The third EF-M lens – finally! The Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM is an important lens for Canon. Since the launch of the EOS M, Canon has been trying to quell the dissatisfaction of consumers who lament about the lens selection, which until recently has been limited to the EF-M 18-55mm and EF-M 22mm.
Compared to the competition (Micro Four-Thirds, NEX and Fuji) who offer a myriad of lens choices, the EOS M user can only look on in envy at the “greener grass on the other side”. With the new ultra-wide angle, EOS M users finally have some reprieve from the optical drought, although many would still appreciate a lens map from Canon to signify the manufacturer’s commitment to the system.
The question is: is the EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM good enough to maintain consumers’ confidence in the Canon EOS M system?
The EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM is Canon’s first wide zoom (18-35mm in 35mm film equivalent focal length) with Image Stabilizer (IS) technology, which Canon is claiming a 3-stop effectiveness. I personally feel that IS technology is long overdue in the EF and EF-S lens line-up, and hope that future wide-angle lenses will incorporate the technology as well.
Canon takes delight in slapping every other new EF lens with STM (stepper motor) that should deliver smoother and quieter focusing during videography, and it makes an appearance on this lens as well. Personally I prefer USM (ring-type) over STM for faster AF speed, but videography fans will definitely agree with Canon’s decision.
In terms of appearance, the EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM continues the smart and clean design of the other EF-M lenses, with metal barrel featuring die-turned grip areas. Both the zoom and focusing (focus by wire) rings turn smoothly and precisely, and the zoom travel distance is very short which makes for fast zoom operation.
The lens sits in a collapsed position for compactness during transport, and you need to activate a catch to turn the lens to the shooting range. The retracted position shrinks the lens by 13mm – not enough incentive for me to go through the hassle of sliding the switch and zoom ring every time I take the lens off, so I just keep the lens in the “ready” position permanently.
The proof in the pudding for any lens is its optical performance, and the Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM looks very promising on paper. For starters, it has two aspherical lenses and one Ultra-low Dispersion lens within its 12 elements in 9 groups configuration. And the EF-M 11-22mm features Super Spectra coatings to help ensure colour fidelity and control flare and ghosting.
In the field, the Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM performs admirably with impressive sharpness and excellent control of contrast. From the center to the edge of the image, from near distance to infinity, from wide-open to stopped down aperture settings, the Canon EF-M 11-22mm has no issues with sharpness. It performs best at the sweet spot of around f/8 or so, but in general the lens has spades of sharpness. So long as the depth of field covers the subject in question, you are assured of crisp rendition in your images. Go beyond f/14-16 though, and the laws of optics dictate that sharpness will take a hit from diffraction. But with the ample depth of field from the ultra-wide angles, I can count with one hand the occasions I had to stop down beyond f/16.
The EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM handles flares and ghosting competently as well, which is a good thing because it does not ship with a lens hood. It is still possible to provoke flare intentionally, but in most shooting situations the lens does an admirable job in challenging lighting conditions. The EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM can focus down to 15cm (approximately 6 inch), which is pretty good performance. But the surprise is how the EF-M 11-22mm can do it so well – even micro-details are rendered with pinpoint sharpness.
The long-awaited Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM is a great addition to the EOS M system, and if you’re a EOS M owner who loves wide-angle photography, this is the lens to go for. Not because it’s the only choice (aside from a EF lens adaptor), but it is a genuinely impressive lens that delivers the goods. It’s incredibly sharp, compact, flare-resistant and well built. It is not perfect though, with some barrel distortion visible at the ultra-wide angle end, but it rates highly for its overall optical performance.
Not available in USA
For reasons unknown, Canon Inc. has decided not to make the Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM available to the US market at the point of publication for this review. Given the strong demand for the Canon EOS M after the downward price revision on online retailers, it is definitely a strange decision not to offer more EOS M-mount lenses to the consumers who might have snapped up the EOS M cameras in anticipation of this lens. We can only hope that this is a temporary decision, but I know photographers in the US have been ordering the EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM from online retailers in Hong Kong and Canada.