Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens Review

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens Review

Inexpensive general purpose and telephoto EF-S zoom lenses have been in the Canon lineup for a long time, but absent was a lens that has great value in a budget APS-C/1.6x format DSLR kit: an inexpensive ultra-wide angle EF-S zoom lens. Canon had the APS-C ultra-wide focal lengths nicely covered with the introduced-10-years-prior Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM Lens, but this lens has a more-enthusiast-oriented price tag. The EF-S 10-18mm lens hits dealer shelves owning the attention-garnering "smallest", "lightest" and "least expensive" titles for all lenses in this class. In addition, the 10-18 arrives as the only lens in its class that includes IS (Image Stabilization).

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens Front View

Focal Length / Focal Length Range

It is an EF-S lens and that means it is only compatible with ASP-C/1.6x FOVCF sensor format Canon EOS DSLR cameras. The most common budget general purpose zoom lenses for these DSLRs have a focal length range that starts at 18mm. The 18mm focal length provides an angle of view that equates to 28.8mm on a full frame/35mm format DSLR and this focal length is only moderately wide. I frequently find myself wanting wider angles when using these lenses and that is when the ultra-wide angle lenses such as the 10-18 are needed.

If you have never used a lens that is wider than 17 or 18mm, you are going to love the greatly expanded angle of view this lens (and others sharing a similar focal length range) provides. The 10-18 does not zoom out quite as long as Canon's EF-S 10-22mm option (and neither range is extreme), but with most general purpose zoom lenses picking up at 18mm, most will not find themselves limited by this range (though lens changes may be needed slightly more frequently).

Here are 3 examples of what this focal length range looks like.

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens Focal Length Range Example

Ultra-wide angle lenses are commonly used for landscape, architecture, interior and other photography needing wide angles of view. As a generalization, the wider the angle of view, the easier it is to keep all elements in the frame in sharp focus. If you want to blur away the background, this is probably not the lens for you. Conversely, if you want an image with a sharp foreground and sharp distant background, you likely want an ultra-wide.

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens Sample Sunset Picture

A great use for an ultra-wide focal length is to create a dramatic perspective. Move in close to your primary subject (a flower for example) and that subject will appear much larger than subjects in the distant background (such as a mountain). This technique is best avoided in portraits as the subject's nose looking large is not often appreciated. Use this lens for environmental, full body and group portraits if people are your subject.

When working in confined spaces, an ultra-wide angle zoom can be invaluable.

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens Side View

Aperture

If stopping action in low light is a requirement for your ultra-wide angle lens, the EF-S 10-18 is probably not your best option as this lens has the narrowest max aperture of all currently available ultra-wides. The EF-S 10-18's max aperture is 2/3 to 1 full stop narrower than the EF-S 10-22's max aperture at corresponding focal lengths and the 10-22 is not the fastest-available lens in this class. Many photographers do not need the widest apertures in their widest angle lenses, so this attribute will not be an issue for them.

The following chart shows the max available aperture step down focal lengths.

Modelf/2.8f/3.2f/3.5f/4.0f/4.5f/5.0f/5.6
Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens    10mm11mm15mm
Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM Lens  10mm13mm18mm  
Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens    8mm8mm13mm
Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM Lens  10mm    
Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM Lens   10mm11mm12mm16mm
Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 DI II Lens  10mm14mm21mm  
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX II Lens11mm      
Tokina 12-28mm f/4.0 AT-X Pro DX Lens   12mm   

Yes, you are reading the chart correctly – the claimed-in-the-name max f/4.5 aperture is available only at 10mm. By 11mm, f/5.0 is the max aperture. Again, wide apertures are not always needed for ultra-wide focal length photography. I would find this lens quite useful if only f/8 was available.

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens Angle View on Tripod

Image Stabilization

Narrow apertures mean that longer shutter speeds (or higher ISO settings) are needed to achieve desired image brightness, so especially appreciated in a narrow aperture lens is image stabilization. The Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens is the first Canon-mount APS-C ultra-wide angle lens to get this very-useful feature. Canon rates the handholding assistance provided by this lens at 4-stops, meaning that the lens can be used hand-held in light levels 1/16 as bright as without IS.

