Canon RF-S 18-45mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Review
By Yvonne
2022-09-26

Canon RF-S18-45mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM is a tiny zoom with excellent image quality that will appeal to beginners, but not for more experienced shutterbugs.

Canon RF-S 18-45mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Review

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Let's get to the bottom

Canon RF-S18-45mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM is a tiny zoom with excellent image quality that will appeal to beginners, but not for more experienced shutterbugs.

The pros

  • Extremely small and lightweight
  • Quick, quiet autofocus
  • It is very affordable especially when you bundle it with a camera
  • Optics with great potential

Cons

  • Flash or high ISO are required for dim lighting.
  • Build with all-plastic
  • For some applications, 18mm is too narrow at the end.

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Canon RF-S 18-45mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Specs

Name Value
Dimensions 1.7 by 2.7 inches
Weight 4.6 oz
Filter Thread 49 mm
Mount Canon RF
Focal Length (Wide) 18 mm
Focal Length (Telephoto) 45 mm
Full-Frame Equivalent (Wide) 29 mm
Full-Frame Equivalent (Telephoto) 72 mm
Zoom Ratio 2.5 x
Optical Stabilization Optical
Focus Type Autofocus

Canon RF-S18-45mm F4.5-6.3 IS ST ($299.99), is a starter lens that can be used with a mirrorless EOS R (e.g. R10, R7 or R7). It is a starter zoom that prioritizes compactness and low costs, but it still offers a better value when combined with a camera. It is not clear whether people with a brand new Canon camera should spend more for the extended zooming RF-18-150mm F3.5-66.3 IS STM. The latter is our favorite, although the RF-18-45mm zoom can be used if you have a tight budget or want the lightest zoom.

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Ultralight RF–S Zoom

The 18-45mm zoom is the lightest of the two RF-S starter lenses. The lens' collapsible barrel measures 1.7x2.7 inches (HD), making it easy to store. It is also lightweight at 4.6 ounces thanks to its plastic-fantastic design. This lens is easier to transport than the RF-18-150mm F3.5–6.3 IS STM (5.x2.7ins, 10.9 ounces), however it doesn't have nearly as much zoom coverage.

As you might expect from a starter lens, it doesn't feature any sort of dust, splash, or anti-smudge fluorine protection. Canon keeps it basic here, down to the plastic lens mount. You get front and rear caps in the package, but no lens hood. The 18-45mm supports the 55mm filter size.

Canon's APS-C sensor is covered by the optics. This size provides a 1.6x crop compared to full-frame. The angle of the lens from full-frame is 29-72mm, which gives it a mediumly broad to narrow telephoto range. The lens is great for everyday photography. However, we would prefer a larger angle to allow for handheld video and vlogs.

The retractable barrel is designed for easy, button-free extension. A simple twist is all it takes to extend, though you have to apply a bit of torque to move it in or out of the retracted position. There are no control switches or toggles on the barrel, but both the EOS R7 and R10 include front-facing AF/MF toggle switches that let you change focus modes, which ameliorates the omission.

This tiny lens is quick to focus, snapping images in a matter of 0.1 seconds on the EOS R7. STM Motor is silent and adjusts the focus smoothly in video recordings.

Focus breathing, a bloom in the angle of view, can show up when you shift from close to distant subjects; it's an effect videographers try to avoid. It's not too bad with the lens for vlogging, but it's noticeable when you change focus from a close-up subject to one far away.

Manual focus is a very frustrating experience. You need to slowly turn the focus ring to adjust it. Nonlinear focus response means that a slow turn of the ring will adjust focus more quickly than one made in quick succession, regardless of whether the arc is the same.

RF-S 18-45mm Sample Image: Landscape of creek with rocks

At 18mm, the focus throw is so slim that it takes some concentration to set precisely; at zoomed-in settings, the throw is longer, and manual focus is easier to set. Even so, I recommend sticking to autofocus. I expect many who pick up the EOS R10 with this particular kit zoom will only occasionally swap over to manual focus mode, in any case.

If you buy the EOS R10 without stabilization, stabilized is available in-lens. With care and handheld testing, I was able to achieve results of around 1/2-to 2/5-second. However, 1-second exposures were blurry. The RF-18-150mm has slightly better IS. I was able to get sharper 1-second shots using it than the R10 handheld.

