Optical image stabilization for sharper handheld photos at slow shutter speeds, especially in low light. The IS system compensates in real-time for shake and vibration with no degradation to the image. There's just one stabilization mode, where more advanced lenses have two.
Canon ships it with front and rear lens caps. There's an optional lens hood, the EW-60c ($29.00), which would be a good investment.
Large, easy-to-read zoom markings at 18mm, 24mm, 35mm, and 55mm.
Designed specially for Canon digital camera bodies, it has Canon's Super Spectra Coatings to reduce glare and ghosting, and improve contrast.
Performance and image quality
In our lab tests, the lens displayed considerable barrel distortion (where objects appear to curve toward the outside of the image) at 18mm, although it was on par for a lens that wide in this price range. Beyond that, distortion is well controlled for a lens in this class, with minimal barrel distortion at 35mm and minimal pincushion distortion (where objects appear to curve towards the center of the image) at 55mm. It delivered very good sharpness at the center of the image at 18mm, 35mm, and 55mm--with 35mm slightly sharper. It also maintained good corner sharpness at 35mm and 55mm, with corner sharpness at 18mm suffering slightly. While zooming, the lens maintains its maximum aperture of f3.5 from 18mm to 24mm. At 35mm, it shifts to f4.5 and turns to f5.6 at about 45mm. Flare was fairly well controlled, but noticeable sometimes. We would recommend the optional lens hood for shooting in bright sunlight.
We shot with the lens on a Canon EOS Rebel XSi body, and its light weight made it a pleasure to carry for a long afternoon. Since there's no performance or image-quality penalty for leaving it on, we left the IS enabled the whole time. The wide zoom ring is easy to grip, and the zooming action is smooth and tight and well damped. However, the small manual focus ring feels a bit loose. It lacks a distance scale, although that's common for entry-level lenses. That, along with its location at the very front of the lens, made using the manual focus imprecise, so we suggest using the manual focus only if you really have to. Autofocus feels responsive and accurate, and seems fairly quiet. It uses internal focusing, so the front lens element does not rotate during focus, which is helpful if you use a circular polarizing filter. We found the 9.8-inch closest focusing distance a great point of the lens, allowing almost macro-like capability.
For the entry-level Canon shooter, the EF-S 18-55mm IS f3.5-5.6 IS provides an affordable way to gain image stabilization, which is built into the bodies of entry-level dSLR systems from companies such as Sony, Pentax, and Olympus. Its strong image quality makes it a good option for more advanced Canon shooters who desire image stabilization at an affordable price. While we found the wide end of the zoom range great for scenic shots and being creative with perspective, the 55mm maximum focal length (88mm equivalent) left us wanting more much of the time. The step-up option in Canon's medium zoom EF-S line is the 17-55mm IS EF-S f2.8 aperture, which can run you about $800 more, so unless you have to have the faster f2.8 through the whole zoom range, this lens is an excellent value for the price. Coupled with Canon's sub-$300 55-250mm f4-5.6 IS EF-S lens, you'd have effective coverage from 29mm to 400mm with image stabilization in two lightweight, compact lenses for less than the price of some other image-stabilized lenses alone.