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Canon 18-135mm STM

© 2012 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

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Canon 18-135mm IS

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 (works only on Canon's small-format (1.6x) cameras, 67mm filters, 16.4 oz./464g, 1.3'/0.39m close focus, about $550 new, or about $400 used). enlarge. This free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially these links directly to it at Adorama or at Amazon, or used at eBay, when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Thank you! Ken.


October 2012    Canon Reviews    Canon Lenses    All Reviews

Video Sample Files


Introduction       top

Intro   Specs   Performance  Recommendations

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The Canon 18-135mm STM is a great do-everything lens with effortlessly silent and extremely fast autofocusing

The older 18-135mm EF-S IS lens was the only lens I needed to shoot everything for two weeks in Maui in 2010. With this one lens on a Canon 1.6x camera, you're done.

I never needed any other lens for anything, and this 18-135mm is easy to pack, handle and shoot. You never need to take it off your camera. As experienced photographers know, if you can't catch it with 135mm on small format (equivalent to just over 200mm on full-frame), a longer lens won't save you: you need to get closer! In other words, don't worry about this lens "only" going to 135mm instead of 200mm. If 135mm isn't long enough, nothing will be.

This new STM lens is an inch shorter and adds a zoom lock and instant manual-focus override to the older 18-135mm EF-S IS lens, however manual focus is electronic. The focus ring isn't connected to anything, and there is a tiny time delay between when you move the ring and the lens moving. The speed at which the lens moves isn't directly related to how far or how fast you turn the ring, so it's weird. It's not as good as having a real manual focus ring like the 15-85mm, 17-55mm or 17-85mm.

Another huge improvement from the older 18-135mm EF-S IS is that the zoom range from 24mm to 18mm has been spread-out on the zoom ring, so it's much easier to set precise wide-angle framing. On the old lens, it was very cramped at the wide end.



As a Canon EF-S lens, this 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 STM works only with Canon's mini-format (1.6x) digital SLRs.

It is useless for 35mm, full-frame and 1.3x cameras; it won't even mount on them.


Specifications         top

Intro   Specs   Performance  Recommendations



Canon calls this the CANON ZOOM LENS EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM.

EF means "electronic focus," meaning that there is an autofocus motor in the lens itself. All Canon lenses since 1987 have been EF.

-S means "small-format only," meaning that this lens only works on, and only attaches to, Canon's small-format (1.6x) digital cameras. It does not work with, and will not attach to, any other Canon camera.

IS is Image Stabilization, meaning you can leave the tripod at home.

STM means Stepper (AF) Motor.


Optics       top

16 elements in 12 groups.

5 zoom groups.


Internal focus.

Front group moves during zoom.


Diaphragm       top

Canon 18-135mm STM

Canon 18-135mm STM at 18mm and f/3.5. (EF diaphragm not visible).

7 rounded blades.

Round for the first couple of stops, heptagonal from there on.

Stops down to f/22-36.


Close Focus       top

1.3 feet (0.39 m) from the image plane.


Hard Infinity Focus Stop?        top


You have to let the AF system dial you in.


Focus Scale       top


The manual focus ring turns continuously without mechanical stops.


Depth-of-Field Scale       top



Infra-Red Focus Index       top



Filter Thread       top



Moves in and out with zoom, but never rotates.


Size       top

Canon specifies 3.1" (76.6 mm) diameter by 3.8 " (96.0 mm) long.

The older 18-135mm was longer at 3.1" (77.7mm) diameter by 4.8 " (123.0mm) long.


Weight       top

16.380 oz. (464.35g), measured.

Canon specifies 16.9 oz. (480g).

The older 18-135 IS measures 15.940 oz. (451.9g).


Hood       top

Plastic bayonet EW-73B ($26), not included.

I wouldn't bother getting one, they don't do much but do get in your way.


Case       top

$25 LP1116, not included.


Caps       top

Standard (not "ULTRASONIC") Canon 67mm ET-67 front cap.

Standard EOS cap rear.


