Canon STM Lenses vs USM: The Ultimate Comparison Guide

In the world of photography, choosing the right lens can make all the difference. Two popular Canon lens options feature distinct autofocus systems: STM (Stepping Motor) and USM (Ultrasonic Motor). Understanding their differences will help you make an informed choice for your specific needs.

When comparing Canon STM lenses to USM lenses, it’s important to consider factors such as focusing speed, noise level, and suitability for various tasks, like video filming.

STM lenses are quieter and better suited for recording videos, while USM lenses prioritize faster autofocus. Keep these differences in mind as you assess the pros and cons of each lens type, ensuring that you select the optimal lens for your photography goals.

Differences Between Canon STM vs USM Lenses

What Are STM and USM?

When you see STM or USM on a Canon lens, it identifies the type of autofocus system the lens uses. STM stands for Stepping Motor, while USM stands for Ultrasonic Motor. Both of these lenses are designed to deliver excellent results, but the way they achieve this varies.

An STM lens uses a stepper motor for autofocusing, making it nearly silent and better suited for video shooting.

On the other hand, a USM lens utilizes ultrasonic vibrations that are converted into rotational movement for autofocusing, resulting in faster focus but slightly more noise.

Major Differences

Here are some key differences between Canon STM and USM lenses:

  • Noise:STM lenses are known for their nearly silent motor, making them a preferred choice for video shooting. In comparison, USM lenses have faster autofocusing but produce slightly more noise.
  • Speed:The speed of USM lenses is unbeatable, as they make use of ultrasonic vibrations for faster autofocus.
  • Price:Generally, STM lenses are less expensive than their USM counterparts, making them an attractive option for beginners or budget-conscious photographers.
  • Weight:USM lenses are typically heavier than STM lenses, which may be a consideration depending on your photography preferences and needs.

As you explore your options between Canon STM and USM lenses, it’s helpful to keep these differences in mind to choose the best lens for your specific needs and preferences.

Canon STM vs USM Lenses: Autofocus Systems

When comparing Canon STM lenses and USM lenses, the autofocus systems play a significant role in deciding which lens type is best for your photography needs.

In this section I am going to discuss the speed and accuracy of the two autofocus systems and their noise levels.

Speed and Accuracy

In terms of speed, USM lenses are unmatched in the Canon range. Using ultrasonic motor (USM) technology, these lenses swiftly find focus in a fraction of a second, making them ideal for action photography or situations where you need to rapidly shift focus.

STM lenses, on the other hand, employ stepper motor technology for autofocusing.

These lenses might not be as fast as USM lenses in finding focus, but they still offer reliable focusing performance for various photography styles.

Accuracy is vital in an autofocus system, especially for photographers who shoot in high-pressure situations or capture fast-moving subjects.

Both USM and STM lenses provide precise focusing, ensuring your images are sharp and well-defined.

Noise Levels

One of the noticeable differences between Canon USM and STM lenses in autofocus systems is their noise levels.

STM lenses stand out for their quiet operation process. The use of stepper motors in STM lenses makes them a top choice for video shooters, as their quieter autofocus system won’t interfere with audio recordings or distract your subjects.

USM lenses, while not entirely silent, are still quieter than older DC-motor lenses.

They focus quickly with minimal noise, making them suitable for photography in most situations where subtle sounds won’t pose issues. However, if noise is a crucial concern, particularly for video shooting, STM lenses may be a more suitable choice.

When choosing between Canon STM and USM lenses, keep in mind that your decision should be based on the autofocus system that best suits your specific photography requirements, prioritizing speed and accuracy or noise levels according to your needs.

Canon STM vs USM Lenses :Shooting Scenarios


When it comes to photography, both Canon STM and USM lenses have their advantages. The main difference lies in their autofocus systems.

STM lens Image quality

STM lenses use a stepping motor, which is quieter and smoother but may be slightly slower than the ultrasonic motor used in USM lenses.

For wildlife photography or sports photography, where speed is critical, you might prefer USM lenses. Their faster autofocus system can help you capture fast-moving subjects more effectively.

Also, USM lenses typically work well with both DSLR and mirrorless cameras, allowing you the flexibility to use your preferred camera type.

