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04-11-2010, 01:08 PM   #1
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All who would criticize cheap & plastic lenses - READ THIS!

Are heavy metal-glass lenses better than lightweight-plastic lenses?

Read this and draw your own conclusions: And now let us praise light, cheap lenses

Avoiding plagiarism, here's the outline:
And now the mythology of the plastic fantastic...

Myth: plastic lenses are not durable.
Myth: it is easy to cross-thread plastic lens threads.
Myth: plastic lens mounts are inferior.
Myth: plastic lenses have more slop.

And now the benefits of lightweight plastic lenses...

Benefit: low cost, high performance for the money.
Benefit: fast autofocusing.
Benefit: less fatigue:

And now the pratfalls of photographic hubris...

It's just not good enough (for me).
The photographer thinks it will take better pictures.
The photographer thinks he already takes better pictures.
And while we're at it: this recent post of links to Pentax lens tests points to Popular Photography tests of a clone of the DA18-55/3.5-5.6 kit lens that so many despise.

PopPhoto's rating: EXCELLENT. It's lab test results: A+ for prints up to 8x10 inches at all focal lengths and apertures except 35/32 and 55/38, where it's merely an A, same as for 11x14" prints everywhere but 55/38. 16x20" prints also get an A at 35/4.5-11.

Are those who think the kit lens sucks WRONG? Or are PopPhoto's lab tests wrong, and should we destroy every issue ever printed and detonate their offices and labs?

04-11-2010, 01:32 PM   #2
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I've used the original Mk I kit lens since 2005 and never had a problem with it's build or IQ. However lots of reviews or evaluations don't measure the fact that it's colours are a bit duller (I have a comparison somewhere), or the fact that it's pretty slow at F3.5-5.6. QC may also lead people to believe it's worse than it actually is (mine is good).

Kit lenses will almost always be better value for money due to diminishing returns. However there's subjective enjoyment associated with using a * or Limited lens; they feel nicer to use in practice, and of course they're usually sharp while being faster which increases costs a lot.

I don't think it's unreasonable to call kit lenses "boring" or "unexciting" but that doesn't discredit how good they are overall.
04-11-2010, 01:33 PM   #3
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I for one don't feel that plastic made lens should be considered cheaper and less then steller lenses. It's really based on the optical formula and the lens elements inside that count. :-)

The same can be said about the old steel cars of the past, when I was working in auto parts, many people kept telling me that their old 1960's-1970's steel car was better in protection then their new "whatever" and it's all made of soft crap etc. Well the newer cars are designed to crumple and absorb the majority of the force of the impact so that the passengers would not have to, thus reducing the amount of injuries that can potentially occur.

Anyways it's a good read and yes I'm still looking for a good deal on a 18-55 AL II kit lens :-P They are still one of the best bangs for the buck one can get :-)
04-11-2010, 02:41 PM   #4
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it depends on what type of plastic or stress tolerance the plastic could hold (not all plastics are durable, some can be brittle as well). I'm not entirely against plastic constructed lenses but one must consider the plastic type and the adhesives used in putting the lens together. it is possible to put great optics in a plastic lens body.


I don't mind having a plastic mount as this avoid any scratches produced by friction between the metal mountings of both lens and camera.

I don't believe that being plastic makes AF much faster. AF speed depends on how the AF feature of the lens is constructed rather than the type of material used.

now, if there was main advantage that plastic lenses possess, that is lightweightness.

04-11-2010, 02:42 PM   #5
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The original Pentax kit lens was really an amazing lens, actually I think all of the original kit lenses from Canon and Nikon were also great (although most of them were critisized for various reasons), but it's when they started refining them that it didn't work too well (the Canon 18-55mm Mark II (not IS) is crap, but the original was capable of some great photos) except for with Pentax of course.
04-11-2010, 03:00 PM   #6
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I believe the Pentax kit lens II is the better design by all accounts, actually, with later versions being the same design, at least. For a kit lens, as good as a kit lens gets, really. Quite nice stopped down and in the middle of the range. Weight about negligible, bulk, more than I prefer to carry around just to have true wide-angle, but hey.

My attitude toward a good plastic lens is mostly that it's a good plastic lens. With my old Canons I carry a mix of the solid-as-a-tank metal SSC ones, which I really love, and the later ones which are lighter and usually somewhat more-compact. Toward the end of the FD line, they started making a lot of *very* plastickey ones which in fact did suck pretty badly, particularly for QC and often cause they'd make optical and performance compromises to produce something more consumer-friendly. I think there's a certain romance about the old metal, as well as the fact that the first plastic lenses out there did have a tendency to be the cheapest available.
04-11-2010, 03:21 PM   #7
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I'm quite happy with plastic lenses when they do the job. Recently I had to return a Loreo Deluxe 3D Viewer because the moulded lenses had so many aberrations That with my glasses the viewer was unusable and without my glasses I could achieve focus. There was no problem with the refund and while they acknowledged the ripples in the lens they asserted that it was not usually a problem. They offered to include me in test driving future designs. There is a difference between moulded and ground lenses. I like top quality plastic!
04-11-2010, 03:24 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by cosmicap Quote
I could achieve focus. There was no problem with the refund and while they

Sorry: I could NOT achieve focus. !!

04-11-2010, 03:30 PM   #9
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The only issue I have with your post is that you say "that everyone despises" referring to the kit lens, when in fact one thing that is generally agreed upon is that the Pentax 18-55 is the best kit lens in the business and a pretty good lens in it's own right.
04-11-2010, 03:51 PM   #10
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I see just about everything through plastic lenses unless I'm looking for a screw that I just dropped.

The old Takumar lenses are very well built but it doesn't mean those lenses were perfect either. Check out the lens hood on the right. New guy on the engraving machine?:

04-11-2010, 04:34 PM   #11
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Something I might disagree with though is that the lenses really aren't that sturdy. You get a ton of play in the barrel and such which in some cases can lead to totally different image quality outcomes from photo to photo.
04-11-2010, 06:28 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Just1MoreDave Quote
I see just about everything through plastic lenses unless I'm looking for a screw that I just dropped.

The old Takumar lenses are very well built but it doesn't mean those lenses were perfect either. Check out the lens hood on the right. New guy on the engraving machine?:

Maybe the same as the OPT. (optical), JAPA is an abbreviation of Japan??
04-11-2010, 06:31 PM   #13
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They were low on ink that day. They had to abbreviate everything.
04-11-2010, 06:31 PM   #14
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Any type of material will be sturdy or will endure and would all depend on how it is used and handled.
There are porcelains thousands of years old and they still have their lustre and are intact.
Metals rust and corrode so if you expose them to salt spray, then the story would be different.
Same as with plastic, you roughly handle the plastic and it will break.
As to the optical quality, plastic is just the casing and the performance of the lens is in the glass.
04-11-2010, 07:05 PM   #15
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I personally don't mind plastic lenses, but I do tend to buy more older metal glass just because it feels so much better. True, it may not be as sharp as some of these newer lenses, but the way a metal lens feels and weighs just cannot be taken away.
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