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Canon 18-135mm IS
EF-S
(2009-today)

© 2012 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specs   Performance  Recommendations

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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, 15.940 oz./451.9g, about $400). enlarge. I'd get it at Adorama or Amazon. It helps me keep adding to this site when you get yours from those links, too. Thanks! Ken.

 

August 2010    More Canon Reviews

NEW: Canon 7D Sample Photos from Maui July 2010

 

Golf under moonlight, Ho'olei

Moonlight in Maui - HAND-HELD. Auto ISO 3,200, Canon 18-135mm IS, 18mm at f/3.5, two seconds exposure. bigger. The dots in the sky are stars.

 

MLL, WAILEA, 22 July 2010

Sample Image: original 5MB JPG from Canon 7D, Canon 18-135mm IS at 33mm and f/10.

 

Palm, 03 August 2010

Sample Image: original 6.5MB JPG from Canon 7D, Canon 18-135mm IS at 18mm and f/8.

 

Noni and Pops

Sample Image: original 4MB JPG from Canon 7D, pop-up flash, Canon 18-135mm IS at 67mm and f/9.

 

Good

Excellent optics and superb ergonomics make this lens much nicer than I had expected. This is really the only lens you need for any small-format (1.6x) Canon camera for anything.

 

Bad

Nothing, really. The only bone to pick is that manual focus requires moving a switch instead of offering instant override, but in practice, AF is so good I never needed manual focus anyway.

 

Optics:
Mechanics:
Ergonomics:
Usefulness:
Availability:
Overall:

 

Introduction       top

Intro   Specs   Performance  Recommendations

adorama

 
B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

Ritz Camera

I personally suggest Adorama, Amazon, Ritz, B&H, Calumet and J&R. I can't vouch for ads below.

 

The Canon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS is much nicer than I had expected.

Its optics are great, and it has unusually great handling. It is a very sturdy lens; almost the entire body is the zoom ring, and zooming and focus are a breeze. Close focus is only 1.5 feet (0.45 meters), so if you can see it, you can shoot it!

This 18-135mm lens was the only lens I needed to shoot everything for the two weeks during which I borrowed it. 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.

 

Compatibility

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

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

 

Specifications         top

Intro   Specs   Performance  Recommendations

 

Name

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

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 means Image Stabilization.

 

Optics       top

16 elements in 12 groups.

5 zoom groups.

Multicoated.

Internal focus.

Front group moves during zoom.

 

Diaphragm       top

Canon 18-135mm IS

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

6 blades.

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

Stops down to f/22-36.

 

Close Focus       top

1.5 feet (0.45 m) from the image plane.

 

Hard Infinity Focus Stop?        top

No.

You have to let the AF system dial you in.

 

Focus Scale       top

No.

The ring turns from near to far in about 60.º

The focus ring turns during autofocus; keep your fingers away!

 

Depth-of-Field Scale       top

No.

 

Infra-Red Focus Index       top

No.

 

Filter Thread       top

67mm.

Plastic.

Moves in and out with zoom, but never rotates.

 

Size       top

Canon specifies 3.1" (77.7mm) diameter by 4.8 " (123.0mm) long.

 

Weight       top

15.940 oz. (451.9g), measured.

Canon specifies 16.0 oz. (455g).

 

Hood       top

Crappy $26 plastic bayonet ET-73B, not included. I wouldn't bother getting one.

 

Case       top

$27 LP1116, not included.

 

Caps       top

Standard 67mm ET-67 front.

Standard EOS cap rear.

 

Introduced       top

October 2009.

 

Price       top

$450, USA, August 2010.

 

Canon 18-135mm IS

Canon 18-135 IS EF-S. enlarge.

