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Thread: The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?

  1. #1

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    The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?

    Hello everyone!

    For those of you who do not know, i had/have a Canon 18-55mm kit lens which is infamous because of its non-functional autofocus and er.....quite not sharp images.

    In fairness, i bought my camera (1000D) and the lens attached both used. The AF never worked. Later on i bought the amazingly-sharp 50mm f/1.8 prime and that changed my world. While the prime lens changed my world it presented some huge compositional problems and my feet became the zoom mechanism. This mechanism has been working but alas, i got busted.

    Busted? Yes!

    Taking group shots became very nasty. Indoor photography in really small venues are almost impossible. Now i am sure i need a wide angle lens. My low budget does not permit me to buy the luxurious variants. What i think of automatically is the Canon 18-55mm kit lens 3.5-5.6. Yep, the type that came with my 1000D.

    The 18mm end is sufficient for what i need in a wide angle.

    My concern is that, does this lens produce sharp images? At what f/number is it really known to excel?
    I have a Nissin 622mk ii flash(in case that helps the argument). Is the AF decent?

    Final question: should i buy this lens.

    I had this lens but i never enjoyed AF on it neither did it give me good images(at the time though, my technique and knowledge was drastically poorer then(i could only shoot auto or P and DoF, manual mode etc sounded like complex numerical analysis to a humanities major). Unlike now that i'm on CiC)

    Waiting to hear from you. Thanks.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?

    Ife - What version of the 18-55 are you referring to? The photozone review of the IS version, here, concludes with, "There were a few moments when I considered not to publish the results due to "political correctness" because to date it was a quite absurd thought that such a cheap, or better "affordable", lens can perform this good and I'm sure that some will not believe the findings even though they're supported by the published field images. Anyway, the resolution capabilities of the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS is nothing short of amazing. This is also surprising regarding the rather small changes in the optical design compared to the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 II" .

    In its introduction, the Photozone article states, "The Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS is the next generation budget "kit" lens for Canon EOS APS-C DSLRs. It is a long awaited and, frankly, urgently needed successor for the rather mediocre EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 II which was not able to convince anymore ever since the release of EOS 20D"

    This is obviously quite an old review, but the comments may help you in your decision-making.

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    Re: The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?

    Thank you Donald. How are you doing? I'm tqlking about the IS version.

    I have been looking at some reviews and now the one you just sent. If the images/reviews turn out satisfying, is it an advisable wide angle lens considering my budget? Secondly, what is 18mm on a crop sensor? Then when if i get this lens, what then will the Canon 50mm f/1.8 be necessary for...since the 18-55 will be doing the 50mm range....?

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?

    Ife - My attitude to lenses is that there are no bad ones, only those which are better than others. What I mean by this is that compared to a number of years ago, when people were still making spectacular pictures, the quality of lenses is, overall, much higher. So, unless you are needing to produce very high quality, large, professional images, then I am sure the lens you are looking at would give you perfectly good results.

    What full-frame equivalent the lens would be on your crop-sensor body is, I always feel, totally immaterial. For example, my 24-70 on my 40D is what it is - a 24-70 on a crop-sensor body. The fact that if it was on a full frame body would produce a wider field of view is, to me, not relevant. However, if you want to know the numbers then, for Canon, multiply the focal lengths by 1.6.

    And, finally, your 50mm f1.8. You either sell it if you cannot think of a use for it, or you keep it for those times when you need/want a very narrow depth-of-field.

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    RustBeltRaw's Avatar
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    Re: The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?

    It's pretty common for photographers to get great results from kit lenses. I think the 18-55 has a bad reputation because a lot of beginners use it to make a lot of poor to mediocre work. It would be interesting to have a kit lens photo competition here on CiC...

    Basically, your own skills are more important than your lens. As Donald said, the 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS might let you down for large prints, but that's pretty much its only weakness. For the money, it's an impressively solid piece of hardware. You may have to change some settings, but this page on The Digital Picture will let you compare the lens in question against a range of others (right up to Canon's $2,000 L-series primes) on a special test chart. I think you'll find the difference acceptably small.

