Canon EF-M 15-45 3.5-6.3 IS STM
Compact Normal Zoom for EOS M Series
Peter Kun Frary
The EF-M 15-45 3.5-6.3 IS STM debuted with the EOS M5 in 2016, replacing the prior M-series kit zoom, the EF-M 18-55 3.5-5.6 IS STM. Here's my thoughts on this lens after a month of shooting.
Nuuanu Valley | Canon EOS M3 & EF-M 15-45 3.5-6.3 IS STM | 45mm F7.1
Canon EF-M 15-45 3.5-6.3 IS STM | Photo courtesy Canon Inc. | Similar styling to the EF-M 18-55 3.5-5.6 IS STM but sans metal barrel and mount.
This tiny zoom is an EF-M design and thus only fits Canon M series (mirrorless) cameras, e.g., EOS M, M10, M3, M5 and M6. It will not mount on Canon DSLRS, e.g., 6D or Rebel T6i.
The overall appearance of the EF-M 15-45 3.5-6.3 IS STM is sleek, petite, attractive and modern. When retracted, it’s only about 3/8” longer than the EF-M 22 2.0 STM pancake but is a 3X zoom. The lack of AF/MF and IS switches contribute to the sleekness but require a visit to the menus if you need to enable/disable AF or IS operation.
In hand, the EF-M 15-45 3.5-6.3 IS STM feels light duty but is reasonably well made. The original EF-M designs felt luxurious with anodized aluminum barrel, knurled metal focus and zoom rings and metal lens mount. In contrast, the barrel, rings and mount of this zoom is plastic. I assume plastic was choosen to minimize weight and reduce production costs. At 130g it’s feather light and small enough to slip in a coat pocket or purse.
Palm Shadows | Canon EOS M3 & EF-M 15-45 3.5-6.3 IS STM | 26mm F8 | One nice thing about a tiny camera and lens is I carry it with me even on non-photographic activities such as walking to work or the market, allowing me to capture whimsical images I would otherwise miss.
After mounting, a message on the LCD reminds you to unlock the lens before use: hold open a tiny spring-loaded switch while rotating the zoom ring to the 15mm position. This retraction mechanism shortens the length of the lens to 44.5mm (1.76") for storage. I found the lock a nuisance and it cost me many candid shots until I learned to keep it unlocked. Not as compact or attractive with the front barrel extended but shaves off five or six seconds of fumbling in the dark.
The zoom ring is easy to use: large, grippy and very smooth in rotation. During zoom operation, a small nested barrel extends from the main barrel. The 15-45 range is only 3X, but covers the most useful range for snapshots and general use.
Brown Anole | Canon EOS M3 & EF-M 15-45 3.5-6.3 IS STM
Focus is internal—no front element extension or turning—and reasonably fast and sure-footed, but silent to onboard mics. And it can focus moderately close: tight headshots are a snap, albeit the macro range is not tight enough for small flowers or most wee critters. Incidentally, F6.3 at 45mm is tough to get sharp closeup images without a tripod.
STM focus was equally effective for both video and stills. Pulls and Movie Servo were silky smooth on my M3.
The electronic or "by wire" manual focus is smooth and well damped. However, I found focus pulls easier with my finger on the LCD screen than with the MF ring. While manual focus works without flipping a switch, the gotcha is it only works when the camera is powered up with the shutter button half-pressed.
Rainbow Skies | Canon EOS M3 & EF-M 15-45 3.5-6.3 IS STM | F8 21mm
Image Stabilizer (IS)
The integral image stabilizer (IS) gives me about three stops of additional hand holdable range at 45mm when I use an EVF with camera braced against my face. IS is quiet and isn't audible on video when using built-in mics.
Wide open, images are very sharp center frame but slightly soft in corners at 15mm. Stop down or zoom and extremities improve greatly. At 45mm the corners are about as sharp the center at F6.3 (wide open). Sharpness is consistent across most of the zoom range from 1 meter to infinity.
There's moderate barrel distortion at 15mm but reduces as you zoom, disappearing by 28mm. There is slight pincushion distortion at 45mm. While I realize this is not a macro lens, image quality at closest focus (0.82 ft./0.25m) is not as good as from one meter to infinity.
Shirokiya Buddha | Canon EOS M3 & EF-M 15-45 3.5-6.3 IS STM | F3.5 15mm
Pixel Level Detail | Canon EOS M3 & EF-M 15-45 3.5-6.3 IS STM
Light falloff is strong at 15m and reduces as stopped down or zoomed out. If you shoot JPEGs, the camera's built-in Peripheral Illumination Correction feature automatically reduces light falloff. RAW shooters may correct with a few clicks in Lightroom or DPP.
Chromatic aberration is visible along high contrast edges. e.g., tree branches against a bright sky. However, in everyday shooting I rarely notice fringing. Center sharpness is comparable to my EF-M 18-55 3.5-5.6 IS STM, but the 18-55 has less distortion, less light falloff and is a little sharper in corners at the wide end.
Photos of sunsets, spotlights and other bright light sources were sharp with little flare (no filter installed) and no ghosting. Hood use is recommended to help protect from stray light, raindrops and doggie noses. Unfortunately, the Canon EW-53 Lens Hood is not included and is pricey at $29.
Leeward Sky | Canon EOS M3 & EF-M 15-45 3.5-6.3 IS STM | 18mm F10
The EF-M 15-45 3.5-6.3 IS STM a wonderful featherweight zoom for snapshots, casual video and travel, keeping my EOS M3 pocketable in a field jacket. Plus, 15mm at the short end yields nearly 10 degrees more coverage than an 18-55 kit zoom, taking in significantly more of that landscape or cathedral ceiling.
Canon engineers balanced small size and optical performance nicely. However, in exchange for compact size and low weight, there were design compromises: it's not as tough or nice feeling in hand as EF-M lenses with metal barrels and mounts, 45mm and F6.3 on the long end are shorter and slower than the average normal zoom, and there's significant light falloff on the wide end. I can work around these compromises but, if you find them unacceptable, consider the older EF-M 18-55 3.5-5.6 IS STM: better made, a little faster at the long end and slightly better optically, albeit heavier (130g vs 210g) and longer (44.5mm vs 61mm).
Finally, please help support this website by purchasing this lens at Amazon.
• Zoom range & maximum aperture:15-45mm, 1:3.5-6.3
• Lens construction: 10 elements in 9 groups ( three aspherical elements)
• Diagonal Angle of View: 84°30'–33°40'
• Closest Focusing Distance: 0.82 ft./0.25m
• Filter size: 49mm
• Circular aperture (7 blades)
• Includes Lens Cap E-49 and Lens Dust Cap EB
• Diameter x Length: 2.4 x 1.75 inches | 60.9 x 44.5mm
• Weight: 4.6 oz. /130g
• MAP: $299
• Made in Taiwan
EF-M 15-45 3.5-6.3 IS STM Image Samples | Click to Enlarge
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