17-55 f2.8 vs 18-55 f3.5-5.6 VR Kit Lens. Yes.. really.

gnoshmegnoshme Posts: 14Member
edited October 2014 in Nikon Lenses
OK, so it seems like the vast majority of people here are "better is always better" but I have both of these lenses right now and I can tell you for damn sure.. the f2.8 is definitely not magnitudes better than the cheap kit lens. I'm trying to decide whether to keep it or sell it (I got a deal on a D7000 with it, and I really just want the body) but I'd be really interested in someone giving me a specific scenario where I can take a photo with both lenses and have a Eureka! moment, that makes me shun the lens I bought for $50 used and keep the lens that I can easily get $650 for?

For sure in good light at the wide end, in terms of sharpness and color I have a VERY hard time telling the difference. 17mm @f2.8 vs 18mm @3.5 isn't a huge difference. At the top end in good light I feel the same way. In lower light at the top end I can get away with the same shutter speed on the kit lens thanks to VR as I'm afforded by the f2.8, and I like the results of both.

So. Seriously. Let's put aside the fact that the kit lens is cheaply made and doesn't have the same studly appearance.. the optics seem really good to me, so the challenge to all the "you have to buy great lenses" crew. What scenario should I setup to really highlight the differences between these two lenses.. and justify lugging around a lens that is 3 times the size and 4 times the weight?

What am I missing?

Keith
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Comments

  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    One to two stops of light depending on your focal length. If you don't know what to do with those stops, then sell the lens.
  • Rx4PhotoRx4Photo Posts: 1,200Member
    edited October 2014
    Depending on what camera you're shooting these lenses on the biggest difference for me was seen when I changed from f/3.5 - f/5.6 glass on an APS-C sensor to f/2.8 glass on full frame sensor. So I'd suspect what you might be missing is a full frame camera and some rigorous shooting conditions.

    For the record, I had the Nikon f/2.8 17-55mm lens on my D7000 and still, when I went full frame with f/2.8 glass the difference in clarity, sharpness, and depth of field rendering was inspiring.
    Post edited by Rx4Photo on
    D800 | D7000 | Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 | 24-70mm f/2.8 | 70-200mm f/2.8 | 35mm f/1.8G | 85mm f/1.4G | Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art | Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art | Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM | Zeiss 100mm Makro-Planar ZF.2 | Flash controllers: Phottix Odin TTL

  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    edited October 2014
    @gnoshme: The engineering in having a lens that has the optical elements, in order to obtain a constant aperture of 2.8, in addition to built quality, is in its simplest form, what drives the cost of such lenses to be higher.

    Obtaining an image that is acceptable to the end user is all subjective. Some of the following factors do come into play on having an image to be sharper/more appealing: lighting conditions on and around the subject; subject isolation i.e. bokeh.

    Although f/3.5 vs 2.8 may not seem a lot to you...but having close to twice the amount of light hitting a sensor does have a profound effect on the image quality, Hence, lower ISO will be needed. This really come into play in relation to obtaining dynamic range. A key factor for those that shoot in hard lighting conditions.

    Good optics is like a good wine. If you cannot see (tasted) the difference, then by all means sell it and lets someone else, that has a need for it, put the 2.8 lens to use. BUT, if I was you I would really try to expand your shooting style, lighting conditions and subject matters to better familiarize yourself with the 2.8 lens and then move to sell or keep it.

    Lastly, lets keep the conversation civil everyone....cheers.
    Post edited by Golf007sd on
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • gnoshmegnoshme Posts: 14Member
    @gnoshme:
    Although f/3.5 vs 2.8 may not seem a lot to you...but having close to twice the amount of light hitting a sensor does have a profound effect on the image quality, Hence, lower ISO will be needed. This really come into play in relation to obtaining dynamic range. A key factor for those that shoot in hard lighting conditions.
    Thanks Golf,

    As far as light goes, I get that, but in testing thoroughly I am finding that in tough lighting situations the VR in the cheap kit lens allows me to use the SAME ISO because I can shoot with a full stop or more slower shutter.