RF-S 18-45mm Sample Image: Close-up of bee on coneflower

The lens can focus as close as 7.9 inches at 18mm and 13.8 inches at 45mm. The result is a 1:6 life-size magnification—the snapshot of the bee on the flower above was made around the minimum distance. A lens like this won't bring the tiniest details of flowers, insects, and other traditional macro subjects to close view, so a dedicated macro is still a better pick for close-up photos. Meanwhile, the 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM focuses closer for very good 1:2.3 results.

Related Reading: Canon PowerShot SX530 Review: A Great, Compact Camera for Any Beginner

RF-S18-45mm in the Lab

The RF-S18-45mm and the 24MP EOS R10 were used in field. I decided to do it in lab using the 32.5MP EOSR7. We prefer the best-resolution bodies for Imatest (Opens in new window). This little zoom doesn't light up the world. Instead, it produces a good 3,150 lines at 18mm, f/4.5 and similar results with f/11. The lens can be set to f/16 and f/22 but the details may not be as apparent. Diffraction is a negative effect caused by the diaphragm's small size. Light scatters through it, which can cause light to bounce off.

RF-S 18-45mm Sample Image: Flower

Resolution isn't quite as strong around the midpoint of the zoom, but we still see a good result (2,750 lines) at 31mm and f/5.6, and very good results (3,000 lines) from f/8 to f/11. At 45mm, the scores pick up a bit, hovering around the 3,000-line cutoff for very good results from f/6.3 to f/11. Close-up shots suffer a bit when zoomed in, though; we noticed some general softness and a slight glow to macro shots at the minimum focus distance.

Distortion is another consideration—without in-camera corrections, photos show fish-eye-like barrel distortion at wider focal lengths, though the effect goes away as you zoom. As you will see, corners are visible in darkened images.

RF-S 18-45mm, Raw vs. JPG comparison

In-camera corrections straighten curved lines automatically if you use your camera to snap JPG or HEIF photos, but Raw photogs should turn to correction profiles in image editing software, such as Lightroom. With this particular lens, there are reasons to disable distortion correction from Raw shots—if the barrel distortion doesn't detract from your scene, you can get a slightly wider angle of view from uncorrected Raws.

Canon has included rounded aperture blades in the design. This is a great touch for budget lenses that produce better background highlights. The variable F4.5-6.3 optical combination won't give you a lot of blurred background. Although I did notice some false green and purple in the area of defocus, it is not enough to cause any real problems. This lens suppresses lateral CA. It often manifests as purple fringing near power lines and tree branches.

RF-S 18-45mm Sample Image: Sunstar

Sunstars are somewhat disappointing. You can obtain this effect by setting the aperture to its smallest setting and incorporating the sun or other bright point of light in your scene to draw a starburst effect, but lines aren't well-defined and we see some false color in both the starburst and ghosting flare here.

Are You Longing to See a More Wide View?

Canon is embracing small lenses in its mirrorless imaging age. The RF-S18-45mm F4.5 -6.3 IS STM lens is no exception. Even though it is small for a prime lens, this adds just a few ounces to the camera and makes a great match for EOS R10 which is the current starter model. The R10 includes the lens for $120 less than the R10 without it, making bundles with both a great deal.

RF-S 18-45mm Sample Image: Landscape of rocks in stream

Canon had to make several compromises to achieve the size, weight, and price, however, such as opting for a mostly plastic construction and an underwhelming variable aperture range. The angle of view is also worth mentioning. The 18mm end is decent for general photography but is a little tight for handheld vlog-style video, architectural interiors, and landscapes. Canon doesn't have an RF-S lens with a wider view at press time but you could always step up to a full-frame option, such as the reasonably sized RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM ($549) or the premium RF 14-35mm F4 L IS USM ($1,699).

If you're buying a new camera along with a lens, the RF 18-45mm is certainly an affordable and carry-friendly option. We like it for what it is, though nobody will mistake it for a member of the pro-grade Canon L series. We recommend the RF-S 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM ($499) a bit more overall as a starting point, which is also available at a discount in a bundle with a camera.

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