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    inkista's Avatar
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    Re: The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?

    Shooting RAW and using post-processing skills also can play a part in how expensive the glass looks. Sharpness and color may not only come from the glass. You also have to learn how to use the lens. For me, my non-IS even-fuzzier 18-55 kit lens, tended to really shine in the f/8-f/11 neighborhood. But even wide open, it ain't that bad.

    The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?
    Canon XT/350D. EF-S 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 II (non-IS). @18mm, iso 100, f/3.5, 1/2000s. Shot RAW, processed in Lightroom 2.

    The film equivalency of 18mm on a crop is easily calculated by using the crop factor (18x1.6 -> 28.8mm), but if you've never shot with a 28mm lens on film, this is likely to mean nothing to you. To me, though, it counts as wide angle.

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?

    Quote Originally Posted by cyracles View Post
    i had/have a Canon 18-55mm kit lens which is infamous because of its non-functional autofocus and er.....quite not sharp images . . .
    It occurs to me that there is a lot of internet misinformation, based solely upon internet misinformation.
    I disagree with both those statements

    ***

    Quote Originally Posted by cyracles View Post
    i bought my camera (1000D) and the lens attached both used. The AF never worked. . . .My concern is that, does this lens produce sharp images? At what f/number is it really known to excel?
    It is indeed unusual that your lens did not auto focus.

    There are seven (7) versions of the EF-S 178 to 55 F/3.5~5.6 Kit Lens.
    I have used all but one.
    I own two.

    The version of this kit lens which has the worst overall IQ, is the EF-S 18 to 55 F/3.5~5.6 – I own this lens.

    As with all the versions, this worst version is exceptionally sharp between F/7 and F/10, for mostly all applications of Focal Length and all Shooting Distance.

    +++

    N.B. You can view all these sample LARGE, by clicking on them.

    +++

    All these lenses seem to be at their worst at FL = 18mm BUT even then, wide open at F/3.5, none of the lenses are slouches.

    This is an example of the “worst” of the seven at 18mm and wide open – (the same lens as Kathy's
    The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?
    18mm, F/3.5, 1/50s HH, ISO800 Manual Exposure

    ***

    Here is the crop at the edge
    The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?
    Don't mistake NOT De-noising this image, for lack of Sharpness.

    ***

    Stop this very 'poor quality' kit lens down a bit and it is very good in contrast, acutance, and resolution, in low level and soft room light:
    The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?
    21mm F/5.6 @ 1/2s @ ISO800, Tripod, Manual WB, Manual Exposure

    ***

    At FL = 55mm and wide open at F/5.6, this 'poor kit lens' still performs well albeit in very poor lighting conditions and can produce a good enough image for publication:
    The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?
    Li Cunxin (Mao’s Last Dancer), Sydney 2005

    . . . these are samples from the "worst" of the seven versions of the kit lens - all the subsequent models perform much better.

    WW
    Last edited by William W; 8th March 2013 at 01:42 PM.

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    Re: The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?

    Quote Originally Posted by inkista View Post
    . . . For me, my non-IS even-fuzzier 18-55 kit lens, tended to really shine in the f/8-f/11 neighborhood. But even wide open, it ain't that bad. . . .Canon XT/350D. EF-S 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 II (non-IS). @18mm, iso 100, f/3.5, 1/2000s. . . .
    I concur as per examples.

    WW

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    Re: The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?

    Wow, Bill. By calling the 18-55 infamous for low quality was not about the lens in itself. I just meant the one i bought attached to my used camera when i purchased it. The pictures i see here are very amazing..almost unbelievable they were taken with the 18-55mm.

    Lesson learnt, i should be and already am working on improving my skills and not get intimidated or discouraged about my not having the expensive things. Other things will fall in place i believe.

