Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Review

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Review - John Riley reviews the new Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM and Power Zoom Adapter PZ-E1.

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Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM in Interchangeable Lenses

Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Canon Ef S 18 135mm On Canon 80D Body

The 18-135mm is an excellent focal length range for general purposes, this example from Canon being designed for APS-C format DSLRs. This equates to an approximation of the 28-200mm “superzooms” that were once very popular for full frame cameras. The actual 35mm-equivalent on the Canon EOS 80D body used for this review is 28.8-216mm. Not only a new lens, but also a new Power Zoom Adapter, not a new idea but unusual as an add-on item. Let's see how it all fits together and what the results can be.

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Handling and Features

Canon Ef S 18 135mm With Power Zoom Adapter

The lens is squat but not unduly bulky, weighing in at 515g. There is a bayonet fitting for a lens hood, but what a pity that said hood is an optional extra and is not included in the package. As we will see, it should be. The usual filter thread is present and it takes 67mm filters and accessories.

As we move towards the camera body we first find the manual focusing ring. This is very smooth and nicely damped so it is not too loose. Manual focusing can be used at any time whilst in AF mode to make final tweaks to the focusing point. This can be especially useful in close-up and macro photography.

Moving onwards, next up is the zoom ring, clearly marked in various focal lengths. The action is very similar in feel to the focusing and just right to give a good feel to using the lens.

Finally, three switches offer AF/MF switching, Stabiliser on/off and a lock to ensure the lens does not extend under its own weight when being carried. This last feature is always a good idea, but certainly when the lens is new there does not seem to be any tendency to extend anyway.

The high-quality metal mount fits securely and looks to be durable. There is an EF-EOS M mount adapter available as an optional purchase that will enable the lens to be used on Canon mirrorless cameras.

Under the skin, the lens uses Nano USM Technology, which results in fast, virtually silent AF. This is very much with video in mind as much as stills photography. The IS (Image Stabilisation) system offer up to 4 stops advantage and is designed to work well when the photographer is walking as well as still. Again, this may well be of advantage to videographers.

The optical construction is 16 elements in 12 groups. The diaphragm has 7 blades, quite modest by today's standards. Focusing is down to a usefully close 0.39m, giving a maximum magnification of 0.28x.


Canon Ef S 18 135mm Top View Full Zoom

Power Zoom Adapter PZ-E1 – This curious device looks a bit Heath Robinson at first, especially as Pentax had Power Zoom lenses with the technology built in some twenty or more years ago. However, I can see why we have this now and it may well be received eagerly by videographers. It is basically an add-on power zoom device that turns the zoom ring for us. The simple choices are on/off, slow or fast zooming and a slider to move from wide to telephoto and back. The advantage is that when shooting video a smooth zoom can be achieved rather than trying to turn the ring. The slight downside is that when used the available focal length range is reduced to 19-132mm. There is also a Canon smartphone App that enables remote operation with the canon 80D body. To be able to zoom remotely could be quite an advantage.

Canon Ef S 18 135mm With Power Zoom Adapter Showing Tripod Clearance
Canon EF-S 18-135mm with Power Zoom Adapter Showing Tripod Clearance

The device offer two zoom speeds, giving a choice of slow zoom (11.5-15s for full travel) and a fast zoom (4-14.5s). Power is derived from 4x AAA batteries, which are supplied. A slight difficulty may be that with the adapter attached mounting on a tripod may be compromised, needing another optional extra, the Canon TS-E Lens Tripod Adapter. However, there was enough clearance on a Manfrotto 055 so it will not always be necessary.

Canon Ef S 18 135mm Rear Oblique View

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Performance

Sharpness has been evened out across the focal length range pretty well overall. At 18mm, central sharpness is very good from f/3.5 to f/16 and only drops to a good level at f/22. The edges start off with good sharpness at f/3.5, becoming very good from f/5.6 to f/11, good at f/16 and just fair at f/22.

At 24mm, centrally we start off with very good sharpness at f/4, becoming excellent from f/5.6 to f/8. f/11 and f/16 are still very good, but f/22 and f/25 are only fair. The edges are only fair from f/4 to f/5.6, becoming good at f/8, very good at f/11, then falling to good at f/16, fair at f/22 and really quite soft at f/25.

