Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Kit Lens Masterclass For New Shooters. Part 1



My Mother in Law, Ivy, one of the nicest ladies you could ever meet, captured with my old Sony 18-55 OSS whilst waiting at a bus stop in Brisbane.


NOTE:  This is a three part series, please make sure you read all three parts to get the full picture, some items are repeated between the three parts to give additional emphasis and consolidate concepts more clearly.  I will be releasing an eBook on the iBooks store in early 2017 which uses these articles as the building block but explores in much greater depth the creative possibilities with a much wider array of images.

My intention to to get you comprehensively up to speed with your kit lens, its' is a long read, but it reflects my overall approach to training people in photography, mainly that once people understand the underpinning concepts thoroughly you are more likely to become creatively liberated.  If getting in-depth knowledge is appealing to you then please read on.

You will also find some links embedded in these articles, in the interest of getting an solid overall education I encourage you to check them out.

Part One:  Deals with the characteristics and limitations of kit lenses and also gives some insight into how they fit into the bigger picture of photography, it's a frank an honest appraisal and may also be at odds with some of the accepted wisdom in the photographic community.

Part Two:  This is shortest instalment  it deals with the many positives aspects of kit lenses and will help you clearly understand why your kit lens is a valuable photographic friend.

Part Three:  This is probably the most important part, it deals with how you can use your kit  lens creatively, explores the technical possibilities and hopefully will inspire you to make the most of your kit lens.

Lets go.....



So your kit lens is rubbish, you know this for a certainty because numerous photo blogs and camera test sites have told you so, it’s been confirmed repeatedly by a wide array of couch based photo experts on all the forums of great repute and finally the first shots you have taken with it seem to be less than fully impressive.  Besides that, there was this nice guy in the camera shop who told you you’d really need a better more expensive lens if you were going to get even half serious about your photography.

I had a thought “how about I do a serious article that might really give new and maybe even some semi experienced photographers something solid to chew on, something that will really help and maybe even inspire you to make more of that almost free kit lens before they go out and buy something bigger, badder, heavier and more expensive.  

Some experienced photographers may think this article is misplaced, after all, almost every photographic website will has articles telling you that you simply must replace that “hound doggy” of a lens with something better, the inference being that you cannot possibly get great results until you do, but this is aimed particularly at folk who have bought a new mirrorless of DSLR camera and just want some solid guidance.

I've seen a few articles on the web regarding “using your kit lens" and "getting more out of it” but most seem pretty token at best, some seem to be simple clickbait fluff pieces and others almost downright condescending in their message, surely we can do better, anyhow I will certainly give it a good shot for you.   

There will be lots of words, like about 15,500 of them, lots of pics to show you just what you can do and hopefully a little photographic wisdom along the way.  Don’t try to digest this all at once come back a few times and play with your camera and lens in between, that’s why it has been broken into three parts.

Up front, don't worry, most kit lenses are not brilliant when measured or assessed in any empirical way, but realistically your kit lens was almost a freebie so what have you got to moan about.  In any case, without meaning to insult anyone, most kit lenses are capable of better results than most photographers are capable of delivering.



Where is the Kit Lens Love?

To be honest many sites (not this one of course) and magazines don’t really want you to get too excited about your kit lens, they want you to come back to read about the good stuff and maybe even click on one of those links to buy something tasty from one of the advertisers. Well in the interests of a vibrant photography market there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, tis business and the photography business like any other needs people like you buying new gear to help keep the wheels turning. 

So sure it’s a great idea to buy a new lens if the current one is limiting you, and I've bought quite a few but being brutally honest you’ll likely initially gain far more by really coming to grips with what your current kit lens can do.  

The whole world of consumerism is built upon the premise that any shortfall or problem of performance can be resolved by throwing more money at it.....your money of course, and there is always someone just waiting to scratch your itch and make you switch.  Truthfully, honestly and with hand on heart I can tell you, skill, technique and artistic application will drive you much further down the creative road than a new lens, I promise, unless of course you are already a long way down the road.  