    I keep looking at the wrong direction over here and i really hope i stop it from distracting me; many photographers here have really expensice cameras and lenses but a lot of time, i now see some 75% of them shooting full auto all the time. Not undermining their skills but shooting a 5d mk ii in full auto all the time(like someone i know really does) sounds like a waste to me.....you'd think i'll learn from that but no...i blame every bad shot of mine on "oh, that lens is really bad as poster1234 said on somethingreviewsite.com", or blame the megapixel which is a myth i only recently rid myself of.

    It is a slow process and i'm working on it. Just glad to have you all here. And while you help improve skills, i will also from time to time want to learn about your thought process et al.

    Thanks.

  10. #10
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?

    Quote Originally Posted by cyracles View Post
    i should be and already am working on improving my skills and not get intimidated or discouraged about my not having the expensive things. Other things will fall in place i believe.

    Good.

    VERY GOOD.

    WW

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    Re: The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?

    Aren't there more than one version of this kit lens? Perhaps that would explain the varied results.

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    Re: The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowman View Post
    Aren't there more than one version of this kit lens? Perhaps that would explain the varied results.
    And it's not beyond the realms of possibility that Ife has a bad or damaged copy of the kit. That it doesn't autofocus and was used means the lens could be damaged. One sure sign that there's a problem with the lens itself is if it's softer on one side of the frame than the other--that generally indicates a shifted element.

    But user error has to be eliminated first.

    Quote Originally Posted by cyracles View Post
    ...The pictures i see here are very amazing..almost unbelievable they were taken with the 18-55mm.
    Take a look again at my flower shot. Note the crunchy crunchy bokeh in the background. Understand that sharpness and saturation were boosted in Lightroom, and that I shot in RAW. That shot sure as hell didn't come out of the camera looking like that. And then there's the fact that I was finally getting a handle on how to use the wide angle end of that lens by setting up some foreground interest. It's a combination of factors--not just the glass or the camera body. And there's also the fact that web sizes can conceal a lot of flaws and judicious editing and selection of which pictures you show in public can make you look a lot better than you are.

    ... i should be and already am working on improving my skills and not get intimidated or discouraged about my not having the expensive things. Other things will fall in place i believe.
    Yup. Technique before gear. Bad technique will follow you, no matter how good the gear is. L glass doesn't make up for bad composition. IS doesn't make up for bad handholding technique or not paying attention to your shutter speed. USM and burst mode can't improve your timing. These are still all just tools--you still have to learn how to use them.

    Yes, the kit lens is limited. Yes, there are much better lenses out there. But that doesn't mean the kit lens suddenly renders all your images butt ugly or that swapping lenses is necessarily going to improve your images.

    The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?
    Aaron Johnson's What the Duck

    We're all able to give you this advice, because we've all been there and learned it the hard way.

    ...i blame every bad shot of mine on "oh, that lens is really bad as poster1234 said on somethingreviewsite.com", or blame the megapixel which is a myth i only recently rid myself of.
    And we all do this. We're all gonna keep doing this. Unlike the majority of the other arts out there, photography very specifically is technology-dependent. You can paint without a brush. You can write without a computer. You can compose without a piano. You can cook without a stove. But you can't take a photograph without a camera and lens. Of course we're gear-obsessed.

    And as you progress, you will bump into gear limits. And they will frustrate you. Sometimes that frustration can fuel you to be more creative or to hone technique or try new methods, and sometimes they'll be obstacles worth throwing money at to get out of your way.

    A broken lens is a pain. And a 18-55 kit lens is limited. Within its limits in good condition, its damn good for the price. How much do you need to go past what a kit lens can do? And how much can you spend?

