Update 3/22/2013: The Canon T5i has been announced, with minor upgrades. The T4i with 18-135mm STM is currently a better value and the best price is now B&H, bundled deal with 55-250 is still possible. For serious photographers T5i does not offer any improvements. T5i vs T4i and 18-55 STM Lens info.
The T4i with 18-55 lens is available at B&H or Amazon. If you want to shoot easy video with the T4i buy with 18-135 for at Amazon or B&H. The bundled deal saves $130 over the cost of the same package at Costco, repeat the Costco T4i deal is not as good as the B&H & Amazon deals linked above.
Summary/Conclusion: Canon has done an excellent updating the new Canon 18-135 STM IS Lens, this lens is improved optically and the build quality is much better. Paired with the T4i you have a camera and lens combination that will nicely suit most. The focus is fast and completely silent, the focus motor noise is not captured by the T4i’s on-board mic. The fast and silent focus and better quality will work on any crop sensor camera (e.g. earlier Rebels like the T3i). You do need the T4i for continuous AF while filming. The only folks that may want to consider other lenses are those that need a lens with a constant aperture, this can be handy for video work but you will need to pay a good bit more or sacrifice range – Buy the Canon T4i with 18-135 or review other recommended lenses.
I have both the Canon 18-135 IS f/3.5 – 5.6 and the Canon 18-135 STM IS f/3.5 – 5.6 in my hands.
Here are my thoughts after two days of comparing these two lenses | Sample Images
The STM version is a little heavier, can focus a little closer 1.3 ft vs 1.5 ft with the older version, STM version feels significantly more solid in hand, when you give it a shake nothing jiggles, the older version has a bit of play to it. Overall build quality is definitely better with the STM version.
Focus speed? No Contest, the STM version is quick and silent to focus, I tested these two lenses in a variety of situations and the old 18-135 occasionally hunts for focus where the STM version does not. The STM version not only focuses faster but it is completely silent when it does.
Image quality- No huge differences in sharpness or color found but pretty significant difference in the handling of chromatic aberration, the STM version has far less at all focal lengths. Wide open (18mm) and at the far end (135mm) the STM version seems to give better results but not quite consistently enough to call it a clear winner in all cases.
Zooming is smooth and that range of 18-135 is a great range.
Image stabilization (IS) seems about equal in both. Hand held a shot at 1/5 of a second at 135mm that is perfectly acceptable for web and small prints
Update: I have added some comparisons. I am not a fan of pixel peeping, that whole agonizing over a smidge of sharpness here or a bit of better color or a little less chromatic aberration(purple fringe) but if I am recommending this lens I want to make sure I have a clear picture of the differences – below are a few photos all at 100% zoom or greater. I have found that there are differences but not quite as much as the MTF charts would lead us to believe. . .
And now with a bit of video
If you are thinking about purchasing the T4i and can’t decide if you want to buy the kit that includes the 18-55 IS or the 18-135 STM IS I strongly recommend the 18-135 kit, this seems to me an excellent combination of DSLR and walk-around lens. The 18-135 range is great, the STM means snappy and consistent focus and the quality is very good. BUT – similar to my findings with the 40mm f/2.8 STM, the continuous auto focus (cAF) that is the big new feature on the Canon T4is is disappointing. During video the focus uses the other brain and it really just isn’t that smart, do not expect camcorder like auto focus out of this camera and lens combination. UPDATE: It turns out that you can manually focus with the 18-135 AND the 40mm STM lenses – you hold the shutter button 1/2 way down and you can turn the focus knob to adjust focus when the switch is set to AF. (Video – How to manually focus with the STM Lenses) The focus ring is nice and large, not the case on the 40mm where the focus ring is tiny. In defense of the 40mm the whole thing is tiny. If you are looking for camcorder-like auto focus out of a DSLR watch/read my review of the Sony SLT-A65.
I am happy to answer questions about either of these two lenses or the Canon T4i. For awhile I was feeling like the T4i was a bit over priced but having those 9 cross type focus points paired with a solid lens like the new Canon 18-135 STM and you really do have a great combination. Of course the 18-135 STM will work great on any crop sensor camera i.e. T3i, 60D and 7D – you just won’t get the benefit of the cAF during video which as I mentioned above isn’t so much of a benefit.
Buy the Canon T4i with 18-135 STM from Amazon $1199
Buy the Canon 18-135 STM Lens from Canon USA $549.00 + Tax
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