Think about this, the overwhelming majority of world famous images from the start of photography right up until a few years ago were probably taken with lenses much less capable than almost any kit lenses found on a new camera, so don’t sweat it!

In the words of a great song maybe we should “Love the One Your’re With” before we start looking at those advertisements, anyhow let's get don with it.



Yep there's some sweet creamy bokeh here and this was done with a kit lens, but there are a few secrets to reveal about how, we will get to that in part 3 of the series.


But Where Is The Bokeh?

Yes it's true that your kit lens will not give you that beautiful shallow DOF (depth of field) and that 3B look, “Bokeliciuos Background Blur” you hear so many Photographers waxing about on web forums.

Realistically that 3B look has limited applicability and in any case the lenses that will really sing like an opera supremo in such applications are generally very expensive primes, not zooms.  

Look, I'd love to occasionally get the look of the Ziess Otus but at $4500.00 Aus, it ain’t going to suddenly appear in my camera cupboard and if I actually need that look commercially, I'll hire one and charge it out to the client accordingly. If you as an amateur want to have some “Bokelicious Fun” there’s plenty of companies who will happily hire you one of those Bokeh Monsters for the weekend.

There are so many better things you could spend your dollars on if you are in still in the early stages of your photographic journey, like a good workshop, an on-line course or travel to some nice location to use what you currently have. In a more practical sense a really good tripod or flash will open up far more possibilities for you than a marginally better lens.

Back to that kit lens…..



Kit Lenses, I’ve Had a Few

I've had many kit lenses, of those, my Sony E series 18-55mm has proved to be a fine example of the breed and in fact until recently was my most used lens out of the 50 or so lenses I own.  

A Canon 18-55mm I owned for several years produced images that looked a little like they were shot through the bottom of a dirty beer glass. I think my old Sony "A" series SAM 18-55 actually was the beer bottle that originally contained the beer in the bottom of the Canon’s glass, but nonetheless even these way less than perfect optical specimens redeemed themselves with plenty of good shots. Funnily enough when I open old RAW files shot using those optical nasties I can usually massage them into something quite acceptable with a modern RAW convertor application.

I even have 3 Minolta 35-70 f4s from the film era, (a common film era kit lens), two were really good and one was stellar, that is, until I dropped it on a cement floor and misaligned its little innards. It still works fine but is soft on one side at the wide end in the now “post flight state”. 

A warning to all photographers, be very careful of extreme gravity spots, they do seem to pop up a lot when lenses are not attached to cameras and near hard surfaces, they also seem to suck in parallel proportion with the cost of said lens.

Probably the best overall kitty I own is a tiny, humble, silver thingy called the “14-42mm Panasonic G II” (not the pancake version which is also very nice), seriously, no cheap as chips kit lens has any right to be as good as this lens and from all accounts the 12-32mm Panasonic pancake is also superb.  (I have recently bought one and yes it is)





Easily the best kit lens I have ever owned, yep it's light (145g), small and quite plain, (those metal knobs were added by me)  but this 14-42 series 2 Panasonic is one sweet kit lens operator.




Not All Are Perfect…But..

The main issues with kit lenses in my experience is "sample variability", which goes a long way towards explaining why user experiences reported on forums are so…..well, variable, and perhaps why one test site will call a lens a filthy sow’s ear and another deem it to be a silk purse.  

Of course kit lenses are generally slow of aperture, sometimes slower to focus and slow to sell on eBay, but they're not without their virtues either and we will get to that later.

Build quality is generally pretty average, lots of low grade plastic, sometimes even in the lens bayonet and the glass itself and in many ways things have got worse over the years.  There’s a world of difference construction wise between say a Minolta or Nikon 35-70 of 20 years ago and a new 18-55 kitty of today, a single turn of the focus ring will lay bare the rough approach of most new kit lenses in comparison to their genetic forebears.

