Traveller, Photographer, Mountaineer, Human

Canon 15-85mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM vs Canon 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM

Canon 15-85mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM (left) and Canon 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM (right)

Finally bought a Canon 15-85mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM lens after being frustrated with my 18-135mm lens.  Here are some comparison photos of the two lenses (using my Canon 7D).  All comparisons were shot on a tripod at ISO 200, f8.0, mirror lockup, wired remote used.  No change in lighting.  I also shot at the widest aperture but there was a problem with the 18-135mm (the 18mm will only open up to f5.6 and not to f3.5).  Also, this will be too long.

Widest Angle

Here is a comparison of 15mm (left) and 18mm (right) – one of the reasons why I bought the lens is for its wider end so that I no longer has to bring my 10-22mm for landscape (nowhere near as wide as 10mm but wide enough).

15-85mm @15mm (left) and 18-135mm @18mm (right).

Telephoto Angle

Here are comparison at 85mm (87mm for the 18-135 as I could not set it precisely) and 135 for the 18-135.

Canon 15-85mm @85mm left), Canon 18-135mm @87mm (center) and @135mm (right).

I think I can live with the slightly shorter telephoto end of the lens.

Center and Border Crops.

Some comparison testing with crops.  I tried to match the focal lengths but the markings on the lens are not very accurate but very close.

24mm (15-85mm left, 18-135 right)


Top right border


50mm (15-85mm left, 18-135mm right)


Top Right Border


85mm/87mm (15-85 @85mm left, 18-135mm @87mm right)

Bottom Right Corner

Is It Worth It?

The Canon 15-85mm is twice as expensive as the 18-135mm and has a shorter telephoto reach (though wider angle).  It also offers better contrast and color.  Sharper center (especially at the shorter end) and sharper corners (at almost all focal lengths).

In terms of build quality, it is much much nicer than the 18-135.  Build quality is somewhat in between my 50mm f1.4 (good) and 100mm macro (very good).  The zoom ring is stiff (especially around 24 -35mm).  The manual focus ring is  nicer (though less wide).  The manual focus ring of the 18-135mm is very loose (no friction).  The 15-85mm also has full-time manual focus.

All in all, is it worth it?  I still don’t know.  Must shoot the new lens first.


7 responses

  1. Actually, I own a 15-85mm lens and you know what? I was really amazed with the quality since its color fringing is very minimal. Also, its sharpness is unquestionable as well. (:

    September 18, 2012 at 4:02 am

    • Haven’t used my 15-85mm much yet. I was a disappointed with the lens since I was expecting a big jump in sharpness and contrast (almost to prime levels) but it’s just a little bit sharper and a little bit more contrasty than my 18-135mm. Still, 15mm (24mm equivalent) on a lens is a good one.

      September 18, 2012 at 4:13 am

      • Oh… I see. But once you use it, you’ll be satisfied, if not too impressed. ((:

        September 18, 2012 at 4:16 am

      • I guess so. It was very silly of me to expect that it’s image quality will be like my two primes (50mm 1.4 and 100mm macro).

        September 18, 2012 at 4:18 am

      • I haven’t owned a prime lens but I have tried one and yes, its image quality is good. However, some reviews say that zoom lenses cannot be at par with prime lens quality :/

        September 18, 2012 at 7:16 am

      • Buy a prime lens (50mm 1.8 is cheap) and you’ll see what you’ve been missing.

        September 18, 2012 at 8:03 am

      • Well, if I have enough cash (min. of 5k lol). (:

        September 18, 2012 at 9:43 am

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