What's wrong with kit lens?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by donna_dunlap, Apr 9, 2012.

  1. I frequently hear kit lens being referred to as inferior....I'd like to know why? What are the considerations to be made when comparing a kit lens to a higher quality? What makes one lens better than another? Forgive such an ignorant question please. I'm learning!
     
  2. They are OK to a certain extent, but they are really cheaply-made in terms of assembly (some actually have taped-in elements, for example, a cheaper grade of plastic, etc.). They have only a very rudimentary means of manual focus and a barrel that turns when it focuses, making it rather inconvenient to use such accessories as polarizers and graduated neutral density filters, the lens mating to the camera is plastic vs metal, and because of compromises that have to be made in the quality of the lens elements themselves, they simply do not have the same "contrast" as more expensive lenses do (digital cameras try to compensate for the kit zoom's inadequacies in software). A low-quality lens is a low-quality lens on any camera, but a good lens puts even the cheapest camera in the line on the same field as the most expensive one.
    Prime lenses can be inexpensive, but a good-quality zoom can't, just because it's so much more complex to design and build. Kit zooms are to cameras what cheap plastic pedals are on a nice bike... supplied so you can pedal it until you buy yourself real pedals.
     
  3. Kit lenses can take good images, but they have limited capabilities:
    1. limited maximum aperture/minimum f-stop (low light ability)
    2. slower autofocus, difficult to use manual focus
    3. low build quality
    4. limited focal length range
    As a beginner, these things might not be an issue at all, and many very good photographers get great photos from kit lenses. But as you grow as a photographer, you might find that a different lens makes things easier. For instance, taking a portrait of a wild grizzly bear with a typical kit lens would be an exercise in bravery and stupidity!
     
  4. There's nothing wrong with kit lens.
    my 18 - 55 mm 3.5 - 5.6 dx vr has fallen on to solid floors and mud at least 2 times each (yeah, I'm sloppy), but it still functioning normally until today, the vr and focus are still on.
    "higher quality" lenses imo are lenses for specific purposes, if technical quality of an image is demanded by the paying party, then "higher quality" lenses with its better glasses will give you "sharper" images. this may translate to less post processing work, or even more freedom to post process.
    higher quality lenses will also give you wider apertures and better focusing ability, meaning it will be much easier to capture moments or movements in less than favorable light. For some professionals that might spell the difference between staying in the race or being kicked out of business by unhappy clients.
    But for creating images? Take your kit lens, buy a flash with slave capabilities (or grab a pair of radio trigger), and explore, I think there's a lot more to explore, you can exploit your kit lens to know what kind of lenses that you might need.
     
  5. All of the items (1-4) on Dave L's list of limited capabilities, while true, have nothing to do with the quality of images you can take with the kit lens. As he said, you can take good images with the kit lens. Every time I bought a newer, bigger, faster lens I always seemed to go back to the kit lens for no other reason than size and weight. Oh, there is another reason -- it happens to make very good images.
     
  6. There's nothing wrong with kit lenses. Think of them as the "basic" zoom lens models - what you need in order to use
    the camera. Other, more expensive zoom lenses might offer upgrades that might be important to some people but not
    others. For example, an f/2.8 zoom lens is better in lower light, one made with more metal parts is more durable, some
    will have different zoom lengths (the most versatile Nikon that's sold as a kit lens is 18-105, so anything wider or
    longer, you need another lens). If you have an 18-55, 18-105 or previous models, you can take great photos but you
    don't get those features.
     
  7. The kit lenses Nikon makes are generally fine. Nothing surpasses the old AI and AIS line of manual focus lenses for build and image quality. I find it humorous that often the same users who "Dog" the kit lens overlook the quality of the old MF lenses and recommend ridiculously expensive (and SLOWER) new lenses like the 2.8 zooms.
    Get the best lens you can afford, then start making the kind of photos that interest you. That's always good advice.
     
  8. Nothing wrong with them. The kit lens to the D700 is the 24-70 which is arguably the best quality standard zoom by any manufacturer.
     