    Most of us who indulge in the higher-end gear do so for one of two reasons: we've got a larger than average discretionary income to throw on toys, or we need the stuff badly enough to shell out the bucks. When you're on a messageboard, some of the folks may be pros who can write gear off on their taxes as a business expense and need glass good enough to cut back their post-processing time. Others may be students on a shoestring with a lot of time to spend dinking about in Photoshop. Others may be the kind with lots of spare change for toys to play with (raises hand). Remember to judge the source of the advice as well as the advice itself.

    Nobody else is you. Nobody else is going to shoot what or how you are. You're the one who gets to decide if or when you need a new lens. But try to do it for concrete reasons and specific features you know you need.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?

    Quote Originally Posted by inkista View Post
    Yes, the kit lens is limited. Yes, there are much better lenses out there. But that doesn't mean the kit lens suddenly renders all your images butt ugly or that swapping lenses is necessarily going to improve your images.
    That should be printed and inserted with every new kit package (body & lens) that's sold. I'm saving it to quote again in the future.

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowman View Post
    Aren't there more than one version of this kit lens? Perhaps that would explain the varied results.

    Quote Originally Posted by William W View Post
    There are seven (7) versions of the EF-S 178 to 55 F/3.5~5.6 Kit Lens.
    I have used all but one.
    I own two.
    The version of this kit lens which has the worst overall IQ, is the EF-S 18 to 55 F/3.5~5.6 – I own this lens.
    As with all the versions, this worst version is exceptionally sharp between F/7 and F/10, for mostly all applications of Focal Length and all Shooting Distance.
    . . . example of the “worst” of the seven at 18mm and wide open – (the same lens as Kathy's
    . . .. these are samples from the "worst" of the seven versions of the kit lens - all the subsequent models perform much better.
    WW

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    Re: The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?

    Ife I have the Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS II. I used it to take this shot ( Raindrops on Vinca ) a couple of weeks ago and the picture posted below several months ago when I first bought the camera (the kit lens included). Note the freaky horizon.

    The first one is taken at 55mm and the one posted here at 18mm. The big difference between the two images, though, is about 5 months experience with the camera and lenses, and learning some processing skills.

    The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?

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    inkista's Avatar
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    Re: The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    That should be printed and inserted with every new kit package (body & lens) that's sold. I'm saving it to quote again in the future.
    Do I get royalties?

    And another kit lens shot. This time with a 2x crop sensor:

    Panasonic DMC-G3, 14-42 f/3.5-5.6 OIS kit lens.
    The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?

    Just 'cause your lenses are cheap doesn't mean they have to look cheap. f/8 and Lightroom are great equalizers among lenses.

  17. #17

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    Re: The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?

    I am pleased to tell you that i acquired the 18-55 IS II some hours ago. I will post pictures soon


    Kathy Li, like all the help i get on this website since i joined.......words cant express my appreciation. I suspect I'm in love...

    Thanks a lot.

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    Re: The 18-55mm kit lens. How sharp? How useful?

    Quote Originally Posted by inkista View Post
    You can paint without a brush. You can write without a computer. You can compose without a piano. You can cook without a stove. But you can't take a photograph without a camera and lens. Of course we're gear-obsessed.
    Well...um.... I can still take mental pictures, no camera needed for those

    Quote Originally Posted by inkista View Post
    Yes, the kit lens is limited. Yes, there are much better lenses out there. But that doesn't mean the kit lens suddenly renders all your images butt ugly or that swapping lenses is necessarily going to improve your images.
    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    That should be printed and inserted with every new kit package (body & lens) that's sold. I'm saving it to quote again in the future.
    Thruth of the matter is, those who buy a (camera and) kitlens are often first time buyers, manufacturers would be stupid if it had bad image-quality because they'd risk losing that customer to the competition. It takes a bit of effort from them to make us to become CaNikPenOlySon fanboys/girls that stick to our brand of choice, and it certainly wouldn't help if we weren't happy with most of the pictures we made.
    The usual suspects where manufacturers cut corners with kitlenses are versatility and durability, so they can sell you the more expensive flashgun/fast zoom or that 'prosumer' lens with metal mount and heavier build.

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