    On the Bokeh, on the short end the bokeh is very similar.. not sure if there are the same number of blades but they are both curved) they that is definitely a difference in that 55 at 2.8 and 55 at 5.6 is a huge depth of field difference.. in the wild though as far as my testing has gone this isn't something that has gotten in the wild.. but if I was a portrait photographer I imagine this would justify the lens cost.

    As far as fine wine goes, that's a great analogy, and I started this thread to see if anyone like me has tried these two lenses together and can get past theory and assumption.. and thought like I have.. "Wow.. in difference in price between these wines seem hard to justfiy" and I definitely am looking for more than, "Because it's better".

    As far as attitude, I apologize if my first post rubbed the wrong way.. but definitely no apologies for my second! A comment as simple as "it lets in more light" when comparing a non VR lens to a VR lens tagged with a touch of "you're an idiot" isn't something I react well to.

    Best

    K
  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    edited October 2014
    LOL! You are reading much further into my post than intended. I didn't use the word idiot, or imply it. You either have a need for the extra stops, or you don't, and the times when this is important VR is not a factor.

    Here are some examples: low light, high-speed subjects, indoor sports, night racing, concerts, etc... In this case VR is useless, all you care about is more light. This is where the major differences come into play.

    Also, as you pointed out, if you are trying to achieve a certain shallow depth of field, you will need the smaller aperture. The quality of the bokeh is very different between the two lenses if you care about these things.

    You also didn't say which 18-55 you have (there are two with VR). Comparing to the slightly older one, the MTF tells the tale. The first chart is the wide, second the tele.

    17-55 MTF
    image
    image
    18-55 MTF
    image
    image
    Post edited by Ironheart on
  • gnoshmegnoshme Posts: 14Member
    LOL!
    Here are some examples: low light, high-speed subjects, indoor sports, night racing, concerts, etc... In this case VR is useless, all you care about is more light. This is where the major differences come into play.
    .. apart from low light I haven't done side by side on those others.. so thanks. That makes sense.. and sorry for the outburst!

    K
  • KnockKnockKnockKnock Posts: 370Member
    Since no one has mentioned it yet, I guess I'll point out the fairly obvious: that with moving subjects (people, sports etc.) you can't rely on VR or you'll get motion blur. At 55mm you'll be able to shoot at 2.8 vs 5.6 and that's 2-stops. So instead of a nice 1/125s capture, you'll get 1/30s of blur.

    oh, wait Ironheart jumped in... I'll post anyway :-)
    D7100, D60, 35mm f/1.8 DX, 50mm f/1.4, 18-105mm DX, 18-55mm VR II, Sony RX-100 ii
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,144Member
    Sometimes a person doesn't need what a fast pro lens offers. For example, if you are generally shooting at f5.6 and generally shooting in good daylight you won't need the f2.8 option on a wide angle lens. In that case you can save a lot of money to spend on other lenses if you buy two of the cheap kit lenses. If one cheap lens breaks you have a backup. On the other hand, if you are often shooting dimly lit interiors you will benefit from the option to shoot at f2.8. With modern DSLR's you can often increase the ISO one or two stops to offset f2.8 to f4 without noticeable degradation of Image Quality.

    In order to see the difference between these two lenses I suggest you shoot some dimly lit interiors. Shoot the 17-55 at f2.8 and shoot the 18-55 at f4 (same shutter speed but double the ISO). Then compare those two images at normal viewing size. If you see no significant difference perhaps you should sell the 17-55 and use the money for other equipment which will make a difference for you.
  • safyresafyre Posts: 113Member
    edited October 2014
    I'll put this in layman's terms since I have the 17-55mm and have owned the kit lenses before as well. In good light, there won't be a significant difference between the two lenses. However, if you are shooting weddings and events that are indoors like I have, the extra light you get from having the 2.8 is a godsend.

    Now if you don't see yourself taking a lot of pictures indoors or in low light, you could probably get atleast $850-900 for the 17-55mm on ebay right now, and then spend 300 of that to get the much more affordable tamron 17-50mm 2.8 which is as good as the Nikon version. Or you can spend 200 to get a 35 or 50mm 1.8 which have significantly better performance than the 17-55mm at their respective focal ranges.

