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Are Expensive Lenses Better?

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Description

Photographers are often surprised when I tell them my preferred lens is the 18-55mm OIS that came with my XT-1 Fuji camera. “No surely you must have a range of prime lenses?” They say thinking I’m joking. But it’s true.

As you probably gathered from the video by now, I broke it on the 2017 Iceland photo workshop. I was truly gutted because A) I like the lens and B) Camera stores are few and far between out in the wilds and I wanted my favourite focal length lens to harvest photos.

To cut a long story short, we’d be passing through Reykjavik in a couple days so we phoned some stores. The only similar lens available was the f2.8 weather resistant 16-55 WR version at a breath-taking £1500 (Iceland is an expensive place!)

Well, I had to have a lens and the guys at Ljósmyndavörur Photographic were super helpful, even having it delivered to hotel reception for me because we were only there for an 8 hour overnight stop. So I sucked it up and got out the credit card...

Back home I went to claim on the insurance and discovered a couple of very interesting things. There was a £200 excess charge to claim and Fuji would repair my broken one for just £125!

But why would I want to keep what is often referred to as a ‘Kit’ lens over the top end one?

As I said in the video, I like the 18-55 because it’s small and convenient and fits in my pocket easily. But the more images I developed from the £1500 lens, the more I began to notice they seemed too sharp for my liking.

This really came to a head when I was developing raw files for a video about waiting for light, which I shot on the Lanzarote workshop a few weeks later. At the time I couldn’t truly put my finger on it - it’s not that the images were bad, they were just different... Slowly it dawned on me they appeared a bit too sharp for my liking, especially in areas of fine detail.

Now let me be very clear. It was only a tiny thing and had I not owned my beloved 18-55mm OIS, I’d never have noticed it. But I had and I did so decided to try a test and share it with you.

Annoyingly the differences don’t seem to be as pronounced in the video as in other images I’ve shot, either that or it’s psychological. I believe the images are better from my 18-55 so for me at least, they are!

But what it does bring to mind is the question “Do I need this and will it improve my photography?”

So as you saw in the video, the differences in image quality are tiny and in my opinion I prefer the slightly softer look from my old lens (which is smaller and easy to have with me). It may not be weather proof but it’s had a bit of a soaking on several occasions and doesn’t seem any the worse for wear, so why change it? To me at least it seems a waste of money because the kind of photography I shoot doesn’t need F2.8 throughout the range or weather resistance.

Cameras and kit don’t take pictures. We take pictures using our imagination and ability to ‘see’ and interpret them, combined with knowledge of how cameras and kit work to capture them - the 7 Building Blocks of Photography.

To my mind the money would be better spent on visiting somewhere that inspires me. Somewhere or something I’ve always wanted to see and photograph so I get to have a great time, capture great images and practise doing what I love – shooting pictures.

