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Thread: is my kit lens holding me back?

  1. #1

    is my kit lens holding me back?

    I've just looked at the gallery and noticed that many of the photos seem to look almost 3d they have such great sharpness and colours that almost seem to glow.

    I shoot with a D300 but it's fitted with an 18 - 138 kit lens. Would this be causing limitations in attaining top notch results?

    I have a trip to Goa mid January and if I really stretched myself I might just about make the price of a Nikon AF-S 24-70mm/2.8G ED or Nikon 17-55mm F2.8G\AF-S DX IF-ED lens.

    Is a new lens and the difference it would make wishful thinking or would I be better concentrating on my technique?

    thank you to anyone who can offer some help.

    Mark

  2. #2
    Goldcoastgolfer's Avatar
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    Re: is my kit lens holding me back?

    You mean the 18 - 135mm? Just read a few reviews and when it comes down to sharpness and contrast, it's supposed to be pretty good. It might help if you post some images that you're not happy with the and some of the more knowledgeable members might be able to offer a bit more advice.

    From the lenses you're considering I assume you're more into landscapes?

  3. #3
    Ricco's Avatar
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    Re: is my kit lens holding me back?

    Mark - yes and no.

    There is no doubt that a better quality lens improves images. That is why pro photographers use them. I have recently upgraded my lens and added a flash to my kit and had great results from these.

    However, if you haven't grasped the basics with a kit lens, it still won't matter what is on the end of the camera. If you are trying to take photos of moving subjects with a slow shutter speed you will still get motion blur, if you arent holding the camera right then you might still get camera shake, if you are trying to photograph something with a thin dof then you will still struggle to get everything in focus. And you need to understand lighting regardless of what lens is on the camera.

    Having said that, just ignore that last paragraph and tell the misses that you absolutely need a better lens you know you want to !!

  4. #4
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: is my kit lens holding me back?

    I am a Canon guy so I cannot delve too deeply into one Nikon lens vs. another.

    However, I have found that many DSLR shooters across the brands can benefit from post production editing, especially from sharpening and from increasing contrast.

    Perhaps if you could provide us with several examples of the images with which you are not satisfied and tell us what you are not satisfied about the images; we might be able to give you some recommendations.

    I will be the first to admit that glass influences image quality to a degree even greater than does camera choice. However image quality also depends greatly on the following:

    1. Capability of the photographer
    2. Post processing workflow
    3. Using lenses within the parameters of their capability

    Regarding the parameters of capability, I have found that many shooters are unhappy with the performance of their various kit lenses because they are asking the lenses to do more than they are capable. This is most often noticed in the area of hand holding in dim light which no lens as slow as the genaral kit lens (of any camera brand) is really capable. The other area in which the kit lenses generally do not do as well as their more refined and expensive big cousins is following fast action or attaining auto focus in dim light conditions.

    I would suggest this as a trial with your lens. Use a tripod or some other steady camera support. Shoot a variety of images at f/8 and f/11. Shoot in RAW and post process these images with sharpening, added contrast and a bit of extra color. See if the resultant image is an improvement over your present results...

  5. #5

    Re: is my kit lens holding me back?

    Had I not gotten my 40-150mm f4, Richards point 3. would have escaped me for some time. My camera came with a 14-45mm f3.5 so I am limited on low light environments. But I realized better the capabilities of each lens by being able to compare the two in my shots. It has added to my shooting form and allowed me to choose better settings on the camera, lens, and in PP.

    Ryo

  6. #6
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: is my kit lens holding me back?

    Quote Originally Posted by markfay View Post
    I've just looked at the gallery and noticed that many of the photos seem to look almost 3d they have such great sharpness and colours that almost seem to glow.

    I shoot with a D300 but it's fitted with an 18 - 138 kit lens. Would this be causing limitations in attaining top notch results?

    I have a trip to Goa mid January and if I really stretched myself I might just about make the price of a Nikon AF-S 24-70mm/2.8G ED or Nikon 17-55mm F2.8G\AF-S DX IF-ED lens.

    Is a new lens and the difference it would make wishful thinking or would I be better concentrating on my technique?

    thank you to anyone who can offer some help.

    Mark
    Whose photography are you trying to emulate and which lenses are they using to achieve their goal. That is only part of your journey, to create what they have created you need to consider what type of lighting they normally photograph under, what elements are in the frame that provide the look you desire, and what post processing they use afterwards to get that image that you want to achieve.

