in post-processing with a RAW workflow, but it would be nicer if that weren’t necessary. Sharpness is very good in the center, and like most lenses, falls off at the edges.
Vignetting is noticeable at all focal lengths at wider apertures (< f/5.6) but is nearly non-existent at f/8 and beyond. Or you can use the lens correction presets in Photoshop or Lightroom to correct in one easy step.
The manual focus ring is smooth turning, but it’s quite small and hard to locate without looking. The knurling is so low-profile and so narrowly banded that I sort of wonder why they bothered (maybe it’s for aesthetics).
The STM focusing system is noticeably louder than Canon’s USM system, especially in low-light situations in which the camera has to hunt for enough contrast to focus (not as much of an issue on newer Canon mirrorless bodies).
There’s really nothing I’d call “bad” about the Canon 18-55mm EF-M. Sure, I’d like a constant f/3.5 throughout the zoom range or a more tactile focusing ring. But build quality and image quality are very good for the price.
All of these were at ISO 100.
Shot at 30mm | f/4.5 | 1/500s:
Shot at 41mm | f/5 | 1/80s:
Shot at 55mm | f/8 | 1/125s:
Shot at 18mm | f/3.5 | 1/500s: