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I'm going to order a new Canon 550d in a kit with a lens. I'm fairly new to SLR photography which means I have not much knowledge about the difference between lenses.

There is an offer for a Canon 550d with the very common EF-S 18-55mm IS lens and an (more expensive) offer with a EF-S 18-135mm IS lens. I'm unsure about which one to buy.

My current knowledge tells me that the cheaper lens (18-55mm) has a more limited range and cannot zoom in as much as the more expensive 18-135mm one. The later one is also bigger and more heavy, right?

Are there any other differences but the maximum zoom-factor? Are both equally good for beginner-macro shoots? In which cases would you recommend which lens? Does it make sense to buy the kit and purchase the other one separately?

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possible duplicate of How to choose a lens for my first DSLR? –  mattdm May 27 '11 at 15:06

4 Answers 4

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Beyond the longer focal range, the 18-135 also features internal focusing, so filters don't rotate during auto-focus, which is very nice if you ever use a circular polarizer or graduated ND filter.

The only real downsides compared with the 18-55 are the increased weight and the decreased maximum magnification, making this less usable for macro-style shooting.

As you would expect with a kit, neither of these are wonderful, but the 18-135 is going to be a really good option, and you'll save a lot going with this instead of the higher end alternatives, such as the EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM.

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My advice to all my friends who begin photography is that if they are half serious about photography, they should not get the kit lens (or at least not alone). Unless you really need to have a zoom lense, I would get a fast 50mm instead. You can get those pretty cheap.

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Thanks for your answer! It would be nice if you could clarify why a fast 50mm lens is good for a beginner. (I'm not a native english speaker and also unsure about what a fast 50mm is. Is it a lens with fixed focal length so no zoom-in/out possible? Whats the benefit of these lenses?) –  Gregor Müllegger Sep 14 '10 at 11:43
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"Fast" is referring to the wider maximum aperture (f/1.8 vs f/3.5 on the kits). This means that it can be used in lower light and improves the focusing speed. The 50mm is a fixed focal length, so no zoom. I'd suggest reading more if you are considering this route: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/1922/… –  chills42 Sep 14 '10 at 12:03
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I'd disagree -- it depends entirely on the kit lens. –  Rowland Shaw Sep 14 '10 at 12:51
    
I'd agree to get the 50mm f/1.8 II when you're beginning, whether it's in replacement of the kit lens or not. So cheap you can't really go wrong. –  Vian Esterhuizen May 11 '11 at 22:42
    
@Vian Esterhuizen - not so cheap compared to the price of the kit itself. I'd skip buying this lens at present, get some experience with the kit lens, understand what your needs are and then decide on a fast/better prime or zoom. –  ysap May 12 '11 at 14:32

If the difference in price is not a major concern, I'd go with the 18-135 lens (however, I know nothing about the reliability of this lens so you should certainly do a research on that). The extra length makes it much more versatile than the 18-55, and may lessen your urge to purchase a telephoto lens shortly after.

When, in the future you gain a better understanding of your photographic needs, you can upgrade to another lens - and sell this one if not needed anymore.

In real life, you probably are not going to notice the difference in weight, and as for the size, again, the practical difference is less than what you imagine. That - unless you are really tight in space and wight.

Just noticed that this is a fairly old question that was bumped up with a recent update. So, @Gregor, can you tell us what you ended up buying and what are your conclusions?

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I went with the 18-55 lens. The main reason was just because I wanted a cheap lense to start with and saved the money for other lenses. After all I'm happy with the results in this zoom range, but now after a half year of usage, I think I should have bought the other one -- my second lense was a used Canon 28-135mm lense. I could have saved money and some lense-changing if I went with the 18-135mm from the beginning. –  Gregor Müllegger May 13 '11 at 13:28
    
I'm planning to get 18-135 mm. Hope its a good choice. :) –  Eagle Eye Nov 2 '11 at 8:56

Just some thoughts on this question if you are thinking of purchasing one of the newer model cameras with kit lens(es). I own a Canon 550D, but purchased body only as I prefer prime lenses and use a tripod most of the time. I looked up some info on the 18-135 IS lens and here are some thoughts from one of the reviews on whether to purchase over 18-55: No zoom lock; Doesn't have USM/full-time manual focus; Distortions on the wide end (18-24mm); More CA than 18-55 IS. The weight difference probably isn't all that much with kit lenses are most are plastic with plastic mounts and are designed to be lightweight lenses. The reviews of the 18-55 IS indicate this is a sharp lens so perhaps overall photo quality will be better and a higher percentage of usable photos will be achieved even if the zoom is more limited. Usually there are compromises made with any lens when adding on more zoom so if considering purchasing a zoom think about the potential compromises such as more CA, vignetting, zoom creep, and other issues especially with kit/budget lenses. Newer kit versions of these lenses may be better, but I would imagine there are still compromises.

If I were purchasing a Canon in this same line today I would go with body only and purchase a 50mm f1.8 or 40mm f2.8 pancake since these lenses can be had at reasonable cost, but of course not everyone likes primes because you are the zoom and have to move physically in and out to get the shot. If I had to select a zoom I would purchase 18-55mm IS as this lens would most likely have fewer compromises than the 18-135 IS lens. Some photographers don't mind increased grain/softness of zooms and even work it into the style of their photos. Just depends on what your style is and what is acceptable to you. Happy shooting!

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