  7. #7

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    Re: is my kit lens holding me back?

    Mark, ditto on most of the above suggestions. You need to help those who want to help you by posting a few well exposed shots with the data and voicing your concerns. Also a few words about your photography background and experience so people know what level to make suggestions at.

    A couple of additional items. If you've been playing with the optional programming, reset them all back to the OEM settings. The D300 is one of the more flexible digital cameras around so getting it back to the basics needs to be a first step. Make sure the camera quality is set to JPEG Fine. Many professionals shoot exclusively with JPEG and it does just fine. Stay away from the RAW for now so we are dealing only with the camera. RAW is to be creative or fix things done wrong to start with so you can get into that later. As a last starting point, unless you are using a top of the line monitor you cannot rely on it to base your original comments on. Setting your monitor to its listed maximum resolution will help but for a true analysis, you need to always base your opinions on a decent quality print from a reputable photography outlet. Take some well exposed shots using a tripod and get a few 8x10's printed off and I think you'll be surprised. Let's see what you get.

  8. #8

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    Re: is my kit lens holding me back?

    I've just looked at the gallery and noticed that many of the photos seem to look almost 3d they have such great sharpness and colours that almost seem to glow.

    Two points occur to me. Mark.

    This form of editing, which seems to be becoming popular recently, can be a matter of personal taste. Some people like it while others consider it to be excessively over processed and somewhat artificial; not like a traditional photograph.

    For me, yes many images need to be reasonably sharp and bright; but not always. Consider a foggy day shot for instance.

    And yes again, the best lenses will always help but won't turn a poor photographer into a good one, as other people have mentioned.

  9. #9

    Re: is my kit lens holding me back?

    thank you to everybody for their great comments. I'll dig out some shots when I get home and add them. A bit about me. I started when I won a small Radio Luxembourg competition in the 70's (Dad helped!) the prize was point and shoot camera and I was hooked. I've been snapping ever since. I shoot on the RAW plus jpeg setting and post process in lightroom 3, also using CS3 when I need to. I don't think that my photos are that bad just don't have the appearance of fine art that some in the gallery do and it's this level that I'm trying to achieve. I've looked at the gallery again and the following stand out as projects which have quality I don't feel I could emulate with my 18-135.

    Botley Court, moonlit court, River colours - bridges over... snow laden gate, clare punts and clare bridge. If there was one shot I would simply love to have taken and be proud of it's probably clare bridge. I do like low light shots.

    Maybe this is a case of someone blaming his tools. Not sure.

  10. #10

    Re: is my kit lens holding me back?

    Good point Geoff F. How much of this is post processed would you think? For example Clare Bridge.

    I agree some people might not like it and I've seen a thread someone about people who pp not being real photographers, but that's not a stance I subscribe to. I have also started dabbling in HDR but agree this can look extreme and it's easy to go too far. However if I'm pleased with the result I can't see the harm.

  11. #11
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    Re: is my kit lens holding me back?

    I don't know if I am saying the same thing in a different fashion but... Most kit lenses provide very good image quality as long as they are used at 1-2 stops below maximum aperture (the sweet spot) and especially if used on a tripod. In fact. many photographers are surprised at the quality they can achieve with their kit lenses used in this fashion and post processed correctly.

    NOTE: The above comment regarding monitors is spot on!

    When the more expensive higher grade lenses come into their own is when you are pushing their limits, such as shooting wide open in lower light levels. The higher grade lenses also often have a better build which comes into play when shooting in rougher conditions.

    When I switched from the Canon 28-135mm f./3.5-5.6 IS lens to the 24-70mm f/2.8L, I noticed that I needed to provide less sharpening and added sharpness. However, the 28-123mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens did provide quite decent imagery, especially when tweaked a bit in post processing...
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 30th December 2011 at 07:09 PM.

  12. #12
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    Re: is my kit lens holding me back?

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    I don't know if I am saying the same thing in a different fashion but... Most kit lenses provide very good image quality as long as they are used at 1-2 stops below maximum aperture (the sweet spot) and especially if used on a tripod.
    I've been following this thread with interest, as I've struggled (at times) with the same question. And, as per usual, Richard hits the nail right on the head and his summation is, in my view, as good a piece of advice as you'll get anywhere.

    I have a Canon. I got it with the 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM. I lust after a 24-70 f2.8 L. But I don't need it. Well I do, but I don't really, if you know what I mean.

