Samsung 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS III NX
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Lab Test Results
November 22, 2014
by Andrew Alexander
The Samsung 18-55mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 OIS III NX is the third iteration of Samsung's 18-55mm series kit lens. Looking at the technical specifications, it's hard to see any discernible difference between the version II and III lenses (though the version III lens appears to have packed on an additional 6 grams in weight despite not having changed size). It offers a focal length range equivalent of around 28-85mm (in 35mm film terms). The lens is available in two colors: black, and white.
The 18-55mm isn't a ''constant'' lens, in that as you increase the focal length, the maximum aperture size decreases, however the minimum aperture remains at f/22. The following table reflects the change in aperture size with focal length:
The Samsung 18-55mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 ships with a petal-shaped lens hood, takes 58mm filters, and is available separately for around $220 or as part of a NX30 or NX300 kit.
Our copy of the lens looks to have some de-centering - it's most noticeable at the 45mm focal length setting. Generally, the lens is decently sharp, but not amazingly so. Used at its widest apertures, we note fair results for sharpness in the central region of the frame (excepting the notable 45mm focal length) with a not insignificant amount of corner softness. Stopping down helps a bit, but not a huge amount - the lens never achieves tack-sharp images. The best setting appears to be 35mm at ƒ/8, where it's almost tack-sharp across the frame.
Diffraction limiting begins to set in at ƒ/11, and at this setting image sharpness is even across the frame for all focal length settings. Generalized softness becomes apparent at ƒ/16, and consistently so at ƒ/22.
The NX30 and NX300 cameras perform some significant processing to remove chromatic aberration for JPEGs produced in-camera (one only need look at Imaging Resource's review of the NX300 to see uncorrected RAW images, with some impressive CA in the corners). Happily this CA is restricted mostly to the wide angle of the lens - 18-24mm - at other focal lengths, it's much less apparent.
There's very little corner shading to report on with the Samsung 18-55mm - the corners are about a quarter-stop darker than the center, at all focal lengths and apertures.
As is indicative of consumer kit lenses, there is significant distortion when using this lens. Between 18mm and 24mm, there is significant wide-angle distortion (+1% in the corners) and between 24mm and 55mm this turns into pincushion distortion (around -0.6% in the corners).
Samsung claims the 18-55mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 III focuses in 170 milliseconds, though they offer no explanation of the scenario which produces this result. In our testing, we found the lens to focus quite quickly on the NX300: it takes less than one second to go through its whole range. The front element accepts 58mm filters, and will not rotate during focus operations, making life just that little bit easier for polarizer users.
With a minimum close-focus range of 28cm (just under a foot) and a magnification ratio of 0.22x, the 18-55mm provides reasonable performance in the macro category.
Build Quality and Handling
The Samsung 18-55mm III ƒ/3.5-5.6 OIS NX is a light and compact zoom lens, weighing in at just 204 grams (7.2 ounces), and just 65mm long (2.6 inches). The lens is constructed out of dense polycarbonate with smooth black finish and a metal lens mount. The lens is composed of 12 elements in 9 groups, with 1 aspherical element; the 7-bladed circular aperture diaphragm helps create smooth, pleasing background blur. The lens features only focal length markings and has no distance scale or depth-of-field markings. The lens takes 58mm filters.
In addition to the focus zoom rings (more on that in a second) there are two control switches: the first switch activates or deactivates autofocus. The second switch is the I-Function button, which operates the camera's I-Function, well, function. The I-Function system allows you to adjust all sorts of camera exposure and image quality settings. It's a very handy feature, especially when paired with sleeker cameras like the Samsung NX300 that do away with a front control dial.
Samsung doesn't really intend for the user to manually focus - the focus ring is only about a quarter-inch wide with raised plastic ribs. The ring turns forever, without stops to let you know you've reached infinity or close-focusing distance.
The zoom ring is about a half-inch wide, with deep rubber ribs. It offers about ninety degrees of turning radius. As the lens is zoomed from 18mm to 55mm, it extends its length, from 2.6" to 4" when fully zoomed in to 55mm.
Finally, Samsung has included Optical Image Stabilization in this lens, which can be a welcome alternative to lugging around a tripod. Samsung's marketing materials don't specify how effective its OIS system is, but our testing shows that it can confidently produce around two stops of hand-holding stability. Check out our IS Test tab above for more detail.
At the time of writing, we haven't tested any other Samsung zoom lenses, so we present the following links for your reference:
For it's price point, the Samsung 18-55mm III is a decent lens, but doesn't punch above its weight class as many users might hope. Still, as an entry point to the Samsung system it does decently well, but demanding users will probably (to Samsung's hopes) want to upgrade to a better and more expensive lens such as the 16-50mm ƒ/2-2.8.
The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.
As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.
Samsung 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS III NX User Reviews
9 out of 10 points and recommended by jamesdike (9 reviews)fast focusnone for it's price
It came with my NX300 Samsung which I purchased last year and I've been using it (kit lens) ever since. I recently chose to buy a new one and my choice stop on this one based on various reviews which explains how this lens basically had become people's first go-to lens. I can't agree more and I much appreciate this lens. It's very very easy to use, very small and lightweight but always gives you stunning pictures with very consistent results. Highly recommended. Pic 2, Pic 3reviewed June 2nd, 2015 (purchased for $199)