50mm starts off good at f/5, rising to excellent at f/5.6 and f/8. It is very good at f/11 and f/16, good at f/22 but becoming soft at f/32. The edges are good from f/5 to f/8, very good at f/11, good at f/16, falling to fair at f/22 but again becoming soft at f/32.

135mm is the weakest performance, the centre being very good at f/5.6, excellent at f/8, very good at f/11 and f/16, but falling away to just fair at f/32 and soft at f/36. The edges are very good at f/5.6 and f/8, good at f/11, just fair at f/16 and f/22. The result at f/32 and f/36 is very soft.

Although the MTF50 results are nowhere near perfect, in common with other 18-135mm lenses bright and crisp images can be made at wide to mid apertures. This is likely to cover the most common use as a general purpose travel lens. It may be arguable that the smallest apertures could have been left out altogether, as results beyond f/22 may not be worth the potential extra depth of field.

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM MTF Charts

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 80D using Imatest.

 

The picture with CA (Chromatic Aberration) is consistent across the zoom range. The centre of the field is highly corrected, at some points approaching zero. In any event, there is no visible fringing. At the edges, correction is generally held to below 1.5 pixels but is especially good around the 50mm mark. There may be some fringing visible at bright edges, but this should easily be corrected in software if desired.

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Chromatic Aberration Charts

 

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimise the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 80D using Imatest.

 

Flare is more of a problem, and as suggested at the start, it would be a very good idea to provide the dedicated lens hood with the lens. Many marques do this and it could make a serious difference here. Where very bright light encroaches on the image area, without a hood flare overwhelms the picture. There are also artefacts created. There is no such problem with side light or lighting full on and it does not prevent most image making from being perfectly satisfactory, but backlight is a problem.

Distortion starts with -3.86% barrel at 18mm, which is very obvious in the pictures. This has reduced to -0.545% barrel at 24mm and evens out at around +1.55% pincushion at 50mm and +1.54% pincushion at 135mm. This is all the right way round as we are well used to barrel distortion in wide angle lenses and pincushion in telephotos. If it were the other way round it could look very strange to our eyes. This can, of course, be corrected in software.

The bokeh of the lens is actually quite pleasant, giving smooth transitions in the out of focus background areas. This is especially so at wider apertures and where the main subject is closer to the camera.

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Sample Photos

Value For Money

The Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens is priced at £449 and the Power Zoom Adapter PZ-E1 adds £129. The previous lens, the Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM, costs £319.

Looking at other marques, the only matching specification is the SMC Pentax-DA 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 ED AL IF DC WR at £379.

This leaves the new Canon lens at being a bit pricey, and adding in the Power Zoom Adapter and possibly the TS-E Lens Tripod Adapter will add to that cost.

For more options have a look at the Top 15 Best Canon EOS lenses, or have a look at the Top 10 Superzoom Lenses.

 

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Verdict

Although lacking in some areas of the performance, this lens is actually a lot of fun to use. The results are bright and crisp at wide to mid apertures, although admittedly falling off quite dramatically at longer lengths and smaller apertures.

It is a great travel lens and has the benefit of the add-on Power Zoom Adapter, which may well be an exciting development for videographers.

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Pros

  • Bright, attractive images
  • Silent, fast AF
  • Well corrected for CA
  • Effective IS
  • Power Zoom Adapter for video

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Cons

  • No weather resistance
  • Lack of sharpness at long end
  • No lens hood provided

Features4/5
Handling4/5
Performance3.5/5
Value3.5/5
Overall Verdict

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Specifications

ManufacturerCanon
General
Lens Mounts
  • Canon EF-S
Lens
Focal Length18mm - 135mm
Angle of ViewNo Data
Max Aperturef/3.5 - f/5.6
Min Aperturef/22 - f/38
Filter Size67mm
StabilisedYes
35mm equivalent29mm - 216mm
Internal focusingNo Data
Maximum magnification0.28x
Focusing
Min Focus39cm
Construction
Blades7
Elements16
Groups12
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data
Dimensions
Weight515g
Height96mm

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