Head-to-head battle, Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM vs Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
I would like to show you the key features of these two lenses and analyse for the entry level camera users or enthusiastic photographer. This is not the most professional review you have ever read because of my knowledge and testing environment. However, the comparison between these two lenses is never written by some confidential websites, and my point of view is rather straight forward. Therefore, I hope my readers can get the most suitable lens from reading BC Camera Fever's review.
Headline feature and some pictures are unable to display here due to the forum regulation, if you want to view the full version, please click the link below.
BC's Speaking Corner: Two tough choices, Canon walk-around lenses (Part I)
BC's Speaking Corner: Two tough choices, Canon walk-around lenses (Part II)
Both lens has similar wide angle range, Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM is slightly wider compare to Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS. Wider range allows you see more things in a landscape shot. In the sample pictures, one shows more buildings on the border. Overall, they do not have massive difference as Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM is just 1mm (2mm equivalent in 35mm format) wider than Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS.
Based on the sample image, we can see the huge difference between these two lenses. Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS zooms into 135mm, it allows you get close to your subject easily without moving towards to it. On the other hand, Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USMís 85mm looks much further to the subject. Hence, Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS has longer focal zoom range which is a handy feature for walk-around purpose as well as newbies.
Both lenses do not have constant aperture, and their aperture values are relatively small, not an ideal option for night shooting. However, Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USMís maximum aperture is only f4, one-third stop smaller and even dimmer when you look through the viewfinder of the camera compared to Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 ISí f3.5 maximum aperture. Subsequently, both lenses will struggle in shooting shallow depth-of-field, which means the background blur effect is not obvious as well as night shooting.
Both lenses have built in image stabilizer, which compensates the hand shake in certain shutter speed. Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM provides the three-stop compensation; whereas Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS gives an additional stop compensation, making it a four-stop stabilization. To me, both lenses work well in low light situation and enable clear shots in low shutter speed. In comparison, Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS triumphs in this area.
Closet focus distance
As neither of them are Macro lenses, they both have long closet focus distance, making the magnification of the object small. Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS has a 45cm closet focus distance, which can be troublesome in occasions where you try to shoot a close-up shot on nearby objects. You are likely to lean back and shoot the object from a further distance; Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM however, lets you shoot 10cm closer to the object, which makes a big difference. Therefore, Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USMís 35cm closet focus distance enables higher flexibility shooting indoor or within limited spaces.
Ultrasonic motor (USM): this technology allows fast and quite focusing, which is an exclusive technology from Canon, giving Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM the ability to focus quickly and silently on the object, increasing the possibility of capturing a moving object; on the other hand, Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS is not only slightly slower, but also produces mechanical noises. That could be an annoyance.
In my opinion, both are great as entry level lenses. They have their own strengths and weaknesses, but perform as well as the other. Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS has longer zoom range and better technology as it was released in 2009. While Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM features the more advanced Ultrasonic motor despite being released earlier in 2004. The USM focus system enhances the photo shooting experience in sports and low light situations; in addition, the low noise level could be beneficial for video recording. Personally, I think Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM is the better choice.