Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 USM IS - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Canon EOS (APS-C)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published October 2005

Special thanks to Markus Stamm for providing this lens!


Released in early 1998 the Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 USM IS was the first standard SLR zoom lens featuring an image stabilization (IS) mechanism. Using its IS capabilities the camera motion is detected by 2 gyro sensors which measure the angle and speed of the shake. This information is used to shift a lens group off the optical axis (basically a forced decentering) to counteract this motion. The result is a significant improvement of handholdibility under extreme conditions. According to Canon the stabilizing effect is equivalent to about two steps of shutter speed - reads: slower shutter speed so there may be side effects with moving objects in your static scene. Besides the IS on this lens cannot be used for object tracking purposes. Nonetheless IS is immensely useful in the field if you don't want or cannot carry a tripod. The combination of 5x zoom ratio, a range from wide-angle to short tele and IS made it an attractive allround zoom - consequently with a huge success in the film SLR market.

Well, that was then but today APS-C DSLRs rule the mainstream and will continue to do so for a few years. Due to the 1.6x cropping factor the zoom has a field of view equivalent to ~45-216mm on full frame cameras. So on APS-C DSLRs it can be classified as short tele zoom rather than an allround zoom. Consequently Canon released the EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 USM IS to fill the gap with a similar field-of-view like the 28-135mm on full-frame SLRs.

Nonetheless the lens is surely still present in many camera bags so it makes sense to check it out in the APS-C scope (as usual on the EOS 350D/Digital RebelXT). Its range could still make sense in conjunction with an ultra-wide zoom lens like e.g. EF-S 10-22mm + EF 28-135mm IS.

The lens extends during zooming being shortest at 28mm and reaching its max. length at 135mm. As you may notice below the lens features a so-called duo-cam zoom system with two inner lens tubes.

The optical design includes 16 elements in 12 groups with one molded glass aspherical lens element in the rear group. Its aperture mechanism features 6 aperture blades. With a size of 78x97mm and 549g it isn't one of the smaller standard zooms out there but a 5x zoom range and image stabilization simply doesn't come for free here. The build quality is decent though not great. There's a little play in the duo-cam system and the focus and zoom control rings aren't damped. Nonetheless it's one step up from bottom end products. The lens has a very fast and near silent USM (ultrasonic) AF drive with allows full-time manual focusing in one-shot AF mode. The minimal focus distance is 0.5m resulting with a max. magnification of 1:5 at 135mm. The front element does not rotate so using a polarizer is no problem.

Disclosure: When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in this site earning a commission. Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network and Google Adsense.