Speaking of the Nikon 35-70, the one I have has consistently proven itself to be a brilliant performer on my NEX 5n and M4/3 bodies, in fact it is probably one of the best lenses I have ever put on that little NEX  body including fixed focal length jobbies, you can read all about it here: 
  
https://braddlesphotoblurb.blogspot.com.au/2016/12/brilliant-bargain-basement-lens-for.html

Note: there have been an enormous array of Nikon 35-70s so don't take this as an automatic recommendation many are quite poor.


So Are Modern Kitties All rubbish…. Are There No Redeeming Factors?  

Actually there are quite a few redeeming aspects, the modern kit lens whilst no paragon of constructional perfection or optical excellence can be a very useful device indeed.

I have found from playing with hundreds of kit lenses belonging to thousands of past students cameras, some brands and models are much better than others.  The best in terms of optical consistency seem to be the Nikons, no doubt about that at all from my experience, in fact some have been bloody impressive in terms of the rendered files. The worst, no, no, no, that would be telling, besides my flameproof suit is at the dry cleaners today.

In constructional terms the M4/3 versions all seem pretty solid and the Fuji "X" series are  very nicely done and as mentioned, the new “light as air” (74g)12 -32mm kit lens attached to the Panasonic GM1 is a bit of an optical revelation.




If There Are Problems, What Can We Fix?

The really great news is most kit lens deficiencies are easily resolved in “post”, the bad news, some are just ugly to the core, or is that the iris, anyhow let’s consider the issues that can be easily sorted at shooting time or in post shot.  





Here is an uncorrected image taken with an old Minolta 28-85 kit lens on a full frame sensor, in this case a Sony A900.  At this low magnification it looks reasonable but take a closer look in the crop below.






This old kit lens is not too bad, I've seen far worse but the edges of the frame show significant Chromatic Aberration, in this case the CA is red/cyan, there is also some vignetting which can be seen in the full image above. Additionally there is obvious barrel distortion and a loss of corner detail. Most of these issues can be fixed either in the camera via JPEG processing or in the RAW photo editing application






Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic aberration is that ugly colour fringing you have probably seen around the edges and corners of many photos, modern lenses are probably not a lot better at optically solving the problems but there’s no doubt that modern software, either in-camera, or on your computer is well capable of mitigating the majority of the problems.

Correcting chromatic aberration can make a big differences to the look of your photos. 

CA negatively effects both colour and clarity and I personally find high levels of CA visually disturbing, I almost need to have a stiff drink when I see a bad example. 

CA can be aperture dependent and with zooms is always focal length dependent.

Generally CA is corrected "in camera" when shooting JPEGs with only the worst cases from the worst offenders easily visible in final image at smallish sizes.  However, uncorrected raw files will normally show CA in all its awful, colour fringing, puke inducing glory, but in my experience RAW convertors often do a better job of eliminating the CA than the in-camera processed jpeg option, the trade-off with in-camera correction is often poorer edge and corner detail.




It's easy to see the colour of the text is different in front of the focus point as compared to beyond the focus point, this is an example of Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration, in this case the tint is a combo of cyan and red.




Here is another example of Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration, in this case the tint is mild green/magenta, which is more common than the example above.  Note that this type of CA is not often a major issue and it tends to be far more obvious in close up images than regular distance shots.



Two Types of CA

It’s worth noting that there are two types of CA, longitudinal and lateral.  

Longitudinal CA is usually magenta-green and is normally only obvious at wide apertures using fast lenses.  Basically you get differing coloured fringes around the details dependent upon whether you are looking at an area in front or behind the point of focus, it also occurs across the entire image frame.  This type of CA is hard to fix and I don’t believe most cameras even attempt to, but I may be wrong.  Thankfully extreme versions of Longitudinal CA are reasonably rare and especially rare with slow aperture kit lenses.  

The good news, if your kit lens is prone to producing images with obvious Longitudinal CA, you can usually prevent the worst of it by stopping the aperture down to something like f5.6 or smaller.  Generally I find that modern lenses are far less likely to display longitudinal CA, generally designers seem to have found ways to optically reduce the effect.