However, if noise is a concern (for instance, when photographing skittish animals), STM lenses are a strong choice, as their near-silent motor won’t startle your subject.

In general, STM lenses are often more budget-friendly, making them an attractive option for photographers who are just starting or looking to expand their lens collection without breaking the bank.


Videography puts different demands on your camera and lenses, and this is where STM lenses truly shine.

Their quiet, smooth autofocus is especially useful when shooting video, as it minimizes any noise that might be picked up by the camera’s microphone. This can result in a cleaner, more polished video.

Additionally, STM lenses often deliver smooth and natural-looking focus transitions, thanks to their stepping motor.

This can enhance the overall quality and aesthetics of your video content, whether you’re using a DSLR or a mirrorless camera. As a videographer, you are more likely to benefit from the near-silent and smooth focus transition capabilities of STM lenses.

In conclusion, when selecting a Canon lens for your specific shooting scenario, it’s essential to consider your priorities, such as speed, noise, price, and camera compatibility.

Both STM and USM lenses have unique advantages that can help you achieve your creative goals, whether you’re a photographer or a videographer.

Canon STM vs USM Lenses: Lens Features

Build Quality and Size

When comparing Canon STM and USM lenses, you’ll notice that the build quality and size of the lenses will vary. USM lenses, using a ring-type or gear-type ultrasonic motor, are typically built with professional photographers in mind.

STM Build Quality

These lenses are known for their durability, and may come in a more substantial and heavier form.

STM lenses, on the other hand, are designed with entry-level DSLR users in mind. They are generally more lightweight and compact.

Focal Length and Aperture

Both STM and USM lenses can come in a variety of focal lengths and apertures. Depending on your photography needs, you may choose lenses with fixed or zoomable focal lengths.

Flexible focal lengths or zoom lenses allow you to achieve a wide range of photographic styles without changing the lens.

USM lenses often feature a wider range of apertures, which can be attractive to professional photographers, while STM lenses may have more limited aperture options.

For instance, some popular STM lenses are:

  • Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Lens
  • Canon EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens
  • Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Lens

And for USM lenses:

  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens
  • Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens
  • Canon RF 85mm f/2 IS STM Lens

Image Stabilization

Image stabilization is a key feature to look for when choosing between USM and STM lenses. It helps reduce camera shake and allows you to take clearer and sharper photos, even in low light conditions.

Both types of lenses can include image stabilization, though it may vary between specific lens models.

It’s important to check the specifications of each lens you’re considering to ensure it has the image stabilization features that meet your requirements.

Budget and Recommendations Lenses

Choosing Between STM and USM Lenses

When considering your budget for Canon STM or USM lenses, it’s important to understand the differences between them. STM lenses are generally more budget-friendly, while USM lenses can be more expensive but offer faster autofocusing.

If you’re shooting video, STM lenses are often preferred, as their stepping motor provides quieter and smoother tracking.

However, if you prioritize capturing fast-moving subjects, a USM lens with its ultrasonic vibrations can deliver quicker, more accurate results.

Don’t forget to account for your camera body, as the lens compatibility and performance may vary with different EOS models.

For build quality, Canon’s L-series lenses cater to both STM and USM categories, offering weather sealing and a robust structure.

Understanding your shooting needs will help determine which type of lens is more suitable for you in terms of size, weight, and aperture requirements.

Comparing Brands

While Canon is a renowned brand known for its STM and USM lenses, it’s essential to look at other brands like Nikon or Pentax, as they also offer lenses with different autofocusing motors.

Nikon, for example, uses a direct drive motor, which is comparable to Canon’s ultrasonic (USM) technology.

When comparing these brands, consider factors such as:

  • Autofocus speed and noise
  • Image quality and sharpness
  • Vibrations and stability
  • Build quality and weather sealing
  • Cost and availability of lenses

Remember that your budget should account not only for the lens itself but also for additional gears like camera bodies, filters, and tripods. It’s essential to balance cost and quality in order to make the most of your investment.

In conclusion, getting a good grasp of the differences between STM and USM lenses, as well as comparing them to other brands, will help you make informed decisions that reflect your budget and meet your specific photography and videography needs.