Updated: Oct 21
After approximately a year of learning photography I abandoned my kit lens.
I (mistakenly) came to the conclusion that my kit lens was holding me back from doing all the things I wanted to do with my photography.
In fact, I even felt that it was responsible for my failure to make a great image!
I moved to a telephoto lens, but quickly realised that it was primarily of use only in certain situations.
I found that the same was true of my 50mm prime lens, which was my next purchase, even though I liked it for its ability to produce a pleasing bokeh.
I did some research on the type of lenses others bought to replace the kit lens and found that the 17-50mm was a popular choice. That was my third purchase.
Did any of these lenses instantly give me better images?
What has helped me to improve my photography has been getting to know my camera, focusing on composition and learning about what makes a good image, rather than believing that if I could afford a great lens, it would miraculously improve my photography.
Recently I seem to have read several articles praising the kit lens and giving reasons why we shouldn’t discard it too soon.
I was intrigued to see what I had been missing so, after reading how useful this humble lens can be, I decided to go for a walk with my 18-55mm kit lens to see what it could do for me.
I went out with my camera and kit lens just as the sun was beginning to make an appearance on a mid-October morning. I deliberately underexposed this image as I wanted to catch the patch of light beginning to creep across the sky.
As the sun made its way through the trees I captured this image. I like the leading line made by both the fence and the path and also the contrast between light and shade.
The lens can cope well with close-up images (above) as well as being a capable short zoom (below).
After my outing with the Nikon 18-55mm VR lens, and having captured the above images, I would suggest 5 reasons why I would not recommend doing what I did and dismissing this lens too soon in your photography journey.
Why I returned to my kit lens
While learning photography, it is the photographer who makes the difference, not the camera or lens. I stress the phrase ‘while learning photography’ as obviously for professional photographers who are expert at their craft, having good photography gear does make a difference. But for keen amateurs it is more important to put our effort into improving our skill than into buying more expensive equipment. The 18-55mm kit lens has a decent focal range and really can be used in a range of situations. I didn’t bring any other lens with me on this trip, and I deliberately didn’t use my phone camera, so each of these images were taken with only the kit lens.
My kit lens has vibration reduction, reducing the need for a tripod. One of the advantages of my phone camera is the ability to have it to hand when I come across a photo opportunity. With the kit lens on my camera, I can take it with me for those unexpected moments knowing that it will work well hand-held yet be able to capture images which a phone can’t quite manage.
The kit lens is an inexpensive lens. This is particularly true if purchased with your camera. When I decided to move on from my kit lens, I realised that I would have to spend a lot of money to buy a lens that would have an equivalent focal length. I ended up buying a relatively inexpensive telephoto lens which is not the sharpest, a fixed focal length (prime) lens which has its limitations and a more expensive lens with similar focal range to the kit lens, but which is a lot heavier to carry. Abandoning my kit lens, was an expensive mistake.
The kit lens is a light-weight lens. When I go on a photography trip, I often need to walk some distance to find a subject or scene that I want to photograph. I sometimes choose to carry just one or two lenses in my camera bag to reduce the weight, but invariably they are not the lens I want. For this reason I have been taking my Sigma 17-50mm as the most versatile lens, but it weighs 565g compared to the 195g weight of the kit lens. My back does not thank me for carrying a heavy lens all the time. The result is that I get to spend more time exploring and looking for photo opportunities.
The kit lens is a relatively versatile lens. Ok, it’s not the best or the fastest lens in the world by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a versatile lens which has a minimum aperture of f/22 and a maximum aperture of f/3.5-5.6. Unfortunately, this maximum aperture is one of the disadvantages of the kit lens if you like to have the option of a narrow depth of field to create pleasing bokeh. However, at 18-55mm it does cover the most frequently used focal length range so it can be used in the most common shooting situations required by beginner photographers. When used at its widest angle, 18mm is wide enough for landscape photography while when zoomed in to 55mm it gives you a fairly decent close-up image.
All images taken with Nikon D3400, 18-55mm VR lens.
I hope I have given you some reasons not to rush out to replace your kit lens just yet.
Spend some time experimenting with it, seeing what it can do, and only when it is truly holding you back creatively will it be time to move on.
Trust me when I suggest that, as a beginner photographer, you shouldn’t rush to abandon your kit lens because I moved away from my kit lens too soon, and now I am returning to it.
But if my post hasn’t convinced you, you might like to read this article from petapixel.
IF YOU WOULD PREFER TO WATCH…
Check out this video from Henry Turner