If you recently purchased a camera bundled with a lens, you likely received an 18-55mm lens. Now, you might wonder how to use this zoom lens. You might even ask yourself, “what is the 18-55mm lens good for?”
To use an 18-55mm lens, you must understand its pros and cons. It is a kit lens with a moderate maximum aperture, meaning less light enters the camera. Use a large aperture, a slow shutter speed, and manual mode to get high-image quality, even in challenging lighting conditions.
This article will cover other tips on using this lens to capture better images. We will also teach you the definition of the 18-55mm lens so that you can make the most of it.
What Is The 18-55mm Lens?
The 18-55mm is also called a kit lens because it usually comes in a package with your camera. It has an affordable price and a lightweight, compact build. It is a popular lens choice for beginners and hobbyists to improve their photography skills.
The 18-55mm camera lens is also known for its versatility. Considered a standard zoom lens, it can capture a wide range of scenes, from architecture and landscapes to portraits. Since it already covers several subjects, it eliminates the need to change lenses often.
What Do The Numbers On An 18-55mm Lens Mean?
The 18-55mm designation of the lens comes from its focal length range. The focal length refers to the distance between the lens and the image sensor when the former is focused at infinity. Simply put, it determines the field of view you get with the lens.
The smaller number in the focal length range, 18mm, offers a wide angle of view. It can capture architecture, interiors, landscapes, and group shots where you want to include a lot in the frame.
The larger number, 55mm, is the longest focal length of the lens. At 55mm, the lens provides a standard and moderately telephoto view of the subject. It is close to what our eyes see, ensuring a natural perspective. It is suitable for portraits, everyday subjects, and highlighting an area in the frame.
Besides the focal length, the 18-55mm lens also has another set of numbers displayed on the barrel. The 3.5-5.6 refers to the aperture or the opening of a lens. It affects how much light enters the sensor and how much blur is in the background.
A large aperture, expressed in a small f-number, can let more light into the sensor. It also delivers a shallow depth of field, where only a part of the image is in focus. Meanwhile, a small aperture, denoted in a large f-stop, limits the amount of light hitting the sensor. It also has a deep depth of field, where there is not much background blur.
In general, camera lenses only have a single maximum aperture. However, some zoom lenses, like the 18-55mm, feature a variable aperture. So what does this mean? If you use an 18mm focal length, you get an aperture of f/3.5. But if you zoom in at 55mm, you can only use a maximum f/5.6 opening.
What Are The Pros of an 18-55mm Lens?
The 18-55mm kit lens provides several benefits to photographers.
- Inexpensive – The lens usually comes bundled with the camera. But when sold separately, it is relatively affordable. It is a good choice for those on a budget without a few hundred dollars to spare for a new lens.
- Versatile focal range – It offers a reasonable focal length ranging from wide-angle to short telephoto. It lets you zoom in and out without physically moving.
- Compact and lightweight – It is small and portable, only weighing around 200 grams or 7 ounces. This kit lens is easy to pack and bring during travel or everyday use.
What Are The Cons of an 18-55mm Lens?
While the 18-55mm lens has several advantages, this kit lens also comes with downsides.
- Small aperture – It has a variable maximum aperture of f/3.5-5.6. It is not large or wide enough to allow a lot of light inside the sensor. As such, it has limited use in low-light conditions or situations when you need to blur the background.
- Flimsy build – The kit lens is usually made with low-quality materials, usually plastic, to keep production costs low. However, that leads to a flimsy or cheap-looking lens. More than the appearance, it is also unable to withstand use in harsh conditions.
- Slower autofocus – The 18-55mm kit lens is not exactly popular for its autofocus feature. It tends to be slow and loud when trying to focus on a subject.
- Limited features – As an inexpensive lens, it has pretty limited features. It lacks built-in image stabilization or vibration reduction, weather sealing, and more.
How To Use An 18-55mm Lens? 6 Tips For Better Images
By now, you understand the pros and cons of an 18-55mm kit lens. You might be thinking that this lens is not the right fit for you because of its limitations. However, the 18-55mm is still worth keeping, especially if you have a limited budget. And when used properly, it can help you capture beautiful images.
Follow our tips below on how to use the 18-55mm lens for taking photos.
Use A Large Aperture
Light is essential in photography. Without it, your images will look dark and unfocused. It can also affect the atmosphere and mood of the photo.
The 18-55mm lens is not exactly known for having great performance in low-light situations. But to improve image quality, set the maximum aperture to f/3.5 or any small f-stop to get a large lens opening. The more light enters the sensor, the better. Expect clearer and brighter images with a pleasing background blur. You must also shoot in natural light whenever possible.
