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Kit Lens quality?

by Qixotic / February 21, 2010 2:51 PM PST

What do you think of the quality of the kit lenses on the current crop of DSLRs? Any brand you're familiar with.

Would it be worth getting the body only + separate lens route for a newbie?

What would be a good replacement lens for each of the brands' kit lens?

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kind of broad question
by jump1127 / February 21, 2010 2:54 PM PST
In reply to: Kit Lens quality?

be more specific. For example, budget, specs, type of shooting.

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just for general use
by Qixotic / February 21, 2010 7:09 PM PST
In reply to: kind of broad question

No specific requirements, I'm just wondering if the kit lens is worth getting, or getting another lens in the same range of 18-ish to 55-ish is a better idea.

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by kalel33-20416052469708587370302374692233 / February 21, 2010 8:02 PM PST
In reply to: just for general use

The kit lenses of all the manufactures are very good and worth the price. Will getting better lens make a difference?.....yes, but to a new person you likely would not know what you're missing. You can always sell the kit lens for as much or more than you buy it in a kit.

Also, it will cost you more than 4x the price to get a better lens than the kit lens.

Here is a link to one guy who used only the kit lens to shoot a wedding.

From that you can see that the person behind the camera makes a bigger difference than the equipment itself.

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Photographer and equipment
by hjfok / February 26, 2010 5:13 PM PST
In reply to: Yes

The kit lens are very good, and you can do a lot of great photography with it. It does have some technical limitations, not so good for low light actions. But a lens good for low light actions is bulkier and costs a lot more. If you are on a budget, then the kit lens is more than adequate. Like kalel33 said, "the person behind the camera makes a bigger difference than the equipment itself."

Here are some more examples of pros working with nonpro equipment for their assignments, and get pro quality photos.

Here is an article of a well known Magnum Photographer Alex Majoli using PS cameras for his assignments:

Here is another article about a well decorated photojournalist using a cheap Holga camera that has no flash, only 2 f-stop choice, poor build, etc:

The second article talks about how a seasoned photographer learned how to use a crude camera to get beautiful photos. It's fun to read. Reminds me of working along side a very talented visiting scholar some years ago. We had all kinds of high tech state of the art equipment in one of the best university, but he cannot find the equipment for his study (the technology did not exist yet at that time). So he started making his own tools using a Bunsen burner and some crude materials that he scrap together from different places. He used his home-made tools, along with our hi tech equipment, and made some amazing new discoveries. That really taught me a lesson, nothing is impossible when we have a clear vision and unwavering determination to accomplish it, and that technology is just a tool for us to complete our work. The cost and quality of the tool is not as important as being the right tool for the task.

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Kit lenses can be 95% of what you'll ever need
by MB1200 / March 3, 2010 8:44 AM PST
In reply to: Kit Lens quality?

As a working photographer, I have amassed quite a large collection of lenses over the years. In terms of image quality however, a kit lens such as the Nikon 18-55mm VR or 55-200mm VR is perfectly sharp and contrasty for most any application. Heck, I recently won top prize at a state fair last summer with a shot made with an 18-55mm kit lens. The print was blown up to 16x20 and looked great! Sure I have big, expensive f/2.8 zooms that I use, but when I'm shooting in an environment where I don't need weather sealing, or better lowlight performance I love shooting with the featherweight 18-55 and 55-200

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Always get the kit lenses if you're a newbie
by rae2_2 / March 5, 2010 10:32 AM PST
In reply to: Kit Lens quality?

It should go without saying that a kit 18-55mm that sells retail for around $100 is NOT the equal, in any way, of a top-of-the-line lens of similar focal length... BUT... and this is a big BUT... I suggest that almost all casual, amateur newbie shutterbugs (a) wouldn't have a clue how to put the better lens to better use, and (b) couldn't tell the difference in his/her photos taken with the two lenses. I won't go into the reasons - just trust me - it's experience talking!

