Ask any photographer worth his or her salt, and they will say that the single most important piece of equipment they have is their lens. It’s certainly more important than a tripod, a set of filters, or other accessories. It’s even more important than the camera you use. In fact, a good lens that’s properly cared for will last much longer than a camera body. That’s why professional photographers spend their money on good glass first and a good camera second.
However, though kit lenses get poo-pooed as being cheap (which they are), that doesn’t mean that the instant you buy a new camera that you have to find the best possible lens. In fact, kit lenses can be pretty awesome if you give them a chance.
Read on for three reasons why your kit lens isn’t quite as bad as you might think.
Kit Lenses Challenge You to Be Better
One thing is for sure - kit lenses challenge you to be better. Kit lenses don’t have the best optics. They often lack many features of higher-end lenses. Their focal length is usually in the arena of 18-55mm, so you really lack the focal length to take photos of far-off objects.
And while those are certainly key disadvantages, your kit lens will also force you to learn how to do more with less. Rather than depending on your lens’s features or focal length to help you do your work, you have to figure out how to do your work all on your own, and that, in the end, will make you a better photographer. Yes, having a better lens will make it more likely that your images will also be better. However, you have to first learn how to compose a shot, how to work with focal length to frame the scene, and how to use light for impact. You can easily do all those things with a kit lens.
Kit Lenses are Inexpensive
Where a top-of-the-line lens can easily run into the several thousands of dollars, a kit lens usually comes bundled with a camera body, essentially making it a freebie. Again, though you get what you pay for, at least kit lenses are accessible and don’t require you to sell an organ or take out a second mortgage to have one.
Just think about all the amazing pictures taken over the years with mobile phones. They have completely changed the way in which people approach photography, and with pretty terrible lenses to boot (at least compared to the top-end lenses we’d all like to have). Like the lens on your phone, the kit lens for your DSLR might not have the oomph of a top-shelf lens, but in a lot of situations, it can still get the job done. This is especially true for beginning photographers - you can practice basic photography skills with a kit lens just as easy as you can with one that costs 10 times as much.
Kit Lenses are Versatile
As noted above, you aren’t going to be getting any sort of telephoto pictures out of your kit lens. But what you can get are nice wide-angle shots to highlight landscapes and architecture when shooting at 18mm. Extending the focal length to 55mm gives you enough zoom to create more detailed photos of subject matter and also serves as a good option for street photography or portraiture.
Again, shooting with a kit lens at 18mm does not mean your landscape photos will be incredible. That requires learning and practice. But, as noted above, kit lenses force you to learn the fundamentals of photography in a way that other lenses simply can’t do. At the end of the day, great photographers are often made in the countless hours of learning and practicing, not in the gear they choose. So, if you want a challenge, if you want a lens that’s affordable, if you want something that gives you some versatility when out shooting, don’t discount what a cheap kit lens can do!