Introduced       top

07 June 2012, 12:09 AM, New York City time.


Price       top

October 2012: $550 new, or about $400 used over eBay.

June 2012: Sold only as a kit with the Canon T4i, or about $400 used over eBay.


Canon 18-135mm IS

Canon 18-135 STM EF-S. enlarge.


Performance       top

Intro   Specs   Performance  Recommendations

Overall    Autofocus    Color   Distortion   Ergonomics   

Eyeblow   Falloff    Filters   Lateral Color Fringes

Maximum Aperture    Mechanics

Sharpness   Sunstars    Video Sample Files


Overall     performance      top

The Canon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 STM is a handy lens for everything.

Its zoom range covers everything I might need.


Autofocus     performance      top

Autofocus is silent and super-fast. The lens' motor is completely silent, much quieter than the 40mm f/2.8 STM.


Auto/Manual Switching

Just grab the ring at any time in ONE SHOT for instant manual-focus override.

Only move the AF-MF switch to MF to lock it into manual focus.


AF Speed

AF is pretty much instantaneous at every focal length.


AF Accuracy and Consistency

I always got perfect autofocus on a Canon T4i.


Does focus hold while zoomed?

No; focus drifts as zoomed, so focus after zooming.


Manual Focus

Manual focus is electronic.

It only works if the camera is on and awake.

The focus ring is merely an input to a computer, which then moves the lens as it sees fit. Therefore, sadly there is a slight delay in response, and the actual speed of the focus never quite matches what you're trying to do.


Video autofocus on the T4i

This lens on the T4i offers the best DSLR video autofocus I've yet experienced, but it's still not as good as a camcorder.


Video Sample Files     performance      top

Here's a sample 25MB video clip, made with the T4i at 640x480@29.97p. It looks very good, when it's in focus.

Here's another 19MB file of Ryan defying death with the same settings, and at these speeds, it still tracks just fine. It took a while for Ryan to wait for me to get focus reasonably locked before I started to roll, but once locked and rolling, it worked fine.

In all fairness, while other DSLRs are nearly useless for making video with autofocus of things that move (the whole point of video), the video and autofocus of the T4i with this lens is pretty useful. It will catch my kids doing most things other than running around in circles.

There is no sound from the lens while it focuses, whoo hoo!


Color Balance     performance      top

I see no difference in color balance between this EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 STM and my other EF lenses.


Distortion     performance      top

The Canon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 STM has the usual distortion for this kind of lens: horrendous barrel distortion at 18mm, and strong pincushion distortion at most other focal lengths. It only goes away around 24mm.

Use these values in Photoshop's Lens Distortion tool to remove it.

At 10' (3m)

© 2012 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

* Some waviness remains.


Ergonomics     performance      top

Canon 18-135mm IS

Canon 18-135mm STM.

Ergonomics are perfect, except for the weird manual focusing. I wish everything was this nice. Just shoot.

Zooming is especially pleasant, with perfect logarithmic spacing. It's easy and fast to set precise framing anywhere in the zoom range; it's not all squashed-together at the wide end as too many Canon zooms like the 24-105L do.

My new sample has no zoom creep.

The feel of the zoom grip is the best there is. The ribbing and material grab my fingers so well, and the zoom is so smooth and even, that I can zoom it with one finger. I can shoot all day, and my fingers don't hurt, as they do with the 24-105mm IS L.

Focus after zooming, because focus drifts as zoomed.

The zoom feel is great. You can zoom all the way in and out with a short twist, and it's always easy to turn and easy to set precise focal lengths.


Eyeblow     performance      top

Eyeblow is when zooming the lens pumps air in and out of the camera through the eyepiece into your eye.

This lens pumps a lot of air, and yes, you will feel it on your eye as you zoom from tele to wide.

Will this suck dust and dirt into your camera? Of course! Most zooms do this; do you think they expand and contract without any air?


Falloff (darkened corners)     performance      top

With Peripheral Illumination Correction on a T4i as tested here, there isn't any falloff at all!