    Other than that, I do believe that the 17-55mm 2.8 is a very overrated lens, and it is something that I only use for events when I absolutely need the convenience of zoom and don't have the time to switch between primes. For any other serious work I do, I always use primes.
    Post edited by safyre on
  • gnoshmegnoshme Posts: 14Member
    I'll put this in layman's terms since I have the 17-55mm and have owned the kit lenses before as well. In good light, there won't be a significant difference between the two lenses. However, if you are shooting weddings and events that are indoors like I have, the extra light you get from having the 2.8 is a godsend.

    Now if you don't see yourself taking a lot of pictures indoors or in low light, you could probably get atleast $850-900 for the 17-55mm on ebay right now, and then spend 300 of that to get the much more affordable tamron 17-50mm 2.8 which is as good as the Nikon version. Or you can spend 200 to get a 35 or 50mm 1.8 which have significantly better performance than the 17-55mm at their respective focal ranges.

    Other than that, I do believe that the 17-55mm 2.8 is a very overrated lens, and it is something that I only use for events when I absolutely need the convenience of zoom and don't have the time to switch between primes. For any other serious work I do, I always use primes.
    This is great feedback. Thanks. I have both of those primes (and a BUNCH of fixed AIS f2.8 teles) but had nothing in the wide angle end except the kit lens. I was pretty much just using it as an 18mm F3.5 because for some reason when I use a zoom my legs stop working - bad habit. Then the 17-55 dropped into my lap. I'll definitely have a look at that Tamron.

    The 17-55 will for sure sell, in fact I sold it on Saturday with ease but the guy in China who bought it had a hernia when he saw the $270 eBay Global Shipping cost so backed out. It was too easy to open the box up again and wonder if I should really be keeping it!

    K
  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    gnoshme: What do you should at the wide-end? Regardless of the lens.
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • henrik1963henrik1963 Posts: 559Member
    edited October 2014
    The 17-55 2.8 may be a pro lens. But a lot of people does not think it delivers pro image quality. I have never used the lens. When I was shooting DX I used the Nikon 16-85. So this may be a special case where the cheap kit zoom is not far behind the pro zoom regarding image quality.

    My DX camera was a D90. When I first put on a 70-200 2.8 VR2 it blew me away. Even on that 12MP camera there was a very big difference between cheaper lenses and the pro zoom.

    But if you don't see it it is not there - sell it.
    Post edited by henrik1963 on
  • gnoshmegnoshme Posts: 14Member
    gnoshme: What do you should at the wide-end? Regardless of the lens.
    Outside would typically be using wide angle to exaggerate either earth or sky in a shot of a subject. Can't say exactly what that subject would be, but not talking about sports or movement typically. Inside almost the same thing. It's about exaggeration or surroundings. I'm more of an object photographer than a people photographer. Hard to explain.. Just something about this that grips me.

    Keith
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,030Moderator
    The advice to buy the Tamron doesn't take into account the tank-like build quality of the 17-55 vs the cheap plastic feeling Tamron.

    I have owned the 18-105 (great lens), 16-85 (way over-rated IMHO and IME) and the 17-55. I do find the sharpness better than the other two, CA is much better, distortions too. I also think the 17-55's price is way over the top for it's level of tech (no VR) but if you can get a good one used, clearly the best option. If it didn't exist, I'd have Tokina's offerings over Tamron anyday. The 11-16 f2.8 is an ultra-wide with prime type performance.
    Always learning.
  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    If you find yourself at the wide end (18mm) most of the time, and you want to exaggerate earth or sky in a shot of a subject, for DX the 10-24 would be a good choice. There aren't many primes down in this range, and none of them are optimized for DX. This is not a fast sport lens either, but it seems like you don't need this.
  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    Thank for the info Keith.

