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Real comparison between 18-70 and 17-55

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by Pradipta Dutta, Mar 30, 2007.

  1. Lately, there has been a lot of talks comparing the 18-70DX with the 17-55DX. Everyone appear to have an opinion but no one bothers to post a sample.

    So, I decided to give my 18-70 and 17-55 some workout. The following images were shot on Gitzo 3530S, BH-55, Mirror Up, in manual mode (exact same shutter speed, aperture & ISO) at 5600 degree Kevin white balance, from the exact same point. Both shot at 55mm - the difference in frame coverage is because of exit pupil/pupilary action.

    My observation is that there isn't too much difference on the full frame but when you look at the 100% crop you can see the difference. I won't comment on which one is better. It is for you to decide. However, bokeh is definitely better on the image shot with 17-55.

    BTW, these are "as shot" images - no post processing at all other than resizing and cropping (where applicable).

    I will shoot several more comparison shots over the weekend and post here.




    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 30, 2007
  2. Edit, I can't really tell which is better the more I look at it. :confused: 
  3. Where the 17-55 really shines is at large apertures, it is pretty sharp at F2.8 already. That comparison you can't make with the 18-70 of course.. I dont bash the 18-70 at all it is a nice lesn and pretty much unbeatable for the money, however inside and or low light at F2.8 the 17-55 is very hard to beat....

    BTW your images have red X's tonight I will check them in he morning....
  4. Definitely agree. No doubt about it. Say at f/2.8, an image shot with 17-55 will beat that shot with 18-70 regardless who the photographer is because there will be no image from the 18-70 to compare:BlueHair:.
  5. Brian-S


    Feb 10, 2007
    Bay Area, CA
    what was the aperture used for each lens for the above comparison? i would also reccomend shooting at say 40mm so as to not be at the longest-most end of the 17-55.

  6. PeterRH

    PeterRH Guest

    he he.

    And after all, that's what we're paying for with these lenses isn't it, the ability to help out 1) our control over DOF and 2) our autofocus sensors which even on the D2x CAM2000 need as much help as we can give them in low-light.

    I've shot paid for jobs with the 18-70 in good light with no problem and no sacrifice in quality - in those circumstances my view is that the debate about 'which is best' between the 18-70 and the 17-55 is irrelevant.

    But if you shoot a lot indoors/in low-light, or want control over thinner slices of DOF and better bokeh....then the circumstances clearly favour one of our 'pro' lens selection options.
  7. it's good to know

    if you are someone like myself who cannot afford more expensive optics such as the 17-55 you can still enjoy the bottom line qualities of the lens, IQ (sans the large aperture, faster performance, build, etc).
  8. Both images were shot at F/4.5, 1/40 sec and 100 ISO.

    I do not at all agree with your recommendation of not shooting at 55mm with the 17-55. As a matter of fact, my 17-55 performs the best at 55mm. 40mm, however, is not far behind.
  9. Some more fresh test results

    Here are some of the results from my additional testing. Please note that all the shots were made on a sturdy tripod/head. The shots were actuated with a wired remote with Mirror-Up at 100iso. All the image were shot with white balance that were manually set in Kelvin scale and respective scenes were shot with 17-55DX and 18-70DX at the exact same focal length, aperture and shutter speed.

    One significant difference from previous day's testing is that all the target images are stationary objects.

    All images were shot with in-camera sharpening set to normal (zero) and tone curve set to normal as well. Since no post processing has been done, naturally the images don't have the pop. Secondly, as you can see the sharpness of the 100% crop of the image clearly indicate that my copies of the lenses are extremely good.

    Anyways, the current set of tests include images shot in good light and poor light. My conclusion is that the 17-55 clearly exhibits better sharpness and contrast but the difference isn't significant. Most importantly, there isn't any perceptible difference in color rendition. Whether the difference is worth the additional $$ is totally dependent on your own usage.

    Would I buy a 17-55 if I were to make the decision again? ABSOLUTELY!
    Does the 17-55 blow the 18-70 away in terms of image quality? DEFINITELY NOT!

    However, please free to make your own conclusions.

