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Lens review

Canon EF-S 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 IS

24 March 2010
Szymon Starczewski

3. Build quality and image stabilization

When it comes to the dimensions, the new „kit” is not much different from its predecessor but at first glance you can notice two changes: a stabilization switch and a different zoom ring. This chart shows a comparison between the tested lens, its predecessor and immediate rivals from the Nikon and Pentax stables. As you see, after adding the stabilization, the lens got a bit longer and its weight increased by 10 grams. The result of 200 grams still puts the Canon in a very positive light – although it features the same number of elements it is still physically the lightest of all. This result is even more interesting because the Canon is faster than the bigger and heavier Nikkor in the middle of the focal range – the aperture begins with f/4.5 (f/5.0 for the Nikkor). The Pentax, which isn’t stabilized, is also heavier than the Canon but it clearly wins when it comes to the build quality (metal mount, a fully-fledged focus ring).

Canon EF-S 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 IS - Build quality and image stabilization

Exactly...the ring…to tell you the truth I hoped that with the new generation of kit lenses we’d get also something we can precisely work with. Unfortunately neither Canon nor Nikon made that step and in their case a manual focus ring, positioned at the very beginning of the lens, remains still an inefficient dummy.

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The front element, surrounded by that ring and a rotating filter thread 58 mm in diameter, extends on zooming. It is the shortest near 26 mm and it becomes longer either by increasing or by decreasing of the focal length. That operation is performed by using a big and comfortable zoom ring for a change.

Canon EF-S 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 IS - Build quality and image stabilization

Below and slightly to the left we find two switches: one changes the mode of the focusing mechanism (AF/MF) the second switches the stabilization on and off. The lens ends with a plastic bayonet mount.

Inside the Canon EF-S 18-55 mm IS there are 11 elements in 9 groups. One of them (the penultimate one) is aspherical. A single element no. 5 is movable and, as such, responsible for the image stabilization system. Between elements no. 7 and 8 we’ll find an aperture with six diaphragm blades which, depending on the focal length, can be closed down to f/22-36.

Canon EF-S 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 IS - Build quality and image stabilization

We get only caps in the accessory kit. In this category Canon lags behind Pentax which gives additionally a lens hood.

Stabilization

The stabilization is a big curiosity here. Although the lens is cheap, the Canon company assures us that the stabilization efficiency reaches 4 EV. This result is significantly better than that of more expensive but older L-series devices, such as a 4/300 IS, a 100-400 IS or a 28-135 mm IS – in their case we dealt with a first generation mechanism, as efficient as 2 EV. How these claims correspond with the facts? Of course we didn’t fail to check it.

Canon EF-S 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 IS - Build quality and image stabilization

The graph above shows a connection between the percentage of blurred photos and the exposition time expressed in EV (the zero point is here the equivalent of the 1/100 second time) for the stabilization on and off. The distance between obtained curves indicates the stabilization efficiency which, in this case, ranges from 2 to 2.5 EV; such a result is significantly lower than the claims of the producer.