    Please post or link us to some of your images. By doing so, we can get a better understanding of your shooting style and then hopefully, give you our input in taking the next step/steps. But for the mean time...hold on to your lens. As you so easily found...there are buyers for it.
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    I have the 17-55 and 18-55 and had the 18-200. Without taking a picture the 17-55 has the advantage both in build quality and speed. From use it seems to focus more quickly and accurately than my 18-200. I haven't used the 18-55 enough to compare. Pictures have a different look from the 17-55...sharper (even if slightly), better colors and less CA. But one of the biggest advantages is shooting at f2.8...you can't hardly muster any bokeh out of the variable lenses where it isn't so bad with the f2.8.
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    Build quality is worth something here as I have heard plenty of complaints about the cheap quality of the 18-55. I have always said picture quality from the 18-55 is pretty good but if you don't know why you need the 17-55 then maybe you don't need it.
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • haroldpharoldp Posts: 984Member
    For the last 4 years or so, the difference that you primarily pay for as you move up in price either in lens or body, is being able to maintain IQ and / or get the shot under a wider range of adverse conditions, be they poor light, or moving subjects.

    In hazy sunlight, between 9AM and 4PM shooting landscapes at F8 at 1/500th sec. ISO 200 at 35mm FL equivalent, and prints at 11 X 14 or smaller, any Nikon DSLR DX or FX, and any of their lenses capable of 35mm equivalence (23mm DX) will be almost indistinguishable. Details of support, focus, and PP will matter more than the equipment.

    What you get with a pro lens like the 17-55 2.8 is the ability to shoot later, faster, and control DOF better.

    It is also much sharper than the 18-55 'kit' lens at 55mm f5.6, (at F8 the difference is much smaller) where the 'kit' is a cheap lens wide open and the 'pro' is a better lens already down 2 stops. The 17-55 at 55mm and f6.3 is a stunningly sharp lens for multi pane pano landscapes. (good tripod, remote release, mirror up) .

    I see more D300 with 17-55 2.8 at weddings than any other Nikon combo, (often with 70-200 2.8 on a second body) smart pros spending their money on better lighting.

    At weddings, being able to bounce flash at F4, knowing I was sharp at every FL made the 17-55 indispensable until I switched to FX and got the 24-70 2.8.

    If these things do not matter to you, than the 18-55 kit' is a good choice.

    None of this is about 'better', it is about fitness for a given mission.

    of course IMHO.

    ...... H
    D810, D3x, 14-24/2.8, 50/1.4D, 24-70/2.8, 24-120/4 VR, 70-200/2.8 VR1, 80-400 G, 200-400/4 VR1, 400/2.8 ED VR G, 105/2 DC, 17-55/2.8.
    Nikon N90s, F100, F, lots of Leica M digital and film stuff.

  • Rx4PhotoRx4Photo Posts: 1,200Member
    Before I got the 17-55mm f/2.8 I bought the 16-85mm which was supposed to be better than the kit 18-55 lens. I really couldn't tell the difference other than build quality of the 16-85mm. I kept it for a few months then sold it and bought the 17-55mm f/2.8 and it did show a noticeable improvement. Mostly clarity as I said before. So yeah, what everybody's saying 'bout the 17-55 being better has excellent support.
    D800 | D7000 | Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 | 24-70mm f/2.8 | 70-200mm f/2.8 | 35mm f/1.8G | 85mm f/1.4G | Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art | Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art | Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM | Zeiss 100mm Makro-Planar ZF.2 | Flash controllers: Phottix Odin TTL

  • PhotobugPhotobug Posts: 4,537Member
    @gnoshme - A lot of good advise has provided and here is my input.

    I bought the 17-55 F2.8 when I got the D200 for 15 months, then used it on the D300 for 6 years, and now one year on the D7100. I bought the D90 for the wife with the 18-55mm kit lens many years ago and she has been satisfied with the results. I have no issues with her 4x6 prints. Normally I seldom use her D90 until early September - so I do have experience with both lens.

    We went on vacation in September and I shot her D90+18-55 & 55-300 so I got the chance to reacquaint my self with this lens and the D90 since Nikon had my D7100 & 17-55. I am going to say what has already been said above and add some personal experience.

    When I was shooting in museums and rebuilt homes without flash, the f3.5-5.6 did not cut it...I missed the faster lens (F/2.8) and the shallow depth of field. I had to use a higher ISO setting and the D90 noise level just doesn't compare to the D7100. Remember, the D90 is two generations behind the D7100.

