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Canon STM Vs USM Lenses: Face To Face Battle Of The Lenses

STM lenses are designed for smooth and quiet autofocus, while USM lenses prioritize speed and power. When you need choosing between STM and USM lenses, it’s important to focus your photography needs and shooting style.

In the STM Vs USM Lenses controversy, the autofocus mechanism of these lenses will greatly affect the quality of your images and the overall shooting experience.

We’ll dive deeper into the differences between STM and USM lenses, their advantages and disadvantages, and which one you should choose in different scenarios.

So, if you want to learn more about STM and USM lenses, keep on reading.

What Are STM And USM Lenses?

Cameras have evolved over time, and with every innovation, lenses have also been upgraded to meet the increasing demand of photographers and videographers. Camera lenses are a critical component that determines the quality of the images and videos.

One of the most popular types of lenses is the STM and USM lenses.

STM Lenses

STM lenses are an excellent choice for videography purposes because of their quiet focusing capabilities. The technology is similar to that of a stepper motor, which moves a tiny bit at a time and is ideal for video recording.

It provides a smooth, continuous autofocus system, making it possible to capture professional-quality recordings without any distracting noise.

The following summarizes STM technology features:

  • Provides quiet focusing for video recording
  • Suitable for continuous autofocus
  • Ideal for shooting during live events due to the unobtrusive sound
  • Affordable compared to other types of lenses

USM Lenses

USM technology is mainly found in high-end lenses with faster autofocus capabilities. The autofocus is powered by an ultrasonic motor, which in turn causes high-frequency vibrations.

The vibrations are translated into a rotational movement that ensures rapid autofocusing.

The following summarizes USM technology features:

  • Fast and reliable autofocus performance
  • Ideal for shooting fast-moving subjects
  • High-end lenses with better image stabilization capabilities
  • The ultrasonic motor is more expensive but efficient

Working Mechanisms

Focusing Mechanism

  • STM works by using gear systems to shift the focusing element back and forth while in operation.
  • USM, on the other hand, uses an ultrasonic motor to shift the focusing elements in precise increments.

Autofocus Speed

  • STM lenses are generally slower to focus compared to USM lenses, making them more appropriate for still photography and video recording.
  • USM, meanwhile, has a faster autofocus system that’s ideal for action photography, where speed is critical.


  • STM lenses are compatible with many entry-level Canon cameras, making them affordable for starters.
  • USM lenses are mainly compatible with high-end Canon cameras.

The differences between STM and USM lenses make them ideal for different purposes. While both have unique capabilities, each type is best suited for particular situations.

Understanding the right type of lens to pick for your photography and videography needs is important in achieving professional results.

STM Vs USM Lenses: Usage Scenarios

Photographers use different lenses to capture a variety of shots, depending on the type of photography they’re doing. Choosing the right lens is vital to achieve the desired effect.

It can be challenging to decide between STM and USM lenses, so let’s explore which lens is suitable for which type of photography.

STM Lenses

STM stands for stepper motor, which is a feature that makes autofocus smooth and precise. These types of lenses are incredibly quiet, which is beneficial when you’re taking shots of live subjects.

  • Portraits: STM lenses are suitable for taking portraits as they’re quiet, fast, and accurate at focusing, helping you achieve sharp shots.
  • Street photography: Street photography can be a challenge as it often involves capturing people in their natural environment. STM lenses offer quiet autofocus, making it easier to take candid shots without disturbing your subjects.
  • Video: STM lenses are excellent for video-making as they provide smooth autofocus transitions, which is important for recording moving subjects.

USM Lenses

USM stands for ultrasonic motor, which is a feature that makes autofocus faster and quieter than STM lenses. These lenses are suitable for sports photography or any other situation where rapid autofocus is essential.

  • Sports photography: USM lenses are ideal for sports events as they offer fast and accurate autofocus, which is crucial when photographing fast-moving subjects.
  • Wildlife photography: When capturing wildlife photos, you want to be as unobtrusive as possible. USM lenses offer faster autofocus speeds, allowing you to capture the perfect shot without disturbing your subject.
  • Event photography: USM lenses are perfect for events such as weddings or concerts, where you need to quickly and accurately capture a moment.

Choosing the right lens depends on what kind of photography you intend to do. If you’re taking portraits, street, or video photography, an STM lens may be ideal.

If you’re photographing sports, wildlife, or event photography, a USM lens may be a better option. Whatever your choice, make sure that it fits your specific needs and budget.

STM Vs USM Lenses: Advantages & Disadvantages

Advantages Of STM Lenses

The STM (stepping motor) lens is a type of autofocus motor that produces incredibly smooth and silent focusing. This type of motor proves particularly useful when shooting videos using an autofocus system.

Sharpness And Accuracy In Autofocus

One of the significant advantages of STM lenses is their accuracy and sharpness in autofocus. Generally, these lenses tend to focus more accurately and precisely than their USM counterparts.

