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


Canon has released a new EF-S 18-135 mm lens (version 3) for their APS-C bodies, the EF-S 18-135 mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM. It is the kit lens for the EOS 80D camera, because many photographers find the larger 7x zoom range more interesting than the zoom range of the Canon 18-55 STM IS kit lens. The AF system makes use of a combination of a new ring USM motor and a stepper motor. This provides extra-fast sharpening. The Canon 18-135 mm USM is quieter than the Canon 18-55 mm STM. The lens also has built-in image stabilization good for about 4 stops. We tried the set for ourselves and were impressed. Especially the large zoom range (28-216 mm in 35-mm equivalent) is very handy in practice. You pay a price for that: the brightness is sufficient, but no more than that. All in all, a fine, all-around documentary lens. Thanks to the new Nano USM AF motor, that’s true for both video and photography.


Canon EF-S 18-135 mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM + Canon 80D @1/800 seconde f/8, ISO 800

The large (7.5x) zoom range, combined with fast and quiet AF, making the Canon 18-135 mm into an extremely versatile (kit) lens.

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

Tip / Spoiler Alert: As far as image quality is concerned, we have not discovered any significant differences – taking the test cameras and camera settings into account – between the STM and USM version.

Not long ago, we reviewed the Canon EF-S 18-135 mm STM IS. This zoom lens with a stepper motor replaced the first, already a bit older Canon 18-135 mm zoom with an “old-fashioned” AF (no USM) motor. The advantage of the STM motor relative to other AF motors is that they focus more quietly and smoothly. But they are not as fast as USM motors. To let photographers benefit from fast AF, Canon decided to release a third version of the Canon 18-135 mm, this time with a newly designed USM motor that focuses quietly and smoothly as well as quickly. Both lenses have the same optical design. According to Canon, the new Nano USM technology motor of the 18-135 mm USM 4.3x (@ 135 mm) focuses up to 2.5x (@18 mm) faster than the STM motor.

Canon EF-S 18-135 mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM fits the Canon 80D like a glove


Build and auto focus

The lens is nicely compact for a zoom with such a range (from 28 mm to 216 in 35-mm equivalent), 96 mm long and weighs over 500 grams. There are 16 lens elements in 12 groups. The lens does not get much longer when zooming in or out (a flaw of many kit lenses). This lens makes use of internal focusing, and the front lens stays still, which is nice when using a polarization or greyscale filter. The filter size is 67 mm. The shortest setting distance of 39 cm is also nicely small. A maximum enlargement of 0.28x is the result. The lens has a great, wide rubber zoom ring, a focus ring and an AF/MF switch on the lens.

The aperture has 7 lamellae and is driven electronically. That is more accurate and especially more quiet than with a mechanical control.

The focus is very fast: in daylight we found a focus time of about 200 milliseconds from infinity to 1 meter. That is extremely short for an SLR! In low light, it becomes slower. The sound level is just as important when filming. We can be brief about that: you practically don’t hear it when focusing. The Canon 80D has a sensor with “Dual-pixel technology” with which you focus more quickly and more accurately during video recordings than with other Canon SLRs without Dual pixels. That makes the Canon 80D and the Canon EF-S 18-135 mm IS USM into an attractive combination.


The vignetting in uncorrected RAW is noticeable at the largest lens apertures, but starting at f/8 it is actually negligible. The 80D can correct this in the camera with the Peripheral Illumination Correction (a rather unique name, by the way). Then you have no trouble from visible vignetting at all settings, although the signal-to-noise ratio in the corners decreases a bit in the corners due to the correction.


Distortion (barrel-shaped, pincushion-shaped) is a flaw that any zoom lens has problems with. Everything above 1% is quite visible in practice. Remarkably enough, the in-camera correction drops the ball a bit here: even the JPEGs are significantly distorted. RAW files can be perfectly corrected in Photoshop or Lightroom with the help of the lens correction profiles, as you can see in the practice shot below. That is not possible for jpg files. You can correct those manually.DistortpraktijkCanon18135USM


 MG 0068A non-cropped shot at the shortest distance setting with a 135 mm focal length. Due to the outstanding center sharpness, a great shot.

The resolution (sharpness) of the 80D/18-135 mm combination is extremely good in the middle. The maximum center sharpness is reached at f/5.6. The sharpness at the edges comes close to the center sharpness. The corners, in particular at a focal length under 40 mm, could be better. The more you stop down, the higher the corner sharpness. The bar graph below speaks for itself.

Chromatic aberration

CA18mmCanon18135mmIt is common today to permit visible color separation (“lateral chromatic aberration”) in the design of less expensive lenses, so that the other image properties can be better optimized, without incurring the high costs of exotic glass types or extra corrective aspherical lens elements. We tested the Canon 18-135 mm USM including lens correction in the camera. In the jpg files, lateral chromatic aberration is actually absent. That also applies for RAW files that you correct with lens profiles in Lightroom or Photoshop. If you do not correct, you can clearly find purple and green edges at sharp contrast transitions.

Bokeh and flare

A light source in the background can display clear rings in the bokeh, and the background blur sometimes looks restless. Sometimes condom edges are visible in the bokeh balls. For a nicer bokeh, you might have to switch to a camera with a larger sensor and a bright lens. For zoom lenses with a large zoom range, it is not unusual, due to the complex design with a large number of lens elements, to find flare and ghosts. Even so, the Canon 18-135 mm STM does unexpectedly well on this point; I did not find any ghosts. If the sun shines directly in frame, the flare remains limited to a reduced contrast in a small zone around the light source. This good performance will be partly owed to the Canon Super Spectra coating applied to each lens element. A lens hood is part of the standard equipment, by the way.

Additional motor for video

If you turn the zoom ring on the lens during filming, that is usually visible in the video recording. There are therefore videographers who prefer an electronic zoom (“power zoom”) over the mechanical zoom ring. There is an external “power zoom” PZ-E1 accessory available for zooming during filming. You can zoom very evenly and quietly with it, and the zoom speed is controllable in 10 steps. Panasonic and Samsung released integrated power zooms, for which you do not need an additional module. That is more compact and lighter than the solution from Canon, but it offers fewer setting options, like the choice of zoom speed. We have not yet been able to review the Canon PZ-E1..{insertgrid=359}{insertgrid=360}

Conclusion Canon EF-S 18-135 mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM review with Canon 80D


  • Big zoom range
  • Good image quality
  • Very fast AF
  • Compactly built and not too heavy


  • Not especially bright

This is zoom that performs well optically, with a big zoom range and a quiet and fast auto focus. If you ever want to make more serious video recordings, then the optional power zoom is an attractive option. As far as image quality is concerned, we have not discovered any significant differences – taking the test cameras and camera settings into account – between the STM and USM versions. Those who do not place too much emphasis on the fastest possible AF can save some money by choosing the less expensive Canon 18-135 mm STM (since the 18-135 mm STM is certainly not slow).


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