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.

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