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raven15
07-02-2008, 05:35 PM
I have been having problems with the optical quality of my 18-180 lens, but I haven't definitely narrowed down the cause yet. It could be a large variety of strange circumstances, in which case I am not a big fan of the lens because it is so incredibly not useful, or I might have a lemon lens (I did get it second hand, albeit as a "factory demo" from a reputable dealer).

My first thing is the extraordinary slow auto focusing, even in bright light. The slowest focus I ever had was a horizon at about 10:00 am with the 18-180. Updated the firmware on my camera helped, but it still hunts long and slowly for focus, and noisily, and the noise sounds much less refined than my other lenses.

Second, the focus seems to be fairly inaccurate. It is like the lens suddenly decides "ok, good enough" and just stops and lets the camera take a picture, and I can't even find a single point in the frame that appears in focus, much less the subject. Granted, at times this might be caused by camera shake, I have notice a few of the pictures I thought were out of focus were actually taken at 1/50s at full telephoto zoom. I have to investigate this more, but even so I think a full 30% of my pictures will be genuinely out of focus.

Third, the pictures seem flat, lack detail, lack contrast, the colors seem "off", etc. There seems to be a brown tone to many of my pictures, usually the same ones that are out of focus. The picture of the antelope, for example (in the 6,500 mile road trip thread), looks distinctly different to me from those taken with my 14-54mm lens, the one I posted here I went so far as to bump saturation, contrast, and improve sharpening and color balance, the only picture here I did that for to that extent, and it still looks wrong to me.

All the problems above are exaggerated greatly by a polarizer, to the point I would call my 18-180 100% unusable with a polarizer. Also, the build quality seems poor and plasticky. Granted, the kit lenses are plasticky, so this is probably ordinary, but I still prefer the handling of both the 40-150 and 14-54 over the 18-180.

Supposedly the 18-180 has the best quality of any super zoom and all that, so it is possible mine is bad. On the other hand, on occasions it nails focus and everything comes out perfect, which gives me hope it might be just a small problem with mine in particular.. I hope so, because that lens plus the 9-18mm are cornerstones of my plan for my camera, along with the 14-54. I only bought the kit lenses because I got both for $100.

Don Kondra
07-02-2008, 09:45 PM
I also just bought a used 18-180 off of ebay. Haven't really had much time to test it but AF seems fine both outside on a sunny day and inside during the afternoon, no flash.

The only problem I have is if you hold the camera lens down, it will telegraph to it's zoom length, ie. the lens will extend. Doesn't seem to be a problem in normal use though???

Here's three test shots....

Full zoom facing south

http://i249.photobucket.com/albums/gg202/donkondra/PowerTransformer.jpg

Early afternoon shooting north west

http://i249.photobucket.com/albums/gg202/donkondra/RoseBuds.jpg

Facing south, no lights on inside, no flash, bright sunny day but pretty dim inside :)

http://i249.photobucket.com/albums/gg202/donkondra/JadePlant.jpg

Sorry I couldn't be more help...

Cheers, Don

Don Kondra
07-02-2008, 09:55 PM
My first thing is the extraordinary slow auto focusing, even in bright light. The slowest focus I ever had was a horizon at about 10:00 am with the 18-180. Updated the firmware on my camera helped, but it still hunts long and slowly for focus, and noisily, and the noise sounds much less refined than my other lenses.

Did you do the half press shutter and focus 1/3 into the frame?


Second, the focus seems to be fairly inaccurate. It is like the lens suddenly decides "ok, good enough" and just stops and lets the camera take a picture, and I can't even find a single point in the frame that appears in focus, much less the subject. Granted, at times this might be caused by camera shake, I have notice a few of the pictures I thought were out of focus were actually taken at 1/50s at full telephoto zoom. I have to investigate this more, but even so I think a full 30% of my pictures will be genuinely out of focus.

Which focus setting are you using?


Third, the pictures seem flat, lack detail, lack contrast, the colors seem "off", etc. There seems to be a brown tone to many of my pictures, usually the same ones that are out of focus. The picture of the antelope, for example (in the 6,500 mile road trip thread), looks distinctly different to me from those taken with my 14-54mm lens, the one I posted here I went so far as to bump saturation, contrast, and improve sharpening and color balance, the only picture here I did that for to that extent, and it still looks wrong to me.

