Sam Kacey

Sam's expertise is in Landscape, Portrait, and Travel photography. He and his team also review the best Cameras and Lenses on the market in 2022 for B&H Photo.

If you ask the optical engineers at Canon to tell you the most important principles and features that make up the best Canon STM lenses, they’ll list the following:

  • Light rays will enter the lens from a single point and converge at another after it has passed through the lens.
  • The flat surfaces perpendicular to the lens’s optical axis will reproduce an equally flat line in your final photograph.
  • The flat object perpendicular to the lens’s optical axis will reproduce in a similar fashion and without any distortion.
  • The color values will be able to reproduce faithfully.

If you’re having trouble understanding the technical jargon we’ve used above, don’t worry. We’re going to break down the best Canon STM lenses in this buyers’ guide and review five of the best products in the market. So let’s not wait around and get right to the juicy details.

What Should You Look For in the Best Canon STM Lenses?

STM is short for Stepping Motor Drive, the name given to some of Canon’s latest video-friendly technologies. The biggest benefit of STM lenses is that they allow the camera to silently focus the lens while you’re shooting your footage with audio. Stemming motor drivers have now been designed into all of Canon’s EF-M lenses as well as some EF-S lenses.

With that said, the difference between buying a new camera and buying a new lens is that you will replace your camera at least once or more than three times before you will have to replace a lens that you buy today. Still, we’re about to take you through some of the key considerations to check off your list when you’re buying the best Canon STM lenses in the industry.

Criteria #1: Angles of View and Focal Length

There are three main groups of lenses: normal, wide-angle, and telephoto. However, to make things a little more interesting, since Canon produces cameras that contain smaller and full-frame APS-C format imaging sensors, you cannot categorize lenses based on their focal length.

For instance, when you use them on full-frame DSLR cameras (24 x 36mm imaging sensors), 50mm lenses are considered as normal or standard lenses. When you mount these 50mm lenses on compact cameras containing smaller APS-C sized sensors (22.3 x 14.9mm), the image in their viewfinders will now appear as if they were captured with an 80mm lens.

Criteria #2: Lens Choices

Camera lenses are sold with zoom configurations and fixed focal lengths, both of which have their own plus and minus sides. This minus/plus issue can be explained using Canon’s EF-28-300mm / f3.5 – 5.6L is USM which is an L-series sharp zoom lens covering full-frame cameras ranging from wide-angles to long telephotos. Simply put, it is truly a one-lens solution.

Even though this lens’s size is pretty manageable (measuring up to 3.6 x 7.2 inches), it weighs as much as 3.7 lb, which could really take a toll on the photographers’ shoulders after just a couple of hours of activity, such as hiking in the woods or even across town. But as they say, everything comes at a price.

Criteria #3: Image Stabilization

Depending on the lighting where you are shooting, the maximum aperture of your lens, and focal length, there will come a time when it will become very difficult to snap sharp images because of how much our hands shake. As a general rule of thumb, it isn’t advisable for photographers to hold cameras in their hands and use a shutter speed slower than a focal length’s numerical value being used for a full-frame 35mm camera.

In other words, if you are using 50mm lenses on full-frame cameras, don’t handhold your camera for speeds that are any slower than 1/50 seconds. If you’re using a 20mm lens, make sure that you keep your shutter speed anywhere above 1/200 seconds. In contrast, if you’re using a 20mm lens, you should keep your shutter speed equal to or below 1/20 seconds.

Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Canon STM Lenses

To find the best Canon STM lenses, we weighed in all of the best specifications of the most popular products in the market. Also, we compared the specs of these products based on the list of considerations we mentioned above to see how well they did and whether they were worth buying.

After double-checking our research, we also checked blog posts, customer reviews, and other reviewers’ posts about the best Canon STM lenses. Now that you know where we got our information from, it’s finally time to dip into our list of products.

#1: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens (Most Versatile)

Canon celebrated the 25th anniversary of their EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens by announcing an updated version called Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens. The previous version had been extremely popular primarily because it had introduced prime-wide aperture as well as great image quality at a very low price. Many people have been waiting for the new 50mm STM lens since it would be a significant upgrade while they retain the same ultra-compact and weightless design.

Image of bridge at night using Canon EF 50mm STM lens

Reason #1: Focal Length Range

Oftentimes it may be easier to justify purchasing lenses for a subset of its features (such as its price). However, when it comes to selecting the perfect lens for a specific purpose, the focal length will be a very important consideration. You see, the focal length of a camera determines the distance that will be required to frame the subject. Fortunately, this lens has a focal length of 50mm, which means that it can have numerous uses.

Reason #2: Max Aperture

Ultra-wide aperture is a feature that many fixed focal length or prime lenses have in common. This feature allows a lot more light to pass through to the image sensor, therefore, permitting action seizing shutter speeds that work beautifully even in low light conditions. Wide apertures will also reduce the camera’s depth of field, which will permit strong blurs to be created in the background.

#2: Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens (Best Wide Angle Zoom )

What will be considered to be one of the best deals for Canon’s APS-C users, the new EFS-10 to 18mm, F/4.5 to 5.6 STM is a flexible wide-to-telephoto zoom lens that is lightweight, small, and affordable.

Canon had already introduced another APS-C ultra-wide-angle lens, namely the EF-S 10 to 22mm f/3.5 to 4.5 USM, all the way back in 2002, and it has managed to earn a lot of praise – specifically for its image quality. However, this version was heavier, larger, and even pricier than the new 10 to 18mm lens.

snap shot of flowers using Canon 10-18mm STM lens

Compromising for those slower apertures, Canon’s 10 to 18mm comes with an IS system that has been rated for 4-stops in 18mm, and comes with Canon’s proprietary STM focusing. This latest lens works well with fast-focusing and small lenses as well as HD-DSLR video cameras.

