In defense of the 18-55mm kit

Started May 28, 2012 | Discussions
PeterWrth
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In defense of the 18-55mm kit
May 28, 2012

Elsewhere on this forum there have been many threads complaining or voicing misgivings about the 18-55 kit lens.

Well, last Wednesday I bought a Nex-5N + 18-55. On Saturday I attended my grand-daughter's 1st birthday, left behind my A65 lineup, taking nothing more than the Nex + 18-55. After reading reviews and threads, I expected the worst, but, I gotta tell ya, viewing the pics on the iMac 27, I am truly amazed with the results.

My advice to those considering this combination is not to be put off by the nay-sayers. This combination does the intended job very well indeed.

Here are just a couple of random shots from the 100+ keepers. Some cropping and a smidgen of sharpening in LR4. No.4 & 5 were way overexposed but recovered reasonably with b&w. And yes, I know, the composition, distraction etc is awful.
1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

Sony Alpha NEX-5N Sony SLT-A65
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Lng0004
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Re: In defense of the 18-55mm kit
In reply to PeterWrth, May 28, 2012

I think it's the 16mm that needs defending, not the 18-55mm. Most of us can agree that it's one of the better kit lenses.

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DezM
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Re: In defense of the 18-55mm kit
In reply to Lng0004, May 28, 2012

Lng0004 wrote:

I think it's the 16mm that needs defending, not the 18-55mm. Most of us can agree that it's one of the better kit lenses.

There are alot of naysayers of the 18-55mm kit lens. Some responded to my thread asking "how could you take these shots with the kit lens"................."you would do better with a prime":

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1042&message=41589919

I like the kit lens and agree with Linh that it's one of the better ones out there. I wish it were faster but so far it's been doing the job.

Nice set Peter.
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ekeroil
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Re: In defense of the 18-55mm kit
In reply to DezM, May 28, 2012

Fully agree, it's a great lens. I bought a kit with 5N+18-155 and was about to flog the lens cause "it was sh*t" (again, opinions on forums like this one) and was shocked at what results it produced.

This is from a week ago, at around 20mm:
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2505528/img/RastaholmSunset.jpg

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DezM
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Re: In defense of the 18-55mm kit
In reply to ekeroil, May 28, 2012

ekeroil wrote:

Fully agree, it's a great lens. I bought a kit with 5N+18-155 and was about to flog the lens cause "it was sh*t" (again, opinions on forums like this one) and was shocked at what results it produced.

Wow, that's a beauty.

I'd clone out the rocks on the right side though.
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PeterWrth
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Re: In defense of the 18-55mm kit
In reply to DezM, May 28, 2012

DezM wrote:

I like the kit lens and agree with Linh that it's one of the better ones out there. I wish it were faster but so far it's been doing the job.

Nice set Peter.
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Dez

Thanks Dez. I have been away from the forum and missed your thread. My defense was entirely unnecessary with results like that. Amazing stuff.

I was particularly impressed with the results I got at ISO800 so that helps a bit to make make up for the slowness. Most of mine were taken under open cover.

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ChrisKramer1
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Re: In defense of the 18-55mm kit
In reply to PeterWrth, May 28, 2012

Now this is just my opinion, but I hate that kits lens and wouldn't waste a shot using it. It is soft, has weak contrast and the out of focus areas are horrible. The first time I used it I was horrified at the results (my previous camera was a D90 with the 16 - 85mm Nikkor) and if it wasn't for a heavy workload at the time, I would have sent my Nex back. Now I only use the Sigma 30mm and am happy with the results.

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Alupang
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That Was Me--At Least One That is...
In reply to DezM, May 28, 2012

DezM wrote:

Lng0004 wrote:

I think it's the 16mm that needs defending, not the 18-55mm. Most of us can agree that it's one of the better kit lenses.

There are alot of naysayers of the 18-55mm kit lens. Some responded to my thread asking "how could you take these shots with the kit lens"................."you would do better with a prime":

Well, I guess it all boils down to a few simple questions. Is the kit zoom better optically than all other lenses available? No? Then could you notice a difference with a better lens?

If so then yeah, your shots would look better with a higher performing lens. And that does not have to mean more expensive either as you probably already know.

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John Bean (UK)
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Re: That Was Me--At Least One That is...
In reply to Alupang, May 28, 2012

Alupang wrote:

DezM wrote:

Lng0004 wrote:

I think it's the 16mm that needs defending, not the 18-55mm. Most of us can agree that it's one of the better kit lenses.

There are alot of naysayers of the 18-55mm kit lens. Some responded to my thread asking "how could you take these shots with the kit lens"................."you would do better with a prime":

Well, I guess it all boils down to a few simple questions. Is the kit zoom better optically than all other lenses available? No? Then could you notice a difference with a better lens?