The other CA, lateral is where we get coloured fringes around medium to high contrast details, the strength of which increases as you move away from the center of the image, hence the term lateral. There’s never any Lateral CA fringing in the middle of the frame.  

No, Lateral CA is not necessarily that purple fringing that many photographers notice, it can be red/cyan, blue/yellow or of course purple.  

It seems most people think the pure purple fringing seen in a lot of high contrast photos is CA but it’s often something else altogether, “sensor blooming” and is normally somewhat controllable by avoiding over-exposure.  Note however, real CA can be purple too (a combo of red/blue fringing) but it's most likely in my experience to be predominantly either Magenta/Green or Red/Cyan. If you try to fix the issue using the raw convertors CA tools and it resolutely remains purple regardless of how you tweak things, it’s not regular lateral CA.

My experience is that some applications are much better at dealing with Lateral CA than others, I won’t make any software recommendations as apps are always in a state of flux but don’t give up, if your current application can’t “kill the fringe” try something else.  Most programs will apply an auto correction on opening the files but often you can do a much better job via manual adjustments as there is considerable variation between samples of any model of lens.



Vignetting

This is that issue where the edges and corners of your frame look darker than the middle, again most times your camera will sort this out as part of the in-camera jpeg processing.

Unless truly woeful, vignetting is easily sorted even for RAW files, but very high levels can leave your edges and corners a bit noisy once the vignetting has been fully eliminated.   Actually I often add vignetting in “post production” so a little vignetting could be a creative benefit anyway. 

The worst cases of LVD ( lens vignetting disease) seem to occur at the wider end of the focal range, with most kit lenses displaying significant vignetting between 18-24mm for APSC cameras and 14-18mm for M4/3 cameras. 

With in camera corrections, you may never see any significant vignetting if you only ever shoot in JPEG mode.

Generally a little vignetting is actually quite tolerable for most image styles and unless you are shooting landscapes with lots of blue sky you probably won’t be overly bothered by it. I turn the vignetting correction to “off” in my cameras menu for most of my work.  Many cameras call it lens shading instead of vignetting but it means exactly the same thing.



Distortion

Geometric distortions are generally easy to sort and again unless really bad you won't notice the issue.  Bear this in mind though, the more you have to correct the distortion the less final image area you’ll end up with, and you’ll probably get an accompanying loss of corner/edge clarity once the problem is corrected. 

As you'd expect these days most cameras correct the worst of the distortion internally when shooting in JPEG format, so again you may never have noticed it anyway.

Many kit lenses actually shoot a bit wider than their stated focal length to allow for the necessary cropping that occurs via the “in-camera editing” in order to get things squared away. The Sony 16-50 is a classic case in point, my tests indicate that prior to processing it's probably more like 14.5 mm at the wide end rather than the stated 16mm. 

From an optical point of view distortion is very difficult to eradicate via lens design and usually involves adding more complex elements to the lens, making it both heavier and far more expensive. Since it’s relatively easy to fix distortion in post, (provided it’s not an extreme version of the problem) the justification for buying well corrected but very expensive alternative lenses is somewhat diminished for most shooting needs. (architecture shooters often need solid low distortion performance)

There are two primary types of distortion, Barrel and Pincushion.  Almost without exception wide angle lenses tend towards barrel distortion, which bloats the image outwards and telephotos tend towards pincushion distortion, which pinches the image inwards.  








The above pics clearly illustrate the effect the in-camera corrections have on the look of your pic, in this case we have a Sony 16-50mm pancake kit lens set at 16mm.  The top frame looks pretty normal and defect free, the bottom one, well you don't need to be Einstein, the vignetting, distortion and CA are obvious even in this small size.



The Killer Tips.

By default the distortion correction is enabled on almost all cameras when you receive them, if you need a little extra angle of view, temporarily turning it off might just be enough, so long as you can accept the distortion. Even better if you shoot RAW you can disable the default distortion correction in your Raw Convertor application to get that little bit extra diagonal coverage in the pic.

