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Shooting for the Stars: Canon EF 18-55mm (Kit lens)

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(Be sure to check out: Part 2, Part 3, Focusing Stars, and more!!!)

It has a bad reputation. Considered bottom of the barrel. A piece of shit.

But is this truly the case? If this lens really the bane of all photographers? The answer is no. Not only no, but a hell no! I know this is the case, because wellI own the lens. AND used it. Safe to say; I have a thing or two to say about it.

Firsts things first. Lets discuss the mechanical quality. I believe this lens draws much of its ire from its lightweight construction. Usually when I used the term lightweight its in a positive manner. Not this time. The plastic barrel isn’t cute. It doesn’t feel substantial in your hands.

In fact it feel like a cheap lens ought to feel like it. What a surprise; at a price tag of $199.00, it makes sense!

If it looks the part, it must act the part.

Wrong! Didn’t you’re Mother ever teach you never to judge a book by its cover? Or a lens by itsbarrel construction for that matter?

Fortunately, the Canon EF 18-55mm zoom lens performs better than it looks. In particular, night sky work, it provides a nice versatile range of focal lengths, especially if you’re just starting out. AND especially if this is the only lens you own. Don’t be ashamed. Use it!

This lens is a bit slow for night sky photography. The aperture range is f/3.5-38. Keep in mind, the further the lens is zoomed, the slower the lens becomes.

For example, zoomed in at 55mm, the aperture has to be open to at least f/5.6. At its widest, 18mm, its f/3.5. The angle of view is about 74°, which is nice for constellation portraits or framing the Milky Way, or anything else you can imagine.

Focusing.

What an incredible pain in the ass! I’ve said this many times, and I’m sure I’ll say it again in the future. If you’ve never tried focusing starlight with this lens- don’t underestimate how frustrating it is. Especially if nothing bright happens to be out, like Jupiter, Venus, or Sirius.

If you think you’re going to gander through the view finder and see a field of dazzling stars, forget it. All there is to see is black… unless you strain you’re eyes. Then maybe one or two stars can be seen.

It will be a matter of trial and error to get an acceptable focus. If stars are bloated on the back of the LCD screen, gradually focus the ring, then try again. Keep checking the images until the stars are as point-like as possible. This will take time, but it works.

Naturally, this is the price paid for using a zoom lens on the night sky.

Oh, when you finally do manage to get you’re images in focus, don’t you dare accidentally nudge you’re tripod or mount. This lens doesn’t appreciate rude behavior like that. Don’t be surprised if you’ll have to re-focus all over again.

You also better hope a pixie doesn’t fart anywhere near this lens. It gets offended quite easily. That means you’ll have to re-focus. Great, ain’t it?

I don’t mean to be harsh. In the right hands this lens is useful. But nonetheless, it’s sensitive mechanical construction will induce  hair-pulling frustration at one point or another.

As I said, the Canon 18-55 zoom is a versatile sky lens. It provided a little reach, but also capable of capturing the big picture at the 18mm end. Here are few things to keep in mind to gauge the length of your exposures:

  • 55mm: Expose for no longer than 8”
  • 18mm: Expose for no longer than 30”

Any longer and star trails will be apparent. Don’t be shy in cranking up the ISO, either. Remember, this lens is slow. You’ll have to experiment with the exact numerical value to dial into you’re camera.

With a creative eye, this ‘cheap-ass’ glass is useful.

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Sirius, Tree, and Jupiter

Hold no illusions. There’s a reason this lens is bundled with entry-level Canon DSLRs and not some L-series. Understand what its capable of. Don’t expect anything more.

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Vega and Trees

As for image quality? It’s tolerable. Again, don’t expect what it’s not capable of and you’re relationship with this lens will be just fine.

Chromatic aberration is noticeable. This is expected, especially with a lens like this. Personally, I thought it would be worse. Much worse. But purple fringing is certainly present.

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Crop of Milky Way

As you can see around that bright star; a slight halo of purple. Pretty, ain’t it?

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Milky Way

In the un-cropped version, distortion is noticeable along the edges, but once again this is expected. All lenses, unless corrected for, has better performance toward the center of the image.

Overall, I don’t think this lens deserves much of the hate it gets from photographers.

Yes! It’s cheap glass.

Yes! There are better zoom lenses.

Yes!…It’s plastic.

Get over it! Despite these hindrances; it’s an acceptable lens—worthy of a spot in anyone’s bag.

 

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Shooting for the Stars: Orion 102mm Maksutov

Shooting for the Stars: Canon EF 100mm Macro (Prime)

Shooting for the Stars: Opteka 500mm (Mirror / lens)

Shooting for the Stars: Canon EF 18-55mm (Kit Lens)

Shooting for the Stars: Canon EF 24mm (Prime)

Shooting for the Stars: Canon EF 50mm Macro (Prime)

Shooting for the Stars: Canon EF 18-55mm (Part 2)

 

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About FlyTrapMan (189 Articles)
I have no idea what I'm doing.

8 Comments on Shooting for the Stars: Canon EF 18-55mm (Kit lens)

  1. So true. I still have and occasionally use this kit lens in its pre-IS construction. It can still get some jobs done for me.

    The philosophy of Jeet Kune Do; use what works!

    Liked by 1 person

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  3. Currently this is my basic lens that I use for most purposes, but I’m sure I’ll invest some money on a better lens in near future..but currently this is practically only one I have, besides my Samyang 8mm fish eye-lens

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    • It was my standard lens for awhile, as well. I recommend getting a 50mm prime, they’re cheap and kick ass for night sky photography. Plus they’re fast.

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  4. I’ve always felt the 18-55 was incredibly underrated. It’s simply about using the right tool for the job. It may not give you bokehlicious backgrounds but for landscape, architectural, and environmental photography it’s a wonderful starting lens. Thanks for the article!

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    • I used the 18-55 zoom for quite some time, and still do if the situation calls for it. It is an under-rated lens thats for damn sure. Nikons 18-55 is decent as well.

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