  9. Agree entirely that the kit lenses can be great, and they're light and easy to operate and take surprisingly good pictures. Along with the prime "standard" lenses, they're a heck of a bargain. There's plenty of time to figure out what 'specialist' lenses you need later when you understand what you'd like (but I'd still suggest at least one fast lens like the 50/1.8 or 35/1.8).
    Yes, of course the kit lenses are much lighter and not built like the pro lenses to take a beating. They also don't cost much to replace.
    The comment was made above that a good quality zoom can't be made cheaply. Unless one means purely mechanical build quality (durability), I don't think that's necessarily the case; the truth is that the cost of a complex mechanical / electrical / optical combination goes down dramatically with the volume of production. Since the kit lenses are mass market and high volume, they get the most benefit from this - quality can still be high at low prices (again, though, depending on what is meant by quality).
    Of course that's not the whole story, and there's more to the cost of a lens; and I think the less ambitious lenses (by which I mean less zoom range like the 18-55) require a lot less (expensive) optical correction, special materials and design compromises and hence perform very well for their price. The usual design compromises.
     
  10. My 18-70 is a kit lens and is awesome for what it's designed for... small light carry-around lens. I don't want to carry an f2.8 standard zoom, so it's fine.
    But, like the 18-55, if I handled it roughly, I think it would be over again.
     
  11. Kit lenses aren't necessarily "inferior"; they are usually just not the best of a particular manufacturer. They are usually very well matched to the camera they come with. Some of them - I'm a Nikon user so my comments are based on that - are quite good. The Nikon 18-70 is generally regarded, as Peter says, as a very good lens. The brand does not matter, pretty much all the manufacturers produce similar quality in their kit lenses, and because they are inexpensive lenses, they do have compromises as Greg mentions.
    When you move away from kit lenses what you are getting is usually better build quality, constant apertures, better optical quality, and more lens speed (as in 2.8 vs 4-5.6 or so).
     
  12. If built quality is a concern with the kit lensen, just buy 2 or 3 of them. 3 Nikkor 18-55's are cheaper than 1 better lens ;-)
     
  13. I don't think there is anything "wrong" with kit lenses. Basically, you get what you pay for. Mostly it is a less robust build -- more plastic, less metal. While it is unlikely that a kit lens will test the resolving power of the sensors in the newer cameras like the D7000 and D800, I have taken some shots I'm very pleased with using the kit lens. At the same time, with just a slight impact -- no external visible marks or scratches, the internal mounts broke and I had to have them repaired. That would not have been the case with a more robust lens.
    However, I can't complain, because I'm convinced I got what I paid for with the kit lens. I know that in using it I have to consider the build quality and performance when using it. So far that really hasn't been a significant factor in how I have used it. I would not consider it if I were still a working photographer because the environment is just too physically demanding to take anything other than robust equipment to work in. However, as a serious non-commercial user, I think the kit lens is just fine.
     
  14. I like kit lenses b/c they are cheaper and lighter. You could go overseas as a backpacker tourist and be out all day with it. To me the issue is more low light but nothing beats a tripod IMO. I am quite happy with the picture quality with them and my purpose is when printed and provided to people. I find the biggest issue is the quality of light when you are strolling around and the composition that no lens can fix. You need to be there at hte right time at the right place.
    Many pro's have used kit lenses.
    Just look at flickr.com, this site, and places like mir.com.my ...... and under each lens review.
    One of my fav style is more the way of the camera that gets me in that mood to get the shot, I like manual focus film cams v much. It slows you right down. And I prefer a prime lens with a filter thread no larger than 52mm. Becomes so simpler and just focus on pictures rather than endless features, pricetags, technical quality.
    There are times when a $$$ lens when it might provide you the features you want if you want bokeh, super long lens wildlife, a dedicated fisheye or macro lens, low light work ie., opera or concert (coupled with a FX dSLR camera etc etc ....).
     
  15. The kit lens to the D700 is the 24-70​
    ha. not really, but they do go together.
     
  16. Donna, I use the (18-55mm) kit lens for all sorts of subjects and I have never had cause for complaint apart from the distortion at the 18mm end of the range - which my D7000 automatically compensates for like magic! The colour and sharpness is more than satisfactory and I attach an example here http://d6d2h4gfvy8t8.cloudfront.net/14882776-lg.jpg which I took of my car in quite demanding conditions (dark with bright lights) and the image is better than I could have hoped. I have no hesitation in using the kit zoom lens.
     