    The 17-85 has produced excellent images, some of which I've had printed at up to 16 inches (40.5 cm)on the longest side and the quality is spot-on.

    So, for me, the moral of the tale is - Use the lens to its best ability. Don't ask it to do something it's not designed to do. And it will reward you with high quality material with which to work. .................................................. ........ But I still want a 24-70!

  13. #13
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: is my kit lens holding me back?

    Quote Originally Posted by markfay View Post
    ..... and I've seen a thread someone about people who pp not being real photographers,
    That's rubbish. Let's not beat about the bush with nuanced discussion about whether to PP or not. Such a statement is, I suggest, naive.

    Pressing the shutter is the end of the first part of making an image. The second part starts when you begin processing in the darkroom (if you're shooting film) or on computer (if you're shooting digitally).

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    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: is my kit lens holding me back?

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    (In reply to markfay's statement that people who pp are not photographers...) That's rubbish. Let's not beat about the bush with nuanced discussion about whether to PP or not. Such a statement is, I suggest, naive.

    Pressing the shutter is the end of the first part of making an image. The second part starts when you begin processing in the darkroom (if you're shooting film) or on computer (if you're shooting digitally).
    I totally agree with Donald! As an example, I seriously doubt if there is anyone who would deny that Ansel Adams was a "real photographer". Ansel would spend hours, if not days, in the darkroom working on a single image. Post processing with an editing program is just a technologically advanced and ecologically safe darkroom that is available to far more photographers than the wet darkrooms ever were.

    However, I can see where the statement might originate. Far too many digital photographers don't pay any attention to getting the shot right in the camera thinking that they can save any shot in post processing. They are wrong but, OTOH few if any images are at their best without some modicum of post processing.

  15. #15

    Re: is my kit lens holding me back?

    Here's a couple of snaps. they do not appear to leap off the page to me. Suggestions on how they could be better if it is not to do with the quality of the lens. Geoff and rpcrowe I agree with you re PP bty.

    is my kit lens holding me back?

  16. #16

    Re: is my kit lens holding me back?

    and another

    is my kit lens holding me back?

  17. #17
    mariaramil's Avatar
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    Re: is my kit lens holding me back?

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    ...I have a Canon. I got it with the 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM. I lust after a 24-70 f2.8 L. But I don't need it. Well I do, but I don't really, if you know what I mean.

    The 17-85 has produced excellent images...
    I also have the 17-85 and was very impressed with the results from a 24-70 from another photographer... I guess I can afford to wait a bit longer, though, and work on my technique for the time being...

    Thanks for saving me a fortune!

  18. #18

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    Re: is my kit lens holding me back?

    Mark, they don't seem too bad to me although the second isn't very sharp and it's shot against a bright sky so that has affected the exposure.

    As an experiment. Try Unsharp Mask at 30% and 30 pixels; very approx settings.

    Alternatively, I sometimes create a duplicate layer then set the Blend Mode to Overlay or Soft Light and reduce the opacity slightly to suit. using a mask can allow you to edit the mask and selectively apply the effect.

    In fact I often do the LCE (Unsharp Mask trick) on a duplicate and also edit to selectively apply the effects.

    There are many other ways, so these are just first experiments.

    But it's now time for a couple of pints of Guinness instead.

  19. #19
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: is my kit lens holding me back?

    Quote Originally Posted by mariaramil View Post
    Thanks for saving me a fortune!
    Maria - I hope so!

    I'm quite convinced that my copy of the 17-85 is a super lens. One of my proudest is this. Given what i shoot, the 17-85 is more than capable of producing what I want. It's accepting that that's the problem!

  20. #20
    Goldcoastgolfer's Avatar
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    Re: is my kit lens holding me back?

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    That's rubbish. Let's not beat about the bush with nuanced discussion about whether to PP or not. Such a statement is, I suggest, naive.

    Pressing the shutter is the end of the first part of making an image. The second part starts when you begin processing in the darkroom (if you're shooting film) or on computer (if you're shooting digitally).
    Can't remember where I heard or read about this statement from Ansel Adams but apparently he likened the act of taking a photograph to writing a score of music. The act of processing the photo is like an artist interpreting the score and transforming it into music.

    Very different interpretations can be made from the same score and the same piece of music that appears dull and lifeless in the hands of one musician can be made to sound extraordinary in anothers. I've learnt from being on here that the same is true about photography. A raw photo that appears dull and lifeless can be transformed into something majestic with the right vision and skills.

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