If so then yeah, your shots would look better with a higher performing lens. And that does not have to mean more expensive either as you probably already know.

I'm with you on this one in general , but looking at DezM's images (especially in the thread concerned) one thing jumps out and pokes me in the eye: post-production.

I'm not in anyway critical of the production values he uses, but it is a fact of life that the further the final image deviates from a hypothetical polaroid of the same scene then the less important the lens becomes, since lens aberrations are routinely removed in software, distortions corrected, poor colour and/or contrast and even lack of sharpness compensated. Unless a lens is terrible (and not many people would say this of the kit lens) then the difference between its performance and that of a better lens is largely lost in the visual impact of the final image.

I also know that your methods are different and involve very little post-processing and in this case the better the lens the better the result, all other things being equal. There is no doubt in my mind that while the kit lens is very convenient and adequate for many tasks its shortcomings are visually obvious in comparison with better lenses - unless minimised by skilful post-processing of course.

I sit on the fence with production values with some being quite heavily processed and others not at all. Depends on the image

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normsmith
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Sigma 30mm?
In reply to ChrisKramer1, May 28, 2012

Now I only use the Sigma 30mm and am happy with the results.

I had heard that the sigma 30mm was 'marginally' better than the 18 - 55mm kit lens - is that true? and if so, then having regard for what John Bean says about post processing, would the majority of users see a real world difference?

I am using the Nex 7, so I am guessing the extra resolution puts more stress on the kit lens and that differences between the kit lens and sigma 30mm might be more apparent - but I don't know.
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GaryW
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Re: That Was Me--At Least One That is...
In reply to John Bean (UK), May 28, 2012

John Bean (UK) wrote:

Alupang wrote:

DezM wrote:

Lng0004 wrote:

I think it's the 16mm that needs defending, not the 18-55mm. Most of us can agree that it's one of the better kit lenses.

There are alot of naysayers of the 18-55mm kit lens. Some responded to my thread asking "how could you take these shots with the kit lens"................."you would do better with a prime":

You probably -- should -- do better with a prime, but how much better? To see a sharpness difference, you'll need to zoom in to 100% pixel-level view. The 18-55 is not so poor that it should appear soft at the sizes we see posted.

Well, I guess it all boils down to a few simple questions. Is the kit zoom better optically than all other lenses available? No? Then could you notice a difference with a better lens?

Difference in what way?

If so then yeah, your shots would look better with a higher performing lens. And that does not have to mean more expensive either as you probably already know.

I'm with you on this one in general , but looking at DezM's images (especially in the thread concerned) one thing jumps out and pokes me in the eye: post-production.

I'm not in anyway critical of the production values he uses, but it is a fact of life that the further the final image deviates from a hypothetical polaroid of the same scene then the less important the lens becomes, since lens aberrations are routinely removed in software, distortions corrected, poor colour and/or contrast and even lack of sharpness compensated. Unless a lens is terrible (and not many people would say this of the kit lens) then the difference between its performance and that of a better lens is largely lost in the visual impact of the final image.

Ok, the kit lens has some severe barrel distortion at the wide end, but I think the color and contrast are pretty good. In the middle of the range, results are very good.

I'm sure you can beat the kit lens, but at what cost? The Sigma 30 may be sharper, but may not be better in some other areas -- plus, you've only got the 30mm focal length which is a limitation. Why do most people like zooms? So you can have the flexibilitiy to frame the way you want to, plus have the perspective change. At 55mm, I can take a reasonable portrait with the kit lens.

I also know that your methods are different and involve very little post-processing and in this case the better the lens the better the result, all other things being equal. There is no doubt in my mind that while the kit lens is very convenient and adequate for many tasks its shortcomings are visually obvious in comparison with better lenses - unless minimised by skilful post-processing of course.

I admit I do like to process from RAW, but I think this is not just to avoid limitations of the kit lens (the distortions are fixed by the software, for example), but because of the mediocre JPEG processing of the Nex-5. I don't usually add contrast or saturation, etc. I think the 18-55 has good color, OK contrast, very good bokeh.

It serves the purpose of being an all-around decent performer that works in many situations.

I sit on the fence with production values with some being quite heavily processed and others not at all. Depends on the image

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Gary W.

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John Bean (UK)
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Re: Sigma 30mm?
In reply to normsmith, May 28, 2012

normsmith wrote:

Now I only use the Sigma 30mm and am happy with the results.

I had heard that the sigma 30mm was 'marginally' better than the 18 - 55mm kit lens - is that true?

