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Cameras, Lenses and Accessories: Discuss It's not that bad....Canon EF-s 18-55 USM. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it. My first foray into the exciting new world of ...
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Old 09-07-2008, 06:23   #1 (permalink)
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It's not that bad.

Canon EF-s 18-55 USM.

Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.

My first foray into the exciting new world of Digital Photography was made possible by the advent of the budget priced consumer level SLR in the form of the Canon EOS 350D. At the time I purchased the camera it was bundled with the much maligned (by myself) EF-s 18-55 kit lens.

By way of an apology to Canon and those few that took notice of my inane ramblings, I would like to illustrate what can be achieved with this optic once its strong areas are understood.

Let’s take a quick look at it externally:


I’m not going to lie to you now, this lens is cheap in almost every sense of the word. It is manufactured almost entirely of plastic, the manual focus ring is almost impossible to use without dawbing lipids across the front element and, the looseness of construction made me think it was broken straight out of the box.

The plastic mount was also of concern as I assumed this would wear with fitment and removal, thus depositing ABS shavings across the surface of the sensor.

Zooming is another poor aspect of this lens, certainly from a tactile standpoint. When moving from 18mm to 55mm the resistance goes from “almost jammed” to “free to float” and back to “jammed” in about a 270 degree motion.
All these things are true and don’t make for good reading if this happens to be your first and maybe your only lens.

Time to put things in perspective:

At the price these can be bought for and given the usefulness of the zoom range, it’s fair to say this lens should be re-titled “The Nifty 18-55ey”. From my experience this lens out-performs the 50mm 1.8 with the added benefit of a variable focal length, admittedly the 50mm beats it for light gathering capability but at the expense of edge sharpness. Moreover, in everyday use, I was never concerned about using it in places where it could potentially be damaged. This is a refreshing change from having to consider carefully the value of my investment over the value of getting a great shot.
It’s very light, so much so that I could hardly tell the difference in the weight of the camera with or without the lens which is a real bonus when just meandering for casual snaps. If you’ve ever been out for a day with a Nikon D200 and an 80-200 hanging round your neck you’ll know where I’m coming from.

Autofocus was another surprise to me. Whilst the lens does not benefit from a USM motor it is still surprisingly quick and rarely faltered unless conditions were truly adverse.

Macro:

The lens sports a macro setting for doing those close ups of that unusual bug that happens across your path. Whilst the lens icon suggests the lens has macro capability, in its truest sense this is only a close focus option. That said, it does turn a respectable .28 magnification at 55mm which can be a saviour in some circumstances.

Sharpness:

This is probably the most talked about characteristic of any lens and, much as I hate to say it, is probably the most important factor. Many weak points in an optic can be corrected with relative ease in post processing such as, vignette, chromatic aberration and geometric distortion. Sadly, sharpness is the one that even the most advanced image editing software struggles with.
The 18-55 turns a fairly good performance across its focal range its best being stopped down to f8.0. Its weakest area being 18mm wide open where a good proportion of the image will not be sharp.

Colour and Contrast:

When reviewing images from the 350D + 18-55 I have found colour reproduction to be natural although far from punchy. Once again, this is nothing that cannot be tuned to the users taste in post processing. On the copies I have owned, the contrast has always been a bit on the low side by comparison to EF lenses. This may or may not be a bad thing as I have never really been a big fan of over contrasty images and I guess this is a personal point anyway.

Final thoughts:

The more I think about it the more I realise I have been unduly harsh on this lens. Why I ever expected anything more from it alludes me, in fact, I should be singing it’s praises for the price/performance ratio.
As an optic to get people going straight out of the box, I believe Canon put more thought into this than I originally gave them credit for.
I won’t kid anyone into thinking it will in any way out-perform professional glass but this lens should not be disregarded just because it is branded with the term “kit”
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Last edited by Soupdragon; 09-07-2008 at 06:29.
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Old 09-07-2008, 06:46   #2 (permalink)
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Re: It's not that bad.

Hi Soupy, where ya been? A nice write up for a much malighed lens,Why don't you add it to the Equipment Reviews section.
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Old 09-07-2008, 06:51   #3 (permalink)
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Re: It's not that bad.

Great review Soup

I have to agree it's not a bad lens. We use two at work just for product shots to be used on the web.
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Old 09-07-2008, 08:05   #4 (permalink)
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Re: It's not that bad.

Thanks for taking time to add review
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Old 09-07-2008, 09:13   #5 (permalink)
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Re: It's not that bad.

Sorry, did I put it in the wrong place.

Please feel free to move or discard as you see fit.
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Old 09-07-2008, 09:13   #6 (permalink)
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Re: It's not that bad.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave View Post
Thanks for taking time to add review
You asked me to!
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Old 09-07-2008, 09:20   #7 (permalink)
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Re: It's not that bad.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Soupdragon View Post
Sorry, did I put it in the wrong place.

Please feel free to move or discard as you see fit.
No Soupy, it's fine here
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Old 09-07-2008, 09:22   #8 (permalink)
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Re: It's not that bad.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Soupdragon View Post
You asked me to!
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Old 09-07-2008, 18:29   #9 (permalink)
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Re: It's not that bad.

Quote:
It's not that bad.
Agreed, yes its cheap, low quality and as a result is slated all over the show. I've been using this lens for months and it's suprising the results you can get with it, and in reality as a first SLR lens it's good enough. I certainly won't be binning it when I upgrade, great backup!
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Old 10-07-2008, 06:26   #10 (permalink)
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Re: It's not that bad.

In all honesty I think its days are numbered.
I do not anticipate there being any new APS sensor slr's made within the next couple of years.
That said, two years is a fair amount of time.
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Old 10-07-2008, 08:17   #11 (permalink)
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Re: It's not that bad.

I also got the EF-S 18-55mm as the kit lens on my 400D when I bought it. I used it for almost a year due to no funds to upgrade and once I stopped worrying about how plastic it was I actually got on fine with it. Sure, it's a budget lens and that means you make some allowances, but it is a good starter lens and I have some really good pictures taken with it.
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Old 10-07-2008, 10:05   #12 (permalink)
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Re: It's not that bad.

yay good to see more people realising just how good this wee lens is! I am fed up people constantly slating it and not taking the time to actually learn the best situations to use it in. i used it for about 8 months as my walk about lens and have shot some ( IMO) fabulous stuff with it.
its gathering dust now but occasionally get put on the 400D for the wee man to use!

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Old 17-07-2008, 01:56   #13 (permalink)
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Re: It's not that bad.

Quote:
Zooming is another poor aspect of this lens, certainly from a tactile standpoint. When moving from 18mm to 55mm the resistance goes from “almost jammed” to “free to float” and back to “jammed” in about a 270 degree motion.
That's horrible ! I had a friend have that happen to a 50-200mm that he bought for 1300 $ from zuiko. It's working fine now, he had to take it apart himself and fix it because the company refused to take it back (as this was how it came out of the box, he had no idea till he talked to a friend of ours who shoots with National Geographic that this wasn't the way the thing was supposed to operate). I can't remember what he did to fix that, though, I do know that no lens should perform stickily like that less its broken.
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