  17. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    By definition, the "kit lens" is a lens that is sold with a camera body as a package. The D700 was never sold with the 24-70mm/f2.8 AF-S as a kit, although plenty of people buy them together. The D700's kit lens was the older 24-120mm/f3.5-5.6 AF-S VR, known for its mediocre quality (not to be confused withe current constant f4 24-120mm/f4 AF-S VR): http://www.photo.net/nikon-camera-forum/00QQ28
    Construction quality aside, my main issue with those kit lenses such as the 18-55mm AF-S VR is that they are slow. Once I had two 18-55 from Nikon because I was testing the D3000 and D5000, and that lens drove me crazy indoors. I had to switch to my 17-55mm/f2.8 AF-S even though perhaps not that many people would couple the D3000 and D5000 with that lens.
     
  18. The speed of the 18-105 kit lens that came with my D7000 (the only way I could buy it considering the availability) has never bothered me. Quite the contrary -- it drove me to try and love the high ISO range of the camera. I still shoot the vast majority of my images in the F8-11 range -- where most lenses perform best anyway.
     
  19. I routinely shoot with four high-priced constant f/2.8 aperture zoom lenses. However, in spite of owning and using these lenses, I purchased a Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5 to f/5.6 as a backup lens. This low-priced kit lens is a great performer. I love using it, instead of one of my higher priced lenses, on a DX body for walk-around candids and landscapes; especially in bad weather or hostile environments.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/11336821@N00/5227585802/
    00aFeu-456785584.jpg
     
  20. To add my voice to the masses, the kit lenses sold in recent times (with the possible exception of the old 24-120) are pretty good, optically. They're cheaply made, but made in such quantities that this doesn't necessarily mean there's anything wrong with the optics, for a zoom. They have limitations, like any lens, in terms of the focal length covered (unless you count the 18-200 as a kit lens, in which case it is optically imperfect, but so is any 11x zoom) and in terms of speed (which would make the lens bigger, heavier and more expensive), but since a lot of photographs can be taken within the range of focal lengths and apertures that the kit lenses provide, they're a pretty good starting point. On this forum, people are keen to say that a 50mm prime (or possibly 35mm on a DX sensor) is the ideal starting lens, but for people not planning on expanding their lens collection, a kit zoom is probably the most flexible starting lens, at least for the price. You can always turn the lights on and try to arrange the background to be scenic so you don't need more aperture.

    It's true that faster zooms tend to have slightly better contrast at any given aperture (although you'd struggle to tell with smaller apertures - and since the kit zooms only offer smaller apertures, you don't have to be far from wide open for them to perform well), and sometimes less distortion. Still, I don't think the kit zooms are designed to be deliberately any less good than they could be - it's the kit lens that determines how well Nikon's cameras compare against Canon's in consumer tests, so both companies do the best they can, for the price.

    For reference, the lens that lives on my D700 is a cheap 28-200 f/3.5-5.6 G, sold (I believe) as a kit lens with some cheaper film cameras. Optically, it's "good enough" a lot of the time, small enough to be an over-sized lens cap, cheap enough that I won't cry much if I break it, it looks cheap (it's silver) so nobody steals my camera, and it's flexible enough to handle a lot of scenarios. I have a 14-24, a 500mm prime, a 200 f/2, an 85 f/1.4, an 80-200, a macro, etc. - but generally I know when I'm going to want to use one. The cheap zoom is there for when I don't know what I'm going to want. When I shot a Canon 300D, the kit 18-55 (or a 28-300 that I knew to be optically dubious) did the same job.
     
  21. The D700 was never sold with the 24-70mm/f2.8 AF-S as a kit,
    In Europe the original D700 kit was with the 24-70, then later with the 24-120/4. I've never seen the D700+old 24-120 kit here.
     
