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Kit Lenses!

You will no doubt have heard of these bad boys before. But what does it actually mean?

The term “Kit Lens” Is often used to describe any lens that comes in the box with a DSLR camera. This is where the “Kit” of the Kit Lens comes from.

If you’re unsure as to whether or not you should buy a Kit Lens or if you can get high-quality images from one, stay around.

This article will spill all the beans on Kit Lenses and how they work.

(Spoiler: Kit Lenses are great for getting started with, but there is a better, yet affordable lens you should buy soon after. I’ll mention more about it at the end.)

So, if you’re a new photographer and you want to work out whether or not you should use a Kit Lens, this article will tell you all you need to know.

What Is A Kit Lens, Then?

Kit Lens is a term used to describe any lens that comes in the box with a camera body. Kit Lenses are typically aimed at beginners who want a “Kit” of camera gear to get started with.

When most people describe a Kit Lens, they are most likely referring to an 18-55mm lens.

An 18-55mm lens is the most common lens that comes with a budget DSLR body, and for good reason – they are cheap to produce, therefore they are easy to sell.

Because of the appealing pricing, kit lenses are easy to sell to beginners and the large focal length range makes this an ideal lens for beginners to experiment with – particularly when breaking into the big, bad world of photography for the first time.

Kit Lenses are cheap enough to bundle in the box with a cheap body. This keeps costs down and makes photography more affordable and accessible to newcomers.

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If you have taken the plunge and bought your first budget DSLR, then congratulations. Welcome to the world of photography!

Your new DSLR may come with a kit lens in the box. If so, it will save you a decent amount of cash that you would otherwise have to spend on buying a lens separately.

If you purchased a more expensive camera body, you may not have the option to order a Kit Lens with that body. That is because manufacturers assume you already have lenses if you are buying a professional/commercial camera body.

If you have a kit lens with your body or you are considering buying a kit lens separately, you may be wondering if you should use it or buy one.

Safe to say, a kit lens is a great lens to use when starting out, however, you should be aware of the limitations of the lens.

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Should I Use One As A Beginner Photographer?

In my opinion, absolutely. But only if you’re aware of the limitations and you know what you should and shouldn’t do with this lens. Certain types of photography and certain shooting scenarios lend themselves better to this lens than others.

Most Kit Lenses have a focal length range of 18-55mm. This is so that beginner photographers can play around with different focal lengths and it gives you the flexibility to shoot different pictures.

Landscape, portrait, urban, architecture, you name it. This is one of the best things about a kit lens. It lets you play around with different styles of photography.

Within the 18-55mm focal length range, you can take certain types of photos at each key focal point:

  • 18-24mm: Perfect for wide-angle shots and any large subject. Ideal for landscapes, architecture, portraits with multiple people in the shot, large buildings and landmarks
  • 35mm: A narrower field of view. Ideal for portraits, street photography, pet photography, product photography. You get more Depth-Of-Field than at 18-24mm. Also ideal for “general” photography if unsure what focal length to select
  • 50-55mm: Ideal for portrait photography. Field-Of-View is roughly equivalent to the human eye, therefore the image will not look “distorted”. Also good for product photography, “bokeh” photography, street photography and abstract photography

If you want to find out more about focal lengths, have a read of this post from StudioBinder. It gives you an in-depth guide to every focal length and lens, not just the kit lens. This post will come in handy in the future when you wish to expand your photography arsenal to more lenses, not just the kit lens.

Kit Lenses use variable apertures, which means the maximum aperture will change depending on what focal length you are shooting in.

You may have seen this before. You’re shooting in one focal length, and the aperture reads F/3.5.

Then, you zoom in and you notice your aperture has suddenly changed to say, F/5.6.

This is what’s known as “Variable aperture”, and it means that you cannot shoot above a certain aperture depending on your focal length.

On a kit lens, the aperture becomes narrower the more you zoom in. For example, if you’re shooting at the narrowest 55mm focal length, the maximum aperture will be F/5.6.

Whereas, with shooting at the 18mm focal length, your maximum aperture will be F/3.5.

The changing aperture can affect your pictures as it may result in less bokeh or less light being let in, depending on the scenario. Although, this shouldn’t affect you too much unless you are shooting at night.

The wide focal length range and the variable aperture makes the kit lens an ideal starter lens for beginners. It produces decent photos and you can use it in a wide range of scenarios, thanks to the variable focal length.

While the Kit Lens is a great lens for beginners, we also need to take into account the potential limitations and issues you may come across.

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This will help you make sure you take the highest quality pictures possible while ensuring you’re aware of the limits of your lens.