Is IS useful on an ultra-wide angle lens? Absolutely. It doesn't stop subject motion (leaves blowing, kids moving, etc.), but it makes a big difference in camera shake.

Under ideal conditions (indoors, standing on a solid floor) and shooting completely freehand, at 10mm, I obtained a decent sharp image percentage down to about .4 to .5 seconds for about 3 stops of assistance. I had enough sharp images at .8 seconds that it would be worth trying for a shot at even this long exposure time if conditions were right (wind, unstable footing and other influences decrease needed exposure times).

Somewhat unusual is that I was able to handhold this lens at its longest focal length at exposure times at least as long as I could handhold it at its widest focal lengths. At 18mm, I had a decent sharp image percentage down to .8 seconds (just under 4 stops) with a few sharp images remaining at exposures as long as 1 second. The keeper rate dropped rapidly at longer exposure times, but .8 seconds is over 4 stops of assistance for me.

Following are small (to keep the download reasonable) 100% crops from the first 15 shots of the 18mm .8 second exposure IS test.

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens

These raw captures were processed in DPP using the Standard Picture Style with a sharpness setting of "3". Not every image is sharp, but a majority of them are usably sharp. All details in every non-stabilized .8 second exposure were completely unrecognizable blurs.

As has become expected of an IS system in an STM lens intended to be used for both video and still use, this stabilizer is very quiet and the image presented to the viewfinder/sensor is very well controlled, meaning there is no jumping or other erratic behavior seen. Auto panning knows when the camera is intentionally being moved and does not make the photographer fight against the stabilization attempts by stabilizing in one axis only. The stabilized viewfinder (or LCD) image makes subject framing easier and makes your photography a more pleasant experience.

Canon recommends turning IS off when using a tripod (to conserve a small amount battery life), but recommend leaving IS on when using a monopod (to assist in stabilizing the image). I love IS and wish this luxury was featured in every lens I own.

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens Angle View

Image Quality

The image quality delivered by an inexpensive lens is always subject to question. When the 10-18 STM was first announced, only the MTF chart was available to base expectations on. Below is a comparison between the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens and the Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM Lens.

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens MTF Chart

Based on the MTF charts, the 10-18 appears to at-least-modestly improve upon the over-2x more expensive 10-22, leaving a very positive first impression. With a retail copy of the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens in hand, going beyond theoretical performance is possible.

The bottom line is that the 10-18 delivers good image sharpness across the frame with even with a wide open aperture. Wide open aperture corner performance trails center of the frame performance slightly, but the image quality remains quite similar over the entire focal length range.

Stopping down the lens (selecting a narrower aperture), frequently results in better image sharpness – especially in a budget lens. However, with a narrower aperture lens being tested on a high resolution DSLR such as the EOS 60D, stopping down quickly runs into the sharpness-robbing effects of diffraction that begins to become noticeable at approximately f/6.9 on this camera. I see a modest improvement in contrast at f/5.6 at 10mm, but the difference made by stopping down is only slight at the long end. Vignetting changes are the most prominent stopped-down differences.

At 10mm f/4.5, this lens shows a strong about-4 stops of peripheral shading. About 3 stops of corner shading are present at 12mm f/5.0, about 2.5 stops show at 14-16mm f/5.6 and about 2 stops remain in 18mm f/5.6 corners. Stopping down to f/8 reduces vignetting to about 1.5 stops at 10mm and approximately 1 stop over the balance of the focal length range. One stop of vignetting is commonly referred to as the visible mark. With an evenly-colored background such as a clear sky, you may see some gradient near the corner of the frame even when using narrow apertures.

Moderate CA (Chromatic Aberration) is noticeable in the mid and peripheral image circle over the entire focal length range and contributes to image quality degradation. Here is a 10mm example taken from the far right side of the frame, about 1/3 of the way down from the top:

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens CA Example

There should only be white and gray colors in this crop. Fortunately, CA is one of the easiest lens aberrations to correct in post processing.