The stepper motor provides a smooth focus transition from one depth to another, making them ideal for capturing fast-moving objects without compromising on image quality.

  • Accurate focusing on a narrow focus plane
  • Achieving tack-sharp photos with the correct depth of field
  • Perfectly focused videos with smooth-focusing transitions
  • Capturing fast-moving objects in full focus

Silent Operation

STM lenses use a unique type of motor that provides almost silent autofocus operation. This characteristic makes them the perfect choice for videographers looking to capture audio alongside their video footage.

  • Silent autofocus operation while recording videos
  • Zero distracting autofocus motor noise on the video soundtrack
  • No noise during stills shooting, making them perfect for shooting in quiet environments

Video Recording

Due to their smooth focus transitions, near-silent operation, and accurate focusing, STM lenses are the ideal choice for video recording. They provide a video autofocus quality that is not achievable with any other types of lenses, including USM lenses.

  • Smooth autofocus transition while recording videos
  • Near-silent autofocus operation while recording videos
  • Precise focusing at different depths
  • High-quality video autofocus performance

Compared to USM lenses, STM lenses excel at sharpness and accuracy, silent operation, and suitability for video recording. These features make them a popular choice for videographers and photographers who demand the best in performance and image quality.

 Disadvantages Of STM Lenses

With STM (stepping motor) lenses becoming increasingly popular, it’s essential to understand their disadvantages when compared to USM (ultrasonic motor) lenses.

Although they come with some excellent benefits, such as a quiet and smooth autofocus system, STM lenses have a few drawbacks that photographers should take into account before using them.

Slower In Autofocus Compared To USM

One of the primary disadvantages of STM lenses is that they are slower in autofocus compared to USM lenses. They use a different type of motor that moves the focus elements using a series of small steps, leading to slower autofocus speeds.

This can be particularly problematic when photographing fast-moving subjects, such as wildlife or sports events. If you are looking for a lens that will capture high-speed action, an STM lens may not be your best option.

Less Durable

STM lenses tend to be less durable than their USM counterparts. Since they use plastic gears, the motor wears out more quickly than those in USM lenses. Over time, this may result in the autofocus system malfunctioning and requiring repair.

Additionally, if you accidentally drop an STM lens, it’s more likely to break than a USM lens due to its less-durable construction.

When using an STM lens, it’s vital to take these disadvantages into account, particularly if you’re looking for a high-performance lens for capturing fast-paced action or require a durable lens.

Ensure you consider all the factors before investing in either an STM or a USM lens, depending on your specific photography needs.

Advantages Of USM Lenses

Having a high-quality lens is essential. While both STM and USM lenses are excellent choices for different reasons, USM lenses have some unique advantages that make them an ideal choice for professional photographers.

High-Speed Autofocus

The primary advantage of USM lenses over STM lenses is their high-speed autofocus. This means that USM lenses can quickly and accurately focus on subjects, even in low light conditions.

The autofocus of USM lenses is also virtually silent, making it perfect for shooting in quiet environments or during a live event where silence is required.

  • USM lenses have high-speed autofocus, making them ideal for capturing shots that require quick focus.
  • This type of lens can focus on subjects despite low light conditions.
  • The autofocus is silent, which is useful in situations that demand minimal noise, e.g., during live events.

Durable And Long-Lasting

Another advantage of USM lenses is their durability and long-lasting performance. USM lenses are built with high-quality materials that ensure they can withstand daily wear and tear.

Additionally, USM lenses have a rugged design that makes them ideal for use in harsh weather conditions, including rain, wind, or dust.

  • USM lenses are tough and can endure daily wear and tear.
  • Built with quality materials to ensure their durability and longevity.
  • Able to withstand harsh weather conditions like rain, wind, and dust.

Suitable For Sports And Action Photography

USM lenses are ideal for capturing high-speed action and sports photography. Their fast autofocus system allows them to keep up with fast-moving subjects, making them a go-to choice for sports photographers and those who enjoy capturing action shots.

Additionally, their rugged design makes them resistant to damage from impacts and other types of wear and tear, which is essential for those who frequently move their gear around.

  • Suitable for capturing high-speed action and sports photography.
  • USM lenses can keep up with fast-moving subjects, which is perfect for shooting sports events.
  • The rugged design makes them resistant to impact and wear and tear.

Disadvantages Of USM Lenses

Loud Operation

One of the major disadvantages of USM lenses is the noise they produce when focusing. Unlike their STM counterparts which operate silently, USM lenses have motors that can be quite loud and distracting, especially in quiet environments such as during video recording.

Although some USM lenses have been designed to operate quietly, they are generally noisier than STM lenses.

More Expensive Than STM Lenses

Another disadvantage of USM lenses is their cost. USM lenses are more expensive than their STM counterparts due to their complex construction and more advanced focusing system.