However, the 10 to 18mm isn’t supposed to be a replacement lens for the 10 to 22. Its lightweight design will make it a perfect pairing for Canon’s smaller entry-level DSLR cameras such as the SL1 or the Rebel T5i.

#3: Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens (Best Flexible Zoom)

Moving further, Canon’s EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens is a very attractive lens for many reasons. For one, it has a wide focal length range at 7.5x, it is relatively lightweight and small in size. Furthermore, its accurate and smooth autofocusing system synergizes to produce great image stabilization at a very modest price point.

This lens is the brand’s 3rd iteration for its EF-S 18 to 135mm stabilization lenses. These first lenses featured a very cost-effective DC motor. The lens’s second-generation had received the stepping motor, and it produced quiet and smooth focus tracking and acquisition which is ideal for Movie Servo AF. This latest lens received a Ring USM-driven autofocus.

Image of butterfly using the new Canon 18-135mm STM Lens

Since it has the letters ‘USM’ (Ultrasonic Motor) in the name of the product, as do other Canon lenses, we can count on the fact that this lens offers very fast focusing driven by its Ring-USM variant. However, this Ring USM is unlike any other we have seen before.

#4: Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Lens (Best For Distant Photos)

Canon EF-S STM 55-250mm lens with image stabilizer system

Canon’s EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Lens is an entry-level, light, and inexpensive telephoto zoom lens that offers amazing image quality and image stabilization for its price. We also especially loved its focal length range, which nicely complements the most general purposes zoom lenses are used for. Since this is an ‘EF-S’ lens, the 55 to 250 IS STM lens will only be compatible with Canon’s APS-C sized DSLR cameras, which includes the super hit Rebel series.

snap shot of cat in tree using canon camera with 55-250mm STM lens

The 55-250 STM lens follows the trail of the EF-S 18 to 135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens and comes with very similar enhancements. Sure, the introduction of this entry-level lens will not excite many people in the photography community; however, this lens is definitely a step up from its predecessor. We’re talking about none other than the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II Lens, which some people refer to as the IS II.

The most popular reason these lenses are bought is that their focal length is on the upper end. To put things in perspective, the EF-S 55-250mm IS STM lens starts where the 18 to 55mm lens end, and they leave no gap and add overlap only around 55mm.

#5: Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM Lens (Best for Close-Focusing)

Canon RF 35mm Macro STM lens

The RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM Lens is one of four lenses that were announced right along with the Canon EOS R, which was the first camera to be announced in the brand’s EOS R mirrorless line. This lens is somewhat of an odd one out since it was the only L-series lens that was released from their RF line, even though all of this had changed as soon as the RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM later in that year.

The best thing about this lens is that it is approximately half the price of the next best thing in the series. Taking its aperture and focal length into consideration, combined with the fact that this is a prime lens we’re talking about, this model is by far the most lightweight and compact option we’ve introduced you to. Simply put, the RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM should appeal specifically to EOS RP owners and people who are just starting to explore the selection of native lenses.

Image of insect sitting on flower

The F1.8 35mm is a fairly versatile and sensible lens to own from the entire series, and its appeal should pique your interest if you’re into portraiture, nature, travel, street, and landscape photography.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Do You Mean By Closest Focusing Distance?

Many people think that the closest working and focusing distance of a lens is one and the same. They are both related concepts, but they aren’t the same. The closest focusing distance of a lens signifies the shortest distance that should be between the surface of the image and your subject for the lens to focus. This is not affected by the length of your lens and will not change if you zoom in your lens.

In contrast, working distances signify the distance between the front end of the subject and the lens. A lens that will have a very short focusing distance will allow you to get in-focus and sharp images with a short working distance.

What Do You Mean By Flaring and Ghosting?

Have you ever been told to be careful of flaring and ghosting which you’re shooting with backlight, or perhaps in other conditions that have a strong light source in its frame? If so, you may be wondering what flaring and ghosting really mean and how can you prevent them?

Flaring is also known as ‘veiling flare,’ and typically occurs when the light gets reflected off a lens or other things such as mirror boxes or lens barrels. This results in making the image appear more hazy or soft.

On the other hand, ghosting, or ‘ghosting flare’ refers to the effect caused by a strong light source that gets reflected continuously. This results in a clear artifact, which is typically located right opposite the light source.

Some common factors that will influence the ghosting and flaring of images include the number of elements inside the lens, the anti-reflective coatings of the lens as well as its focal length. For instance, shorter focal lengths will make light sources seem smaller, which could make the flaring and ghosting seem less visible.

Verdict: Your Best Canon STM Lenses

If you see Canon lenses with ‘STM’ in their name, it automatically means that the lens features Canon’s Stepper Motor Technology. Canon had introduced this particular design to be a smoother and quieter focus system which allows for almost silent focusing while recording videos. When Canon had first introduced their lenses many years ago, DSLR cameras couldn’t shoot videos, and therefore, there was no need for them to be extremely quiet.

Since nowadays DSLR and mirrorless cameras have the ability to shoot videos, Canon STM lenses came into being. A couple of years later, we have done all the hard work for you and have experimented with many Canon lenses to find the very best for your needs.

We really hope this review of the best 5 has helped you make a more informed decision. If you have any further questions about Canon STM lenses we would recommend that you start reading testimonials and reviews about each of the five products we have reviewed above.

But before we sign off, here’s one final lowdown of what you’ve learned until now:

The Canon EF 50mm is the most versatile piece of lens that can be used for diverse shooting situations.

Next, the Canon EF-S 10-18mm has the best wide-angle zoom in the industry.

Whereas the Canon EF-S 18-135mm has the best flexible zoom.

However, if you’re shooting long-distance shots, then the Canon EF-S 55-250mm is the way to go.

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