As is common, this lens shows flare most readily at narrow apertures. At f/16, moderately strong flare is seen over the entire focal length range. For diffraction reasons, most will not frequently use this lens at apertures narrower than f/11 and at f/11, strong flare remains at 10mm but only mild flare is apparent over the rest of the focal length range. Flare diminishes at narrower apertures, but exists in some form at 10mm and from 16-18mm. Describing flare can be complicated – use the test results in the flare tool to see with your own eyes how this lens performs with a strong light source in the frame.

This lens shows moderate barrel distortion at 10mm. The distortion diminishes until becoming negligible at 14mm. The distortion transition continues with mild pincushion distortion showing at 18mm

The Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens features a 7-blade rounded aperture, but as I said before, creating a strong background blur is not a strength of this lens.

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens Above Front View

Focusing

The EF-S 10-18mm IS Lens receives Canon's still-relatively-new STM (Stepping Motor) AF system. STM-equipped lenses typically focus very quietly and, while not always the fastest-focusing lenses, they focus very smoothly. Both of these attributes are especially beneficial for video recording when using Canon's latest DSLR models (EOS 70D, Rebel T5i, Rebel T4i, Rebel SL1 and EOS M at review time) featuring Movie Servo continuous AF mode. Quick focus changes in a video come across sharply to the viewer and focusing noise is of course not desired.

The relatively deep depth of field this lens provides is not challenging to focus accuracy, but this lens has been getting focus right for me.

Infinity focus in an ultra-wide angle lens comes at a short distance. Changing focus from one subject to another appears instantly completed in many situations (basically, no change is made). Even when changing focus distance from very close to very far, AF appears very fast. While this is a smooth-focusing AF system, the smoothness benefit may not be as important or apparent as with longer focal length lenses.

I can hear very light clicks during AF if I put my ear next to the lens, but this lens is virtually silent during AF.

Another desired-for-video feature is that subjects do not significantly change size as they go into and out of focus. This lens is also very close to parfocal. If you change focal lengths (zoom in or out), focus may remain acceptable for you – especially if zooming from 18mm to 10mm.

Additional typical Canon STM AF benefits include internal focusing, non-rotating filter threads (very beneficial for circular polarizer filter use) and FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing. FTM focusing has one caveat – that the shutter release be pressed half-way for FTM to be enabled.

The STM system is an electronic focusing design that needs power from the camera to function, even in manual focus mode. The camera must be powered on and the meter must be live for manual focusing to be enabled.

The small focus ring is very smooth with a long 113° rotation and no play. I like the forward location of the focus ring, but have not found it especially easy to find the focus ring in front of the widened section of lens barrel and tucked behind the lens hood. The positive to this aspect is that it is not easy to inadvertently adjust focusing.

No focus distance setting information is available on this lens - there is no focus distance window.

The 10-18 STM IS has a best-in-class 8.7" (200mm) MFD (Minimum Focusing Distance) spec that places the end of the lens very close to the subject – about 2" (5cm) away (add the lens hood length and lighting that subject becomes difficult). Still, the MM (Maximum Magnification) spec for this lens is only a modest 0.15x. The ultra-wide angle of view simply does not enlarge the subject details dramatically. A 0.15x MM does place this lens in very good company:

ModelMFDMM
Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens8.7"(220mm)0.15x
Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM Lens9.4"(240mm)0.17x
Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G AF-S DX Lens9.5"(241mm)0.20x
Nikon 12-24mm f/4G AF-S DX Lens12.0"(305mm)0.12x
Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens9.4"(239mm)0.13x
Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM Lens9.4"(240mm)0.15x
Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM Lens9.4"(240mm)0.15x
Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II Lens9.4"(240mm)0.20x
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX II Lens11.8"(300mm)0.09x
Tokina 12-28mm f/4.0 AT-X Pro DX Lens9.8"(250mm)0.20x

The Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens is not compatible with the Canon EF 25mm Extension Tube II. The Canon EF 12mm Extension Tube II is compatible, though not at the widest angles. By reducing MFD, a 12mm extension tube mounted behind the 10-18 STM results in a very strong magnification range of 0.87-0.70x.

