Don't Give Up On Your Kit Lens, It Is Awesome!

I have talked about this topic before - reasons to love your kit lens and use it first before considering to upgrade to better lenses too quickly. Therefore I shall keep this blog entry short. The reason I am bringing this topic up again, is to add a video I have just made about the said topic, I guess this would probably reach the different online crowd that prefer to watch rather than read lengthy articles. Of course, I shall port over some images shown in the video to this entry as well. This video (watch here) is targeted towards newcomers to photography of course, those first time camera buyers, or the step ups from smartphone camera to interchange-able system camera (regardless of what camera brands you use).

Basically the kit lens that comes with your camera, specifically Olympus kit lens M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ pancake is quite a good all-round performer. It has a versatile zoom range from wide angle 14mm all the way to medium telephoto at 42mm, surely good enough for general day to day shooting, covering a wide range of subjects. Yet the lens design is so small and light, the compactness used together with smaller Olympus bodies such as the PEN E-PL7 camera as shown in the video will not weigh you down, the smaller footprint encourages you to bring out the camera and lens to shoot more. The more you go out and shoot, the faster you learn about the fundamentals of photography and how the camera works. That will enable you to grow faster and be a better photographer.

The kit lens is sharp! Of course it will not be as sharp as high grade PRO lenses, or more  expensive set of prime lenses, but the kit lens can pull its own weight. If we pixel peep too much we will never be happy with whatever equipment we use. Honestly, the reputation of lousy it lens started during the early days of DSLR, certain "manufacturers" did include inferior and underperforming kit lenses (I shall not name the brands). But it is 2019 now, more than a decade later, everyone has learned a thing or two from past mistakes and the imaging business has become extremely competitive. No one can slack around anymore, there are not really any more bad lenses out there. It does not matter which lens is better than which, the main point here is - there are NO bad lenses. The kit lens may not be the best lens of the lot, but it is sure more than sufficient to fulfill your shooting needs, if you have just bought the camera and starting to get your feet wet in the photography world!

All images were shot with Olympus PEN E-PL7 and M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ Pancake lens

One of the things that got me crazy when I started shooting with my first DSLR with kit lens, was doing close up shooting. The kit lens can go super close to the subjects. It is no macro level but good enough to do something different and more creative. This reveals a lot of hidden details, which can be visually quite dramatic.

Finally, do not give up just because the kit lens has some limitations. Being restricted in terms of focal length range and aperture width may not be all bad. I must remind you that there is NO shortcut when it comes to photography. Buying that better lens will not solve all your problems. It may allow you to do certain things better, but if you did not sit down and figure out what went wrong or how to work around a problem, you will never grow as a photographer. Hence, having restrictions posed by the kit lens will help you to think outside the box, be more creative in finding different solutions around the problem to achieve what you want. Not enough zoom? You have to force yourself to move your feet and get closer to the subject. Not wide enough? Consider to do panorama shot! Not enough lighting? Not having bright lens is not an excuse, use a reflector, or adopt the flash and find ways to diffuse the light to make it look natural. You will grow and be stronger from overcoming the obstacles presented by the kit lens. It is not necessarily a bad thing. Trust me on this, I have been there.

Facing the challenges is part of learning and growth. Don't just dump the kit lens, give it a chance, and more importantly, give YOURSELF a chance.

I know a huge majority of you are now shooting with high grade OM-D and an assortment of high grade M.Zuiko lenses. If you have friends or relatives who have just started shooting, and exploring the deep, treacherous world of photography, do share this article and video with them! Encourage them to shoot and have fun, not to obsess with the gear lust which won't necessarily help much when you don't even know what the ISO button does.

Ultimately, as a new photographer, I would encourage focusing on these items:
The Art of Seeing
Visual Story telling 
Decisive Moment

These are the things that will improve your results and help you be better photographer! I am not saying you should not upgrade your lens, don't just give up immediately! Have you fully utilized what the lens and the camera can do before upgrading? At least ask yourself this!

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  1. Well said Robin.
    My photography professor used to drill into us it is not the equipment that will make you a good or great photographer it it how you use that equipment. Patients helps also as sometimes one must wait for that perfect light.

  2. Robin, thank you for sharing. I have the 14-42 pancake and also the 14-42 rII. The problem I had with both kit lenses (and not with primes or the 40-150 mm) is that they are exceedingly prone to shutter shock. I use the mostly the pancake with my omd em10 and the electronic shutter, and it works just fine; but I do not use any more the kit lenses on my pen epm1, because this camera has not the option of electronic shutter. Did you notice a similar effect?

    1. You may use 0 second "Anti-Shock" to eliminate any trace of shutter shock. Make sure your camera firmware is updated.

    2. Thanks for the suggestion Robin. My omd em10 is the mark II model and has the 0sec. antishock as well as the full electronic shutter. I am not aware that ther is a firmware update with the 0sec. antishock for the epm1, is there?

  3. Thank you for your wonderful advice, Robin. "There are NO bad lenses" is a very good and encouraging reminder.