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Design

Canon’s older non-IS 18-55mm was never really considered a paragon of build quality, and the new lens comes from almost literally the same mould. Pretty well all of the visible structure of the lens barrel, including the mount, is made from plastic, with a new faux Mg-alloy texture applied to the surface, in contrast to the smooth finish of the old kit lens. The manual focus ring feels especially cheap, with just a slim serrated plastic grip which rotates the whole of the front lens assembly wholesale. It’s a purely functional design in which usability has been sacrificed in order to keep construction costs to an absolute minimum; however Canon have been building their entry-level kit lenses in much this way since 1991, and it doesn’t seem to have driven them out of business quite yet.

On the camera

The lens is a good fit to the lightweight EOS400D body, but due to its light weight feels a tad insubstantial when attached to the more solid EOS40D. Handling is perfectly acceptable, just as long as you’re not planning on using manual focus.

Autofocus

This lens features a simple DC micro motor for autofocus, in another concession to cost control. This works OK, although it’s not as fast and quiet as Canon’s ring USM lenses. The manual focusing ring rotates on autofocus, and care must be taken not to move it accidentally with the lens set to AF, to avoid damaging the motor. This also means that focus can't be adjusted manually with the lens set to AF.

Focus speed and accuracy is dependent upon a number of variables, including the camera body used, subject contrast, and light levels (Canon tend to ‘gear down’ focusing speed in low light for greater accuracy). The lens is fast and accurate in most everyday use, but can struggle to focus on low contrast subjects in low light levels, where the more expensive ring-type USM lenses would still be perfectly happy.

Lens body elements

The lens uses Canon’s all-electronic  EF-S mount. The ‘S’ designation means it is exclusively for APS-C digital SLRs, and the rubber ring on the rear prevents it from fitting on full-frame cameras, or indeed Canon’s pre-EF-S era APS-C models (D30, D60 or 10D). The lens mounts by aligning the moulded white plastic square on the side to the white square on the camera’s mount, and rotating approximately 60 degrees clockwise to lock.
The filter thread is 58mm and rotates on focusing, which can be a pain for filter users.
A bayonet-type mount is provided for the EW-60C hood, however it doesn’t come in the box, but is instead an overpriced optional extra. Shame on Canon; hoods should always be a standard accessory. It's a shallow plastic bowl just 19mm deep, which will do little either to shade the lens from stray light, or protect the front element from knocks. Attaching or removing it also tends to rotate the focus ring and force the AF motor. Not good.
The zoom ring rotates 60 degrees anti-clockwise from wide to telephoto, with markings at 18, 24, 35, and 55mm, plus a small dot denoting the 28mm position. The grip is a generous 26mm wide, and the zoom action smooth and reasonably precise.

There's some lateral play of the front element when extended to 18mm or 55mm, which could have some negative impact on image quality.
The manual focus ring is a miserly 3mm wide, and rotates less than 60 degrees clockwise from infinity to 0.25m. It also rotates on autofocusing, so care must be taken not to grip it during use, to avoid damaging the motor.

The focusing action can only be described as loose and imprecise (especially noticeable when using magnification in live view). To add insult to injury, there’s no distance scale.
Two small but positive switches on the upper left of the lens barrel control the IS and focusing systems. Both are well placed within easy reach of the thumb in either portrait or landscape orientation; the IS switch is distinguished by the presence of a small ridge. This is remarkably well thought out for a couple of switches which most people will surely leave set to 'on' almost all of the time.

Reported aperture vs focal length

Here we show the maximum and minimum apertures reported by the camera at the focal lengths marked on the lens barrel.

Focal length 18mm 24mm 28mm 35mm 55mm
Max aperture
F3.5
F4.0
F4.0
F4.5
F5.6
Min aperture
F22
F25
F25
F29
F36
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