DSLR Video: How good is the Canon EF-S 18-135mm USM kit lens?

DSLR Video: Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 Image Stabilization USM Lens

It’s a kit lens! Run for the hills!

Well, maybe not so fast.

Over the past decade optics have come far. Take for example this kit lens: the Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 USM Lens.

Canon introduced the new telephoto alongside its new flagship APS-C DSLR camera, the EOS 80D. With plenty of zoom range and yet wide enough to capture nice establishing and landscape shots, it seems to be an ideal run-and-gun, all-in-one wonder. At $599 (USD) standalone, it would seem the 18-135mm is priced reasonably well too.

But how good is the new EF-S 18-135mm lens?

In a word: superb.

I’ve been shooting video for Stark Insider for about ten years now. It all started with a Canon Vixia camcorder. From there I made the leap to DSLR with the monumental EOS Rebel T2i (a landmark camera in addition to the Canon 5D Mark II). My upgrades then became predictable: 60D to 70D to, finally in 2016, the 80D.

Canon EOS 80D with Canon PZ-E1 Power Zoom Adapter - Test with Video
Canon EOS 80D with 18-135mm USM kit lens and optional power zoom adapter (PZ-E1). Very flexible. Nice videography package.
Canon C100 Mark II and EOS 80D dual cam video shoot
Shooting on location in Silicon Valley with a Canon C100 Mark II on dolly and Canon EOS 80D.
Canon EOS 80D hands-on
Canon EOS 80D next to a my trusty 70D.

In the past I’ve never been a fan of kit lenses. They’re typically not the greatest. No question, though, a bundled lens does have appeal. You can start shooting right away, no additional purchases needed. Just grab and go.

Last year, I finally mustered up enough budget to buy my first Canon “L” lens (the ones with the red rings): a Canon 24-105mm. Results? Decent enough. Quite nice. Especially on the 80D and C100 II. In tight spaces though — such as when filming backstage at Broadway shows or music concerts — the 24mm end is not wide enough in many situations.

Enter the 18-135mm.

I don’t do in-depth, technical analysis here on Stark Insider. Rather, I just grab gear and shoot. And shoot and shoot some more. I prefer to be in the field working. All I can share are my experiences. Here’s some key points to summarize my experience shooting video with the 18-135mm (2016 nano USM version) over the past six months or so:

Canon EF-S 18-135mm USM Lens: Hands-on impressions

DSLR Video: Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 Image Stabilization USM Lens

  • It focuses extremely fast in most cases (low light can cause issues)
  • This is a very quiet lens – great for those who want to capture audio using a camera-mounted shotgun mic
  • Image quality is very good to excellent – don’t expect prime lens level performance, but given the price and flexibility of the range it would seem the 18-135mm USM is an over-achiever
  • I like the large focus and zoom rings (they are smaller on the older STM and original variations)
  • I do prefer the mechanical feel of the focus ring on the 24-105mm L vs. the fly-by-wire on this 18-135mm
  • With the power zoom adapter (PZ-E1) you can get a camcorder-style zoom which is butter smooth and quite impressive
  • This is a light lens
  • Budget friendly

There you have it.

In a nut shell the 18-135mm USM wont’t break the bank, gives you high quality images, and handles exceptionally well. Would I use this lens if I were shooting a narrative? No. I’d use primes (Rokinon 28mm/85mm and Sigma 18-35mm for example, or rent Canon Cine or Zeiss glass). But for everyday, walk around applications and run-and-gun documentary style shoots it’s an easy recommendation for Canon DSLR video shooters of all types.

DSLR Video: Tips, tricks, news and advice from the fieldDSLR Video: Tips, tricks, reviews, and thoughts from the field

Shot with Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 Image Stabilization USM Lens

Recently, a took the leap. I left my trusty 24-105mm L lens at the studio, and, instead, took out the 18-135mm for a shoot at Cirque’s White Big Top next to AT&T Park in San Francisco. Here’s the result.

BTS Cirque du Soleil LUZIA – A Waking Dream of Mexico

Canon C100 Mark II Cinema EOS Camera. Canon EF-S 18-135mm lens. Zoom H1 recorders. Sennheiser MKE 600 shotgun microphone.

Kit lens?

Yes, might be worth a look after all. Leave the pixel peeping to the pixel peepers. Capture the moment, as they say. I always feel best when working, shooting video, making mistakes, learning, and moving forward. Grab your gear — don’t fret about the latest and greatest — and get out there and have some fun capturing life’s wonderful, unpredictable, sad, silly, fun, ridiculous moments.

Okay, I’m starting to sound like Dicky Fox. I should stop.

Happy shooting!

Quick Tip: You can see my work shot on Canon DSLR and EOS Cinema (and a few videos on RED) here on the Stark Insider YouTube Channel.

Follow Stark Insider on Twitter and Facebook. Join our 11,000 subscribers who read SI on tablets and smartphones on Google Newsstand. Prefer video? Watch us on Amazon Prime or subscribe to Stark Insider on YouTube, the largest arts & travel channel in San Francisco.
  • lenslens

    Clinton…One thing not mentioned is that the 18-135 (both STM and NANO models) is one of only 2 lenses that work in Continuous Auto-Iris mode on the C100MK2. That feature alone, for run-n-gun, is huge.