  22. Ilkka - I've definitely seen the old 24-120 sold with the D700 in the UK. That's one reason I was so amused by a shop owner criticizing my having a 28-200 on mine when I walked in. (Not that the 28-200 is brilliant, but it's not half bad for the 150 quid it cost me new, and I'm not aware of it having the terrible reputation that the old 24-120 had.)
     
  23. Kit lenses are a great alternative to pro lenses however the build quality really does suck!!
     
  24. Michael - to be fair, I've never had a problem with a kit lens (even the famously-plastic 28-80 that I bought so that I can scare people with its autofocus speed on my F5). I do own an 80-200 f/2.8 that's a borderline paperweight (the aperture misbehaves), but then I bought it in that condition and didn't realise until it was too late for me to whinge at the supplier (reasonably). I'm developing a policy of not spending between three hundred and a thousand ukp on a lens - cheap lenses seem to work because they don't try to be too ambitious, and the silly money lenses do everything perfectly, but the ones in between try to be clever and don't quite pull it off. Justifiable or no, there's a lot to be said for finding that, when you've got limitations in a piece of glass, you at least didn't pay much for it.
     
  25. if i were the OP, i'd reframe the question:what's right about kit lenses?
    obviously, you're not going to get superior build quality, constant 2.8 aperture, zero distortion or pro-grade autofocus. but ever since the 18-70, the kit lens for the d70, nikon's kit lenses have been very decent optically, especially stopped down to f/8.
    the slow maximum aperture is IMO the biggest drawback to recent kit lenses--the 18-70 was 4.5 on the long end--although the pricier 18-200 and 16-85 are also slow on the long end.but in terms of sharpness, the discontinued 18-135 is very close to the much more expensive 16-85, according to photozone. another drawback is resolving power. flaws not apparent on 6 or 10mp dslrs become more noticeable on 16mp sensors.
    bottom line: if you are able to get good results with kit lenses, don't let anyone tell you differently.
     
  26. I've used the 24-50 "kit" Nikkor on film for many years. It's light and gives good images up to 8X10 prints and when projected. When shot at f/8, or about, you can barely tell it from an f/2.8 lens. (Bob Krist used this lens as a "walk-around" when he was travelling some years ago.)
     
  27. Eric - while it may not apply to the latest kit lenses, I believe the 28-80 f/3.3-5.6 G was once a kit lens for film cameras. It's decently sharp, but the reason I got it is that the autofocus (at least on an F5) is scarily fast. It certainly blows my original one-ring 80-200 f/2.8 out of the water, mostly because the mechanism that's moving is so light.

    If I'm honest, it's probably not as fast as my 200 f/2 AF-S or 14-24, and I suspect it's not up there with a 70-200, but I'd not hold autofocus performance against it compared with its big brethren. (My 28-200, on the other hand, takes its sweet time.)
     
  28. I purchased a Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5 to f/5.6 as a backup lens. This low-priced kit lens is a great performer. I love using it, instead of one of my higher priced lenses, on a DX body for walk-around candids and landscapes; especially in bad weather or hostile environments.​
    I'm not familiar with Nikon gear. I am a Canon guy. My walk around Canon premium L zoom is weather sealed so it is better to use it in bad weather as opposed to a cheap consumer zoom. That's one of the reasons Canon L lenses cost so much.
     
  29. When shot at f/8, or about, you can barely tell it from an f/2.8 lens​
    isnt this true for most lenses though?
    If I'm honest, it's probably not as fast as my 200 f/2 AF-S or 14-24, and I suspect it's not up there with a 70-200​
    screwdriver lenses are generally not as fast as pro-spec lenses, and their AF speed varies, depending on what body you use.
    That's one of the reasons Canon L lenses cost so much.​
    Canon L lenses aren't supplied as kit lenses, even in Europe. Nikon's pro-spec zooms are sealed too, but then so is the 18-70--another reason why it's as well-regarded as any kit lens in the last decade or so. Not sure if any Canon kit lenses are weather-sealed.
     
  30. I'm not familiar with Nikon gear. I am a Canon guy. My walk around Canon premium L zoom is weather sealed so it is better to use it in bad weather as opposed to a cheap consumer zoom. That's one of the reasons Canon L lenses cost so much.​
    Unless it has a plastic barrel, I am not sure I would be willing to subject a high-priced weather sealed Canon premium L zoom to salt water spray or a salt water drenching.