Raw or jpeg?

FYI the above pictures are the first time I shot jpegs :)

Cheers, Don

Phill D
07-02-2008, 10:47 PM
Raven thanks for answering my question. Yes definately better to post in here you were right. Sorry to hear the lens issues hope you get them sorted out. You said when it works you were happy, care to post a good shot with that lens.
Don can you post some more general shots with your lens too. It would be good to see how it compares with the kit lenses for general walkabout shots.

raven15
07-02-2008, 11:57 PM
I went through my more disappointing shots again (those I hadn't deleted), and there is a good chance I was just using too slow a shutter speed. The 18-180 is my "action" lens, and I am usually too excited about whatever I am taking a picture of to check my settings carefully when using it. It is made worse because I tend to use it at the long end, where there is less light available and shake is more pronounced. That is my fault, because I specifically bought a camera and long slow lens with no IS thinking "this will teach me to look at my settings and hold my camera right so I won't be all sloppy when I do get IS." I guess I am learning well... but I still can't completely be certain. I'll test it out more over the weekend.

I don't remember which setting I was using during the long slow focus on the horizon, but I'm not sure it matters because it was a landscape shot, not like there was anything hard to find or track... I now use C AF+MF mode always (except a few excursions into MF when desperate). I either half or full press, depends on the circumstances. I shoot JPEG.

I don't retract the slow and noisy autofocus comment regardless, and yes, my lens also slowly extends outward at times.

It is also possible the polarizer was bad.

Here is one shot that came out good, maybe it works OK after all. This was one of my very first shots with this lens, my "wildlife" practice shot when it first arrived. I have more but I'm going to bed.

Don Kondra
07-03-2008, 05:59 PM
Well, I hate to say it but I think you are expecting a little much from a camera without IS and handholding the shot with a relatively slow shutter speed.

If you can, try using a tripod and see if that improves matters for you.

And please, if you size your images to 700 x whatever it will fit the screen and we won't have to scroll to read your message ;)

Just to show the benefits of IS, this is the 70-300 at 300mm handheld with the E-510...

http://i249.photobucket.com/albums/gg202/donkondra/HighFlyer.jpg

Looking forward to seeing your next batch of test shots.

Cheers, Don

Phill D
07-04-2008, 10:11 AM
Raven looks just a bit soft to me rather than any hand shake. Looks like your shutter speed was fine for that focal length. Is that typical would you say for a good shot from the 18-180?
Don what settings did you use for your shot the details were stripped off the image?
How do you guys think the 70-300, 18-180 & 40-150 would all compare image wise at say 150mm?

Don Kondra
07-04-2008, 12:32 PM
1/350 F/8 ESP + AF Single AF ISO 100

So far I would rate the IQ the way you have them listed, 70-300, 18-180 and then the 40-150.....

Cheers, Don

raven15
07-04-2008, 01:09 PM
I usually keep in-camera sharpness at its lowest setting, that could be the reason for the softness. I might bump it up a notch. That picture looks fine to me, no blur. Though it may appear slightly brown.

Don, in which order? Is the 70-300 best?

I don't use the 40-150 much, but I do recall more vignetting on that lens. I thought it was better than the 18-180 otherwise, though less useful by far. But as I said, I haven't used it enough to really tell.

Don, sorry about the picture size, it fits fine in my monitor. I'll keep things at 800x600 in the future. Though, in this case I did make it big on purpose to show more IQ. Yes, I was aware of the benefits of IS, my previous camera was a Canon A710IS, which could take steady shots at 1/4s (at least, no blur was noticeable within the constraints of the camera, it probably would have been with a 10mp dslr). It was a struggle to go back to no IS, but I convinced myself that the E-410's better 800 ISO would make it the A710's equal at least, with the 14-54.

Don Kondra
07-04-2008, 01:10 PM
Chipmunk resized, some brightness and contrast and +2 sharpen with FastStone Image Viewer.

http://i249.photobucket.com/albums/gg202/donkondra/donkondra%20tests/chipmunk.jpg

Hope you don't mind the editing???

