When you bought your camera, it’s likely it came with a lens. Most beginners to photography opt for a bundle option – camera body with a lens included. This is a great idea for any beginner as the choices for which lens to buy can be mind blowing and more than a little overwhelming!

The lens that came with your camera is called a kit lens.  Kit lenses serve two purposes – it is an inexpensive option that keeps the price of your camera bundle down and it generally works well for a wide range of photography. While they have their limitations, kit lenses are generally pretty decent and do a great job of allowing you to learn, play and explore before you make the decision to invest more money into different lenses.

In this blog post I want to talk about your kit lens so you have a better understand the pro’s and con’s of your lenses capabilities. Photography can be an expensive hobby and it’s important not to go and rush out and buy lots of expensive kit that you might not need. So, firstly let’s look at what your kit lens can and can’t do. You might just find that this lens is all you need to capture the images that you want to right now.

Pro: A kit lens is versatile

Let’s discuss why this lens is so versatile.

Your kit lens is probably has a focal length of 18mm-55mm. Have a look on the side or the very front of your lens to find out what yours is. But what does this actually mean? Well, this means that at your most ‘zoomed out’, you can shoot wide angle shots which is great for landscape photography and when you are zoomed in (55mm) you’ll take in less of the angle of the scene (narrower view) but this a great focal length for portraits. You can of course shoot at any focal length in between.

This versatility allows you to take a variety of types of shots – great for expansive landscape scenes, as well as portrait shots. If you want to shoot a variety of different subjects then this lens might be all you need right now.

Pro: A kit lens is an inexpensive option

Really good lenses are expensive. 

It doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend a huge amount of money on a lens when you are not yet sure of what you like or what kind of lens will best achieve the photography you want. When you are first starting out, you are not only learning about photography and learning how to use your camera, but also learning what type of photography you like and enjoy.

This is definitely a pro of the kit lens. It allows you to try out lots of different types of photography whilst you are learning. With a kit lens you can try different focal lengths and techniques, without spending lots of money up front.

As you shoot more and more, you may realise that you really enjoy close up (or macro) photography for example. Landscape photography might be your thing or even taking beautiful portraits of your children. Each of these genres of photography typically requires a different type of lens (focal length). Once you learn more about which of these photographic genres really interest you then you might want to invest in a higher quality lens more specific to your subject matter.

But for now, your kit lens might be all you need as you are learning your new skills. And as you learn, grow and evolve as a photographer you might find that you outgrow your kit lens and want to invest more in more specialist equipment.

Con: Limited aperture

Take a look at the front of your lens. You’ll probably see something like the following: 18mm – 55mm f3.5/f5.6.

Let me explain to you what this means. 18mm – 55mm relates to the focal length of your lens. Basically how much you can zoom. 18mm is wide angle (great for landscapes) and 55mm is more similar to the ways our eyes see (great for portraits for example).

The second set of numbers relate to the maximum aperture your lens will allow at each end of your zoom. For example, when you are zoomed out to 18mm the maximum aperture your lens will allow is f3.5. Conversely when you are zoomed in at 55mm the maximum aperture will be f5.6.

If you don’t understand what aperture is then I will give you a brief outline here. If you’d like to learn more about aperture then why not consider signing up for my online photography course for beginners?

In a nutshell, your aperture is the hole that’s inside your lens that lets in light. A bigger aperture let’s in more light than a smaller hole. Aperture also affects how much of your image is in focus from front to back (depth of field). You know those images with lovely blurry backgrounds? Well that is achieved by using a large aperture which gives a shallow depth of field.

The limitations of your kit lens is that it only allows you to shoot with a medium sized aperture. This means that getting a shallow depth of field (blurry background) is much less achievable.

Con: Limited light

This con is very much related to my last point – limited aperture.

The size of your aperture is one of the ways your camera controls light. the bigger hole, the more light comes in. If you are limiting the amount of light that enters your camera by having a lens that has a limited aperture then you are making your camera work harder to get a good exposure.

If you are shooting in lower light situations and your camera can’t make the aperture bigger (to let more light in) then your shutter speed will have to go much slower to compensate. If your shutter speed goes too slowly and you are holding your camera by hand then there is a high chance of camera shake ruining your images. I go into this in much more depth in Get Camera Confident.

You can purchase lenses with a larger maximum aperture. For example a 50mm f1.8 lens. Lenses with a larger maximum aperture are often referred to as fast lenses. This is because these lenses allow more light in, allowing shutter speeds to be much faster.

Con: Limited quality

The question of quality is inevitable. It goes without saying that this is a cheaper lens that will not have the same quality as lenses that cost hundreds and even thousands of pounds. The autofocus on kit lenses tends to be slower and noisier than that on more expensive lenses. The build quality of these lenses is typically not as good as higher end lenses. They are often mainly plastic (keeping both weight and costs down) which can be a problem if you often tend to knock your camera around a bit.

Please don’t panic and think that your lens is totally rubbish. It’s not, especially when you are starting out. This is really a great lens for when you are learning. 

Also please understand that these limitations relate to your lens only. There is nothing wrong with your camera body. You won’t need to change everything if you decide to in the long term!

If you do begin to feel limited by your kit lens and feel ready to start exploring new lenses. When that time comes, think about the maximum aperture that lenses offer. Think about what focal length suits your preferred style of photography best.

Conclusion

Please don’t panic and think that your lens is totally rubbish. It’s not, especially when you are starting out. This is really a great lens for when you are learning. 

Also please understand that these limitations relate to your lens only. There is nothing wrong with your camera body. You won’t need to change everything if you decide to in the long term!

If you do begin to feel limited by your kit lens and feel ready to start exploring new lenses. When that time comes, think about the maximum aperture that lenses offer. Think about what focal length suits your preferred style of photography best.

So for now practice with what you’ve got. Use your kit lens to learn the basics and get confident with your photography skills. There’s no need to invest in lots of kit that you might not need so pop that credit card away and step away from Amazon!

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