This can make them cost-prohibitive for some photographers who are operating on a tight budget.

However, it is important to note that the investment in a USM lens can pay off in the long run, as they are often built to higher quality and can last for many years with proper care and maintenance.

While USM lenses have several advantages over STM lenses, such as faster autofocus and better performance in low-light situations, they also come with some disadvantages. These include their loud operation and higher cost.

Ultimately, photographers should carefully consider their needs and budget before deciding which type of lens is best for their specific situation.

STM Vs USM Lenses: Which Lens Is Better For You?

If you’re in the market for a lens and can’t decide whether to get an STM or USM, this article will help you make a more informed decision.

Let’s take a closer look at the use cases, comparison, and pros and cons of both lenses.

Usage Scenarios For STM And USM Lenses

  • STM lenses are perfect for video shooting because they have smooth and quiet focusing which is vital for video recording.
  • USM lenses, on the other hand, handle faster-moving subjects better because they have a faster and more accurate focusing system.
  • Another thing to consider is that STM lenses are better suited for still photography of stationary subjects while USM lenses are great for capturing fast-moving subjects like sports events.

STM pros:

  • Offer smooth and quiet autofocus for videography.
  • Affordable and lightweight.
  • Great for shooting still subjects.

STM cons:

  • Slower autofocus.

Use Cases Of Both Types Of Lenses

  • STM lenses have slower autofocus, but they offer smoother and quieter autofocus which makes them suitable for videography.
  • USM lenses, on the other hand, have a faster autofocus system making them a great choice for still photography of moving objects.
  • One thing to consider is USM lenses tend to be more expensive than their STM counterparts.

USM pros:

  • Faster autofocus.
  • Great for still photography of moving objects.
  • Provide precision and accuracy.

USM cons:

  • More expensive.
  • Louder autofocus.

As you can see, the decision to choose between STM and USM lenses can depend on what you’re looking to photograph. STM lenses are better suited for video recording or still photography while USM lenses are better for capturing rapidly moving subjects.

Follow these guidelines and choose the lens that best suits your photography needs.

STM Vs USM Lenses: Considering The Budget

For purchasing a lens, the cost is often a crucial factor. For those considering switching to STM or USM lenses, it is important to know the price disparity to make an informed decision.

Prices Of STM And USM Lenses

Both STM and USM lenses have their own unique advantages. However, the cost factor is often the deciding factor for customers.

  • STM lenses are generally cheaper than USM lenses.
  • STM focuses on smooth and quiet focusing, while USM is more about speed and accuracy.

Options For Different Budgets

When choosing a lens, it is important to keep your budget in mind. Here are some options for different budgets:

  • Budget: Canon ef 50mm f/1.8 STM lens is an excellent choice for those on a tight budget. It’s affordable and provides excellent image quality.
  • Mid-range: The Canon ef-s 55-250mm f/4-5.6 STM lens is an excellent choice for those who want a good zoom capability. It’s perfect for outdoor and wildlife photography.
  • High-end: For professional photographers, the Canon ef 70-200mm f/2.8l iii USM lens is an excellent choice. It’s ideal for sports and action photography, as well as portrait photography.

By understanding the cost disparity between STM and USM lenses and exploring options that fit your budget, you can make an informed and economical decision when choosing a lens.

FAQs Of STM Vs USM Lenses

What Is A STM Lens And How It’s Different From A USM Lens?

An STM (stepper motor) lens is used for quiet and smooth autofocus with video recording. A USM (ultrasonic motor) lens is designed for ultra-fast and nearly silent autofocus for still photography.

Which One Is Better For Video Recording, STM Or USM Lens?

If you are looking for the best lens for video recording, an STM lens would be a more suitable choice since it provides smooth and quiet autofocus while recording.

Are STM Lenses More Expensive Than USM Lenses?

It depends on the brand and specific lens model. In general, STM lenses are considered more affordable than USM lenses as they are designed for beginner and mid-level cameras.

Can You Use USM Lenses For Video Recording?

Yes, you can use USM lenses for video recording, but they might produce some noise due to the ultra-fast autofocus designed for still photography.

What Kind Of Photography Works Better With STM And USM Lenses?

STM lenses are great for portraits and low light photography, while USM lenses work better with sports, wildlife, and action photography due to their ultra-fast autofocus.


After thoroughly comparing STM vs USM lenses, it is safe to say that each has its own unique advantages and disadvantages.

STM lenses are better suited for those who want smoother and quieter autofocusing for video work, while USM lenses are better for those who need instant autofocus for sports or wildlife photography.

It ultimately comes down to the individual’s specific needs and preferences. It is important to understand the differences between the two types of lenses in order to make an informed decision on which lens is right for you.

Whether you are a professional photographer or a hobbyist, investing in the right lens can greatly enhance the quality of your photos.

With the knowledge gained from this comparison, photographers can now make the best choice for their specific shooting needs and circumstances.

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