    These two sets are in good light -

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    These two sets are in poor light and hence long shutter speed -

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    Let me know if you have any questions.
  10. sonuj2


    May 11, 2006
    Naperville, IL
    Thanks for taking the time to test and post these results. I have excellent copies of both these lenses and feel that the 17-55 has better contrast than the 18-70. Obviously, the 17-55 being a faster lens has a better usage in low light conditions.
  11. ckdamascus


    May 14, 2005
    New Jersey
    It's all about diminishing returns. I don't think any of these lenses give you proportionally better performance for the price. It's not to say not to buy them. They are "better" but in different circumstances or "marginally" so in different areas.

    I say marginally in quotes since sometimes you want to blow up an image to very large sizes, and every bit of sharpness will count big time then. But, it's not like you'll see the difference between the 70-200mm f/2.8 and 200mm f/2 printed on a 4x6.

    In the rare circumstances, those features are very important and due to production costs, the price goes up quite a bit.

    We just have to be careful that we are truly buying for what will give us more "utility." Of course, if you have spare cash to blow, no point in wondering about the calculations... JUST DO IT. :) 

    I think a good analogy would be sports cars. It's not like a 200,000 dollar ferrari is "10X" faster than a lower end 20,000 dollar Honda Accord. It doesn't last 10X longer either. But it will be much faster in 0-60, has a higher top speed, etc.
  12. awww I want to see the pictures! haha

    still not working!
  13. Better contrast on the 17-55. Judging by your shots anyway. It almost appears that the 18-70 meters just a bit higher than the 17-55. All the 18-70 shots are slightly more exposed. The could be a result of the lesser contrast but it looked like a combination of contrast and exposure.

    All that said I have the 18-70 and have been singing it's praises to those who will listen. My copy is sharp and the zoom range really covers a lot ground. Not for low light, but add a flash and your back in business.
  14. Brian-S


    Feb 10, 2007
    Bay Area, CA
    i'm only seeing red x's. but reading the text, clearly if narrow DOF is not as important and if you don't need a lens built like a tank, then the 18-70 is the cheaper way to go. this is also clearly lens copy dependent.

    thanks for the comparison!
  15. weiran


    Jan 2, 2007
    Nottingham, UK
    The Nikkor 18-70 lens is probably one of the best kit lenses ever made. Another test I'd like to see, Tamron 17-50 vs Nikkor 17-55 at f/2.8!
  16. Gr8Tr1x

    Gr8Tr1x Guest

    I just recently got a 17-55mm DX, and I really like it. I had previously used and then sold an 18-70mm DX. I used the 18-70mm DX as my main lens for quite some time. One of the first things I noticed after examinINg my 17-55mm DX shots is noticeable lack of CA in high contrasty shots and no vignetting. The 18-70mm had issues with some CA, and it did vignette at 18mm.
  17. weiran


    Jan 2, 2007
    Nottingham, UK
    The 18-70s main problem is the vignetting, although it's easily sorted with some post processing it's still annoying to have to do it every time.
  18. That's exactly my observation as well. The 17-55 has a slight edge in both contrast and sharpness (particularly visible in 100%) but there isn't any perceptible difference in color rendition. But the 17-55 truly shines in low light conditions where f/2.8 can really make or break the situation.
  19. lwiley


    Apr 6, 2006
    Pradipta, I too can not see the images and I offer a tip.

    From pbase, never use the i.pbase.com address. The server/servers associated with the i.pbase address are known for swapping things around. You will run into problems if you are not using the www.pbase.com address.

    The best way to ensure pbase images will always display correctly is to copy the address from the address window. It must be from the address window - the address from the right click context menu will not do.

    Sometimes the address will look like this:

    In that case you should add the size to the address and end it with .jpg. Like this:


    Other times the address will look like this:

    In that case you simply add the .jpg. Like this:


    I can't find the pbase help page where this is explained right now. If I find it, I'll post an update.

    EDIT: Found it here: http://www.pbase.com/help/account&id=5&search=image+link
    and here: http://www.pbase.com/help/direct_linking&id=465&search=image+link

    HTH, Leroy
  20. 1FASTZ


    Jan 25, 2006
    Cincinnati, OH
    Please fix the links, I want to see these data...
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