If you own a camera, you probably also have a kit lens. It is often regarded as a starter lens that most beginner photographers use. But, you may be asking yourself: what is the true definition of this photography equipment?
A kit lens is any lens that comes as part of a kit when you purchase a new camera. It is generally a zoom lens with a focal length of 18-55mm. It offers versatility that suits the needs of new photographers.
However, kit lenses are not limited to a single focal range—they also come in different focal lengths. This article will thoroughly cover kit lenses to help you better understand them. You will also learn about their benefits below.
What Is a Kit Lens?
A kit lens is a lens that comes bundled with a camera. As its name suggests, it is a part of the kit you will get when buying a new camera.
A kit lens is available in any focal length, aperture range, and optical quality. There is no defining characteristic. It must simply be bundled with a new DSLR or mirrorless camera body.
However, kit lenses are usually zoom lenses with moderate focal lengths of 18-55mm or 24-105 mm. They offer versatility to suit different types of photography.
For example, the 18mm and 24mm range captures a wide field of view, ideal for architecture and landscape photography. Meanwhile, the 55mm focal length is perfect for portraiture due to its natural perspective. Finally, the 105mm focal length suits wildlife photography because it gets you closer to the subject.
Besides being versatile, kit lenses are also lighter and more affordable than standard lenses. They usually have plastic construction, making them easy to carry while traveling.
What Is a Kit Lens Good For?
As previously mentioned, kit lenses are versatile because of their variable focal length. They can handle a wide range of photography genres.
For example, the 18-55mm kit lens can suit portrait, landscape, and street photography. On the other hand, the 24-105mm lens is ideal for the same photography genres, plus sports and wildlife.
A kit lens is also great for beginners. It has a versatile focal range that lets you capture images straight away. There is no need to switch between different lenses and worry about compatibility with your camera.
Moreover, a kit lens can help you better understand the camera menus. Since it has multiple focal lengths, it can show how each one affects other elements in photography. These include aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, among other factors.
Finally, a kit lens is suitable for traveling. Despite being a zoom lens, it is still relatively compact and lightweight.
What Are the Pros of Kit Lenses?
A kit lens offers several advantages worth considering for new camera owners.
Kit lenses tend to be zoom lenses. They have a variable focal length to cover different photography needs and shooting situations.
For instance, most APS-C cameras include an 18-55mm kit lens. It offers a wide-angle and standard field of view. Hence, it can suit architecture, landscape, street, and portrait photography.
On the other hand, full-frame cameras usually have a 24-105mm kit lens. It gives you more versatility as it can also handle action, sports, and wildlife photography.
Since they have multiple focal lengths, kit lenses let you shoot right away. They eliminate the need to look for individual prime lenses to handle a specific photography genre. They already offer a standard focal range that can cover different photography needs.
Overall, kit lenses are convenient for beginners and hobbyists who want to capture various subjects.
Kit lenses are affordable, especially since they already come in a kit with a camera. The reason behind this low price tag is their plastic construction. They also lack advanced features like fast autofocus and weather sealing.
However, kit lenses are not designed to replace high-quality lenses. They are meant for temporary use while you learn more about your camera and save up for other lenses.
Small and Lightweight Build
A kit lens usually has a compact and lightweight construction. It is easy to handle for everyday use, especially if you are a beginner. It also does not tire you as quickly as other heavier lenses, making it ideal for traveling.
What Are the Cons of Kit Lenses?
Kit lenses often get a bad rap for several reasons. Below are the disadvantages of using these lenses.
Although kit lenses offer multiple focal lengths, they tend to have a variable aperture. That means the maximum aperture changes when you zoom in or out.
Take the 55-200mm kit lens with an aperture range of f/4-f/5.6 as an example. At its wide end (55mm), it has a maximum aperture of f/4. However, the lens opening narrows to f/5.6 when using the telephoto end (200mm).
This inconsistency can be a disadvantage, especially if you want to shoot in low-light situations. Remember that the aperture controls the amount of light hitting the image sensor. The larger the aperture (a small f-stop), the better.
Poor Optical Quality
Another downside of the kit lens is its poor optics. It is designed for entry-level DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. Hence, this lens type might be unsuited for higher-quality sensors in more expensive cameras.
Poor optical quality can also result in chromatic aberration and distortion. These effects are challenging to correct in photo editing software.
Cheap Lens Construction
Kit lenses are small and lightweight because they use cheap materials like plastic. They lack weather sealing, which protects against outdoor elements. They tend to get damaged quickly if you are not careful.
How To Get the Most Out of a Kit Lens?
Despite its downsides, a kit lens can still capture stunning images. Below are our tips to get the best from your kit lens.
Know the Limitations of the Lens
Before you start shooting with a kit lens, know its limitations. Kit lenses offer versatility at a cheap and lightweight build. However, they rarely have the best image quality.
Also, consider the focal range of the lens. Try capturing images at each focal length. Then, review the photos.
Sometimes, you might notice that shooting at the widest field of view can lead to distorted photos. So adjust the perspective accordingly to prevent these issues.
Use the Right Aperture
The maximum aperture of the kit lens does not always yield the sharpest images. Sometimes, the middle aperture ranges, such as f/5.6-f/11, can capture more detailed photos.
Try to use these apertures if you will enlarge or crop the pictures later.
Otherwise, stick to the largest possible aperture when shooting in low-light environments.
Turn On Image Stabilization
Some kit lenses have built-in image stabilization. This feature can minimize camera shake and motion blur, especially when shooting handheld.
Ensure to turn on image stabilization to get sharp and steady photos.
Get Close to the Subject
Most kit lenses have a maximum aperture of f/3.5-f/5.6. They are unable to produce the shallow depth of field and sharpness that you want in portraits.
Try getting near the subject to create a little background blur. Doing so can isolate the subject and make it stand out in the scene.
Consider a Tripod
Finally, use a tripod to provide stability and consistency in your images. This camera accessory is especially handy for night photography or low-light shots. It can reduce camera shake to give you sharp photos.
What Lens Should I Buy After a Kit Lens?
Once you have mastered the kit lens or saved up enough money, go ahead and purchase any of the lenses below.
- 50mm Prime Lens – Also known as the nifty-fifty, this lens offers a natural field of view. It can suit portraiture and other general photography styles. It is among the most versatile prime lenses to buy today.
- 35mm Prime Lens – It provides a wide field of view. It is ideal for architecture, landscape, and street photographers.
- 24-70mm Zoom Lens – It is another versatile lens with better image quality and low-light performance. Just make sure it has a large maximum aperture like f/2.8.
Kit Lens vs. Prime Lens: Which Is Better?
A kit lens is usually a zoom lens. This lens type has multiple focal lengths with a variable maximum aperture. In contrast, a prime lens has a fixed focal length and aperture.
Choosing between these two lenses depends on your needs and budget.
Consider a kit lens if you need versatility or have a tight budget. Otherwise, invest in a high-quality prime lens for better image quality and overall performance.
What Are the Best Kit Lenses for Popular Camera Brands?
Here are some of the best kit lenses for popular camera manufacturers.
- Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 Lens
- Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens
- Canon EF-M 18-150mm Lens
- Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Lens
- Nikon Z 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 DX VR Lens
- Sony 16-50mm f/2.8 Lens
- Panasonic Lumix 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens
- Fujifilm XC 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS PZ Lens
You have probably heard about kit lenses if you own a camera. They are starter lenses that come bundled with a camera. They usually have multiple focal lengths to suit different photography needs and can be great basic lens for general use as you’re getting to know your new camera.
Do you have more questions about kit lenses? Feel free to reach out via our contact page.