18-55mm: thoughts, impressions?

Discussion in 'Sony Alpha E-Mount Lenses' started by Luckypenguin, Sep 26, 2012.

  1. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin TalkEmount Regular

    Sep 26, 2012
    Brisbane, Australia
    Hi everyone,

    Going back to the days of my first DSLR I have always liked the utility of a standard (~28-80, 28-135) zoom lens, but in more recent times as I moved away from DSLRs I have found myself shooting mostly with prime lenses in the Micro 4/3 system. For whatever reason I find myself less inclined to use a standard zoom lens on those cameras, and so from early this year I have instead been using a Canon G1X in this role (plus I like a little diversity). This camera has been great but with the two following exceptions that I find to be an issue occasionally: somewhat clunky operation and limited dynamic range in highlights compared to the latest tech (i.e. Sony) sensors. As a result of these doubts and after coming across a good deal on a NEX I've found myself trialling a 5N + 18-55mm for the last few days to see if it would be a better fit for me.

    To the point of this post; I just want to establish whether my impressions of the 18-55mm are consistent with that of some more experienced users here and to confirm that my sample is representative. The lens feels quite nice to hold and operate, it's not too big or heavy and the zoom is smooth and precise. AF speed (obviously a function of the body and the lens) is okay, certainly better than the G1X. Image quality seems a little mixed, though. I realise that the 18-55mm is basically a "kit lens" that doesn't cost a whole lot of money but this is the zoom range that I am looking for. The centre sharpness seems fine but I find that it starts to drop off noticeably towards the edges. It also barrels and vignettes at wider angles but I am shooting raw, processing in LR 4.1 and using the 18-55mm lens profile that does a good job of fixing these. Does that seem like a fair assessment? I haven't had a chance to give the 5N/18-55 a proper workout yet, so these are early impressions given my limited "real world" usage so far.

    BTW, I'm finding the 5N body itself to be quite good so far and I think that I could live with it's controls and ergonomics as long as it is fitted with a lens about the size of the 18-55mm or smaller. The dynamic range is broader than that of the G1X but it is the quality of the lens on the Canon that makes the comparison a difficult one.
  2. Poki

    Poki TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 30, 2011
    The 18-55mm lens certainly is not the best lens on the NEX system. In my experience, it's technically the worst apart from maybe the 16mm, although I personally prefer the colors and general look of the latter lens much better.

    However, it has really usable resolution, especially on sensors with not more than 16 MP, edge sharpness is quite good from 24-50mm if you stop down a stop or two and there are hardly any problems with color fringing or something like this. Distortion is only a problem from 18 to 21 mm, every other focal length looks pretty distortion free, even on the completely uncorrected NEX-5.

    You probably know it can't compare to a good prime lens like the 24mm 1.8 or the Sigma 30mm 2.8, but as a kit zoom, it's at least up on par with offerings from other manufacturers. The OSS works okay, but I never thought it was sufficient in video use. If you like a zoom in this range, the Sony 18-55mm is a pretty solid offering for its price, but the upcoming 16-50mm pancake zoom is expected to best it in most regards.
  3. Bugleone

    Bugleone TalkEmount Veteran

    Aug 21, 2011
    The 18-55 is an excellent lens considering it's low price, light weight, small size and vast capability. I assumed that it would be for very basic snapshot use but have now had two 20x16 inch prints in exhibitions from this lens.......

    It DOES have limitations and this is not unexpected considering the modest profile,...the worst factor is the 'parabolic' performance curve. Because of this, I ONLY use this lens in 'A' mode at f8 (or occasionally f5.6)...either side of this performance drops of quickly.

  4. Poki

    Poki TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 30, 2011
    I have a 45x30 inch print from it and it looks quite good (but then again I even printed a iPhone photo 45x30 and think it looks okay ...). Don't use it anymore 'cos I prefer primes but if you know its limitations it's certainly a worthy lens.
  5. Bimjo

    Bimjo Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Oct 28, 2011
    Washington State
    The SEL1855 is a stellar lens for what it is. What is it? It's a very inexpensive zoom lens intended to be sold as part of a camera/lens combo so people can actually shoot pictures when they buy the camera. Every interchangeable lens camera system manufacturer has one.

    As kit zoom lenses go it's probably the best one I've ever seen. This site (and others) is rife with example pics that will back that statement up. That doesn't mean that it's perfect. It certainly isn't, but until you reach the point as a photographer that the lens is holding you back you'll get yeoman service from it.

    I shot fast zooms (constant f/2.8, except for UWA) on my Pentax for years & other than some DOF issues I don't miss them on the 5N.

    That's my take on it, YMMV. :)
  6. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin TalkEmount Regular

    Sep 26, 2012
    Brisbane, Australia
    Thanks for the info everyone. I haven't really got a feel for it just yet (or the camera for that matter!), so this is all very helpful. I just like to get a good sense of where the strengths and weaknesses of it are to get the best use out of it. Hopefully I'll get a chance this weekend to use it some more. Thanks again.
  7. quezra

    quezra TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Aug 22, 2012
    Regarding the distortions in raw: Pretty much any kit lens in any system these days requires this, because software correction is cheaper than fixing it with glass. It's also why people get such a shock when their quality zoom (e.g. Panasonic's 12-35 f2.8) comes out costing a considerable chunk more. Try shooting in JPEG and you'll see Sony's kit lens does fantastically well - this is the market they're targeted at.

    I sold my kit lens, but only because I have the 18-200mm and there was no way to justify buying the 50mm f1.8 so soon after getting that :p
  8. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin TalkEmount Regular

    Sep 26, 2012
    Brisbane, Australia
    Yes, I know what you mean. This is an uncorrected image from a Canon G1X at it's widest setting!


    Even images from an expensive lens like the Canon EF 24-105L change significantly when you apply the Lightroom lens profile. From these and others I've learnt to not be too concerned about the use of software correction.
  9. Poki

    Poki TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 30, 2011
    On my NEX-5, they look exactly as bad as in RAW ... :rolleyes:
  10. lenshoarder

    lenshoarder TalkEmount Veteran

    Feb 7, 2012
    I think the Sony 18-55mm E is one of the most maligned lenses in history. Personally I think it holds up just fine. It's easily the equal of any other kit lens. Just keep it under F20 and all is well.

    Test of the Sony 18-55mm @ 50mm E.
  11. WT21

    WT21 TalkEmount Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Aug 7, 2011
    Personally, I'm not a fan of any kit lens, but I have a number of keepers from the 18-55 (mostly because there were so few AF lenses for a long time, that there were few options!). It's weaker than many, but not by much, and if you are OK with kit lenses, then this one's perfectly workable.
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