Cheers, Don

Phill D
07-04-2008, 11:55 PM
Yes I had a go at tweaking the chipmunk too and got a nice sharp image. I usually use +1 sharpness in camera & noise reduction at low to get sharper images. I just don't like them to come out soft. I did think I'd turned my camera contrast down a bit as well to help with the highlights but having just looked it's set at 0 so I guess I'm not learning my way round the camera as quickly as I thought:o although I've been quite pleased with the shots I've taken recenty so I'll probably leave it alone for now.
Don it's interesting you rate the 18-180 higher than the 40-150. I would really like the versatility of the long range in one lens for convenience but had been put off by others saying that it produced soft images. I can't justify the cost of a Leica 14-150 at the moment although from the recent testing on the DPReview forums it looks like an excellent long term goal. Bit limited on reach though so your comments on the 70-300 are welcome as I do miss the reach & flexibility I had with my FZ20 (that could get to 432mm at f2.8). An effective 600mm seems awesome to me. Only snag is I like to take macros & low light school concerts so I guess I need the 50mm f2 as well ;). Current thinking is that my lens path could be 70-300 & 50mm (not sure which first) & then when all the lens switching finally gets me down (& I can justify the cost to my wife) swap the kit lenses for a leica 14-150.

Don Kondra
07-05-2008, 08:06 AM
Only snag is I like to take macros & low light school concerts so I guess I need the 50mm f2 as well ;). Current thinking is that my lens path could be 70-300 & 50mm (not sure which first) & then when all the lens switching finally gets me down (& I can justify the cost to my wife) swap the kit lenses for a leica 14-150.

I can't comment on the 50 as I am just about to order one :)

But the 70-300 does a nice job of macro, here's the typical dandelion

http://i249.photobucket.com/albums/gg202/donkondra/Dandelion.jpg

And some tiny blue flowers :)

http://i249.photobucket.com/albums/gg202/donkondra/BlueFlowers.jpg

My thinking right now is I have the 14-54 for shooting pictures of my work, this is where I need good IQ. The 18-180 is a nice walk around lens and then the 70-300 for reach and macro.

I think that gives good coverage but I have lens lust and hope to be cured (yeah, right) with the purchase of the 50 :)

Although I did see a 50-200 for $650, sigh.....

Cheers, Don

Don Kondra
07-05-2008, 08:08 AM
PS. I should also mention I like to shoot in RAW and do any changes/adjustments later so I leave all the camera settings at 0....

Cheers, Don

raven15
07-05-2008, 01:35 PM
Yes, it is completely OK to tweak it. Fact is, I tend to shoot at sharpness -2, contrast -2, saturation +2, noise filter low, so some later addition of contrast and possibly sharpness is almost expected. Usually based on natural mode, but I also have "muted" and "vivid" set to do extreme versions of those respective settings, no point half-assing it... I haven't done much RAW yet. I just took a few last night and this morning, I might toy around a little.

I just discovered this morning that I am in desperate need of the 9-18 lens that hasn't come out yet. Other than that I would like SWD lenses because I frequently find myself needing to overide the AF, sometimes in a hurry, and that can be done easily and at anytime with the SWD lenses. First: 12-60 (might be a while), maybe 50-200, but it is very big for my purposes when I would use it.

Caution: I just did a thorough testing of my 18-180, expect results soon. They involve both wide angle applications (like taking picture of the mountain I was standing on) and high zoom applications (like mountain goats).

raven15
07-05-2008, 07:51 PM
OK, here are some mountain goat pictures I took to compare my 14-54 and 18-180 lenses. All pictures 100% crops

Picture 1: taken three weeks ago, 14-54 lens, 54mm, f/6.3, 100 ISO, 1/150s my sharpest mountain goat picture, this is what it should look like.

Picture 2: same settings etc., except 1/125s shutter
my blurriest 14-54 lens goat picture

Picture 3: today, 18-180 lens, 180mm, f/8, 100 ISO, 1/400s
settings should be ideal, yet it is a bad picture, and average for this lens

Picture 4: same settings etc, except 1/640s shutter
my sharpest goat picture with the 18-180 lens

ok, so camera shake might be contributing here, but the worst 14-54 shot is better than the best 18-180 shot, and I actually bumped up in-camera sharpness by +1 for the 18-180 pictures. The colors and contrast seem better too. And less purple edging to the rocks, and the out of focus areas (bokeh) don't make me queasy. Now granted, I maybe shouldn't be comparing 100% shots, but that was one of my reasons for going DSLR, and this lens is making my 10MP camera a 2MP camera.

e_dawg
07-05-2008, 08:40 PM
Well telephoto zooms and superzooms tend to struggle with sharpness at their long ends, and the 18-180 is not considered a very good lens optically, but that looks pretty bad -- worse than one would expect from any Olympus lens. I would send it back.