 

Performance       top

Intro   Specs   Performance  Recommendations

Overall    Autofocus    Bokeh   Color   Distortion

Ergonomics   Falloff    Filters   Flare and Ghosts

Image Stabilization   Lateral Color Fringes

Maximum Aperture    Mechanics

Sharpness   Sunstars   Zooming

 

Overall     performance      top

The Canon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS is much nicer than I expected. It's optically better than expected, mechanically more solid than I expected, and an ergonomic joy to shoot all day for everything.

Its zoom range covers everything I might need.

 

Autofocus     performance      top

Autofocus is super-fast. The lens' motor isn't silent; it whines a bit, but since it focuses so fast; it's never annoying.

 

Auto/Manual Switching

You must move the AF-MF switch to get between auto and manual focus.

This is this lens' weakest point; Nikon's similar lenses don't require this.

 

AF Speed

AF is fast!, as Canons always are.

The focus ring spins during autofocus; keep your fingers away.

 

AF Accuracy and Consistency

I usually got perfect autofocus on a Canon 7D.

 

Does focus hold while zoomed?

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

 

Manual Focus

Manual focus isn't so exciting; the ring moves a bit too fast for my taste for the longer focal lengths, but so what: I never needed to go to manual focus. I simply locked AF as needed.

 

Bokeh     performance      top

Bokeh, the quality of out-of-focus areas as opposed to the degree of defocus, is pretty good.

Backgrounds go soft and don't distract.

 

Color Balance     performance      top

Hibiscus

Hibiscus, Maui. (Canon 7D, 18-135mm at 42mm). bigger.

 

Ho'olei

Sample Image: original 3MB JPG from Canon 7D, Canon 18-135mm IS at 135mm and f/5.6.

 

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

 

Distortion     performance      top

The Canon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS has the usual distortion for this kind of lens: barrel distortion. at 18mm, and pincushion distortion at most other focal lengths.

For critical use, use these values in Photoshop's Lens Distortion tool to remove it.

 
At Infinity
18mm
+4.0*
24mm
-1.2
35mm
-3.0
50mm
-3.1
70mm
-3.0
135mm
-2.2

© 2010 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

* Some waviness remains. +5 at about 10 feet.

 

Here's an example at 18mm. Roll your mouse over to compare the image after setting +5 in Photoshop's Lens Distortion tool.

Maui Sugar Cane Train. Roll Mouse over to see after correction.

 

Here are shots of the horizon in Maui:

Canon 18-135mm IS

Canon 18-135mm IS

Canon 18-135mm IS

Canon 18-135mm IS

Canon 18-135mm IS

Canon 18-135mm IS

 

Ergonomics     performance      top

Canon 18-135mm IS

Canon 18-135mm IS. enlarge.

Ergonomics are perfect. I wish everything was this nice. Just shoot.

More details about zooming are at the Zooming section below.

 

Falloff (darkened corners)     performance      top

For actual photography, falloff is minor wide open, and completely invisible at smaller apertures.

Oddly, Peripheral Illumination Correction doesn't do much, but that's OK, because it doesn't need to. In photography, we don't want perfect illumination corner-to-corner; it looks weird.

I've greatly exaggerated the small amount of falloff by shooting a flat gray target and presenting it against a gray background.

 

Canon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS falloff, no correction.

 
f/5.6
f/8
18mm
50mm
135mm
maximum is f/5.6

© 2010 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

Canon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS falloff, correction enable.

 
f/5.6
f/8
18mm
50mm
135mm
maximum is f/5.6

© 2010 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

Filters, Use with     performance      top

The 67mm filter threads are plastic, as expected. They make it more difficult to attach and remove filters than a real metal filter thread.

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

I see no problem with vignetting, even with a conventional thick rotating polarizer or grad. There's no need for expensive thin-mount filters.

 

Flare and Ghosts     performance      top

Sunset, Ho'olei, Maui, 26 June 2010

Sunset, seen from a deck of Ho'olei, in Maui. Canon 7D, 18-135mm at 33mm and f/11, with Hoya HMC UV filter.