I didn't bother to test without correction, as this is a digital-only lens.

I've greatly exaggerated the falloff by shooting a flat gray target and presenting it against a gray background, and it's still invisible:


Canon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 STM falloff, correction enabled.

maximum is f/5.6

© 2010 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.



Filters, Use with     performance      top

The 67mm filter threads are plastic.

The threads move in and out as zoomed, but never rotate while focused.

There is never a problem with vignetting, even with a conventional thick rotating polarizer or grad, and even if I stack one more normal filter on top of a conventional rotating filter at the 18mm setting!

There's no need for expensive thin-mount filters.


Lateral Color Fringes     performance      top

There are often strong lateral color fringes if you don't have a lens profile and its correction enabled.

Even with correction enabled, there is some residual lateral color at some settings around 50-120mm.

Lateral color fringes are one of the things that tip-off photographic forensic experts that something was probably shot on Canon instead of Nikon.

If this really bugs you, try a different lens.


Maximum & Minimum Apertures     performance      top

Maximum Aperture
Minimum Aperture


Mechanics     performance      top

Canon 18-135mm IS

Canon 18-135mm IS STM EF-S. enlarge.

The Canon 18-135mm STM is built with pretty decent amateur construction. The exterior is all plastic (except for the mount), but it's high-quality, tough plastic that seems like it ought to take a pretty decent beating. This lens seems like it ought to last a while.


Filter Threads and Hood Mount



Identity RIng






Focus Ring

Rubbery plastic.


Rear barrel




Seems like mostly plastic.



Chromed metal.





Serial Number

Laser-engraved into the bottom of the exterior barrel, near the lens mount.


Date Code

Not found.


Moisture seal at mount



Rear Bumper (for setting lens down, uncapped, on glass tables)



Noises When Shaken

Minor clicking and clunking.


Made in



Sharpness     performance      top

Lens sharpness doesn't matter much to good photographers, but it sure distracts amateurs who confuse lens sharpness with picture sharpness.

As seen on an 18MP Canon T4i, it's reasonably sharp when used properly. It's sharp in the center where it matters, and I'd have no problem cranking out eye-popping work with this lens.

If you're more concerned with counting your pixels, the sample I had was softer on the left side at the wider settings due to typical manufacturing variation which shifted the plane of best focus. I'd use this to my advantage for landscape shots, and for people shots, it wouldn't matter.

At 18mm, it's much softer on the sides and in the corners at f/3.5, and improves until f/11.

At 35mm, it's much softer on the sides and in the corners at f/4.5, and improves until f/11.

At 70mm, it's softer on the sides and in the corners at f/5, and improves until f/11.

At 135mm, it's softer on the sides and in the corners at f/5.6, and improves until f/16.

If you count pixels, use fixed lenses, or get the 15-85mm EF-s instead.

Canon 18-135mm MTF at 18mm
Canon 18-135mm MTF at 135mm
Canon 18-135mm MTF at 18mm
Canon 18-135mm MTF at 135mm


Sunstars     performance      top

Sunstars should have 14 soft points at smaller apertures.


Recommendations       top

Intro   Specs   Performance  Recommendations

This is my favorite all-around zoom for 1.6x Canon cameras. It covers all the focal lengths I need, and it zooms and focuses like a dream.

With manual-focus override and smooth zooming, it handles better than most Canon lenses.

I'd buy one of these in an instant if I was shooting a 1.6x Canon camera, like the 7D or T4i or whatever.

I would never use Canon's full-frame 28-135mm IS on a 1.6x camera instead of this much newer lens. The old 28-135mm came out back in the 1990s for film cameras, and it starts at a silly focal length for 1.6x cameras. It's also much bigger. I have no idea, other than less cost to Canon, of why Canon pushes the 28-135 STM for use with small-format cameras.

If you've found the time, effort and expense that I put into testing all this gear and sharing it here for free, this free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially these links directly to it at Adorama or at Amazon, or used at eBay, when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live.

Thank you!



More Information:

Canon, USA's data.


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Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.


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August 2012