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02-13-2014, 08:05 AM   #1
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The kit lens is not a good walk-around lens.

I'm a little bit frustrated... sure the kit lens (my version is the AL II) is useful on some lengths... but its imprecision in focusing, along with the softness at 55mm make it hard to rely on.

This morning I walked out in the Atlanta snow - a rare beautiful scenery, and it was still snowing, so I didn't want to put on any of my better lenses. I figured the kit lens would do OK with the snow because it's reasonably sharp at around 20-30mm and while I'm not a fan of its colors, in the white snow it should be fine!

As soon as I walk out, I"m greeted with a bird. It's just staring at me and allows me to get really close. So instinctively I go to 55mm and see how close I can get to this bird...



Even with focus confirmation, this still looked very out of focus, but I know it's not because it was out of focus - it's because it was extremely soft. The image you see has sharpening applied to it, plus two Wavelet Sharpener plugin instances! And it still looks soft and undefined. So the kit lens made me waste a photo opportunity and all I got was a soft, bad picture. That's not all though - the focus hunted really bad in the snow and locked the camera several times.

It did a bit better at 18mm (lots of sharpening, contrast and saturation had to be applied):



As soon as my Tokina 19-35mm gets here, the kit lens goes on sale, to help fund my "24mm prime fund" ... whatever I can get for it will be fine - I'm done with that lens...


Last edited by ChristianRock; 02-13-2014 at 08:14 AM.
02-13-2014, 08:13 AM   #2
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Can you post high-res?
02-13-2014, 08:16 AM   #3
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Edit: I tried and it didn't work, when I'm off work I'll try and get the original, unprocessed file from my other computer...
02-13-2014, 08:23 AM   #4
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Does it look better once you adjust the exposure, and is this cropped all the way to 100%?

02-13-2014, 08:27 AM - 1 Like   #5
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That's a tricky exposure - dark bird against a white background. Aside from that, the snow crystals at lower left and under the bird seem to be sharper than the bird. Possibly a back-focusing problem. What aperture did you use?
02-13-2014, 08:27 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by TER-OR Quote
Does it look better once you adjust the exposure, and is this cropped all the way to 100%?
It was adjusted for exposure quite a bit (the 18-55 AL II underexposes quite a bit sometimes). I probably should crank the exposure even more.

And no, no cropping, this is the full, uncropped picture...

I guess if it's this bad, I must have done something wrong... or maybe the lens is front focusing severely at 55mm (it doesn't at lower lengths which is where I usually have used it in the past).

---------- Post added 02-13-14 at 10:29 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by paulh Quote
That's a tricky exposure - dark bird against a white background. Aside from that, the snow crystals at lower left and under the bird seem to be sharp. Possibly a back-focusing problem. What aperture did you use?
That was wide open at f/5.6. I know, that's probably part of my problem... but I just wanted to quickly capture the moment...

The funny thing is that it seems like there's snow flakes that are in focus both in front and behind the bird (the ones on the left are in front). So that makes me think that the bird is in fact in focus, and the lens just couldn't resolve the image. Plus f/5.6 at that distance should have given me enough DOF, I was like 2 feet from it. Minimum focus is about half that, I think.
02-13-2014, 08:30 AM   #7
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I have the AL II version as well. I also find it soft and not very bright at that exposure as well. It's now for sale on fleabay . I purchased a used DA*16-50 and am very happy with its results. Like night and day compared to the kit, but it also cost me 6 times as much too.
02-13-2014, 08:34 AM   #8
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Granted the 18-55mm isn't the sharpest of lenses, however I find when one is photographing in snow one cannot rely on the cameras metering alone. The exposure or ev step needs to be adjusted anywhere from +1/2 to 2 stops depending on the lighting. Otherwise your photos will come out darker and grey appearing, this is true with any camera and lens combo.

QuoteOriginally posted by ChristianRock Quote
That was wide open at f/5.6. I know, that's probably part of my problem... but I just wanted to quickly capture the moment...

The funny thing is that it seems like there's snow flakes that are in focus both in front and behind the bird (the ones on the left are in front). So that makes me think that the bird is in fact in focus, and the lens just couldn't resolve the image. Plus f/5.6 at that distance should have given me enough DOF, I was like 2 feet from it. Minimum focus is about half that, I think.
at 55mm your lens @ f5.6 and a distance of 2' will give you slightly over 1" depth of field. Your near focus limit would be 1.956' and rear focus limit at 2.046', that's not a lot of depth to expect a lot in focus.


Last edited by Oldbayrunner; 02-13-2014 at 08:48 AM.
02-13-2014, 08:35 AM   #9
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Any chance that your lens was fogged due to the transition from warm/moist to cold? This can happen internally as well as on the front/back elements and may even be made worse with WR sealing.


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02-13-2014, 08:35 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Driline Quote
I have the AL II version as well. I also find it soft and not very bright at that exposure as well. It's now for sale on fleabay . I purchased a used DA*16-50 and am very happy with its results. Like night and day compared to the kit, but it also cost me 6 times as much too.
After I was done taking some pictures with the AL II, I put on the 35mm 2.4 "Plastic Fantastic" and took some more pictures. It was like night and day. All the prime pictures were keepers. 80% of the kit lens pictures just didn't look right. One of the 2-3 that were OK was posted above, it seems to do OK near the wide end. Above 30mm, only if it has enough light. I have ok pictures from the beach in the sun, at around f8 or f11. Maybe I should keep the lens as my "beach and sand" lens, when I'm afraid to take any other lens out.

