Kit Lenses may be one of the most despised pieces of photography gear among elitists. They're also one of the most prevalent excuses for flawed photos and there are times when they're unjustly accused. Although this “cheap glass” may be inferior to higher-priced lenses in some areas, when you take a serious look, you can't get better value for your dollar and there are actually several good reasons to use them.
1. You don't have to take out a loan to own one. Let's get the obvious point out of the way first. Most of us that own kit lenses probably acquired them as part of a kit. That means we paid mostly for the camera body and for a few bucks more, we got one or more lenses that cover a wide range of focal lengths. Kits are how many novices get their start.
If you didn't get your lens(es) as part of a kit, you can buy them ridiculously inexpensively. Why would you want to? Well, can you ever really have enough glass?
2. Their zoom ranges are great. When manufacturers create a kit lens, they design it around a range of focal lengths that's going to cover a lot of common shooting situations. Take a look at some of the most common kit zoom ranges. Click the links to see some great examples:
18-55mm: This one is a common kit zoom for all the big brands. It's wide enough for great landscapes and just a little bit higher than the “nifty fifty”, this zoom range is extremely versatile.
55-250mm: Here's a popular one with Nikon kits. How's that for covering the mid-range and high end?
55-300mm: This one was developed by Canon and although it's been discontinued, there are still a few good used ones available and they're extremely affordable.
75-300mm: Want to get a little closer? This one will give you nice street portraits and will handle wildlife and moon photography, too.
3. They'll teach you about sweet spots. Every lens is more prone to distortion and/or aberration at the extreme ends of its zoom range as well as the high and low ends of its aperture settings. Working with a kit lens will challenge you to find the ranges where these anomalies are best canceled out. The shooting habits you'll develop in the process will improve your skills. Meanwhile, most of the flaws can be easily corrected with decent post-processing software.
4. They'll challenge your camera handling skills. One of the biggest disadvantages of a kit lens is usually the maximum aperture size, typically f/4 to f/4.5 for telephoto zooms and f/3.5 for wide to normal zooms. Put simply, they're not as fast as more expensive lenses. What that means is you're going to have to learn how to hold your camera steady, use your ISO setting and make the other adjustments necessary to avoid camera shake. You'll also have to work a little harder to get bokeh, but it's far from impossible.
5. Accidents happen. A misstep when you're hiking in the wilderness or a fumble when you're leaning over the side of the boat to get that great fishing shot can be enough to bring the good times to an abrupt end when you're shooting with a multi-thousand dollar lens. Damage to that kit lens isn't going to be convenient, but it's not the end of the world, either. In fact, you can probably replace it inexpensively at UsedPhotoPro.com with one that's tested and carries a 180-day warranty.
Well, there you have it. I know many readers are going to be sticking to their guns and refusing to stoop to using a cheap lens and that's admirable if you can afford it. On the other hand, if your budget is a little tight, but you need need a “no BS” lens that can give you good range and help you improve your technical skills, give a kit lens a chance.