    At f8 there is not much difference but at f5.6 the 17-55 is sharper. I can see the difference when I tested both lens after buying her the camera and lens and noticed things on my monitor when reviewing those vacation pictures. Yes it is a good lens but it does not compare to the 17-55 and the way I shoot.

    IMHO I much prefer the pro lens with heavier construction and weather seals over the cheap feel of the 18-55. However, it still must produce images with excellent IQ - sharpness and clarity. Totally agree with what @Haroldp said: What you get with a pro lens like the 17-55 2.8 is the ability to shoot later, faster, and control DOF better. Build quality is important for me cause I tend to keep lens that produce excellent IQ. Without a doubt, the 17-55 is a better lens than the kit lens. Is it worth the difference in price is a different issue and that is not relevant in your situation.

    Recommendation - if you don't see a big enough difference to justify the lens, by all means sell it and use the money for your next lens. At some point in the future as your photographic skills develop you will learn the advantage of the faster F2.8 lens over the slower lens. So if you sell it don't be surprised that at some time in the future you come back and find you have a need for the faster lens and what it brings to the table that the slower lens don't.

    All the above assumes that you have a good sample of this lens and there is NOT an issue with the AF system.
    D750 & D7100 | 24-70 F2.8 G AF-S ED, 70-200 F2.8 AF VR, TC-14E III, TC-1.7EII, 35 F2 AF D, 50mm F1.8G, 105mm G AF-S VR | Backup & Wife's Gear: D5500 & Sony HX50V | 18-140 AF-S ED VR DX, 55-300 AF-S G VR DX |
    |SB-800, Amaran Halo LED Ring light | MB-D16 grip| Gitzo GT3541 + RRS BH-55LR, Gitzo GM2942 + Sirui L-10 | RRS gear | Lowepro, ThinkTank, & Hoodman gear | BosStrap | Vello Freewave Plus wireless Remote, Leica Lens Cleaning Cloth |
  • heartyfisherheartyfisher Posts: 3,172Member
    edited October 2014
    @photobug Hmm .. in lowlight ( museums, mansions, things that dont move!) 18mm F3.5 + VR should do at least 2 stops better than the F2.8 with no tripod. Most other situations the 17-55 should do better. especially theatre, stage events night events, golden hour.

    Consider the Sigma 17-70 F2.8-F4 OS. or the 18-35 F1.8
    Post edited by heartyfisher on
    Moments of Light - D610 D7K S5pro 70-200f4 18-200 150f2.8 12-24 18-70 35-70f2.8 : C&C very welcome!
    Being a photographer is a lot like being a Christian: Some people look at you funny but do not see the amazing beauty all around them - heartyfisher.

  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    I just used my 18-55 this past Friday to try and see if the focus/viewfinder issues on my d5200 were lens related. One big annoyance for me is there is no manual focus override on the 18-55. You have to switch the af switch on the lens off before it will let you focus. I also felt kind of lowly shooting with it.
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,030Moderator
    @tcole1983: I'm impressed that you had the guts to admit to feeling 'lowly' when using a cheap kit lens! mind you, I'm also disappointed that you did allow yourself to succumb to those feelings. Let your images speak for you Luke, feel the force...

    There are WAY too many people around here who's signature line tells the story clearly that it is their feeling of adequacy that drives their purchases. Appealing to peoples sense of adequacy is a powerful marketing tool - in fact, the entire clothing fashion industry is built on it. $-)
    Always learning.
  • heartyfisherheartyfisher Posts: 3,172Member
    :-) for me I think the list of kit in my tag line is to share camaraderie with the Nikon users. I am happy to see other similar tag lines and feel the brotherhood. Yo bro ! !! BRO !! WASSUP !!!
    Moments of Light - D610 D7K S5pro 70-200f4 18-200 150f2.8 12-24 18-70 35-70f2.8 : C&C very welcome!
    Being a photographer is a lot like being a Christian: Some people look at you funny but do not see the amazing beauty all around them - heartyfisher.

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