Another tip to take to the bank, if you’re shooting at focal lengths that will need distortion correction, just step back a bit and give yourself some extra wiggle room for the editing phase.

And yet another, I have consistently found that most kit lenses have much sharper corners than you might be normally seeing, the in-camera auto lens distortion often seriously messes with the corner and even edge clarity.  So here’s the takeaway, normally distortion is only really obvious if you are shooting objects with straight lines in them, for example architecture, so turn off the auto distortion correction to get a little better edge and corner resolution and flick it on only when really needed.  Additionally if you are shooting RAW then you only need to correct enough to make the shot look pleasing, that might be far less severe a correction than what the camera would otherwise apply internally.

NOTE: Even many fixed wide angle lenses have considerable distortion so buying an alternative lens may not solve the problem altogether.  



And Now A Really Big Tip

Normally for zooms there will be a point where there is almost no distortion and with most APSC kit lenses this will be somewhere in the 26-35mm range.  The ideal focal length for easier panorama stitching will be the one that has neither type of distortion.



And Now...The Dastardly Distortion

There is a complex type of distortion known as moustache distortion, in this case the middle part of the frame edge barrels outwards whilst the area about half way between the middle and far outer corners pinches in and then it bloats out again in the corners.  Normally such messy distortion only occurs with focal lengths at the very wide end of the focal length range. Moustache distortion unless dealt with “in-camera” generally defies the best efforts of most Raw Converters and editing programs, though there are some specialised panorama applications that can correct it. 

Again in my experience unless you are doing a lot of serious architectural work this distortion is not likely to cause you any grief and thankfully it is very rare with kit lenses.







And now we have our finished specimen, from earlier in the article,  the CA is gone, the corners sharper, vignetting removed and the distortion but a memory.  Of course it is a little cropped due to the distortion corrections, hence my tip to shoot a little wider if possible. Scroll back up to original to see the differences.


Field Curvature

The final optical issue of concern is field curvature, I’m not even going to start to deal with that in this article, it deserves it’s own post so we will save that and you can read about that here:  

https://braddlesphotoblurb.blogspot.com.au/2016/10/decoder-field-curvature.html

Optical Issues You Can't Fix

There are two in particular and I won't go into details here but click on the link if you want to know more about them, they are coma and astigmatism, fortunately they are quite aperture and focal length dependent so whilst you may not be able to fix them you can probably work around them if you know your particular lens well enough.

http://www.lonelyspeck.com/a-practical-guide-to-lens-aberrations-and-the-lonely-speck-aberration-test/



Moving Onto The Mechanics Of Your Kit Lens

Kit lens issues related to mechanical construction may prove very difficult to resolve, in short these include lens de-centering ( which really grates on my pixels), poor or unpredictable focus due to sloppy lens fit inside the lens barrel, poor cross frame clarity due to misaligned mounting faces and perhaps a few other mechanical oddities, like misshapen apertures. 

All of the above will conspire to place the focus in very unpredictable places that are always challenging to deal with and often impossible to fix in post production. Most of these mechanical problems are due to sample variation, so if you get a dud lens see if you can get it swapped out for a good one.

Anyway let’s take a look at what can go wrong mechanically then if these problems happen to be present with your new kit lens you know what to do...... get it replaced under warranty.



De-Centering 

In practice all the lens elements of the lens should be perfectly aligned both longitudinally and laterally and in a well made lens they are. In other words when the absolute centre of each of the lens elements are aligned perfectly and each element is perfectly parallel with all the others the lens will perform as designed, that’s called kit lens optical nirvana.  

If one or more of the elements are misaligned in any way you will get uneven clarity across the frame, with perhaps one side sharper than the other side, you may also get random soft spots, blurry opposite corners with a sharp centre, flare spots or perhaps in extreme cases just mush all over the place. 

Good quality lenses are usually constructed in such a way that the centering of the elements is adjustable in manufacture, but cheap kit lens are usually fixed in their construction. Simply put, expensive high quality lenses can normally be realigned, kit lenses cannot. 