It is not marginal at all IMO.

The Sigma is optically much better than the kit lens in every respect. However I don't at all agree with the post you replied to which describes the kit lens in terms that if believed would place it one step above a coke bottle bottom as a lens. This is not the case; the kit lens is not bad at all, neither is it particularly good compared with all lenses. However in its peer group of only kit lenses it is certainly at the higher end of the quality range.

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GaryW
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Re: In defense of the 18-55mm kit
In reply to ChrisKramer1, May 28, 2012

ChrisKramer1 wrote:

Now this is just my opinion, but I hate that kits lens and wouldn't waste a shot using it. It is soft, has weak contrast and the out of focus areas are horrible.

I find the bokeh to be pretty good, better than most lenses, I think. Usually primes have better bokeh, but a lot of zooms (and even some primes) have busy bokeh. I think the 18-55 has "better bokeh". The contrast may not compare against primes, but seems OK to me. And for softness, at around 28mm, it does not seem soft. Wide open at 18mm, it's not as good.

The first time I used it I was horrified at the results (my previous camera was a D90 with the 16 - 85mm Nikkor) and if it wasn't for a heavy workload at the time, I would have sent my Nex back. Now I only use the Sigma 30mm and am happy with the results.

By all accounts, it's very sharp. Myself, while it's fun to use just one FL sometimes, I really need more than one FL. So, if it's too hard to see the difference between the kit lens and a prime lens, I'm going to use the kit lens more often. (It doesn't help, I suppose, that a couple of my prime lenses are adapted and I'm forced to manually focus, which I don't prefer.)
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GaryW
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Re: Sigma 30mm?
In reply to John Bean (UK), May 28, 2012

John Bean (UK) wrote:

normsmith wrote:

Now I only use the Sigma 30mm and am happy with the results.

I had heard that the sigma 30mm was 'marginally' better than the 18 - 55mm kit lens - is that true?

It is not marginal at all IMO.

The Sigma is optically much better than the kit lens in every respect.

Sharpness is the one area that most people care about, and the Sigma seems to be significantly better there.

Bokeh is the one area where I think the kit lens could come out better sometimes, from the samples I've seen.

Has anyone run any direct comparisons between the two lenses?

However I don't at all agree with the post you replied to which describes the kit lens in terms that if believed would place it one step above a coke bottle bottom as a lens. This is not the case; the kit lens is not bad at all, neither is it particularly good compared with all lenses. However in its peer group of only kit lenses it is certainly at the higher end of the quality range.

I feel that it's good compared to "most" lenses. I have some inexpensive DSLR lenses (some that I bought used and were probably not inexpensive when new!), and the kit lens compares well, I think, even "in general". I think you have to compare to higher-end lenses before you get to lenses that are obviously better.

Sometimes differences are more subtle. I prefer portraits using my old Minolta 50/1.7, but yet I have gotten good results out of the 18-55. I think the 50/1.7 is "better", but I can't use that as my only lens. If I happen to take a portrait and I've got my 18-55, it has a different look but it's hard to quantify. I think the color is there, but razor-sharpness is just not necessary for portraits. The 50/1.7 can have less DOF/more bokeh which is sometimes really pleasant.

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ekeroil
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Re: In defense of the 18-55mm kit
In reply to GaryW, May 28, 2012

At its ideal aperture, I can't distinguish its sharpness vs quality primes on the NEX-5N's 16MP sensor.

Same can be said about the Sigma 30mm, with the small addition that the Sigma is already corner to corner sharp at f/2.8 - a feat no other lens I have in my collection can do, not even Zeiss or Voigtländer primes. The only lens I have that performs similarly is the Nikkor 24-70/2.8 but that is another price and weight league.

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DezM
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John
In reply to John Bean (UK), May 28, 2012

John Bean (UK) wrote:

I'm with you on this one in general , but looking at DezM's images (especially in the thread concerned) one thing jumps out and pokes me in the eye: post-production.

I'm not in anyway critical of the production values he uses, but it is a fact of life that the further the final image deviates from a hypothetical polaroid of the same scene then the less important the lens becomes, since lens aberrations are routinely removed in software, distortions corrected, poor colour and/or contrast and even lack of sharpness compensated. Unless a lens is terrible (and not many people would say this of the kit lens) then the difference between its performance and that of a better lens is largely lost in the visual impact of the final image.

I also know that your methods are different and involve very little post-processing and in this case the better the lens the better the result, all other things being equal. There is no doubt in my mind that while the kit lens is very convenient and adequate for many tasks its shortcomings are visually obvious in comparison with better lenses - unless minimised by skilful post-processing of course.

