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05-09-2009, 12:48 AM   #1
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A Rant About Kit Lenses

Well not AGAINST kit lenses

I've always been stumped as to why a LOT of people here, and pretty much everywhere, always recommend newbies to buy all these expensive f/2.8 zooms and fast glass in their first few months. Here in my country and in our local photo communities I always see newbies asking "what should I buy next?" with no real clue as to why they need/want to buy. Then people surge in with answers "f/2.8 Nikkor/Canon L lenses" of all focal lengths.

I for one believe that sticking to the kit lens is one of the best ways to learn and ease into the world of photography. I did stick to the kit lens for a few months, just like pretty much everyone else did as a 50mm was a standard/kit lens in the past.

In those few months, I learned a WHOLE LOT. I learned about the different effects of focal lengths and apertures. What they do, what they achieve, their strengths, their weaknesses, and most importantly: how I can express myself in 2 dimensions. Sticking to the kit lens made me know what I wanted most in the beginning: a real wide lens. I started with landscapes. Knowing that, purchasing my next lens was easy. And the rest is history.

I know the usual arguments though: "better rendering, sharpness, distortion, optics", "you'll eventually end up getting this lens" etc but these don't matter to a budding photographer. You've got to focus on the PHOTO itself, all these little technical stuff will mean NOTHING if it's a bad photo to start with.

Once you know what YOU want/need, you can prioritize and plan your next purchases. I see a lot of people lusting over all these lenses without a real reason as to WHY, or more just for completion/coverage of all focal lengths. But then there's this whole LBA thing going on of course, and collecting beautiful glass is simply fun and addicting

I also have to admit that people tend to look down on you if you don't have expensive stuff. I remember people always looking at my gear at photography meetups. I started out with a Nikon D40 and a kit lens, and everyone was there showing off their D80s, D200s, D2xs with their expensive f/2.8 zooms and battery grips. They would ALWAYS look at my gear first and I just HATED that. A quick look and they'd gauge and judge me. Another thing I hate is "Hi. So what gear do you use?"

After a few of those times, I stopped bringing my stuff or just kept it in the bag. I also made it a point to not look at other people's stuff and make them feel what I felt. I want to get to know YOU as a PHOTOGRAPHER, not you and your gear. So I talk to them and make it a point not to talk about your gear but about your photos.

I'd feel so bad when people would tell me "Oh I'm just using a D40 and a kit lens" and I always tell them "SO WHAT?? It's the photos that matter. I've seen some of the most incredible photos with "just" a kit lens. Don't let that bother or pressure you, let them judge you for your photographs not your gear."

Anyway I guess that's it. I just felt like letting that out and I want to tell new people that a kit lens, or WHATEVER lens, Limited or not, is perfectly fine as long as you get the photos YOU want.

-Diego

P.S. I'm sure you may think otherwise, and this is just MY honest opinion

05-09-2009, 01:03 AM   #2
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I have to say I agree on this with you Diego.
I stuck to my DA18-55 for a year as my main lens (I had longer option for tele) before I went down the LBA road. The experiences you gain by using one lens and trying to work around it, instead of getting lenses to work around your needs, are invaluable. But then, that's why we bought into interchangable lens SLR system so we can buy more, and more and more...

BR
05-09-2009, 02:24 AM   #3
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Hmmn, I don't really believe in the concept of "newbies", together with "starter packs", "kits" and all the rest. This just smacks of marketing folks trying to segment a market that exists largely only inside their head. People are who they are, they use what they use and even highly experienced people - in any field - aren't doing more than practising getting a little better at their chosen metier, or hobby.

I have both kit lenses (the 18-55mm L and the DA 50-200mm). They are fine, particuarly the DA 50-200mm, but I still use them only occasionally. I prefer the discipline of a fixed focal length (i.e. a prime). I also prefer the unobtrusiveness, the build quality (too much plastic and general woggling on the 18-55mm), and size of a prime lens not least because it is difficult for me to hold large, heavy things for all that long. Part of the pleasure is using something that gives me pleasure. It is as much about taking the shots that are right for me as about taking "better" shots.

So horses for courses. While a pro could take fantastic shots with any lens on any camera, for many folks there are better choices around than the kit lens. A Tamron 18-250mm zoom, for example, could be an ideal travel companion, or a DA 55-300mm if you like telephoto shots, or a Sigma 17-70mm if you want something even more adaptable than the kit lens with some good pseudo-macro thrown in. None of this means the kit lens is "bad" - far from it. But it is not always "best" either. I often use mine as the old "DA 18mm f8", at which it is great.
05-09-2009, 02:44 AM   #4
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I agree

Diego

I agree with everything you say. The 18-55 Pentax lens is a fantastic performer for the price. I used mine almost exclusively for over a year. If you stop down to f8 you have an excellent lens, and can easlily correct the vignetting at wide angles.