     
  31. Turning it around, the advantages of the Kit lens:
    - Less expensive. Reduced risk in cases of loss or damage. Less worry about your lens.
    - Lighter weight and smaller. Easier to carry and stash. Compare a kit lens to an f/2.8 zoom. To me the difference in size/weight is astounding. (Of course, a nice 50mm f/2 D is even smaller.)
    - Damn good image quality in many cases.
    My 18-70 DX lens is a favorite.
     
  32. Eric wrote:
    screwdriver lenses are generally not as fast as pro-spec lenses, and their AF speed varies, depending on what body you use.​
    You're right that this is generally, although not universally, true. The AF speed even of AF-S lenses varies with body (a bit), the screwdriver lenses more so (especially with an F5). I believe there's a consensus that the 50 f/1.4 AF-S may be slightly slower to focus (although probably more accurate) than the AF-D version. My 80-200 f/2.8 "pro" lenses (well, they were once) are screwdriver lenses, one of which (two-ring AF-D) is respectably fast at focussing, one (one ring mark 1) is best described as "ponderous", but it's no worse than my 150-500 Sigma. Besides, the most recent DX kit lenses are (obviously) AF-S, like all but one of the DX range. The 28-80 I mentioned is a screwdriver lens, but since the mechanism that's being moved is so light, it's scarily fast when stuck on a body powered by eight AA batteries (like the F5).

    The big win for sticking the motor in the lens (other than instant manual-focus override) is with lenses whose focus mechanism can't easily be driven by a screwdriver - notably the big supertelephotos. Hence the 400mm AF-I is very fast (although admittedly the 300mm and 600mm AF-I lenses weren't). I've got to say that my (screw-driven) TC-16A is pretty instant, but then it's not moving much glass very far. Small lenses don't have such a problem. I've not timed my 28-80 against a 24-70 f/2.8 - partly because I'm not enough of a fan of mid-range zooms to spend 24-70 money getting one - but I'd not be surprised if it's nearly as fast, at least on an F5.
     
  33. Canon L lenses aren't supplied as kit lenses, even in Europe.
    If you google "canon 5d mk iii kit box" you will find plenty of images of the boxes of 5D Mk III + 24-105L Canon packaged kits. Being sold in kits says nothing of the quality of the lens. Panasonic sold the GF1 in kits with the 20/1.7 which is an excellent prime lens that sells for a lot more money separately.
     
  34. I believe there's a consensus that the 50 f/1.4 AF-S may be slightly slower to focus (although probably more accurate) than the AF-D version.​
    ok, but the 50/1.4 AF-S is not a pro-spec (gold ring) lens.
    My 80-200 f/2.8 "pro" lenses (well, they were once) are screwdriver lenses​
    and as such, is slower in focus speed than the 70-200 AF-S lenses, especially on a pro-spec body.
    The 28-80 I mentioned is a screwdriver lens, but since the mechanism that's being moved is so light, it's scarily fast when stuck on a body powered by eight AA batteries (like the F5).​
    the 50/1.8 AF-D is another screw-drive lens with super-quick focus because of the short throw. it's not a kit lens, though.
    If you google "canon 5d mk iii kit box" you will find plenty of images of the boxes of 5D Mk III + 24-105L Canon packaged kits.​
    ok, you got me there. but you're getting kind of nit-picky... the 5dmkIII isnt a weather-sealed body, so the point James Smith was trying to make wouldn't apply in that case. more to the point, the vast majority of Canon DSLR kits are packaged with 18-55 IS or other non-L lenses. the 5dIII+24-105L is a $4300 kit, btw. at that price point, Canon is trying to give you a reason to stay with them and not jump to a d800.
    Being sold in kits says nothing of the quality of the lens.​
    yes and no. some kit lenses are kind of meh. the 24-120VR 3.5-5.6 sold with the D700 certainly was nothing to write home about.
    Panasonic sold the GF1 in kits with the 20/1.7 which is an excellent prime lens that sells for a lot more money separately.​
    Panasonic does that sometimes, so does Olympus. FWIW the 12-50 zoom that's the kit lens for the new OM-D E-5 is weather sealed, as is the camera body. and the flash. i wish nikon would do something like that.
     
