8 reasons why cheap kit lenses are the perfect lens

8 reasons why cheap kit lenses are the perfect lens

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.

8 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!

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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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8 reasons why cheap kit lenses are the perfect lens

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.

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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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  • QueenPinky

    I dig this article. Just ordered my Canon SL1 and I’ve been thinking a lot about the kit lens that its coming with. This article kinda rounded out my personal ideas about the lens. I especially like the idea that using the kit lens will help you understand what lens you need, if you need another one. There is no way I know, at this present moment which prime lens I need for my style of shooting, but I can observe my focal lengths and f stops with a kit lens and make a prime decision when I’m ready!

    Thank you for sharing!

  • Kirk Billingsley

    I am a lens junkie but I always find a time and place for my kit lenses.

  • pete guaron

    I know it’s rather late in the day to be commenting – your article was published nearly two years ago. But I think I should still mention a ninth reason.

    It is a fact of life that camera manufacturers must make profits, or we wouldn’t have them. And to do that, they must make sales.

    The vast majority of their sales are aimed at amateur photographers – enthusiasts – call them what you will.

    Professionals know they have to make money too, and they are generally constrained to buy only what they need. And of course, the professional market is FAR smaller than the amateur market.

    That is why you see so many “new products” in the amateur market – and years often roll by before you see similar upgrades in professional gear.

    Consequently, while the amateur gear might not be whatever it is people imagine the professional gear is, there’s a HUGE amount invested in turning out good quality cameras and lenses and other gear, for the amateur market.

    And in fact the amateur market is well served with very fine quality cameras, lenses etc. You see it all over – in kit lenses and all the rest of the gear that’s produced for the main market for photographic equipment.

    I have the luxury of being able to use a selection from all “grades” – I use a compact that slips into my pocket – a half frame with a kit zoom – and a full frame with prime lenses (w/angle, standard, macro & tele). And they ALL take good photos. Maybe not the same – and maybe for some purposes one is better than one or both of the others. But they are ALL good, and I get great results from them all.

    I’ll take it one step further. My decision to get a full frame DSLR was not taken lightly, and it was taken for very specific reasons. Reasons which probably have little or no relevance to most amateur photographers. And if circumstances had been otherwise, there would have been no need to go down that path. There are plenty of very good and far cheaper alternatives out there, producing singularly excellent photographs from one end of the world to the other.

    It is wrong and irresponsible to encourage amateurs to spend vast sums of money on high-end stuff that they don’t really need.