How bad are kit lenses?

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by Vinny, Mar 21, 2010.

  1. Vinny

    Vinny TPF Noob!

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    I ventured into my first photography store in 30 years was showed a DSLR and was told that basically all the cameras come with a 18-55mm (or there abouts) zoom kit lens. I'm also interested in getting a longer zoom, Pentax has a 70 to 300mm, it looks as though the major players have this as well - again these are kit lenses.

    How bad optically are they? For me, an amateur not looking to make money on it - are they that bad? When I bought my camera years ago I settled on Vivtar lenses because they were decent and cost about 1/3 of what Nikon lenses were.

    I go onto the internet to research the lenses and it seems that whatever I look at the reviewer have bad things to say about them. I looked at Nikon mostly but 18-55, 55-200, 70-300, 18-200 all have "issues". I understand that a $200 lens should not be as good as a $1600 lens but are they a waste of money?

    I would like to hear from all camera people not just Nikon people. Thanks in advance for any in-site.
     
  2. ann

    ann No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    the best thing for you to do , imho , is to take a camera your interested and have the dealer put on the kit lens. Buy a memory card, or bring one along if you can borrow one from a friend (be sure it fits thecamera your interested in)
    Take a series of photos using the lens at the posted lens points at the full f stops.

    Then ask them to put on the "pro" lens and do the same thing.

    Go home, put the images up on your computer and start veiwing the files , compare the 18mm 2.8 against the "pro" lens same range and you will have your answer

    only you can decide , if you see a differnce you have your answer and if you don't you still have your answer.

    There is no perfect lens and there are thousands of opionions out in cyber land, including some made by "names" that have never even touched the lens
     
  3. Formatted

    Formatted TPF Noob!

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    The 18-55 is actually not half bad...
     
  4. benhasajeep

    benhasajeep TPF Noob!

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    Almost all the lower priced lenses are very useable. I have a bag full of Nikon's finest in lens offerings. And yet I still have "kit" lenses that I use with my work traveling camera. And although sometimes I do run into their limits. They work just fine for me when I am traveling for work. They are just fine for a very large amount of photo work. I don't want to take my expensive equipment with me in my work travels. So, I bought the cheapest camera and body I could to reduce my risk if they are stolen or broken. D40X w/ 18-55 vr, and just got a really good deal on a 55-200 vr so I bought it to add to my travel bag.

    For most people in the general public they are just fine for their primary lenses.
     
  5. PJL

    PJL TPF Noob!

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    Kit lenses have improved dramatically since the days of the all plastic, optically awful lenses that came with low end film cameras, like the Rebel G.
     
  6. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    not that bad... the TPF is full of enthusiasts with high expectations.

    They are limiting in certain ways: IQ, flaring, build, max aperture. For someone on a budget, you could consider buying slightly older or used lenses that still might be better than a new kit lens at similar price ranges.

    One example that comes to mind in my bag: 24-70L or 24-105L versus my old Tamron 35-135 f/2.8 Aspherical. Sure its got a noisy slow AF motor, no IS, its not weathersealed, and nor does it have the 24mm, but its faster than my 24-105L and longer than the 24-70L (which I eventually sold). Optically, it is surprisingly good.
     
  7. wescobts

    wescobts TPF Noob!

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    As with any lens, there is always a limit. I have an 18-70mm 3.5-5.6 kit lens and get some fine shots out of it. I try when possible to shoot in the sweet spot, which is about f5.6-f8. I also have the 70-200mm 2.8, great lens ! but it's very long, big and heavy, and has a tendency to miss a focus. Well lets be honest, I missed the shot and it focused on what I was actually looking at and not what I wanted :er: So there are other factors involved. Try a prime lens, most of them are VERY sharp and cost less than the big zooms.
     
  8. Hamtastic

    Hamtastic TPF Noob!

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    As zoom lenses go they are usually pretty good. The reason I don't want to use a kit lens isn't because it's not sharp enough. It's because it's not fast enough. I want the option of f/2.8 at all focal lengths.

    That's not to say there haven't been lemons. Every brand has introduced lousy lenses, but in general I'd tend to examine the shooter's technique before worrying about the lens when dealing with sharpness problems. 99% of the time, even with el-cheapo lenses, the blame lies with the tool user rather than the tool.
     
  9. Jeremy Z

    Jeremy Z No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    They are better now than they have ever been. However, they are not all created equal. Do yourself a favor before you buy and consider the "smaller" camera/lens brands, such as Pentax, Samsung, and Sony. When I was DSLR shopping a few years ago, I went in thinking I would come out with a Canon. After trying the Canon, Nikon, and Pentax, the Pentax was the clear winner. It felt better in my hand, the 18-55 kit lens was the only one with a stainless steel lens mount and all glass elements. Pentax co-developed their SMC lens coating with Zeiss.

    I have both Pentax kit lenses, and I use the 18-55 for 90% of my shooting. It is very sharp, and I have to admit that when a shot goes wrong, I normally am not griping about the lens, but kicking myself for missing something stupid, like white balance, or forgetting and leaving it set to ISO 3200.

    I also have the 55-200 kit lens, and it is also very good. No complaints. Lastly, I have a manual focus 50 mm f/2. This one is sharper than the kit lens at the same focal length, but not enough to make it worth carrying unless I really need the f/2.

    There are a lot of happy people here who make a lot of good shots with Canon & Nikon kit lenses, so I surmise that they are also good.

    Another reference to check is Popular Photography's lens reviews. They tend to stay away from kit lenses, but occasionally, they review them. Here's a typical one on a Sony kit lens:
    Lens Test: Sony DT 18?55mm f/3.5?5.6 SAM AF | Photography - PopPhoto.com Offers Camera Reviews and Exclusive Photo Tips

    There are some things in there we don't always think about, like whether the filter area rotates or not.

    I too also shot some of the older, off-brand zoom lenses designed in the 70s and 80s. I have a Sigma 28-85 and a Tokina 70-150 for my Olympus OM1n. They are both good lenses, but they don't compare to the Zuiko primes. Back then, NONE of the zoom lenses compared to primes. It was a matter of accepting lower image quality in exchange for the convenience. Nowadays, we can have it all. Quality & convenience. The optical quality is better than on those old zooms. If you want prime lens quality, you can have that too with the higher end zooms, but the price is money & weight. ($1600 instead of maybe $50)

    Now, we have computer optics designs that are much better. But the construction is cheaper, and this is one area the more expensive zooms are going to be better.

    Then, like an earlier member mentioned, if you later buy a nicer (heavier, faster, more expensive) replacement, you have the option of taking the cheapy along if you want to save weight or space.

    When you buy the camera body with one of these lenses, the lens is pretty much a freeby, so you have nothing to lose by getting one and trying it out. If it turns out not to meet your expectations, you haven't lost anything. You can expect the same thing when comparing telephoto kit lens compared to a higher end one. The same types of lower quality construction, slower optics, etc.

    Note that higher speed optics are only really needed now for moving subject. Image stabilizing technology has taken away a lot of the need for higher speed optics.
     
  10. They're perfectly fine.
     
  11. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    Even pro glass has it's limitations.

    What counts is that the photographer knows the +'s and -'s of their equipment and gets from it the maximum performance it can provide.
     
  12. Montana

    Montana TPF Noob!

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