This lens is not compatible with Canon Extenders.

Build Quality & Features

The Canon EF-S STM IS lens family has been growing and the siblings definitely resemble each other:

Canon EF-S STM IS Lenses

These lenses are nicely-built, featuring a large, easy-to-find-and-use zoom ring, a significantly smaller, forward-positioned (my preference) focus ring and a pair of switches to enable/disable IS and AF. The EF-S STM barrels are constructed of a quality engineering plastic and with exception of the 18-135 shown above, a polycarbonate mount. The polycarbonate mount is typically an indicator of a budget-priced lens, but according to Chuck Westfall (Advisor, Technical Information, ITCG Prof Bus Strategy Plan Division, Canon USA), "There is no difference in reliability or durability between a polycarbonate mount and a metal mount for a lightweight lens like the EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM. However, the polycarbonate mount of this lens is a contributing factor to its affordable price point."

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens Product Images

Select View:  MFD |    MFD |    w/ Hood:  MFD |    MFD |    Rotated        Compare >

The Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens has an attractive finish and the usual ribbed-rubber-covered rings. The lens extends a small amount at both ends, fully retracting around the 14mm setting.

Both rings are very smooth with no play. The rotational resistance of the zoom ring is on the light side, but good. The 51° of rotation works well for this range. The size of the zoom ring is very good and includes the area in front of the ribs up to immediately next to the focus ring (including the silver ring). As I mentioned before, the small focus ring tucked in front of the raised area of the zoom ring and behind the lens hood is not the easiest to find and use. With no hood in place, using the focus ring is easier.

Most of the lenses in the ultra-wide APS-C zoom lens class have a similar size, but there was some differentiation in the weight category with the 10-22 being the lightest. That was until the EF-S 10-18 showed up. The Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens completely owns the smallest and lightest titles with no competitors coming even close. Here is the chart of specs:

ModelWeightDimensions w/o HoodFilterYear 
Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens8.5 oz(240g)2.9 x 2.8"(74.6 x 72mm)67mm2014
Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM Lens13.6 oz(385g)3.3 x 3.5"(84 x 90mm)77mm2004
Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G AF-S DX Lens16.2 oz(460g)3.2 x 3.4"(82.5 x 87mm)77mm2009
Nikon 12-24mm f/4G AF-S DX Lens16.4 oz(465g)3.2 x 3.5"(82.5 x 90mm)77mm2003
Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Lens19.6 oz(555g)3 x 4.2"(75 x 105.7mm) 2010
Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM Lens18.4 oz(520g)3.4 x 3.5"(87.3 x 88.2mm)82mm2010
Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM Lens16.6 oz(470g)3.3 x 3.2"(83.3 x 81mm)77mm2008
Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II Lens14.3 oz(406g)3.3 x 3.4"(83.2 x 86.5mm)77mm2010
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX II Lens19.4 oz(550g)3.3 x 3.5"(84 x 89.2mm)77mm2012
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX Lens19.8 oz(560g)3.3 x 3.5"(84 x 89.2mm)77mm
Tokina 12-28mm f/4.0 AT-X Pro DX Lens18.7 oz(530g)3.3 x 3.6"(84 x 90.2mm)77mm2013

For many more comparisons, review the complete Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens Specifications using the site's Lens Spec tool.

Size is often better compared visually and the next two images are presented for that purpose.

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens Compared to Similar Lenses

The following lenses are shown from left to right in the above and below lineup:

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens
Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM Lens
Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II Lens
Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM Lens
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX II Lens
Tokina 12-28mm f/4.0 AT-X Pro DX Lens
Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM Lens

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens Compared to Similar Lenses with Hoods

A great upgrade over the EF-S 10-22's EW-83E lens hood is the EF-S 10-18's optional petal-shaped Canon EW-73C Lens Hood. The new hood is much smaller in diameter, making it far easier to store in a pack or case. With the narrower opening, it is also more likely to protect the front element from impact.