  35. Eric - sure, I was just pointing out that "screwdriver vs pro-spec" wasn't the distinction to make. I honestly don't know how much of the speed improvement from the 70-200 is because it's AF-S and how much is because it's simply newer - I believe the 80-200 AF-S wasn't much faster than the AF-D.

    As for the gold ring, I was under the impression my 135 f/2 DC (which is a screwdriver lens) was "pro-spec", but it's band-less. I assumed it was just a recent marketing thing to match Canon's red "L" branding, and the 135 hasn't been produced since they made that marketing decision. I'll give you that the 50mm primes are conspicuously missed off Nikon's list of "lenses to use with a D800", which possibly tallies with my impression that Nikon could do with an f/1.2 ED update to match Canon's 50mm L prime (and the latest Noctilux). Possibly the gold originally meant "ED", but that doesn't explain the gold band on the 85mm AF-S. Perhaps Nikon decided that their existing acronym collection wasn't confusing enough and they needed to muddy the waters further.

    Panasonic are a slightly odd case - the point of a micro 4/3 system is its portability, so a kit lens like the 14-42 can, uniquely in the kit lens world, be designed with size as a priority over budget. It's an interesting design, though. I've been tempted to stick an E-series 50mm prime on my D700 for portability reasons...
     
  36. Other than built quality, there is nothing wrong with their performance.
    YES, being compared to similar lenses that are $1000+ you will find some difference.
    I am sure many have mentioned but 18-55mm is awesome lens for awesome price tag. 18-70mm(discontinued) kit lens that came with my D200 is one lens that I just cant sell. Good weather seal, decent image quality!
    Other then that Dave L gave you pretty much all the answer
     
  37. being referred to as inferior....I'd like to know why?
    The way I look at the question is "not how" the kit lenses are inferior "nor whether" the kit lenses are inferior or not... I'd like to know why?
    I believe the kit lenses are not meant to be good or bad, they are mainly what is recommended for that particular camera when you buy the camera. The purpose is to give a better deal for expected customers of that certain camera model.
    If you are buying a cheap, low-end camera, then the kit lens should be cheap and also low-end but still likely the most appropriate lens for the camera. Who decided that? I think the marketing department of the manufacturer decided that
    If you are buying a decent camera, then I think your kit lens is also decent
     
  38. John - I'm sure, since the cameras are typically reviewed with the kit lens (especially in the general media), that no manufacturer deliberately cripples the kit lens to promote sales of upgrades. There's definitely no point in sticking a large, heavy and expensive lens (such as the 24-70 f/2.8) on a cheap camera, since it will remove any portability advantage of a small body and cripple the sales compared with a camera equipped with a lens that allows it to be priced lower. Most novices would complain if their new SLR couldn't cover a basic range of focal lengths (like a cheap compact), so a kit lens usually has to be a mid-range zoom; most won't fuss about the aperture, since even a basic kit lens on a basic DSLR is going to spank a compact camera for DoF control and low light performance (especially now kit lenses have VR); there are, admittedly, some more expensive lenses that are often offered as kits (or at least, bundles, since the lenses are usually also upgrade options) for those who want to spend more, but the cheapest kit option is almost always going to be similar. All kit lenses are going to be "decent", but if you want to compromise the price and portability of your system by buying a different lens, it's got to be up to the user to choose how to make that compromise - at least with a DSLR that's an option, unlike compact cameras.

    I don't tend to think of the high end cameras as having kit lenses. Lenses bundled with them or discounted when bought with them, yes, but I suspect people buying a D4 don't want someone else adding to the price by choosing their lenses for them. (For reference, I don't want a 24-70 f/2.8 for my D700 or with any D800 I buy, and I certainly don't want any kind of 24-120.) I suspect the "kit lens combination" of the D700 and original 24-120 came about in a frantic attempt to get rid of some stock, after the reviews of that lens panned it.
     

Share This Page