However, as you become a more knowledgeable and hopefully better photographer you will begin to run into the many limitations of the "kit" lenses which, most often, become more noticeable the more the photographic conditions vary from your average full sun-over-your-shoulder snapshot. Low light - into the light - high speed subjects - macro subjects - subtle available light portrait treatments, and so on.

I have perhaps 10 lenses - most I shouldn't have bought because the kit lenses I have do just as good a job. But it's fun to play around and learn - that's what a "hobby" is all about for me. I have one "special" 2.8/85mm fully manual lens that's perhaps 30 years old and boy, when I take my time with exposure, focus and composition, using a tripod, etc., I DEFY anyone, with any lens, to get more thrilling results. I paid well over $400 USED, 20 years ago and I wouldn't sell it today for $1,000. But it too has many limitations - for example, it has such a fine focus that it's almost impossible to grab a quick shot of a moving child or pet with it. My $100 "kit" lens is a far better tool to use for those conditions. And on it goes.

So before you blow big bucks on a fine lens or two, grow to be a good enough photographer to understand WHY you need it and HOW to use it. Otherwise you're just another snob collector who hasn't yet learned that, as with many other "tools," it's knowing WHEN TO USE IT and WHAT TO DO WITH IT that counts. Believe me, a high-priced lens on your DLSR isn't going take better photos by itself, or make you a better photographer. Only time, practise, education and some TALENT can do that.

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Kit lens
by xxSaffyxx / March 5, 2010 12:40 PM PST


I thought I'd have it all, when I brought my Canon 350D (now up to about 450D), but soon realised the kit lens had limitations because my photos weren't as good as the photographer who had been my influence. This is for landscape mainly.

But - all depends on your budget. I would say your quality is all in the glass. Now I'm convinced the lens is more important than the camera if you're in the starters bracket. Perhaps different if you can afford a top of the line camera then I'd expect the kit lens to be a better one.

My lens, a canon EF 24-105 is worth more than my humble 350D, but I'll be keeping that lens for a very long time! I don't think (good quality) lenses lose their value like cameras would as they're replaced by newer models. I love then lens, it's professional quality even though my camera is amateur level. I get absolutely brilliant shots, sharp as sharp, and it's been very noticeable with crystal clear clarity.

Again - I think your budget it a big factor and maybe you have to go with the kit lens. Another thing for getting good quality - learn to use the RAW format. That puts your quality up a couple of levels as well.

All the best in your decision.

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Kit lens vs better lens
by hjfok / March 5, 2010 6:09 PM PST
In reply to: Kit lens

Which lens to get depends on your need and budget. Low light actions will need a fast lens, macros will have better result with a close focusing macro lens, etc.

If budget is not an issue and one has every intention to advance the skill, then there is nothing wrong to start with a fast lens. A fast lens can be stopped down and do everything a slower lens can do, not vice versa. My first D-SLR lenses are f/2.8 zooms, they are easy to use and great tools to learn. But you absolutely don't need to get these lenses to do great photography. The kit lenses are quite good and more than adequate for most beginners.

I also like the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS lens, got it as a kit lens with my 5D Mk II, has good image quality and is very versatile. But it's marginal in low light, need to dial up the ISO. This is a lens that is very easy to learn and is a good fit for the full frame camera. In an APS-C size camera, it does not have much wide angle. For the APS-C size camera, I prefer the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS, which I use on my older 30D. This is another lens that is very easy to learn, and has great optics (on par with the L lenses). Its wider angle can be an advantage to landscape over the 24-105mm f/4L.

Using a faster prime lens like 50mm f/1.4 or 85mm f/1.2L can be challenging for a beginner due to the shallow depth of field wide open. But one can always stop down the lens and experiment as the skill advances.

I still remember using my father's old Carl Zeiss and Mamiya manual focus lenses on the old film cameras years ago. They are real sharp but a pain to learn and use. The new AF lenses and D-SLR are really easy to learn compared to the old film cameras.

