Interchangeable camera has been popular and successful, allowing camera users the ability to change lenses and use specific purpose lenses to accomplish a wider range of photography needs. The availability of many lenses has overshadowed the original humble kit lens that comes with the camera. I myself have been shooting often with prime lenses such as M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 and 25mm F1.8 lenses. Somehow, there has been a general belief that kit lenses are inferior: lacking in many aspects of lens technicalities, do not deliver sharp and desirable results and should be replaced or upgraded to superior lenses such as fast F2.8 zoom lenses or prime lenses.
While it is generally true that prime lenses and higher grade, more expensive constant aperture zoom lenses will provide superior image quality, I think it is too quick to push the original lowly kit lens aside and not fully utilize it. While the kit lens being a bad lens may have been true in the earlier days of modern digital photography (older entry level DSLR), over the years, the kit lenses have improved optically as well as technologically. I acknowledge that the original kit lenses were not designed to outperform higher grade lenses, but as an all round performer and do it all lens, the kit lenses can provide admirable results.
Of all the available lenses in the arsenal, I decided to go out with the lowliest, underrated kit lens, M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6. Can this lens perform on the street?
It is easy to dismiss a lens due to its tiny size. Will the pancake designed slim kit lens deliver?
5 Reasons Why Your Kit Lens is Awesome
As usual, my blog entries are mostly addressed to newcomers of photography, especially first time system camera owners who seek to improve photography (or lets face it, more straight to the point, people come here to look for information on which lenses to upgrade to). The whole world will tell you how bad the kit lens is, and I am here to tell you otherwise. If you are very new to photography and you want to improve your photo-shooting skills, you should NOT think about upgrading your lens as a priority. Use the kit lens, it is more than good enough to do almost everything you need to do.
1) You have Four Lenses in One Lens
I know this may not be the best way to describe the kit lens, but in terms of focal length, it covers all the basic focal lengths needed for a wide range of photography needs. Say, you have an Olympus M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 lens, in terms of focal lengths, it is equivalent to having 28mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm lenses, all in one lens. That is quite an impressive coverage from wide angle end of 28mm all the way to the medium tele photo length of 85mm equivalent focal lengths. When I was shooting on the streets this weekend with a kit lens, it allows me to compose a variety of scenes, from a wide angle environmental portrait, to a close up shot of a cat. Some people may call this laziness, using zoom being convenient and require less effort in, but I disagree. I see it as versatility and flexibility in composition, and you get that with a mere, humble kit lens.
I am not discounting the advantages of having brighter aperture and sharper optics in prime lenses. . Most camera systems now employs image stabilization system. either on lens, or inside the camera, which can compensate for the smaller maximum aperture when shooting in low light conditions. The small aperture openings of F3.5 to 5.6 may not appeal to bokeh-lovers, it is also important to take note that no matter how great a shallow depth of field image looks, photography is a lot more than just that! There are many ways to create great photographs without using shallow depth of field for subject isolation (which I am guilty too).
2) Small and Light
All kit lenses that come with system cameras (especially the entry level and mid level DSLR or Mirrorless CSC cameras) are made to be as small and as light as possible. The smaller size of the lens allows the camera to be as compact as possible, being able to be carried around easily. That is extremely important, being a camera system that can be used everywhere, and be carried out often so that more photographs may be taken. I have never been a fan of large cameras or lenses. I understand that certain photography needs are specific and may require larger camera formats, and I am surely not referring to those type of photography. If you need certain photography equipment to accomplish very specific goals, then go for it, getting the right tool to do the right job is important. However, as I am addressing a wider audience of newcomers to photography who would basically attack anything with their cameras, having a smaller and lighter system means more freedom to move around and explore better photography opportunities. Your camera system should not weigh you down or slow you while you go out and enjoy shooting.
3) Superb Close Up Shooting
One thing that most kit lenses are good at, is the ability to focus very close to the subject. The close focusing distance open up a whole world of creative options in compositions. Being able to shoot up close allows you to reveal fine details and at the same time, achieve a good separation from the background (rendering shallow depth of field to a certain degree). The kit lens may not outperform a dedicated macro lens but we do not need to shoot 1:1 magnification in our everyday subjects, such as flowers or food photographs. Having the advantage of going near can change the way you see things, and many impactful photographs are taken at close up distances.
4) Fast, Sharp and Technically Competent
There are so many myths surrounding the kit lens, and some part of the myths were propagated with the intention of the manufacturers pushing the crowd to buy their higher grade, more expensive lenses. Camera manufacturers are business entities after all and they do need to make money (I know because I am in the industry). Insecurities of using kit lens is being popularized, with many professional photographers and leaders pushing the idea of using superior lenses to replace the kit lens. I do not deny the need of different lenses to achieve different purposes and needs in shooting, each lens serves different purpose and a macro lens cannot do what a wide angle lens can do. Nevertheless, to paint inferiority over kit lens is unfair, as I genuinely think kit lenses these days are capable lenses. Any kit lens these days can focus fast, produce excellently sharp images with good technical control of the image quality. Whatever the optics in the lens lack will be well compensated by software correction in camera. While the sharpness of the images taken with kit lens may not surpass a dedicated prime lens, the sharpness obtained from the kit lens is more than sufficient for most photography needs.
5) It Saves You Money
Instead of buying and upgrading to more expensive lenses, why not give the kit lens a try? I am not saying it is wrong to get better lenses, but the kit lens is a good place to start and learn photography. What is the point in spending money getting ridiculously expensive photography set up, if your main priority is to learn photography? Learning photography takes plenty of time, successful photographers will tell you that there is no short cut. I have spent my fair share of many years using compact point and shoot digital camera (4 years), and staying with kit lens with my first few DSLR for several years before using more prime lenses. I am glad I did not throw away the kit lens and looking back at my images now, I did not wish I had better lenses because the limitations and restrictions posed by the kit lens made me push myself harder and try several creative solutions to work my way around them. Even today, I would not hesitate to grab the kit lens and shoot. The photographs of this blog entry is a testament to that.
For the past weekend, I have used only one lens: the Olympus M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 for my shutter therapy session.
Five Foot Way
Five Foot Way 2
Portrait of a Cat
My Name Is....
Oh yes if you do not know, I am a huge Arrow fan, and I follow Stephen Amell on Facebook. Such a great guy he is.
This was a good example of close up shooting with the kit lens. The magnification achieved is quite impressive.
Crop from previous image. Who says kit lens is not sharp?
Amir giving the M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO a go
Do you keep your original kit lens that comes with your camera (DSLR or Mirror less)? If not, why do you think the kit lens was so bad? Please share your thoughts!
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