observations of a kit lens.

Kit lenses. Not much I can add to the huge inventory of opinion and test data. The important question is can they produce images that are not "reduced" by flaws in the lens or produce too many misses through poor mechanical application (much the same as any lens, but add a barrel full of "crappy kit lens" doubt). Yesterday I went wild with a 4 year old Pen camera and the kit lens. Part of the experiment was curiosity and part practical.

Ctein once wrote in his "very unscientific lens evaluation" (The Online Photographer blog), that even though he could see (pixel peep) a difference between the various lenses tested**, he saw no reason to take his (1st gen) 14-42 or Panasonic 45-200 kit lenses off the camera in most normal photographic situations for a better lens. Ctein is a seriously top end fine art printer, with a long history of impeccable images, from medium format film and M43 cameras. 

Ok, the pre amble out of the way, lets look at some quickly taken snaps using the above kit. The camera was set to AF with the middle 9 AF boxes activated. The camera was attached to a 30" Gordy shoulder strap and many of the images shot from the hip*.

Note; see also the images in the previous three posts.

EPM 35mm f5.6 This one is really sharp, but the subject matter tends to be sharp. There is little or no CA present and the flare from the chrome work is well controlled allowing some glow to show through. The nearer bokeh "snap" renders well, but the far bokeh is a little busy.

EPM 35mm f5.6 This one is really sharp, but the subject matter tends to be sharp. There is little or no CA present and the flare from the chrome work is well controlled allowing some glow to show through. The nearer bokeh "snap" renders well, but the far bokeh is a little busy.

Crop from above. This reminds me of the best quality I could extract from a 50D and "L" Canon lens a few years ago. There was a tiny bit of purple in the highlight near the off sign, but it went away very cleanly. 18x24" print any body?

Crop from above. This reminds me of the best quality I could extract from a 50D and "L" Canon lens a few years ago. There was a tiny bit of purple in the highlight near the off sign, but it went away very cleanly. 18x24" print any body?

30mm f5.6. This image needed a little post to bring out the head of the statue from the back ground, partly because the middle distance bokeh is quite coherent and pleasant. Again this image shows the slightly busy bokeh in the distance.

30mm f5.6. This image needed a little post to bring out the head of the statue from the back ground, partly because the middle distance bokeh is quite coherent and pleasant. Again this image shows the slightly busy bokeh in the distance.

42mm f5.6. This image was quite flat, needing quite a bit of work. The bokeh rendering of this one created a couple of cool optical illusions. Of the three that I got*, two had a bad Photoshop "paste on" look with the Fair(mont) badge, as if it is unnaturally floating there (have a look for a second or two, it's kind of cool) and the third image had it quite out of focus, but the Premier badge is never sharp on the left side?. At first I thought the lens was a bit de-centred, but I think maybe I was, following the angle of the nearest badge*.

42mm f5.6. This image was quite flat, needing quite a bit of work. The bokeh rendering of this one created a couple of cool optical illusions. Of the three that I got*, two had a bad Photoshop "paste on" look with the Fair(mont) badge, as if it is unnaturally floating there (have a look for a second or two, it's kind of cool) and the third image had it quite out of focus, but the Premier badge is never sharp on the left side?. At first I thought the lens was a bit de-centred, but I think maybe I was, following the angle of the nearest badge*.

42mm f5.6. Perfectly pleasant rendering and lovely colour.

42mm f5.6. Perfectly pleasant rendering and lovely colour.

40mm f5.6. Taken at ISO 800 indoors. The lens's slightly lower micro contrast tends to give a pleasingly smooth look, but can be a little flat looking in poor light or at higher ISO's. The focus fall off in this image is nearly perfect.

40mm f5.6. Taken at ISO 800 indoors. The lens's slightly lower micro contrast tends to give a pleasingly smooth look, but can be a little flat looking in poor light or at higher ISO's. The focus fall off in this image is nearly perfect.

40mm f5.6. This one also looked a little flat at first, but came up quickly. The colour is lovely, both warm and cool where it should be. A possible use for the lens would be in poor contrast situations, as it looks to process up well.

40mm f5.6. This one also looked a little flat at first, but came up quickly. The colour is lovely, both warm and cool where it should be. A possible use for the lens would be in poor contrast situations, as it looks to process up well.

15mm f5.6. The only shot at wide angle in this set, showing how little I use wide angles. This guy needs to be a little more convincing is he is going to pull that T-shirt off.

15mm f5.6. The only shot at wide angle in this set, showing how little I use wide angles. This guy needs to be a little more convincing is he is going to pull that T-shirt off.

My feelings after using the lens for the morning;

It is lightning fast and accurate enough in focus. It is sharp enough through the range (at f5.6 anyway) and could certainly produce pro grade work with some care and respect. It feels crappy, but that never got in the way. It went under the radar, giving zoom convenience without bulk (or lens speed). It has nice colour, but mixed bokeh on the occasions it showed up.

The future for this lens? I will carry it as a back up for my street and travel kit as it slightly expands the range and offers me an alternative to primes or using more precious lenses in some circumstances. If it bites the dust I will see that as a sacrifice made to save a better lens, a bit like a protective filter.

I can honestly say that it can do the job, as the last 4 posts were fed by the 80 or so images I shot that morning. The cross frame quality in particular was a pleasant surprise. I am not really surprised. I have had experiences like this before with the brilliant Fuji 16-50 and 18-55 lenses and the old kit Panasonic 14-45 has a great reputation.

*I found it hard to use a fixed screen camera in this lighting, so many images were simply missed from poor technique, including not shooting straight.

** Top tier Olympus 4/3 lenses, Leica and other M43 glass mixed in with his own patchwork quilt of lenses.