Don Kondra
07-05-2008, 10:34 PM
ok, so camera shake might be contributing here, but the worst 14-54 shot is better than the best 18-180 shot, and I actually bumped up in-camera sharpness by +1 for the 18-180 pictures. The colors and contrast seem better too. And less purple edging to the rocks, and the out of focus areas (bokeh) don't make me queasy.

I think you at least need a tripod to do a proper test. That will eliminate camera shake as a factor.

You should consider you are comparing a Standard Grade lens to a High Grade lens. The Image quality winner is not in doubt....


Now granted, I maybe shouldn't be comparing 100% shots, but that was one of my reasons for going DSLR, and this lens is making my 10MP camera a 2MP camera.

That simply does not compute. I understand your frustration but you are comparing apples to oranges.

Try a controlled test before you make any decisions.....

Cheers, Don

Phill D
07-05-2008, 11:04 PM
Don the fact that you are ordering a 50mm f2 is probably comment enough ;) Especially as you showed some pretty good macros with the 70-300. Actually I forgot that the 70-300 could do macros. I wasn't expecting a long lens to be able to do them very well. How does it work? is there a special setting or focal length to use on the lens? I presume you have a pretty lengthy close focussing distance as well. If that's true it could be pretty good for undisturbed bug macros.
Raven ugh I agree those shots are pretty awful :( if your lens is at fault I hope you manage to exchange it as e_dawg suggested. If that is typical of what the lens produces then versatile or not that lens is not for me. Just curious, what did the whole shot comparison look like rather than the 100% crop?

Don Kondra
07-06-2008, 11:34 AM
Actually I forgot that the 70-300 could do macros. I wasn't expecting a long lens to be able to do them very well. How does it work? is there a special setting or focal length to use on the lens? I presume you have a pretty lengthy close focussing distance as well. If that's true it could be pretty good for undisturbed bug macros.

These shots were from the first series of tests with this lens and I always leave the camera on Auto until I see what it can do...

I have read numerous articles that suggest the 510 Needs this or that setting but does it not make sense to start from a base line on Your camera and Your Lens before fooling with the settings?

FYI on the blue flowers it was 1/250 at F 6.7 and 300mm from probably three feet away, just crouched down, composed, focused and shot ;)

No crop, just resize.

So I guess if this lens is rumoured to have issues at the long end, this would be the worse it can do :D

Cheers, Don

raven15
07-06-2008, 12:57 PM
1: 18mm, f/7.1, ISO 100, 1/125s, AF
Yesterday. Lake. No crop, Nothing special about this shot, but it is one of the better 25% of pictures IQ-wise I got yesterday.

2: 360mm, f/6.3, ISO 100, 1/1000s, AF
Yesterday. Pika. Slight crop. Pika looks horrible, but the snow behind it is looking pretty good.

3: 360mm, f/8, ISO 100, 1/1000s, MF
Yesterday. Himalayan Snowcock. 100% crop. Looks acceptable, except the rock in front which looks horrible. Color seems off.

4: 18mm, f/6.3, ISO 100, 1/160sm AF
Yesterday. Tree and water fall. No crop. Poor color, nothing looks very good. Looks much worse at higher than 800x600 resolution.

5: 360mm, f/10, ISO 100, 1/250s, MF?
Yesterday. Himalayan Snowcock. Slight crop. Looks great (if not perfect), presumably this is what the lens is supposed to do.

raven15
07-06-2008, 01:17 PM
So those are the results. Keep in mind I was shooting at reduced contrast and sharpness.

I think I conclude I have a lens with a brown cast to it (slightly orange) but other wise optically ok for this type of lens, with a horrible autofocus problem. Notice the sharpest shots seem to be on manual focus. And focusing on that pika outlined against the snow should be a cakewalk.

