Nikon D5100 - Part 3 - 18-55mm kit lens. How good can it be?

Nikon D5100 - Part 3 - 18-55mm kit lens. How good can it be?

Nikon D5100 18-55mm zoom

I've always quite liked the Nikon kit zoom lenses, the 18-55mm and particularly the 55-200mm. The D5100 is currently sold with the 18-55mm and I wanted to see just what kind of quality I could get from it. So I took some test shots with the camera and lens mounted on a tripod. Images were shot at ISO 100 for the best results. All images were processed from raw files. This was done using the Photoshop Adobe Camera Raw default settings.


Nikon D5100 18-55mm zoom

Like most zooms of this type its not at its best either wide open or at its maximum smallest aperture, though this lens will go to f/36 which is unusual.

Nikon D5100 18-55mm zoom
ISO 100 f/3.5

Nikon D5100 18-55mm zoom
IS0 100 f/36

My copy of the lens seems at its best between f/8 and f/13 and the following are some test shots and blowups from the files viewed at 100%. As usual if you click through to flickr and select View all sizes you can see a bigger version.

Nikon D5100 18-55mm zoom
ISO 100 f/8

Nikon D5100 18-55mm zoom
ISO 100 f/11

Nikon D5100 18-55mm zoom
ISO 100 f/11

Nikon D5100 18-55mm zoom
ISO 100 f/13

Nikon D5100 18-55mm zoom
ISO 100 f/16

So in terms of a lens used for landscape under optimum conditions I believe its a good lens. In fact its probably better than the results indicate. This Sony sensor, like most, employs an anti-aliasing filter. DSLR's in general and Nikon and Sony sensors in particular seem to use a "stronger" filter than say m4/3 does. This results in less noisy images, but does have an effect on sharpness and resolution. I'm also used to a Leica M9 which has no anti-aliasing filter at all which produces sharper images. 

Bearing this in mind I think the images from the D5100 and 18-55mm lens are actually pretty good when shooting at these mid-range apertures. It is a bit soft for my tastes, particularly at the edges, until f/8, but this is not unusual for a zoom of this type and price. 

I found that with a bit of sharpening in Photsoshop I could produce a very decent file. 

Colour was excellent and I'm really impressed with the D5100 in that respect. The pictures have a real "pop" to them and look very attractive on the screen. I shoot an awful lot of pictures with shades of green and these were rendered very nicely. 

So, my conclusion is that its a lens that is capable of good quality results, if used carefully and to its strengths.