As you grow as a photographer you will discover these weaknesses (all lenses have some weakness), and it will make you a better photographer as a result.

We had a thread "in praise of the kit lens" in another Pentax forum recently, and a great collection of photos were added. Here was mine.



05-09-2009, 02:50 AM   #5
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Hmm, never thought about it that way. Thanks for the food for thought Diego. Personally I recommend people with a bit higher budget to get a 2.8 zoom or 17-70 lens instead, but you're right that the kit lens can teach people photography in ways that those lenses can't. A bit like using prime lenses, the "limitation" doesn't drag you down but instead teaches you how to cope with a certain situation.
05-09-2009, 03:06 AM   #6
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Good post... i wonder how many cameras are sold worldwide based on 'the look'? The one where the others see you with your entry level dslr and kit lens. As much as i agree with you (that this silly peer pressure does not result in better photos) I'm sure the marketing execs want this to happen until everyone has a camera that is more expensive than a small car.

Then again some of us embrace the 'the look' and throw a cheeky grin back at them knowing that the best gear does not make a good photo. (in my head i always think "All the gear, No idea!").

BTW, my advice to newbs is always to have the kit and then go buy a fast 50. Nothing teaches DOF better than a fast lens. And a 50 can be had for the price of dinner and movie.
THe 50 then also teaches you what is wrong with the kit lens. When that lesson is learned then the newb is no longer a newb and knows for sure what to get next..... what they'll use next.

mike
05-09-2009, 03:47 AM   #7
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I also agree with you Diego. I think people should use their camera and get to know it and LEARN what they like to shoot, and that will dictate the lenses that they really want so that they don't make expensive mistakes.
05-09-2009, 03:47 AM   #8
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Kits for sure to start but nothing like fast lenses to improve ones skill with the use of light and learn to avoid if possible flash.

I understand where you are coming from Diego but it can at times be horses for courses and as well ones budget and or other economic factors that should be considered.

I do not feel that one should be discouraged from buying lenses if a person feels the need for more expensive glass nor do I feel it is wrong to recommend fast lenses, or proven better quality glass if a person asks what would suite me best for this situation etc.


If you look at it the way you desribe with cameras and said no I dont recommend you get the K20, get the K10 first to learn with would mean there would be no need in the first place to offer kit lenses with a top end camera.. all brands included.

I wonder for example do more people new to DSLR's become discouraged by buying a good quality camera after being told and shown all its features and label it semi-pro/pro only to find that they cannot achieve what they see in photo forums like on this site or in magazines etc showing examples from such cameras as purchased.

Or is it a case of more people buy expensive fast lenses they cannot use or never have the skill to use properly with the semi-pro/pro camera.


Neil

05-09-2009, 03:51 AM   #9
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I mostly agree, albeit with one exception: I think kit lenses today are actually designed to be a little disappointing, in order to get you moving as fast as possible to more expensive lenses. I received the advice to skip the kit and start with the FA 50 for about the same price as the kit lens would have cost, and I am very happy I did. I passed on the same suggestion to someone else who decided to get both the kit and the FA 50. Needless to say the 50 stays on his camera most of the time too. I think camera companies would do their customers a favor by offering a fast 35 or 50 as an alternative kit.
05-09-2009, 04:35 AM   #10
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Diego, your post is far too sane for any obsessive-compulsive hobby - such as lens buying!

Then again, it probably is perfect for anybody interested in and starting ... photography.
05-09-2009, 04:53 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by schmik Quote
Good post... i wonder how many cameras are sold worldwide based on 'the look'? The one where the others see you with your entry level dslr and kit lens. As much as i agree with you (that this silly peer pressure does not result in better photos) I'm sure the marketing execs want this to happen until everyone has a camera that is more expensive than a small car.

Then again some of us embrace the 'the look' and throw a cheeky grin back at them knowing that the best gear does not make a good photo. (in my head i always think "All the gear, No idea!").

BTW, my advice to newbs is always to have the kit and then go buy a fast 50. Nothing teaches DOF better than a fast lens. And a 50 can be had for the price of dinner and movie.
THe 50 then also teaches you what is wrong with the kit lens. When that lesson is learned then the newb is no longer a newb and knows for sure what to get next..... what they'll use next.

mike
True about the fast 50. Great way to learn. That's why it was a "kit lens" in the past, and I consider it to be a good "kit lens" alternative of some sort

QuoteOriginally posted by nulla Quote
Kits for sure to start but nothing like fast lenses to improve ones skill with the use of light and learn to avoid if possible flash.

I understand where you are coming from Diego but it can at times be horses for courses and as well ones budget and or other economic factors that should be considered.
Flash is a source of light and I would consider it to be a good thing to practice with as well.