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Comments

Are Expensive Lenses Better?
How apposite! I have spent the last 3 months arguing with myself about those same lenses for my Fuji X-T2; even after the very recent price reduction for the 16-55mm to c.£600 after cash back, I still held back on the left mouse button - OK the reviews and forums mostly saying what a wonderful lens the 16-55mm is, whereas, for what I needed, would it make the difference for the money? I finally gave up the Gear Acquisition Syndrome and am happy with my 18-55mm as it is small, lightweight and has image stabilisation. For the very occasional rain splattered shooting, I can revert to my 23mm or 35mm f\2 which are 'weatherproof' and not spend the now reverted figure c.£900 for that very good lens which I don't really need.
A very useful and timely video, saving me money and loss of confidence - not bad! So, thanks Mike!!
dodgehill 6, Jan 2018 @ 17:34
How apposite! I have spent the last 3 months arguing with myself about those same lenses for my Fuji X-T2; even after the very recent price reduction for the 16-55mm to c.£600 after cash back, I still held back on the left mouse button - OK the reviews and forums mostly saying what a wonderful lens the 16-55mm is, whereas, for what I needed, would it make the difference for the money? I finally gave up the Gear Acquisition Syndrome and am happy with my 18-55mm as it is small, lightweight and has image stabilisation. For the very occasional rain splattered shooting, I can revert to my 23mm or 35mm f\2 which are 'weatherproof' and not spend the now reverted figure c.£900 for that very good lens which I don't really need.
A very useful and timely video, saving me money and loss of confidence - not bad! So, thanks Mike!!
Are Expensive Lenses Better?
I am so happy to see you using the Fuji X-T1. I bought one about a year ago and love it. But it has been difficult to find videos and instruction related specifically to that camera. Thank you for all you videos. All are very instructive and your explanations so easy to understand. I am an avid fan.
cakrom 6, Jan 2018 @ 20:35
I am so happy to see you using the Fuji X-T1. I bought one about a year ago and love it. But it has been difficult to find videos and instruction related specifically to that camera. Thank you for all you videos. All are very instructive and your explanations so easy to understand. I am an avid fan.
Are Expensive Lenses Better?
Not enough difference to spend the extra money. I like the smaller lens better. And yes I do know what you mean by a lens being too sharp. I felt pressured by all the advertising about sharp lens and how much better my photos would be, for awhile, but it only made me overly critical of my pictures. It was killing my creativity. I finally decided that it was what I liked not the what the market was pushing. Some of my photos that I love the most are not pin sharp.
gina 6, Jan 2018 @ 21:30
Not enough difference to spend the extra money. I like the smaller lens better. And yes I do know what you mean by a lens being too sharp. I felt pressured by all the advertising about sharp lens and how much better my photos would be, for awhile, but it only made me overly critical of my pictures. It was killing my creativity. I finally decided that it was what I liked not the what the market was pushing. Some of my photos that I love the most are not pin sharp.
Are Expensive Lenses Better?
Hmm, first time an MB video has peed me off. £250 vs 1000 is not typical in m43 if you look at olympus or panasonic lenses. Also there's a certain irony when he shoots video in uhd.. why not 260 if quality doesn't matter?
northlondon43 6, Jan 2018 @ 23:32
Hmm, first time an MB video has peed me off. £250 vs 1000 is not typical in m43 if you look at olympus or panasonic lenses. Also there's a certain irony when he shoots video in uhd.. why not 260 if quality doesn't matter?
Are Expensive Lenses Better?
Hmm, first time an MB video has peed me off. £250 vs 1000 is not typical in m43 if you look at olympus or panasonic lenses. Also there's a certain irony when he shoots video in uhd.. why not 260 if quality doesn't matter?
northlondon43 7, Jan 2018 @ 08:49
Hmm, first time an MB video has peed me off. £250 vs 1000 is not typical in m43 if you look at olympus or panasonic lenses. Also there's a certain irony when he shoots video in uhd.. why not 260 if quality doesn't matter?
Are Expensive Lenses Better?
A bit more controversial than usual from Mr B. Personally, I preferred the 16-55 images, but as the Great Man says, it's all about individual taste. I sold my 18-55 and bought the 18-135, which, although it's 3.5 to 5.6, the image stabilisation is worth at least two stops, and it's weather resistant. It's as sharp as the 18-55 throughout the range, but it's a lot bigger.
raf 7, Jan 2018 @ 12:02
A bit more controversial than usual from Mr B. Personally, I preferred the 16-55 images, but as the Great Man says, it's all about individual taste. I sold my 18-55 and bought the 18-135, which, although it's 3.5 to 5.6, the image stabilisation is worth at least two stops, and it's weather resistant. It's as sharp as the 18-55 throughout the range, but it's a lot bigger.
Are Expensive Lenses Better?
Great video Mike. I have a Nikon D5300 which came with the standard "kit lens" of 18 - 55. Because it was called a "kit lens" I had the impression that kit-lens meant a cheap add-on (which maybe it is) so I was blaming all my bad pics on the fault and cheapliness of the lens (yes I know... typical) but after trying a couple of other lenses zoom and fixed, I now appreciate the 18-55 lens much more and realise that any bad pics are simply my fault... not the kits!
Having watched your video, I honestly could not see much... if any... difference in the quality of the pics you took with the different lenses... perhaps that is because of the screen I watched your video on (oops... blaming my kit again!! ;-)) or maybe not... anyway, any minor quality differences were of little importance to someone in my stage of photography.... a good pic is a good pic!
So knowing that buying a lens that costs more than I paid for the camera will not make much, if any difference, is a valuable piece of information. Thank you, your videos are superb!!
Well worth ten stars!
grabsuccess 10, Jan 2018 @ 12:59
Great video Mike. I have a Nikon D5300 which came with the standard "kit lens" of 18 - 55. Because it was called a "kit lens" I had the impression that kit-lens meant a cheap add-on (which maybe it is) so I was blaming all my bad pics on the fault and cheapliness of the lens (yes I know... typical) but after trying a couple of other lenses zoom and fixed, I now appreciate the 18-55 lens much more and realise that any bad pics are simply my fault... not the kits!
Having watched your video, I honestly could not see much... if any... difference in the quality of the pics you took with the different lenses... perhaps that is because of the screen I watched your video on (oops... blaming my kit again!! ;-)) or maybe not... anyway, any minor quality differences were of little importance to someone in my stage of photography.... a good pic is a good pic!
So knowing that buying a lens that costs more than I paid for the camera will not make much, if any difference, is a valuable piece of information. Thank you, your videos are superb!!
Well worth ten stars!

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