---------- Post added 02-13-14 at 10:36 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
Any chance that your lens was fogged due to the transition from warm/moist to cold? This can happen internally as well as on the front/back elements and may even be made worse with WR sealing.


Steve
It is possible, though that picture of my house was taken about 2 minutes later, and it doesn't seem fogged at all.

---------- Post added 02-13-14 at 10:38 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Oldbayrunner Quote
Granted the 18-55mm isn't the sharpest of lenses, however I find when one is photographing in snow one cannot rely on the cameras metering alone. The exposure or ev step needs to be adjusted anywhere from +1/2 to 2 stops depending on the lighting. Otherwise your photos will come out darker and grey appearing, this is true with any lens.
I agree, that's probably part of the issue here, it's probably a combination of factors, and a worse case scenario. The picture you see was adjusted over 1 stop in exposure. I guess it was taken so darkly, that it couldn't resolve the "shadows" (which is the bird's dark colors). When I took a picture of the house, I had adjusted the exposure already, and it shows in the picture.
02-13-2014, 08:54 AM   #11
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I'd really crank the exposure until you can see the bird's details. I can't tell what type of bird this is from the image now. That will at least help you figure out where the lens is focusing.

There is a reason people "graduate" from kit lenses, though.
02-13-2014, 08:55 AM   #12
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That bird is a tricky subject - dark object on a white background. My recollection from when I used the kit lens is that it was reasonably sharp. My memory could be bad, or maybe I was lucky and got a better copy, or maybe there's something you can change.

What software do you use? If you use Lightroom and raw/DNG images, undo all your changes on the bird, then try adjusting the "blacks" slider to brighten the bird. If blacks doesn't work well, give "shadows" a try, and finally adjust the overall exposure. Reduce contrast to see if you get more detail in the bird. Play with sharpening after the exposure is adjusted. You can do similar things with JPG (but with more difficulty and maybe less success) or with other software.

During image capture, try these things, but I realize it's too late for the bird photo after the fact: Stop down to f8 for maximum sharpness when there's enough light. Overexpose the scene to brighten the bird, then fix snow highlights during processing or just let them be blown out. The bird's body doesn't have much contrast and AF might fail to lock onto it; set focus to center point only, focus on the edge of the bird, recompose as needed.

Check the AF fine adjust under controlled conditions on a tripod if none of the above helps. Your camera+lens combination might be misadjusted.
02-13-2014, 09:08 AM   #13
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You're going to sell it, and surely some fool is going to buy it😊


02-13-2014, 09:12 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by TER-OR Quote
I'd really crank the exposure until you can see the bird's details. I can't tell what type of bird this is from the image now. That will at least help you figure out where the lens is focusing.

There is a reason people "graduate" from kit lenses, though.
There's not a whole more detail to show in that bird... which is probably the K20D's dynamic range fault as well.
I'll probably work on that bird later and see if I can get a better image out of it, but I don't even think the kit lens is good for beginners. When I first got the K20D with it, and tried to take pictures inside, it misfocused so badly and locked the camera so many times (due to not being able to lock focus), that I thought something was broken...
Its only use (at least with the K20D) is to take to places with tons of light, and where it would be hazardous to take a better lens (like the beach).

QuoteOriginally posted by DeadJohn Quote
That bird is a tricky subject - dark object on a white background. My recollection from when I used the kit lens is that it was reasonably sharp. My memory could be bad, or maybe I was lucky and got a better copy, or maybe there's something you can change.

What software do you use? If you use Lightroom and raw/DNG images, undo all your changes on the bird, then try adjusting the "blacks" slider to brighten the bird. If blacks doesn't work well, give "shadows" a try, and finally adjust the overall exposure. Reduce contrast to see if you get more detail in the bird. Play with sharpening after the exposure is adjusted. You can do similar things with JPG (but with more difficulty and maybe less success) or with other software.

During image capture, try these things, but I realize it's too late for the bird photo after the fact: Stop down to f8 for maximum sharpness when there's enough light. Overexpose the scene to brighten the bird, then fix snow highlights during processing or just let them be blown out. The bird's body doesn't have much contrast and AF might fail to lock onto it; set focus to center point only, focus on the edge of the bird, recompose as needed.

Check the AF fine adjust under controlled conditions on a tripod if none of the above helps. Your camera+lens combination might be misadjusted.
I use Corel Aftershot Pro. Before I adjusted the levels, the bird was just a black blob. I think it's probably got to do with the severe underexposing that happened, and the fact that the K20D just doesn't have that much dynamic range. If this was a K-5 or newer, I'm sure I could have recovered a lot more detail from that bird.

Still, the point is that a "walk around lens" should be a lens that you can rely on, to quickly take a picture without having to spend a minute metering or adjusting your levels until you are happy with your exposure. For that, my manual primes do a better job anyway.
The walk-around lens needs to expose, and focus quickly and reliably. My DA 35 2.4 would have nailed that shot. That is what I should have had on the camera at that moment.

QuoteOriginally posted by altopiet Quote
You're going to sell it, and surely some fool is going to buy it��
Maybe I'll start the auction at 1 dollar, so I don't feel too bad about it
If they use it on a K5 or K30 or K50, due to the better ISO handling, auto-focus and the better shadow resolution, it's probably going to be much more useful than it is on my K20D.
02-13-2014, 09:22 AM   #15
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It's been so long since I used the K10 I really can't think that way anymore. I know the K5 would have yielded a usable image, so you're likely correct blaming the dynamic range. There are other zoom options, if you're looking for that.

Overcast and snowy are among the worst conditions, though. The contrast is so low the camera has trouble. I have some experience in those conditions! Many days I'll just not bother taking the camera because it's just yucky out.
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