QuoteOriginally posted by nulla Quote
I do not feel that one should be discouraged from buying lenses if a person feels the need for more expensive glass nor do I feel it is wrong to recommend fast lenses, or proven better quality glass if a person asks what would suite me best for this situation etc.
I'm NOT saying it should be discouraged from buying better gear (last line in my initial post before the P.S. part)

QuoteOriginally posted by nulla Quote
If you look at it the way you desribe with cameras and said no I dont recommend you get the K20, get the K10 first to learn with would mean there would be no need in the first place to offer kit lenses with a top end camera.. all brands included.
I'm talking about the kit lens, that's all and nothing more

QuoteOriginally posted by ILoveVerdi Quote
I mostly agree, albeit with one exception: I think kit lenses today are actually designed to be a little disappointing, in order to get you moving as fast as possible to more expensive lenses. I received the advice to skip the kit and start with the FA 50 for about the same price as the kit lens would have cost, and I am very happy I did. I passed on the same suggestion to someone else who decided to get both the kit and the FA 50. Needless to say the 50 stays on his camera most of the time too. I think camera companies would do their customers a favor by offering a fast 35 or 50 as an alternative kit.
I don't see it designed to be disappointing I'd like to see it as an affordable introduction to the fundamentals of photography (different focal lengths, apertures etc.)

Same goes for the fast 50. I see it as a "kit prime lens". It's cheap, fast, and an introduction to the advantages/disadvantages of prime lenses, fast apertures etc.

QuoteOriginally posted by emr Quote
Diego, your post is far too sane for any obsessive-compulsive hobby - such as lens buying!

Then again, it probably is perfect for anybody interested in and starting ... photography.
Hahaha well, just felt like venting here Seriously though, the obsession can really ruin the experience and essence of photography. I've seen a LOT of people lose sight of the joy and essence of the art, and think 90% of the gear and such

Anyway, best way to get out of LBA and gear lust is to go out and shoot, go out and shoot, and shoot shoot shoot
05-09-2009, 04:55 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by schmik Quote
Good post... i wonder how many cameras are sold worldwide based on 'the look'? The one where the others see you with your entry level dslr and kit lens. As much as i agree with you (that this silly peer pressure does not result in better photos) I'm sure the marketing execs want this to happen until everyone has a camera that is more expensive than a small car.
Oh it happens here People with loads of cash get the best looking or coolest stuff, just to have it.

It's basically a cool gadget, like how cars extend/improve guys' egos
05-09-2009, 05:15 AM   #13
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QuoteQuote:
I do not feel that one should be discouraged from buying lenses if a person feels the need for more expensive glass nor do I feel it is wrong to recommend fast lenses, or proven better quality glass if a person asks what would suite me best for this situation etc.

I'm NOT saying it should be discouraged from buying better gear (last line in my initial post before the P.S. part)

You got me and my post wrong.. I was making a statement in general terms... did not say you are guilty of discouraging.



QuoteQuote:
If you look at it the way you desribe with cameras and said no I dont recommend you get the K20, get the K10 first to learn with would mean there would be no need in the first place to offer kit lenses with a top end camera.. all brands included.

I'm talking about the kit lens, that's all and nothing more
I know what you are talking about... that is trying to encourage someone to take on a learning curve by using a kit.

What I was doing was saying why is not the same line of thinking applied to cameras, my comments do not have to be restricted to lens specific to get my point across.


Cheers


Neil
05-09-2009, 05:34 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by soccerjoe5 Quote
You've got to focus on the PHOTO itself, all these little technical stuff will mean NOTHING if it's a bad photo to start with.
Exactly my thoughts, and one of the best posts I have read recently. Thank you! And in the light of the upcoming new "K-Terminator-D" body that will make us all rock, the whole post applies to camera bodies as well.

All we can expect from an "entry-level" cameras and lenses are entry level results, right? Yeah, right. And getting a "professional" 1D Mark III and expensive L glass would guarantee that one will jump right on the cover pages and double spreads of Vogue or National Geographic, right? Ahem... right. Marketing, pure marketing my friends. They want us "believe" that cameras and lenses take good pictures. We just press the button, they to the rest.

We shall look no further than at what Benjamin Kanarek is producing using K10D and K20D. Amazing stuff!!! However, no one at any camera store would tell us "get a K20D and shoot for fashion magazines". If we would by chance ask a sales person for K20D explaining that we intend to do "professional" photography (gasp!), instead of a camera they may recommend seeing a doctor (yes, "that" doctor).

But what "professional" camera or lens really means? I think the term itself is a nonsense. As someone put in their signature:

Photographers are professional. Cameras are tools.
05-09-2009, 06:02 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by nulla Quote
You got me and my post wrong.. I was making a statement in general terms... did not say you are guilty of discouraging.





I know what you are talking about... that is trying to encourage someone to take on a learning curve by using a kit.

What I was doing was saying why is not the same line of thinking applied to cameras, my comments do not have to be restricted to lens specific to get my point across.


Cheers


Neil
Point taken, buddy

Cheers!

Diego
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