As a first-time camera buyer, the vast amount of options can seem daunting, paralyzing even.
DSLR or mirrorless? Which brand? Should you get a kit lens or a prime?
As for camera type and brand, it comes entirely down to your preference in terms of design philosophy.
When it comes to kit lenses, our view is pretty straightforward: you are usually better off getting a prime. Here’s why.
Are Kit Lenses Bad for New Photographers?
Generally speaking, yes. But first, let’s unpack the kit lens concept for the uninitiated.
What Is a Kit Lens?
Kit lens basically refers to the standard lens that comes bundled with your ‘camera kit.’ It’s typically an 18-55 lens designed for CMOS sensors.
The price difference can be negligible between body only and deals including a kit lens. But does this mean that the difference justifies the cost?
Let’s cover the pros and cons so that you can make an informed choice.
Kit Lens Advantages
Small size and weight
While a kit lens is a zoom lens, it’s typically on the smaller and lighter side of the spectrum. This means less fatigue and a more discreet appearance.
A kit lens is an easy choice. You know that it’s designed to work with the given camera, and you can save time on research by opting for a kit lens when buying a new camera body.
Thanks to its nature, a kit lens is pretty versatile. It might not be fantastic at any given photography style but can help you capture anything from close-ups to landscapes.
Video footage should be no problem, either.
Covers a broad zoom range
A kit lens has a relatively good focal range. It lets you effortlessly get anything in the frame – simply twist the zoom ring as needed.
Lots of lens for the buck
Technically, a kit lens offers a lot of functionality for the money. So then, are all kit lenses bad?
Perhaps for some photographic niches, but they certainly have their strengths. But wait, there is more.
Kit Lens Drawbacks
Despite their numerous pros, kit lenses inherently have some flaws that you need to know before plotting in your credit card number.
Durability and design
First of all, cheap kit lenses tend to have a somewhat unimpressive construction quality. Given their low cost, don’t expect world-class craftsmanship and sturdiness. Sometimes, using poor quality kit lenses can result in a pink or magenta haze near the corners of photos. It can look ugly.
Inferior optical quality
If you are after tack-sharp, pleasing eye candy with high resolution and no optical defects, then kit lenses are not the place to look.
Shooting or filming in dimly lit scenes calls for large apertures. Kit lenses tend to underdeliver in this department and disappoint with their underwhelming low-light capabilities.
Thankfully, kit lenses often come with built-in image stabilization, which partly mitigates the lacking low-light punch.
As kit lenses mostly have variable apertures, zooming in means less light and bokeh.
Consequently, those stops need to be regained elsewhere—compromising the shot with slower shutter speed or noise due to overly high ISO values.
Covers a broad zoom range
Since a kit lens goes from a wide 18mm up to 55mm semi-telephoto, it lets you compose a shot around nearly any subject imaginable.
However, this trait comes with an undesirable side-effect; the habit of using zoom vs. moving around the scene.
How To Get the Most Out of a Kit Lens
All things considered, a kit lens can be a viable, powerful creative tool.
In fact, it’s probably better than you think. If you get one for cheaps, learn to use it properly—but don’t hesitate to upgrade as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, focus on those key concepts to get the most mileage out of your new kit lens.
- Understand focal length
- Remember image stabilization
- Use the right settings
- Try to use your feet more
- Learn to use lighting to your advantage
What Lens to Get Instead of a Kit Lens?
Newly hatched photographers tend to research lens recommendations to upgrade a bundled kit lens.
Below are our top recommended focal lengths for any new photographer – in descending order.
- 50mm f/1.8 prime lens
- 35mm prime lens
- 28mm f/2.8 prime lens
- 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom lens
So, are kit lenses bad for beginners?
To sum it up—yes, in our opinion, inexpensive kit lenses are generally a bad idea for anyone looking to sharpen their photography skills.
You are better equipped with a couple of primes. They also teach you good photography habits from click one.
If you opt for a kit lens, make sure you go for the higher-end version of it.
Any lens can be a potent tool, but some are simply more capable and useful than others. Decide what’s most important to you, and take it from there.