The low-cost kit lenses you get with digital SLRs or compact system cameras don’t have much of a reputation, but is that fair? They might be cheap, they might be light, they might not have earth-shattering specifications, but they do have some qualities and advantages that are all too easily overlooked.
In their latest guest blog post the photo management experts at Photoventure counted eight reasons why cheap kit lenses are the perfect lens.
Benefits of Cheap Kit Lenses: 01. Four classic focal lengths in one
Your camera’s kit lens might not seem particularly versatile or exciting compare to the more exotic lenses out there, but it covers the four ‘classic’ focal lengths most used by old-school photographers.
It can act as a classic 28mm wideangle lens, the 35mm moderate wide-angle favoured by documentary and street photographers and the 50mm ‘standard’ lens that used to be fitted to all 35mm film SLRs.
And at the long end of the zoom range you get the perfect ‘portrait’ focal length of 85mm.
Kit lenses don’t offer the same maximum aperture as individual prime lenses, but it’s still like getting four lenses in one!
Benefits of Cheap Kit Lenses: 02. Lighter and smaller
The regular 18-55mm kit lens supplied with most D-SLRs and compact system cameras might seem the low rent option, but it’s also low weight!
The Canon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens is 70mm long and weighs just 200g. The pro-spec Canon 17-55mm f/2.8, however, is 110.6mm long and weighs a massive 645g.
That could be a real pain in then neck – literally – if you’re carrying the camera on you shoulder all day, and it’s enough to seriously mess with the balance of Canon’s smaller DSLR bodies.
It’s the same story with Nikon’s low-cost 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens versus its high-end 17-55mm f/2.8 lens.
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Benefits of Cheap Kit Lenses: 03. Cheaper filters
Lens filters are still really useful, even in the digital age, but the bigger the size, the more they cost.
Basic kit lenses have smaller filter rings than super-zooms or pro-quality fixed-aperture zooms, so you could save money in ways you never expected.
A Hoya Pro1 circular polariser costs £60/$58 in the smaller kit lens size but £110/$100 in the 77mm fitting needed for the f/2.8 Canon and Nikon pro lenses above.
Be aware that there is one drawback to kit lenses with filters, however – many kit lenses have front elements which rotate as the lens focuses.
It saves money but it makes it harder to use filters which need to be rotated to specific angles.
Benefits of Cheap Kit Lenses: 04. Close focus capability
Kit lenses are designed to be as versatile as possible and may be better than you think in areas you hadn’t expected – namely close-focusing capability.
Both the Canon and Nikon kit lenses mentioned above focus considerably closer than their professional equivalents.
The Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 has a minimum focus distance of 0.28m and the Canon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 can focus right down to 0.25m.
The minimum focus distance doesn’t change as you zoom, so the trick is to use the maximum zoom setting for close-ups to make objects as big as possible.
Neither kit lens will give you true macro capability, but both are capable of filling the frame with surprisingly small objects.
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