What Is A Kit Lens? (Should We Use It?)

Photography is an interesting field, one with so much jargon. You eventually get a hang of what focal length is and then you have to research on aperture, and there are many more in the queue. One of those is a kit lens. So, what is a kit lens?

A kit lens is a starter lens, that comes with a newly bought SLR or DSLR camera. A new SLR/DSLR camera comes with the camera body, the kit lens, and other necessary accessories you need to get started. This is why a kit lens is called a starter lens.

So, you are ready to buy your first DSLR camera and are looking forward to unpacking it. What exactly should you be looking out for? Well, depending on the brand of camera you buy, and how much you are ready to invest, you will get a couple of accessories alongside the camera body itself. 

Irrespective of the brand, and how much you spend, one thing all new DSLR/SLR cameras come with(should come with) is a kit lens. In this guide, we shall be discussed in depth everything kit lens. We will provide  answers to why cameras come with a kit lens, the characteristics of a kit lens, and its uses 

Why Do Cameras Come With Kit Lens

Not all cameras come with a kit lens. We must establish this fact, so you do not get your heart broken, after spending a fortune on a point-and-shoot camera. Only cameras with interchangeable lenses come with a kit lens when you buy them.

Within the broad types of cameras with interchangeable lenses (Mirrorless, DSLR, and SLR cameras), only DSLR, and SLR cameras come with a kit lens when you buy them. Point-and-shoot cameras are fixed-lens cameras.

These cameras with interchangeable lenses work by you fixing a lens to them. So, without a lens, they cannot work. Manufacturers, therefore, put a lens, one you can start with immediately. This is why kit lenses are also called starter lenses. 

We guess that you are going for a DSLR camera, and you know exactly what a DSLR(also SLR and mirrorless) camera is. If not, both DSLR and SLR cameras feature a mirror that helps reflect light when you take pictures with them. 

However, a DSLR is digital as pictures you take are saved directly to its card. An SLR camera uses film(making it very limited). A mirrorless camera doesn’t use a mirror to reflect light when you take pictures with them. 

Characteristics Of A Kit Lens

We have established what a kit lens is, and now you know to check for a lens that comes with a new DSLR/SLR camera you buy. However, in this section, we are going to be looking at the peculiarities of kit lenses.

They Are Zoom Lenses

All kit lenses are zoom lenses. Well, this wasn’t the case years ago(is hard to put a specific date on them), however, if you would ever get a new DSLR camera today, you can be sure it is a zoom lens, and often an 18-55mm kit lens. So, why zoom lenses?

There are specifically 2 types of lenses, prime lens, and zoom lens. Prime lenses come with fixed focal lengths, while zoom lenses are designed to have a wide range of focal lengths.

The key difference between prime and zoom lenses is what makes the latter better suited as a kit lens. They are cheaper. The low-end lens of most camera brands are zoom lenses, hence they are better suited as starter lenses. 

They Are The Cheapest Lenses In A Brand’s Lens Collection

It will be absurd for a brand to sell a DSLR/SLR camera with just the body. That would mean users would have to also buy lenses on a different budget. However, the lens market is a whole market on its own, with some even more expensive than the camera they are to be used with.

To solve this problem, camera brands sell their cameras with the least expensive lens. This is primarily why they are called starter lenses, as new photographers will get to at least start with them, and then once they have grown skill-wise they can go for the more expensive lenses.

Professional photographers have no problem with lenses as they more than often already have great lenses. They often just upgrade to a new camera and rarely have use for the kit lenses.

However, there are exceptions to this rule, Certain brands do combine their camera with more sophisticated lenses and sell them at a higher price, as much as some brands also sell just the camera body.

They Produce Relatively Poor Quality Images

We must establish that the term “poor quality image” is relative. The term refers to the quality compared to the quality of mid and higher-level lenses in a brand’s collection. The reason for the lackluster image quality of kit lenses is tied to the fact that they are zoom lenses.

We already established in the previous section that zoom lenses, unlike prime lenses are built in such a way that they allow the change of focal length. This is unlike prime lenses which come with fixed lenses.

Unfortunately, the fact that you can change the focal length of a lens directly affects other functions of a camera. There is always a catch You will be sacrificing the depth of field, optimum use of aperture, depth of field, sharpness of the image, and others.

However, this does not mean there are no high-end zoom lenses in the market. But the best zoom lens still lags behind a prime lens. We are yet unsure what the future of zoom lenses would be, but it is what it is right now.  

They Are Not Durable

Your kit lens is not built to last long. They are built for you to use in the meantime before you go ahead and purchase a better lens. These lenses are usually built with plastic, instead of high-end ones built with metal,

They are not waterproof, or heatproof. A drop can damage it, and a minor scratch can render them useless. If well maintained, they should last a month or so, however, you would soon find a hundred reasons why you should get a better lens.

What Are The Use Of A Kit Lenses?

From the previous section, it would seem as though the kit lens is a waste of time and money. However, to the contrary, it does have its use. They are built to be used by beginner photographers.

The fact that it is a zoom lens means as a beginner, you must learn how to adjust the focal length to match each aperture value, just to get a decent picture. You would consistently push yourself to take good pictures with a complicated lens. 

The best way to describe this is learning how to drive a manual car, before being handed an automatic car. Using a kit lens gives new photographers a rigorous setting to get used to, which ultimately would help them when they switch to a prime lens.

People Also Ask

Are all kit lenses bad?

Well, technically, they are often the lowest end of a brand’s zoom lens. So, compared to other lenses, they will be poor. However, some cameras come with really good lenses (even prime lenses). In such a case, they cannot be called “kit lenses”

Can I take a picture with my new DSLR/SLR without the kit lens?

Not unless you have another lens to use with it. Your DSLR camera is useless without a lens, kit lens, or other lenses.

My Final Words

A kit lens comes with a DSLR or SLR camera when you buy one They are not the best lenses as they are often the least expensive lenses of a brand. However, they have their use, especially for beginning photographers, which is why they are called starter lenses.