I also conclude that camera shake can be a problem even with correct focus (the most-screwed-up mountain goat picture seems to have both problems), so I'll have to pay closer attention to that too (using ISO 200 and constant f/6.3 aperture would be a good start).

I still dislike focusing on the lens at all times. As I said, AF is loud and slow, and not incredibly precise (even when considering mine is not working correctly). The motor seems coarse, because when I make slight adjustments in manual focus, the lens seems to jump from one focus to the next. This experience tends to agree with the sound the lens makes when focusing.

I will try to send this back to have it repaired or replaced, it supposedly came with a 1 year retailer warranty from Adorama. I like the zoom range this lens has, so hopefully everything works out. Even so, I half expect Olympus to release a new version of the lens soon, because they have done so with pretty much all their other lenses. If they do, I would definitely be interested in that new lens instead of a properly-working current 18-180.

Don Kondra
07-10-2008, 06:52 PM
Have you sent it back?

Here's another one at 180mm, heavily cropped and shot through a patio door, quickly before the dog woke up and noticed :D

He was sleeping not more than twenty feet away....

http://i249.photobucket.com/albums/gg202/donkondra/Rabbit.jpg

Cheers, Don

raven15
07-11-2008, 05:45 PM
No, I called them (I found the receipt its actually Cameta) but haven't yet shipped it out.

Phill D
07-19-2008, 12:03 AM
Raven don't forget to let us know if your replacement is better.

raven15
07-22-2008, 09:12 PM
Phill D, I haven't forgotten yet, but I think it only arrived at my shipping destination today or yesterday, so it may be awhile.

Though I would like to have it by the end of next week, I have a big backpacking trip coming up where it would be useful. I was practicing over the weekend, and I learned that if I am taking landscape shots there is no possible way I can change lenses fast enough for a wildlife shot before it gets away.

raven15
07-22-2008, 09:25 PM
I suddenly remembered you were asking about taking pictures of Niagara falls a while ago.

Really, the general tips for all water falls apply. Bring a tripod, take a few zoomed in shots at fast shutter speeds to get nice frozen doplets, take a few a very slow shutter speeds to get the milky effect. Get a polarizer, polarizer fader, or neutral density lens. For Niagara in particular, it depends if you are on the US side or the Canada side (it is hard to switch across the border multiple times quickly).

The Canadian side probably has better views for landscape shots, you can see the entire falls. Expect to walk a long way though, or else pay for a shuttle ticket, they seem to have deliberately limited parking near the falls. This may be good though, you can choose the best spots on your half mile walk each way to shoot from.

The US has Rainbow Falls (or something like that), where there is a perpetual rainbow as you might guess. That is probably the best spot from this side. The absolute best spot to see the falls is the observation platform right next to Rainbow Falls, but it costs money to get up and is very crowded.

Day or night also makes a huge difference. I think the Canadian side is almost certainly best at night, when there is no rainbow. There are colored lights that shine on the falls and change color every few minutes, so if you want a new color wait a little bit.There is also plain white, it only happens for about six minutes in a half hour but looks more natural. There are several interesting buildings and bridges that make nice backdrops if you are facing north, but Rainbow Falls will only be on the side of the shot in those situations.

Phill D
07-22-2008, 11:18 PM
Thanks raven I'd forgotten I asked too but we are going soon so your post is brilliantly timed. I'll print it out & take it with me. I have not got any filters yet but was intending to make a visit to B&H in NY as we will be in NY for a few days before Niagara & I'd planned on getting Skylights & a polariser should I get a ND as well? if so what level would you recommend and what is a polariser fader? I can feel my spending money evaporating!

raven15
07-23-2008, 07:48 PM
Well, the ND isn't as critical. I didn't have one, and I don't think my pictures would have been better with it in that case, just different. I don't own one, so I really couldn't tell you. A polarizer fader is just two polarizers stuck together to make one filter, that serves double purpose as a polarizer and variable ND. By rotating one of the polarizers you can control how much light enters, in theory (not practice) you can use it to reduce light by anywhere from ~2 stops to perfectly dark. I would say from -2 to -6 stops in reality. I just got mine last week and haven't really tried it yet.

But in any case, an ordinary polarizer would be cheaper and easier to find and most important.

Phill D
07-24-2008, 11:29 PM
Thanks raven I'll have a look round here first to see what I might get & compare prices.