As mentioned above, as your skill and expertise develop, you will start to realize what you need and why you need them. When your eyes become very well trained, you may one day understand why someone is devoted to Leica or classic Carl Zeiss lens, or want to use medium/large format cameras for serious landscape, portraits and art works.

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Nikon will tell you that the price reflects the number sold.
by fivish_cnet / March 5, 2010 8:15 PM PST

Nikon will tell you that the price reflects the numbers sold, not the quality of the lens. A kit lens will sell by the tens of thousands a month, a pro lens will sell a few a month.
There are of course caviats to that. A pro lens will have a huge piece of glass at the front to give a better low light performance and it will more likely be made of metal rather than plastic. Those features add to the price.
Even so, the 18-55mm kit lens from Nikon is superb! I recently took a a front cover magazine picture with it. So given the right circumstances the kit lens performs indistinguishably from the pro lens!

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Lens quality and price
by hjfok / March 8, 2010 11:03 AM PST

Agree with you that price and lens quality are not always in 1:1 linear relationship. Obviously price is set by supply/demand, a fundamental principle in business, and it should not be suprising to anyone. In fact, you may have to pay exponentially more to get some extra features beyond a kit lens. Most major manufacturers' kit lenses are pretty good, and most now also have image stabilization in one form or another. I have yet to meet someone who can look at a photo and tell me that this is taken by a Nikon, Canon or another manufacturer. So the difference in quality is essentially indistinguishable to most eyes in the same class of camera and lens, and everyone can relax about debating who reigns supreme. What one should pay attention is whether a particular manufacturer has everything you need to create your vision, and fit your style and budget.

I have never implied kit lenses have low quality optics, not at all. What I mean by a better lens means that it has some specialized features or characteristics, like wide aperture for low light, close focusing distance for macros, etc that can expand one's photography beyond the optical limitation of the kit lenses. These lenses usually have better optics than the kit lenses, which is a good thing and a good excuse for the manufacturer to charge you exponentially more.

A better construction and zooming ability are for durability, convenience and fun. If you have money to spend, then these are also nice to have, but not needed for better photography.

I also want to mention that buying a better lens is not based on charts and tests alone. It mainly depends on what you want to do. When I buy a f/2.8 zoom lens, it is because I want to do low light actions with my kid and want to have the convenience of zoom for candid shots. I did not buy it because it tops the chart for aberration controls. I bought a Canon f/2.8 zoom lens rather than a Sigma because Canon has IS and I don't have time or want to deal with any incompatibility issue with Sigma lens. I did check the reviews and its tests performance, mainly to make sure that it is not a waste of my money. I never go to the reviews and screen for the best lens in the lineup and get them for the sake of their MTF or other performance. Always ask yourself what this new lens, camera or accessory will add to my photography, and do what my present equipment cannot do. And ask yourself whether there is a cheaper and more practical solution. No matter what your budget is, any money saved can be used for better investment.

There is really nothing wrong to get a better lens that can do more than a kit lens if budget is not an issue, it can avoid buying "duplicates" in the future. To me, it is a waste of money to own both a 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens and an 18-55mm kit lens. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong to stick with a kit lens if it can do everything you need and you really don't recognize any limitations.

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by Qixotic / March 12, 2010 5:21 AM PST
In reply to: Lens quality and price

Cool, thanks for the replies everyone!

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by Flatworm / March 5, 2010 10:37 PM PST
In reply to: Kit Lens quality?

The lenses with kits, particularly Nikon DSLR kits, are excellent. While their quality is top-notch, they aren't the extreme telephoto, wide angle, or macro lenses that you will have to buy if you wish to enjoy their advantages, and in most kits (but not all) they do not include the vibration reduction technology that makes for fewer blurry pictures and that helps save a couple f-stops in low light.

