The Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS ($499.99 direct) isn’t the newest lens on the block, but it’s still around despite a newer version being available. The newer lens is the Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM —it’s $50 more, and its STM motor delivers smoother video focus when used with a supported camera. Currently only the Canon EOS Rebel T4i supports this feature, but future models are sure to take advantage of it.
If you’re convinced that you’re never going to be a video shooter, this lens could be appealing—especially if you find it on sale or as a bargain on the used market. It’s got a longer zoom range than the standard EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II that’s bundled with most Canon cameras, and it’s got a sturdier build.
The 18-135mm IS is a bit larger, but lighter, than the newer STM version—it’s 4 by 3 inches (HD) in size and weighs an even pound. The STM version is shorter, but a bit wider, at 3.8 by 3.1 inches and weighs just over a pound. Both lenses use 67mm filters, and can use a polarizing filter as the front element doesn’t rotate during zoom or focus.
Imatest shows that the lens is very sharp, even at its maximum aperture, when tested with the T4i. At 18mm it records 1,964 lines, a figure that increase to 2,263 lines at 50mm and finally settles in at 2,033 lines at 135mm. Distortion is an issue, which is not uncommon for lenses with a high zoom factor. At 18mm it shows 3.8 percent barrel distortion, which makes straight lines appear to curve outward. At 50mm there is 1.8 percent pincushion distortion—where straight lines appear to curve in—a figure that reduces to a more reasonable 1.3 percent at 135m. The newer STM version of the lens is also quite sharp at 18mm and 135mm, but dips down to 1,698 lines at 50mm—but that is remedied by stopping down to f/8.
If you’re looking to upgrade your Canon camera’s kit lens, the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens is an attractive option. It’s sharp throughout its zoom range, optically stabilized, and is well built. Even though it’s a little more expensive and not quite as sharp at the midpoint of its zoom range, the newer STM version is a better choice—it is only $50 more and focuses much more smoothly when recording video with a compatible camera like the T4i. If video is of no interest to you, and you can manage to find this older version of the lens at a good price, choosing it will leave some extra money in your pocket.
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