I suspect that more often than not serious de-centering issues are caused by the lens being dropped, which gives you a hint as to why I won’t buy a second hand lens with a dented or chipped filter thread ring. 

The good news is that kit lenses are not designed to be de-centered from the outset, if everything is put together correctly then it should work fine. The bad news, if your kit lens is badly de-centered, it’s not going to be economical to fix it, so unless covered by warranty just buy another copy, and no, the resulting problems cannot be fixed via software tweaking. 

And the other good news, another copy will probably cost very little anyway, as there are a huge number of “up graders” selling their cast off kitties on eBay for next to nothing. Hell it might be worth your while to buy a couple, keep the best one and sell the other....or perhaps keep one in case you accidentally sacrifice the other one to gravity. 

Just a little more on gravity, there are many well known high gravity spots, these include Canyon edges, the tops of buildings, any area where concrete covers the ground, I also have it on good authority that the sides of cruise liners and other boats are subject to especially high gravitational fields right along the edge railings. 

Paradoxically kit lenses being light tend to often survive gravitational anomalies quite well, sometimes they just bounce and the lighter they are the less likely they will suffer from major damage, on the other hand heavy fast zooms seem to have so much inertia that a drop of a meter or so can cause massive internal and external damage!

It’s unlikely you will jag a kit lens that is absolutely a paragon of optical alignment, so be reasonable, you can’t expect perfection at this price point, but don’t accept a lens that has serious issues either.





This is the earlier model of the Panasonic 14-42mm, it's actually a pretty good lens, but mechanically the manual focus feels a bit rough, though I am confident it will easily go the distance.



Now moving on to more insidious mechanical nasties 

I have actually used lenses where as you wound the barrel out for close focus or telephoto settings the front of the lens got all lazy and drooped. The inevitable result of such slack misbehaviour is poor focus across the top or bottom of the image (dependent upon where you have focused). 

This effect usually gets worse as the lens ages and becomes sloppier in the barrel, such lenses are a total annoyance but you can often even things up by applying just a little upward pressure on the front of the lens. 

Nonetheless a lazy lens is just frustrating to use and probably should be replaced with better or newer example or perhaps you could discipline yourself and not focus too close or zoom too far out. 

Or here’s a thought, turn that recalcitrant cow of lens into a fixed focal length one by gluing the zoom to a fixed optimal setting, (making sure you have it correctly aligned of course) which is likely somewhere usually in the mid range. 



Not So Smooth

Most modern kit lens do not have smooth well made metal helicoids inside which give that tight but buttery smooth focus action of old, instead they use clever plastics which work OK when new but eventually develop slop and make precise manual focus difficult or impossible. 

Naturally the problem can’t be fixed but a lens will usually need a heck of a lot of use before it gets to this sorry state. Sadly, a good number of lens samples seem to come out of the factory rather loose so it is something you should check before you take your new baby home. 

Some kit lenses also have plastic mounting flanges, photographers seem to get worried about these, again they can wear in very high use samples leading to slop and misalignment at the mounting faces. I must say that plastic mount slop is very rare as a lens would need a lot of un-mounting and re-mounting to wear that much, it’s just a little thing to consider with second hand kitties. ( it’s unlikely the plastic mount will cause on problems on M4/3 lenses as they’re almost all amazingly light to start with and place little strain on the mounting faces).  

My Sony new 5n has a plastic mount on the body and so do many other cameras, this is actually the most likely point of wear and mine certainly has, good new though, you can buy a replacement metal mount for around $30.00 and with virtually all cameras the original lens bayonet mount is easily replaced.



To Infinity and Back

You can occasionally get a lens that refuses to focus to infinity, this is a manufacturing defect for sure but if you are not aware of what is going you'll likely think the lens is just not sharp. The fix, get it swapped out or buy a new one, old school film kit lenses like the 35-70 Minoltas and Nikons can probably be sorted via quick adjustment by a camera tech. 