 

Sunset, Ho'olei, Maui, 26 June 2010

Sunset, seen from a deck of Ho'olei, in Maui. Canon 7D, 18-135mm at 18mm and f/5, with Hoya HMC UV filter. bigger.

 

Flare and ghosts aren't a problem. Shoot into the sun, and so long as you can bear to look through the finder without blinking (or going blind), you'll see no ghosts on your images.

If you're pushing it, take off the filter first.

 

Image Stabilization     performance      top

Canon 18-135mm IS

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

The Canon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS has excellent image stabilization, as expected. I can shoot at 1/15 at any focal length and get great shots, while with IS OFF, I'd need to shoot at 1/60 to get the same results.

On an 18 MP Canon 7D, I get tripod-equivalent sharpness almost all of the time hand-held at 1/4 of a second — one quarter — at 18mm, 1/12th of a second at 1/50 and 1/15 at 135mm. Whoo hoo!

Here are tests, shot standing with no support, but holding quite still, as one might shoot in a rifle match.

 

Percent tripod-equivalent sharp shots, hand-held Canon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS on a 7D:

IS OFF
1/2
1/4
1/8
1/15
1/30
1/60
1/125
1/250
1/500
18mm
0
20
50
60
100
100
100
100
100
50mm
0
0
0
40
67
100
100
100
100
135mm
0
0
0
0
0
50
60
83
100

 

IS ON
1/2
1/4
1/8
1/15
1/30
1/60
1/125
1/250
1/500
18mm
40
83
100
100
100
100
100
100
100
50mm
0
40
67
100
100
100
100
100
100
135mm
0
33
60
70
83
90
100
100
100

 

 
100% sharp 50% of the time with no IS
100% sharp 50% of the time with IS

Real
Stops Improvement

Marketing
Stops Improvement
18mm
1/8
1/3
1.4
2.6
50mm
1/20
1/6
1.7
3.1
135mm
1/60
1/6
3.3
4.5

"Real Stops Improvement" are how many extra stops I got, IS ON compared to IS OFF.

"Marketing Stops Improvement" isn't comparing the speed I can use from IS OFF to IS ON, but instead comparing the speed one can use with IS ON to the old-wives-tale speed of 1/focal length. That's called Lying with Statistics.

If the subject is moving, a faster lens is better because the extra stops of real speed let you use faster shutter speeds to stop action; Image Stabilization does nothing to stop subject motion; it serves merely to counteract camera motion.

 

Lateral Color Fringes     performance      top

As with most Canon lenses and cameras, there are some minor lateral color fringes at some settings.

There is some magenta-green at 18mm, almost none at 35mm and 70mm, and moderate magenta-green at 135mm.

If this disturbs you, shoot in the middle of the zoom range, or shoot any modern Nikon DSLR instead. All of today's Nikon DSLRs correct this automatically, which no Canon does — yet.

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

 

Maximum Aperture     performance      top

 
Maximum Aperture
Minimum Aperture
18mm
f/3.5
f/22
24mm
f/4
f/25
35mm
f/4.5
f/29
50mm
f/5
f/32
85mm
f/5.6
f/36
135mm
f/5.6
f/36

 

Mechanics     performance      top

Canon 18-135mm IS

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

Nicer than expected, the Canon 18-135mm IS 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

Plastic.

 

Identity RIng

Plastic.

 

Forebarrel

Plastic.

 

Focus Ring

Plastic.

 

Rear barrel

Plastic.

 

Internals

Seems like mostly plastic.

 

Mount

Chromed metal.

 

Markings

Paint.

 

Serial Number

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

 

Date Code

Not found.

 

Ass-Gasket (dust seal at mount)

No.

 

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

Yes.

 

Noises When Shaken

Lots of clicking and clunking.

 

Made in

Taiwan.

 

Sharpness     performance      top

MLL, WAILEA, 22 July 2010

Shopping Mall, Wailea, Maui. Canon 7D, Canon 18-135mm at 33mm and f/10. original 5MB file.