I sit on the fence with production values with some being quite heavily processed and others not at all. Depends on the image

John, I post process every photo when uploading to my site. I dont or wont settle for out of camera shots. I'm serious about my work and post processing is part of my workflow..........from tying to get it right when taking the photograph to final edited result on my site.

Not sure why people believe I do heavy PP when I don't. I've explained my methods several times before. I do simple Levels adjustments globally. Than I'll do Shadow adjustments selectively. Some Noise Reduction where needed and maybe an Unsharp Mask. I don't work with layers or do anything fancy.
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DezM
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Alupang
In reply to Alupang, May 28, 2012

Alupang wrote:

DezM wrote:

Lng0004 wrote:

I think it's the 16mm that needs defending, not the 18-55mm. Most of us can agree that it's one of the better kit lenses.

There are alot of naysayers of the 18-55mm kit lens. Some responded to my thread asking "how could you take these shots with the kit lens"................."you would do better with a prime":

Well, I guess it all boils down to a few simple questions. Is the kit zoom better optically than all other lenses available? No? Then could you notice a difference with a better lens?

If so then yeah, your shots would look better with a higher performing lens. And that does not have to mean more expensive either as you probably already know.

I agree with better lenses, the quality of the output would increase. I have a Nikon adapter to fit my various Nikkor lenses. No issue there and I have used them on my NEX models, but I am patiently waiting for the release of faster E-mount lenses from Sony and others. Until than, the kit lens has been doing just fine.

As for my reference to you, it's not just you who have asked me "why the kit" over the past few months. Others have pondered, but this is the hand that we're dealt with by Sony. I personally don't like manually focusing my lenses all of the time. I do it for my night shots, but in general, I prefer AF.
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Bernie Ess
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Sigma 30mm
In reply to normsmith, May 28, 2012

normsmith wrote:

I had heard that the sigma 30mm was 'marginally' better than the 18 - 55mm kit lens - is that true? and if so, then having regard for what John Bean says about post processing, would the majority of users see a real world difference?

I do not know what the "Majority of users see", but while the kit lens is ok-ish for everyday snapshots, it hardly can cope with the high resolution of the sensor, the fine details always look somehow coarse. Probably good for video. I also do not like the slow speed on longer than WA.

In comparision, the Sigma is small, light, f2,8 and impessive on sharpness with good colour, even the borders are good. Best bang for the buck in a long time. THis is not an "ok lens", it is a very good one.

30mm on crop is also very close to the real "normal focal length" which is 43,5mm on FF, 50mm always beeing a little bit too long for my taste. I'd even prefer 28mm, but otherwise the Sigma is THE ideal walkaround lens.

Bernie

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DezM
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Re: In defense of the 18-55mm kit
In reply to GaryW, May 28, 2012

GaryW wrote:

ChrisKramer1 wrote:

Now this is just my opinion, but I hate that kits lens and wouldn't waste a shot using it. It is soft, has weak contrast and the out of focus areas are horrible.

I find the bokeh to be pretty good, better than most lenses, I think. Usually primes have better bokeh, but a lot of zooms (and even some primes) have busy bokeh. I think the 18-55 has "better bokeh". The contrast may not compare against primes, but seems OK to me. And for softness, at around 28mm, it does not seem soft. Wide open at 18mm, it's not as good.

Agreed with Gary. It does have better bokeh in certain situations when zoomed in and close to your subject.

The first time I used it I was horrified at the results (my previous camera was a D90 with the 16 - 85mm Nikkor) and if it wasn't for a heavy workload at the time, I would have sent my Nex back. Now I only use the Sigma 30mm and am happy with the results.

By all accounts, it's very sharp. Myself, while it's fun to use just one FL sometimes, I really need more than one FL. So, if it's too hard to see the difference between the kit lens and a prime lens, I'm going to use the kit lens more often. (It doesn't help, I suppose, that a couple of my prime lenses are adapted and I'm forced to manually focus, which I don't prefer.)

And agreed.
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PeterWrth
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Re: In defense of the 18-55mm kit
In reply to PeterWrth, May 28, 2012

Cheezus!! I'm sorry I posted these images. I did not say this lens was as good as or better than any other lens. I was simply stating that I was very pleasantly surprised by the results. I did say "for its intended use...".

I attended a kid's birthday party, for heaven's sake. Not a model shoot. I sat quietly in a chair and zoomed in or out as needed. I did not want to leap all over the place thrusting a 30mm at people, particularly the kids.

Of course there are better lenses and it is absurd to compare this kit with a prime. Having said that, no one can convince me that the quality of the images posted here (and the rest of my keepers) is crap.

And, I should mention I have the Sigma 30mm on order.

Peter

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