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens Angle View with Hood

The Canon LP1116 Lens Pouch is also optional for this lens, though many will not find it worth the price.

The EF-S 10-18 utilizes the moderately-small 67mm filter size. This is a common thread size for Canon, enabling filters to easily be shared among lenses in a kit. Note that using a standard thickness circular polarizer filter will noticeably increase light falloff in frame corners. A slim model such as the B+W XS-Pro is highly recommended.

Canon EF-S 10-18mm IS STM vs EF-S 10-22mm Compared to the Canon EF-S 10-22mm USM Lens

Canon Ultra Wide Angle Lens Comparison

My first thought when Canon announced the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens became even stronger after comparing MTF charts. That thought was that Canon had significantly negatively impacted sales of their EF-S 10-22mm USM Lens. It appeared that the 10-18 was going to at least equal the 10-22's image quality in a package that was significantly smaller, lighter and less expensive. Plus, image stabilization was included and STM AF has advantages for video recording.

Chuck Westfall provided a sanity check for me: "The EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM is almost a full f/stop faster than the EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM on the wide-angle end, and about a half-stop faster on the long end. It also has a distance scale. Any of those factors in addition to the differences in focal length range and lens mount construction might be important to some users."

I have both of these lenses at this time and must decide which I am keeping. Image quality is always at (or at least near) the top of my priority list and sharpness across the frame is my most important factor for this decision. Click on the link below to see a direct sharpness comparison between these lenses.

Canon EF-S 10-18mm IS STM Lens Compared to the Canon EF-S 10-22mm USM Lens

In the center of the frame at 10mm, the 10-18 is mildly sharper at f/4.5 and f/5.6. With diffraction starting the show its effects, the comparison at f/8 is close with the 10-18 still showing slightly better contrast. At 18mm, the 10-22 has a very slight advantage in the center of the frame at f/5.6, but any difference at f/8 is tough to discern.

The corners always bring out the worst in a lens' image quality. At 10mm with aperture, the 10-22 does not show great corner results, but the corners are looking better when the aperture stopped down to the 10-18's available apertures where these lenses perform similarly. The 10-22 is modestly sharper in the 18mm corners.

The 10-22 has considerably less peripheral shading in wide open 10-18 comparisons (using the same focal length and aperture), but the difference is minor at f/8 with the 10-18 even holding a slight advantage. This difference can be seen in the sharpness comparisons linked to above. These two lenses share a similar amount of CA. The 10-18 has slightly more distortion. The 10-22 shows less flare at 10mm, but more at the long end. The 10-18's 7 aperture blade design is a small advantage to the 10-22's 6 blades.

Canon Ultra Wide Angle Lens Comparison with Hoods

Even with Ring USM AF, the 10-22 does not focus faster than the 10-18, and the 10-22's AF is slightly more audible (making a light "shhh" sound). The 10-18 has a much-better-performing manual focus ring and a better location for that ring. The 10-22 has always-available FTM focusing.

Either of these lenses can be justified, but price is definitely going to be the decision-maker for a lot of people. The 10-18 costs less than half of the 10-22 price.

Price

The Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens' price is a very attractive one and will not be a barrier for most lens shoppers. This is a very good value lens that many will find to be a bargain, especially in light of the price of all of the other lenses in this class.

The reviewed Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens was purchased online/retail. It is going to remain in my APS-C kit.

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens on Tripod with Hood

Summary

With the EF-S 10-18 STM IS in its lineup, Canon is certain to significantly increase its ultra-wide angle zoom lens sales. This lens is not the perfect/ultimate ultra-wide angle APS-C zoom lens, but I'm still waiting to find that lens. What the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens does have is image quality and autofocus accuracy that competes very strongly with the currently available lenses in this class. While this lens has the narrowest max aperture of those lenses, none of the others offer IS. And, the 10-18 is the smallest, lightest and most affordable option.

The ultra-wide, ultra-light, ultra-small, ultra-affordable Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens will be a no-brainer choice for a large number of APS-C DSLR kits.

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