Friday, 10 June 2016

Mastering Your Kit Lens - Part 8

Using your kit lens pre-focused and fixed to one focal length means you’re ready for the unexpected, just lift and shoot.

Today we have come to end of the kit lens mini series and I will sum up a few points as well as show a few more kit lens created pics for your inspiration. All these shots like everything else in this series was taken with a Sony 18-55mm OSS E mount on a Sony NEX 5n.

Parameter Settings Count 

You will often read articles on how the Zeiss lenses have high contrast and punchy colour, or old Minolta glass has a warm tint and so forth, all true by the way,  but to a great degree for JPEGs you can punch up or tame any lens by adjusting the parameter settings on your camera. In other words you can go some way towards getting the look of some more expensive glass.

Vertical Stitching and close focus means shallow depth of field.

The three main controls are saturation, contrast and sharpness and all three of these are useful to help modify the rendering of your lens. 

Of the three, sharpness will likely be the most useful for tailoring your lens rendering, followed by contrast and then saturation. 

Adjusting the sharpness up will increase the local contrast giving a punchier look and if you keep an eye on your exposure to ensure you don't clip your highlights it might be just the ticket.

Contrast will increase the overall impact of an image but going too hot on it will likely lead to highlight and shadow clipping, probably of more use is to lower the contrast setting, which in combination with low sharpness and saturation but brighter exposure can give a kind of dreamy look.

Saturation will increase the colour intensity, most cameras come set on with the saturation at the mid level and fine tuning can usually be achieved by shifting one notch up or down.  Going to the extremes generally gives a rough overcooked or underdone look so that is probably best avoided.

Your white balance can of of course be fine tuned on most cameras, even when shooting in Auto White Balance, and this can provide you with a pathway to warmer and cooler renderings, you can also tint things a little green or magenta but generally this just looks crook.

By combining contrast, sharpening, saturation and WB shift you can get a reasonable analogue for many classic lens renderings, for example you might obtain an old school Minolta lens look by increasing the saturation, lowering the contrast one notch and shifting your white balance just a tad to the warmer end of the spectrum and pulling back the sharpness one notch.

Your kit lens will not end up being a Zeiss or Minolta clone, but you can certainly get it a little more "Zeiss like" via careful adjustment of the parameters, and conversely you can dial things back for a far more muted rendition such as was seen with many old uncoated lenses.

All good creative fun!

 Low light levels are hardly a challenge for kit lenses these days.

Sure your kit lens does not have the widest apertures available but wide open it still gives enough separation for most needs.

This shot is a cropped frame from a 55mm shot taken with the Sony 18-55 OSS, it is equal to about 80mm, still looks plenty sharp right out to the edges and corners. You could of course crop far more if needed.

Why Get Another Lens 

Ultimately a higher quality replacement for you kit lens will give you a higher grade tool with some benefits for specific purposes, for example shallow DOF portraits or closer macro ability, perhaps it will just feel nicer to use, but it is highly unlikely to make you a radically better photographer.  You know this, we all know this, but somehow marketing places us in a state of suspended disbelief where all we need to do is click "buy" and offer up our credit card for some instant photographic gratification.

With a new lens you are not looking at massive improvements, rather an incremental change that might help in some select situations like shooting in marginal light, working with manual focus or extending your focal length range, so long as you accept that reality then go ahead get that lens.

With expressive shots like this, what gain would there be with a fast expensive lens, pretty much none!

But.....being honest.

If you want really good bang for your buck then perhaps sticking with your kit lens and learning how to use it better and experimenting via actual picture taking experience might be the superior approach, and if you can combine with sophisticated editing processes the sky is the limit.

There is of course nothing wrong with rewarding yourself a lovely new lens but good technique and creativity will easily win out in the end and others will judge you by your images, not your lens. 

 Yes you can shoot macro at the wide angle end with a macro a treat!

The Ultimate Kit Lens Kit 

So you want to travel light, you want to be a free wheeling creative dynamo, unencumbered by too much gear and too many decisions. There is a great truth in that old adage, “keep it simple”. 

Well with no further ado here is my idea of the KISP kit. “Keep it simple photography kit” 

Your camera and the kit Lens 

1 Spare Battery

A car/usb charger 

Collapsible rubber lens hood 

Variable ND filter for shooting video 

Circular polarising filter 

2 diopter close up filter 

DIY’d softar filter made from a uv filter 

Short auto extension tube 

Good camera grip 

Half a dozen memory cards so you don’t have to worry about running out of memory or deleting stuff 

And of course a little case to put it all in. 

The filters will stack together and the hood can remain on the camera, the memory cards can slip into a small holder. 

I suspect that if you use the ideas extolled in my kit lens series you might just end up taking some of your most creative shots for very little outlay and realistically you will be able to cover pretty much whatever comes your way.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Brad, great tutorial to which I return everytime gas rears its ugly head. It makes a change to see a positive view of the kit lens when most seem geared to making the newcomer feel inadequate unless they part with some dosh to 'improve' their photography. I own a Canon 1300d which I purchased after my fuji bridge camera fell into one of your gravity spots.

    I have the 18-55mm kit lens and the 75-300mm non is which was purchased secondhand by my daughters as a Christmas prezzy. I also have 3 M42 lenses from a long time ago. 28mm sirius 35mm helios and 50mm Industar 50-2 pancake. That's the limit of my GAS.

    thanks again

    Phil Main