You can change the aperture if you switch the camera mode to Aperture Priority (A/v) or Manual (M). Using the full Automatic setting technically lets you achieve a large aperture too. However, it does not let you set an exact figure.
Take Several Pictures When Using a Slow Shutter
As beginners, it is normal to capture missed or unfocused shots. Avoid taking only one picture at a time. Take as many pictures as you can—that is the advantage of digital cameras and memory cards. Doing so gives you multiple copies of each photo so you can pick the best one later.
Capturing several pictures at once is also recommended when shooting at slow shutter speeds. Although this setting increases the time for light to hit the sensor, it can introduce camera shake. That leads to blurry shots. So take a photo several times to get decent results. However, avoid setting the shutter to 1/30 or slower shutter speeds. It is also best to get a tripod to stabilize the camera and capture sharper photos.
Zoom With Your Feet
This tip probably defeats the purpose of having a zoom lens. However, most kit lenses, including the 18-55mm, can lead to distorted images when using the shortest focal length. So instead of zooming out completely, use a slightly wide angle length (24mm) and move physically backward to get the same field of view.
You might also want to avoid zooming in completely, or in other words, using the 55mm longer focal length. If possible, get physically close to the subject by using your feet. Doing so lets you use a larger maximum aperture (f/3.5) for a brighter image. You also get a shallow depth of field, giving you a noticeable background blur. This effect is ideal if you want to focus on a subject or highlight a specific area in the frame.
Avoid High ISO Settings
ISO refers to how sensitive the image sensor is to light. A higher ISO number means a more sensitive sensor, while a low number decreases sensitivity. While it is tempting to use a high ISO, it introduces grain to the image. That leads to lower-quality photos.
So when using an 18-55mm lens, do not rely on ISO to get brighter and clearer results. Avoid ISO 800 and higher values. Instead, stick with ISO 100-400. Then, adjust other photography parameters, namely aperture and shutter speed, to achieve the right exposure.
Focus on Easy Subjects
For starters, you can turn on autofocus to ensure the subject is in focus. However, avoid fast movements or dim light conditions. The autofocus of your kit lens will have difficulty tracking the subject and result in motion blur.
Instead, focus on stationary subjects. Think of buildings and humans in a portrait setting rather than animals and children running around. You must also shoot in areas with natural lighting to avoid poor autofocus performance.
Shoot In Manual Mode
If you want to make the most out of the 18-55mm kit lens, use the Manual mode. Doing so gives you the ultimate freedom in photography.
This shooting mode might seem daunting at first. However, once you learn how to shoot in manual mode, you can have total control over the photo’s final result. You can capture high-quality images, even in challenging lighting conditions.
Plus, you might even find a new appreciation for the art of photography. Shooting in manual mode lets you think about things that you normally do not consider, which might spark further interest in photography.
What Is An 18-55mm Lens Good For?
The 18-55mm lens is a versatile zoom lens with many uses.
At 18mm, this kit lens offers a wide-angle perspective. It is ideal for architecture, interior, landscapes, and group photos.
In the middle of the focal range, the 18-55mm kit lens also suits street and travel photos.
Finally, at its extended 55mm range, this lens can capture portraits. It can also isolate details, which is useful in macro photography.
Is The 18-55mm Lens Suitable For Shooting In Low-light Conditions?
In general, the 18-55mm lens is not that great in dim light and other challenging lighting conditions. That is because it has a variable maximum aperture of f/3.5-5.6. It can limit the amount of light entering the sensor, especially when using the 55mm long focal length.
However, the performance of the kit lens in low-light conditions also depends on several factors. These include the ISO setting, shutter speed, as well as the use of a camera’s image stabilization and tripod. As such, it is still possible to get decent image quality in moderate low-light situations.
The 18-55mm lens usually comes in a package with a new camera. It is a great lens for beginners because of its lightweight, compact, and cheap design.
To use an 18-55mm lens, you must understand its focal length and aperture. It can capture different scenes, from landscapes to portraits. However, due to its limited aperture, it requires decent lighting conditions for sharp images. Use the widest aperture, shoot in Aperture-priority or Manual mode, and zoom with your feet when possible.
Depending on the camera body you have, we wrote some guides on picking the best lens for them, and these include 18-55mm lenses. See our picks for lenses that fit the Nikon D3400 to get a a better idea about these lens types.
Do you have other questions about using an 18-55mm kit lens? Feel free to drop by our contact page to send your queries!