This doesn’t mean the kit lens is bad per-se, but it does mean you need to be careful.

Limitations Of A Kit Lens

While you are shooting with your Kit Lens, you need to be aware of some limitations.

Kit Lenses are often viewed as the “starter” lens and for good reason. They are cheap to produce, made of plastic and they are simple to use.

One obvious reason for being regarded as a starter lens is that they often come in the box with a cheap camera body.

Because they are designed as and are considered to be beginner lenses, this often results in some features and parts of the lens limiting the capability of your camera.

Here are a few key points to keep in mind when you are using a Kit Lens:

Kit Lenses Lack The Level Of Sharpness You Often See With Other Lenses

You can definitely take good pictures with a Kit Lens, but they’re not going to be as sharp as photos taken from a prime lens, such as the 50mm F/1.8 lens.

Typically the glass is cheaper in order to keep the costs down. Cheaper glass means photos will not be as sharp, however, this doesn’t mean your photos will look terrible.

All it means is you will have to take a little extra care when shooting pictures to ensure the lighting conditions and surroundings are good. 

It also means you need to check once in a while to make sure your camera lens is clean and to remove any dust or debris if needed.

The Variable Aperture Can Result In A Shallow Depth-Of-Field OR A Dark Photo

Like I mentioned earlier, the aperture on your Kit Lens will change depending on what focal length you are shooting at.

If you are shooting at the narrower end of the focal length range, for example at 50 or 55mm, the aperture will be narrower.

A narrower aperture will have less light in and your photos will have less “bokeh” in them, meaning your background will be less blurry.

A narrower aperture results in less light being let in, which means your pictures may come out darker. If you are shooting at nighttime or in low-lighting conditions, this may become an issue for you.

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Kit Lenses are Made Of Plastic, Instead Of Metal

While this in itself does not impact the performance of your camera, it does mean your Kit Lens will not be as durable as say, a more expensive prime lens.

You’ll still be able to take great pictures with a plastic lens. You also won’t need to worry about it breaking apart after your first photoshoot.

But will your lens withstand constant abuse from you? Nope. Kit Lenses weren’t designed to be durable. They were designed to be functional whilst remaining as cheap as possible.

Where Can I Purchase A Kit Lens?

If you already have a kit lens and you are enjoying using it, good for you.

I hope this article has given you an idea of how a Kit Lens works and how you can get great photos by using one.

While the lens certainly has its limitations, it is good to get started with.

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If you haven’t bought a Kit Lens and you are looking to buy one, congratulations to you too.

This is one of the best lenses to get started with. It is cheap and cheerful, yet packs a punch.

Kit Lenses are difficult to find on their own, however, I have found two of them linked on Amazon below. One for Canon, another for Nikon:

As I mentioned earlier in the article, you also need to consider what lens you are going to buy after your Kit Lens.

Prime lenses are your best bet. The build quality will be better, your photos will be sharper and it will be worth your money getting one in the longer term.

Next Step Up From A Kit Lens?

canon 50mm lens are kit lenses good

Out of all the Prime and Zoom lenses available, I believe the best option is the 50mm prime lens.

This is because it is cheap but very powerful.

The wide F/1.8 aperture lets in a large amount of light, making this lens handy for shooting handheld in low-light conditions.

It will also let you capture those “bokeh” backgrounds you so often see on professional cameras.

You can find a used 50mm lens on eBay for around £50-£100. Not bad for a lens, I’d say. Some lenses cost well into the thousands, so the 50mm lens is a steal of a deal compared to this.

I have linked below two 50mm lenses that I recommend you use. One for Canon, another for Nikon:

If you want to find out more about 50mm lenses and whether or not they might be right for you, take some time to read my article explaining 5 key reasons you should get a 50mm lens.

So, Are Kit Lenses Good For Beginner Photographers?

All-in-all, Kit Lenses are an ideal way to break into the big, bad world of DSLR photography. They are cheap, cheerful and versatile.

The broad 18-55mm focal length range lets you play around with different styles of photography, whether that be a portrait, landscape, architecture, street photography or even abstract photography.

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After using the Kit Lens for a while, however, you may start to find it a little limiting. The plastic build is less durable, the variable aperture limits the level of light being let in and you’ll start to notice that your photos may not look the sharpest.

If you are currently using a kit lens, keep using it. I would suggest however you buy a 50mm lens in the near future if you find your kit lens limiting.

Thanks for reading and feel free to let me know in the comments below what your thoughts and experiences are with kit lenses. I’d love to hear back from you.

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Photoaspire

Joel Oughton is the Creator of Photoaspire. He likes to write about anything photography related and is more than happy to help out others with any photography-related issues

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