Generally you’re more likely to find a kit lens that actually focuses beyond infinity, in fact, sometimes this foible is designed in. Post infinity focus is hardly a challenge when shooting in auto focus, but be aware that in manual focus it makes it all too easy to focus too far out and get ugly soft images should you not be aware of the problem.

A general principle for accurate manual focus is to use the magnified view on a mirrorless camera or the magnified live view option on your DSLR.





Kit lenses have been around for a long time, this is an early auto focus Minolta 35-70mm zoom that was sold as the kit lens when Minolta first started down the AF route, mechanically it is vastly superior to modern kit lenses, but optically perhaps worse although I will add it was a pretty good lens for its time, and it is surprisingly small considering it covers a full 35mm frame.


Flare 

A final issue is flare resistance and indeed many kit lenses are less than perfect in this regard, but I humbly suggest that for most purposes actually placing the lens hood on the lens and/or shooting a little more carefully would have negated the issue.

Any lens can be made to flare if you shoot into the sun or other bright light sources, the issue is not “will it flare”...but “how bad will the flare effects be”. There are a few pancake zoom lenses that are designed to be used without lens hoods, having special coatings to compensate, (the Panasonic 12-32mm is an example) but even in these cases you can mount a hood if you get a step up ring and a collapsible rubber hood to screw into the ring.

Flare on older lenses are typically much poorer than with new lenses due to the radical improvements in lens coatings over the last couple of decades. I have many older lenses that have more flares than a seventies disco but regardless with a little care are still terrific lenses 99% of the time. Despite my Sony 18-55 OSS being touted as more than a bit flare prone in tests, I have never had an issue with flare, so don't sweat it, yours is probably fine too, but for goodness sake use the hood! 

Another issue that actually does cause flare is adding a UV filter to the front of the lens, trust me on this they are pretty much a waste of money and if you shoot into high contrast lights, like street scenes at night, they will generally degrade your pics by adding considerable flare to them.

But it’s worse than just adding flare, they actually cost you money and do nothing for your lenses security or image quality.

Don’t want to take my word for it check out these two videos:





BIG TIP: 

More often than not in classes when someone says their lens is soft and flare prone, the problem is dirty haze and mushy finger prints on the front element, so keep it clean and your fingers off. 

Back in the hood.....If you didn't get a hood with your lens, (and oddly some makers skimp on this essential piece of kit hoping you will pay through the nose for one as an expensive plastic accessory, yes I am looking at you Mr Olympus and Mr Canon) you can pick a “cheap knock off” up on eBay for just a few dollars.

They are a bayonet fit and purpose built for each lens so make sure you get the correct one for your model.

The kit lens hoods are a bit of a compromise, typically having a petal shape that prevents vignetting when you adjust the lens to the wide angle setting, but providing minimal protection at the longer focal lengths. If you like me, you find yourself using your kit lens at predominately the one focal length you could purchase a deeper and far more efficient hood than the standard petal one. 

Which Brings me To A Final Tip

I often use a foldable old style rubber lens hood that can be adjusted to suit the different focal lengths.......and there is a big bonus with it. Should you need to shoot through glass it can be held up against the glass and will both act as a shock absorber and cut out reflections coming off the glass.....they’re very cheap on eBay too, like less than $5.00!  Oh and they actually do provide some knock protection as the rubber absorbs some of the shock if you bang your camera into something.


To conclude, from my perspective a good example of a kit lens is one that has the mechanical criteria well under control but may display some of the fixable optical issues.


Ultimately your technique, artistic flare and editing skills will prove far more important than the actual quality of your lens, unless of course it's a real stinker, but thankfully those are quite rare these days.

The good news is that now you are far better informed regarding the realities of your kit lens, make sure you come back for parts two and three!



Brad Nichol is a Professional Photographer and Digital Photography Trainer from Goulburn, Australia.
  You can check out his current blog:  braddlesphotoblurb.blogspot.com.au Follow him on instagram:  bradnichol9186

Commercial site:  01imaging.com




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