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11-14-2017, 03:56 AM   #1
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How to squeeze the best from the 18-55 kit lens?

18 -55 kit lens is a nice lens for cheap wide-angle on APS-C. While LBA strikes me from time to time to buy some "real" wide angle (does not matter faster, sharper or wider than the kit lens) I cannot find real bargain for this and still use mine. In fact I suppose I do not need better lens at least for landscape use so decided not to waste a time and keep my kit for 18 - 21/(or 24) mm range.

Maybe someone can share here some advice how to "squeeze" the best quality using the kit lens?

To start I can give some points from my informal tests:
  • I found that both Lightroom profile I use in RawTherapee and DXO Optics profile improve the IQ slightly so I'm quite happy with the results.
  • Also for whatever reason my DAL version copy gives marginally better results on my main camera body compared to my DA II copy (AF seems little more reliable).So if you have more copies test them!
  • I use of course this one with the hood which seems to help and always shot in RAWs.
  • I also would say that this lens at 21 mm is already somewheat better compared to wide end.
Personally I'm rather intersted in 18 - 24 mm (or even 18 - 21) range as I have much more better lenses starting at 24/28 mm.

11-14-2017, 04:32 AM   #2
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I think that lens is sharpest around 35mm and f8. Doing good PP can help, like increasing contrasts, adjusting hues, adding sharpening. Using the lens hood, low ISO, having a steady hand are also big factors in overall image quality. Finding good light is important as well.
But overall its really difficult to quantify why one lens is better than another. Sure, there are sharpness and CA and flare resistance, but there is more to it than that. The DA 21mm limited gives such amazing colours, contrasts, something the kit lens never did for me. If you shoot raw and are good at PP, you can bring the kit lens closer, but its easier if you start with a better lens.

So I think the tips above are already pretty good.

Oh, and interesting you mention trying different copies. Some years ago we had a thread where someone tested a lot of these kit lenses and found big differences between copies. The best one was actually pretty good, but some were terrible. I guess part of the reason why its affordable is that there is less precision during manufacture and QC
11-14-2017, 05:42 AM   #3
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I concur with Na Horuk. I use the 18-55 a lot and try to avoid using it wide open and at 18mm. Good light helps a lot of course as does judicious PP. I also use a polarising filter as often as possible.
11-14-2017, 05:57 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Na Horuk Quote
...

Oh, and interesting you mention trying different copies. Some years ago we had a thread where someone tested a lot of these kit lenses and found big differences between copies. The best one was actually pretty good, but some were terrible. I guess part of the reason why its affordable is that there is less precision during manufacture and QC
Well, it seems that one works better with AF of one of my camera bodies. I never had a feeling that another copy needs to check for front-/backfocus, but, maybe this is the case. Anyway difference at 100% is clearly visible.

11-14-2017, 06:16 AM   #5
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There does seem to be a lot of variation between copies of the various DA18-55's. Mine is pretty reasonable, but not as good as my DA16-45. Sharpness is the main problem - make sure that you set the fine tune focus adjust properly on a distant target and then apply some sharpening in post. The MFT program mode works well with it on my K-5ii.

Flickriver: kh1234567890's photos tagged with smcpda1855mmf3556alwr
11-14-2017, 06:46 AM   #6
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I have owned a total of five of these lenses, including two DA 18-55s, a DA L 18-55, a DA 18-55 II, and a Schneider Kreutznach branded variant that came with a Samsung GX-1L. Honestly, I can't find a lick of difference between them in terms of performance. They're all consistently quite good. I still own both of the DA 18-55s and the DA 18-55 II. The Schneider stayed with the Samsung camera when I gave it to my then-girlfriend and I quickly sold off the DA L because I don't like plastic lens bases.
11-14-2017, 08:53 AM   #7
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It's excellent or near excellent every where with weak edges at 18mm but it's a very good least at 35mm.... according to the 10 MP Photozone test.





Pentax SMC-DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL - Review / Test Report - Analysis

The 16 MP image WR lens looks like a different lens. Different design? Sample variation? More MP leads to different curves? It's anyone's guess as far as i can tell.
http://www.opticallimits.com/pentax/641-pentax1855f3556wr?start=1
11-14-2017, 11:20 AM - 1 Like   #8
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For a little more than two years, the DA18-55WR used to be the only lens I had for my first Pentax DSLR, a K-7. Which means that it was the lens that rendered the first images that I was happy with from that camera. It wasn't a stellar lens, but no slouch for a cheap kit zoom either. It was reasonably well built, came with its own hood and even a reasonable degree of weather-sealing (which my other lenses are even lacking today).

The main shortcoming is, in my book, the less-than-impressive pop of the images, both with regard to colour saturation and microcontrast, before you make them fly in post. Along with the fact, that there are so many better-performing lenses in the Pentax line-up even at consumer level. That said, with each new iteration of the RAW converters I used on those images, I seemed to be able to squeeze a little more image quality out of the files, so that nowadays when I let PhotoLab work its magic on them, I'd say they're looking pretty decent. Some of these images I really cherish, keenly aware that I wouldn't have them if it were not for that particular lens. Like the one below, which I shot hand-held (sometimes SR will save the day) in the dimly-lit Basilica di San Marco, at a modest wide-angle. Will I ever return to that enchanting place, and who will bother on viewing the image that it was taken with a cheapo kit zoom?

The full-res version of this image on my SmugMug site does it even more justice: https://needacreate.smugmug.com/Lake-Garda-Venice-the-Veneto/i-NNjLwmC/A

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Last edited by Madaboutpix; 11-14-2017 at 12:09 PM.
11-14-2017, 11:48 AM - 2 Likes   #9
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Some more kit zoom fun from the same trip back in 2012, reprocessed to taste in PhotoLab. Again, check out full-res versions here: Lake Garda, Venice & the Veneto - Marc
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Last edited by Madaboutpix; 11-14-2017 at 12:06 PM.
11-14-2017, 09:48 PM   #10
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I have seen copies that are good at 18mm but mine wasn't, especially at closer ranges. Medium and distant focus points were ok. In general, if I stayed within 24-45mm it gave good results.

Having said that, I sold it and got a DA 16-45mm which I think is the best value in a Pentax lens. It's quite an improvement over the 18-55 I think. I love mine even despite the barrel wobble. You can get one for 150 dollars or less (mine was 120).
6 Days Ago   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChristianRock Quote
Having said that, I sold it and got a DA 16-45mm which I think is the best value in a Pentax lens. It's quite an improvement over the 18-55 I think. I love mine even despite the barrel wobble. You can get one for 150 dollars or less (mine was 120).
Optically the DA16-45 is much better than the DA18-55. From an ergonomic point of view the DA18-55 wins hands on though. Pentax should have revamped the DA16-45 (WR, HD coatings etc) instead of dumping it.

DA16-45
6 Days Ago   #12
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Thank you all for the replies so far. Well kit lens is free and it is not too easy to get bargain if you look for better wide-angle lens. Maybe I will try to make my own profile just for 18, 21 and 24 mm FL and will check if it will give mi some better results. If yes I can share it here.
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