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vibration reduction/image stabilization
by kalel33-20416052469708587370302374692233 / March 6, 2010 5:51 AM PST
In reply to: Yes

That might have been right a couple of years ago, with the Nikon D40 being the lone non-VR kit, but ALL of them now have stabilization, either in the lens or in the body.

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Lens Technical Comparison Chart
by Ecm / March 8, 2010 12:58 AM PST
In reply to: Kit Lens quality?

Want to see how good a camera lens is, check out Then go to accessories and lenses. It has a comprehensive database of most slr lenses with reviews/evaluations on image quality.


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Kit lens
by Larry Schwager / March 12, 2010 7:59 AM PST

I have spent hours reading about kit lens and how bad they are. I think a lot of the opions are by people that are "L" owners. Do kit lens stand up to "L" lens - no - but there is no way I could ever afford to spend that kind of money on a camera lens. That being said - I will no longer listen to people that do not own kit lens and have never used them - how can they have an opion? - Instead I will listen to people that are taking photos with the kits lens - showing them - and telling the shooting properties of how they took the photos. Their opion to me is so much more trustworthy as how a kit lens works. I am going to give you an example. Canon's EF-S18-55mmIS lens. Bad lens - well look at this site and see the photo's that are taken with this bad lens - by people who own it - not people who just have a opion - and never owned the lens.
It will prove my point.

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Kit Lens
by Larry Schwager / March 12, 2010 8:18 AM PST
In reply to: Kit lens

The above message was met to be a reply to Kit Lens quality?
by Qixotic - 2/21/10 10:51 PM - not Lens Technical Comparison Chart by Ecm - sorry

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I own both
by kalel33-20416052469708587370302374692233 / March 12, 2010 10:32 AM PST
In reply to: Kit lens

I do own an L lens, 17-40L F4, and the 28-135IS kit lens. I really like the 28-135IS lens for a walk around lens and the 17-40 for landscape use, even though I'm not much of a landscape all. They both work fine for their intended purpose and if the 18-55IS lens were around before I bought the 17-40L then I'd have probably have bought it for the price difference. The non-IS 18-55 was a very poor lens and Canon fixed that problem.

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I own both
by Larry Schwager / March 12, 2010 10:11 PM PST
In reply to: I own both

Kale - sorry if I ranted on "L" lens owners - your one of the first that has said something good about a kit lens. I commend you for that. I also have the EF-28-133lS lens - was it a up grade from the EF-S 18-55ls lens - oh ya. And yet I have been down graded in photo web sites for purchasing this lens. I love it when someone purchases a camera and then sells off the kit lens without ever trying it. I have purchased a EF-S 55-250lS lens and the EF-28-135lS lens - brand new and both for under $200 dollars. I would love to own a "L" lens but its out of my reach. I also agree with the post below yours - which the photographs reach a much high level of acceptability - if the photographer knows what he/she is doing. You have to know your camera equipment - I even think that a less expensive camera with a better lens is the way to go. I have the Rebel XS and dearly love it. Just enough buttons to get me in trouble. One of my favorite lenses is my EF-S 60mmlS lens. It takes great macro shots and is still very good for portraits and even landscape shots. Are there bad lens - yup - without a doubt - but people should give the kit lens a try - in the proper hands they take really wonder photographs.

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kit lens with great photos
by hjfok / March 12, 2010 11:26 AM PST
In reply to: Kit lens

Here is someone who took beautiful photos with his entry level D-SLR and kit lenses, obviously he is very skilled and shows that kit lenses can do great photography.;profileBot#3206611

Both Nikon and Canon have good quality kit lenses. A great photo comes from a good photographer, camera and lenses are just the tools. Certainly there are some type of photography that kit lenses will struggle, mainly the low light action shots. But there are plenty more the kit lenses can do well. People who blame their equipment for failure usually have not mastered their craft. Bad photos are usually human faults. Better equipment makes things easier but will not get great photos by itself.

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