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Lens review

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

24 March 2010
Szymon Starczewski

4. Image resolution

The previous Canon „kit” lens was deemed weak. Such an opinion was confirmed by the test results. A decent performance was seen in the 18-35 mm focal lengths range, at 55 mm it was a lot weaker because the lens had to be stopped down to f/8-11 to get relatively sharp images.

How well a plastic „kit” can fare we’ve been shown by the Nikkor 18-55 mm VR, which, in the frame centre, impressed us very much. When comparing that Nikkor to the Canon we have to take into account the difference of sensors’ resolution. The Nikkor was tested on a 10 Mpix Nikon D200 sensor and here we deal with an 8 Mpix sensor of an EOS 20D. The Canon results would have to be increased by 7-8% to compare the MTFs aptly.

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


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The thing that sticks out immediately is a huge improvement compared to the predecessor. The Canon 18-55 mm IS at 18-35 mm, slightly stopped down, can reach the level of 40 lpmm which is a really good result on the 20D camera. The comparison with the Nikkor in the 18-35 mm range ends in a draw. The Nikkor seems to fare better at 18 mm, the Canon has a better result at 35 mm but the differences are really slight (taking into account the conversion factor of course). A significant advantage of the Nikkor becomes apparent at 55 mm. There, at the maximum aperture, the Canon just exceeds the 30 lpmm decency level but the Nikkor reaches almost 39 lpmm. Even after the conversion factor correction the difference in favour of the Nikkon is significant.

How does the situation look at the frame edge? Let’s have a glance at the picture below.

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

First of all, the Canon graphs are relatively even at all focal lengths and everywhere near or above the level of 30 lpmm. Once again the performance of the lens has improved a lot compared to its predecessor’s - it had problems with reaching 30 lpmm at any combination of apertures and focal lengths.

The situation here even compares favourably with that of the Nikon, so praised by us in this category. It is true that it has similar or better maximum results in the 18-35 mm range (almost 38 lpmm which corresponds with about 35 lpmm on a Canon) but at 55 mm the performance of both lenses is already almost the same (so the Canon stops lagging behind) and the maximum aperture at 18 mm looks much better for the Canon.

How to sum up this chapter? New Canon and Nikon “kit” lenses are a big leap forward, compared to their predecessors. Both produce good quality pictures, the first fares better at the frame edge, the second better in the centre. As a result, their resolution performance is more or less equal.

For form’s sake and traditionally we end this chapter by presenting our test chart crops, straight from the camera, saved as JPEG files.

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