Beginner Digital Photography: Kit lenses

The past two weeks we have been focussing on beginner cameras that will get you into the photography scene. When you purchase the camera, you may be asked to buy it with a kit lens or it comes bundled with the camera. Today I will take you through why I feel that Kit lenses are an important foundation for your photography journey and why they mustn’t be overlooked.

It is a major misconception of the kit lens being trash and a waste of money, kit lenses have improved so much over time. They were once plastic gimmicks that took below par shot, nowadays these kit lenses have evolved into lens that will last throughout your time as a beginner. These lenses now have silent autofocus, sharp image and impressive glass for its price. To put this into perspective, most kit lenses come with inbuilt vibration reduction making it easier for the user to shoot sharp images down at 1/20 and even 1/10. This brings out the camera’s potential in low light situation.

Most common kit lenses are 14-42mm for mirrorless cameras and 18-55mm for DSLRs. These are fantastic ranges as they are wide enough for landscape photography and zoom in enough for portraits and everything inbetween. What the kit lens does not do well is distance photography such as sports, animals and avian photography where you are at large distances away from the subjects. If you need, you can also get extension tubes to shoot macro photography. (I will cover this in the coming weeks) Often manufacturers offer a zoom kit lens that go from 55 – 200 or even 300mm. My first lens was a Tamron 18-200mm lens and it was perfect as a beginner lens where I could shoot landscapes, portraits and even macros. These lens are very underrated and extremely handy when travelling.

Another aspect where Kit lenses excel at is the weight, which again makes it ideal for travelling. Most are well under 200 grams due to their plastic build, which is okay as these lenses aren’t made to last for a very long time. Having a very light lens makes it easier to carry the camera around and helps when taking photos. I currently use a Sigma 17-50mm and it is very very heavy compared to the kit lenses. I miss having a light lens as when i’m walking from location to location, the camera would be a pain dangling around with all the momentum of the lens. The Kit lens is versatile in that regards, however does lack in durability. Since kit lenses are made out of cheaper materials, they do tend to not last a long time and can break in falls. Fortunately, they are very cheap to buy new and are dirt cheap to buy used.

The downfall (spec wise) of the kit lens is the sharpness, autofocus and aperture. The sharpness is decent enough for most photography, however it isn’t as sharp as prime lenses (which I will cover next week). The Autofocus is a bit slow and noisy, however has gotten better which each new generation and I know the new Nikon kit lenses have a very decent focus speed. The maximum aperture is f/3.5-5.6 (it increases as the lens zooms), meaning it is not a fixed aperture lens. This would be more than adequate for portrait photography but don’t expect to get very creamy bokeh from this lens. However this is perfect for landscape photography and just everyday photography.

Now that the specs are out of the way, I want to emphasise the important the kit lens has on your photography development. When you use the kit lens, you tend to get similar shots and the distance may not be adequate. The kit lens will start to make you think about how you are shooting your subject, how you could change your positioning. Remember, you can zoom with your legs, thus leaving you with a lower maximum aperture. Not only this, you soon start to learn about the limitations of the lens and you being to adapt. This creates creativity in your shots and thus you begin to find your style of photography. Currently I am still deciding on what to shoot, seen from my instagram @bokehgon. It doesn’t matter if the photo isn’t the sharpest, it is your photo and you tell the story through your lens. Be creative with how you use your kit lens, how you angle your shots, whether it be from low or high and be creative on how you use your lighting to help you take that perfect shot. There is nothing special about the kit lens, it is something that is very generic and it is up to you to create something special out of nothing. Once you master the kit lens, read my next article that will talk about your first lens (after the kit lens).

The only way to improve is to keep practising, photograph anything and try to see where the improvements can come from. Could this be your framing? Could this be your angle from which you are shooting your subject at? Could it be the lighting? Dimly light shorts create a darker mood whereas shots with plenty of light create a happy and vibrant mood. I would recommend photography anything at the start, don’t be afraid to walk around the neighbourhood with your camera and take photos of plants, people, cars and houses, (as long as you are not doing this in a creepy stalker type way). Happy shooting for this coming week and I will be back next week to talk all about your next lens you should invest in for your photography. Make sure to comment your instagram photography account below and we as a community will follow you and help see your photography grow!

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