The biggest barrier to sharpness with this lens is getting perfect focus. Once in proper focus, this is a swell lens.

As seen on the 18MP Canon 7D, it's always sharp in the center, and a little less sharp on the sides wide-open. Stopped down a stop or two, it's really sharp everywhere.

This is a very good lens; it never gets soft anywhere, as many lenses used to do. If something's not sharp with this lens, you either didn't get perfect focus (which Canons sometimes just miss), or you're doing something wrong.

Shot on lower-resolution cameras, I doubt you'd ever be able to see any lens limitations.

 

Sunstars     performance      top

I was expecting primitive 6-pointed sunstars from its 6-bladed diaphragm, but to my surprise, sunstars usually have 12 points!

It turns out that the diaphragm blades are shaped in such a way that this is what you see at most apertures, except at f/16 and smaller, where you're back to 6 points.

When used in Professional (P) exposure mode as I do, it is unlikely that you'll use apertures as small as f/16; if you see sunstars, they will probably be 12-pointed, which is reminiscent of the LEICA SUMMICRON 50mm f/1.4. Nice!

 

Zooming     performance      top

I saved the best for last: one of the biggest reasons I love this lens is for how well the zoom control works.

The zoom ring is the entire barrel, from the zoom markings all the way past the Canon logo and silver ring, all the way up to the focus ring itself.

At first I though this lens was defective, because I held an unmounted lens by the section with the silver Canon logo, and turned. It felt like it was locked, whereas in fact I was simply holding two different parts of the same zoom ring, not a fixed part of the barrel!

To mount and unmount, you must hold it by the very back, but with this broad a zoom range, I never needed to change lenses.

There is sometimes some zoom creep, but so what: it zooms so fast and easy that it's trivial to zoom where you want it.

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.

I really like the design and material of the zoom grips. The grip well, and call me a stickler, but they seem much more sturdily attached than the rubber of many other lenses. I never really trust that the rubber of my Nikon lenses is going to stay put, but this Canon EF-S lens feels as if the rubber is a permanent part of the ring, not simply glued on.

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. It's a little tighter between 18mm and 24mm, and it is geared more towards speed over precision, but all in all, the only lens which zooms more pleasantly is Nikon's 70-210mm f/4 AF from 1986.

 

Recommendations       top

Intro   Specs   Performance  Recommendations

I wasn't expecting this, but honestly, if I shot small-format Canon, this would be my favorite all-around zoom. I love it because of its moderately tough build, light weight, great ergonomics, very good optics, and perfect zoom range and close focus. The price is a steal, too.

I prefer this 18-135mm to Canon's 18-200mm IS. I never really liked the 18-200mm because it never felt right, while this 18-135mm feels great. The 18-200mm also weighs and costs more, and has more distortion.

I wouldn't worry about 200mm versus 135mm. If 135mm isn't long enough, nothing will be. If you think you need a longer lens, you're wrong: you need to get closer to get a better picture, not a longer lens.

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

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. I have no idea, other than lost cost to Canon, of why Canon pushes the 28-135 IS for use with small-format cameras.

This page made in Maui, July 2010.

 

More Information:

Canon, USA's data.

Canon's technical backgrounder.

 

Help me help you         top

I support my growing family through this website, as crazy as it might seem.

If you find this as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.

If you've gotten your gear through one of my links or helped otherwise, you're family. It's great people like you who allow me to keep adding to this site full-time. Thanks!

If you haven't helped yet, please do, and consider helping me with a gift of $5.00.

The biggest help is to use these links to Adorama, Amazon, Calumet, Ritz, J&R and when you get your goodies. It costs you nothing and is a huge help to me. eBay is always a gamble, but all the other places have the best prices and service, which is why I've used them since before this website existed. I recommend them all personally.

Thanks for reading!

Ken

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