Kit lenses are not good?

If you want to live as a photographer, forget about the kit lenses. If you show up as a "professional photographer", with a cheap D-SLR camera fitted with a kit lens or with a compact camera, you will lose customers very quickly. 

For a one-time performance, such as a wedding, everyone expects that the photographer show up with equipment in the heavyweight class. The pictures must be in the box every time. It is not possible to do it later! The photographic equipment used, just has to work!

Is Pro lenses and pro camera so much better than ordinary cameras with kit lens? The answer is, that professional equipment is usually much better! It is more resistant, because only the best materials are used.

For example there is refined on the smallest details in an expensive lens and the optical aberrations are minimal. The lens is often very sensitive and works sufficiently sharp at all apertures! Zooms always has a fixed high aperture regardless of the selected focal length. Distance setting takes place very quickly. It is easy to operate the lens manually.

There are good reasons for the high price. This type of lenses do not go out of fashion and can survive many cameras. You pay for it in terms of high weight and high cost. Speaking of the high price! If the purchase of photographic equipment must be a pretty good investment, select the lenses in the better class.

Kit lenses are cheap because they are made of cheap material (plastic).

High wear resistance and precision has not always first priority. The automatic distance setting is always a little noisy and has a relatively slow reaction. For economic reasons, there has been little attention to a decent manual operation. Manual distance mode is possible, but it often takes place with an annoying little ring. The front of a zoom typically rotates when the distance is set. The aperture is often critically low, when zooming in on a subject. A small aperture complicates a quick and accurate distance setting.

For optically to provide the best, it is often necessary with an aperture 1 to 2 steps down, and with an already high aperture, you have to use a high ISO setting, or accept a slow shutter speed. Not the best odds for a sharp image. For Kit lenses, with a huge zoom range, the quality varies and is often very poor. Generally one can say that every "super zoom" has a hard time keeping a good quality throughout the zoom range.

A typical representative of the kit lenses is Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II, which is companion to many of Canon's affordable cameras. I myself am the "happy owner" of the lens, and it's not because I'm sarcastic, I use the term "happy owner". It is a lens that I use very much. I have other, more expensive lenses, but because it weighs very little (a few hundred grams) and picture quality is good, it is often the lens I use. 

The good image quality comes from Lightroom where I corrects barrel distortion, chromatic aberration and Vignetting. Anti-Shake function also works very well. I do not use anti-shake, if I can avoid it, but circumstances can be so difficult that anti-shake is the only way to get a usable image.

I have tested the lens very carefully and I find that the sharpness is surprisingly good. At 18 mm and full-aperture _ the sharpness is very good in the central part of the image. The lens has a peak performance at about 28 mm and then drops slightly again at 55 mm. The performance increases when the aperture is adjusted one or two steps down.

The lens is very sharp at 28 mm. 28 mm corresponds to a normal lens on cameras equipped with APS-C sensor. It is at 28 mm, that the optical aberration is minimum. We note that the lens at 28 mm has its Sweet Spot. In other words, a really good normal lens.

I use 28 mm a lot, and I prefer to move myself either forward or backward instead of zooming. I have earlier used the Canon 28 mm Prime, but Canon's kit lens is at least as good in the role of a normal lens.

It should be noted that all the kit lenses are designed for use on cameras with APS-C sensors, and they can not be used as a cheap wide angle on a Full Frame camera.

I started out with one of Canon's more professional cameras, but a total weight of several kilograms, was too much for me to carry around.

The equipment is important for many photographers, and that's fine, but for me it should be a pleasure to photograph. When I am moving around in nature, it is just as much to enjoy nature as it is to photograph. Too much equipment, particularly heavy equipment, destroys the enjoyment for me.

Another "plastic" lens that I use a lot is Canon's 50 mm f/1.8 II. On my APS-C camera I mainly use it for portraits (short telephoto) and with spacers I use it for macro photography. 

Aperture f/1.8: The lens is sharp in the central part of the image. 

Aperture f/4: The corners are sharp. 

Aperture f/5.6 to f / 8: The lens provides its maximum. 

The lens will only cost about 800 DKK and the optical quality, beats almost everything else, regardless of price. It focuses relatively fast and always very precise. It can be recommended to anyone who wants to work with a super sharp lens


A reader has asked for examples of photos taken with kit lens EF-S 18-55 mm. A desire that I want to meet. The following pictures are taken with a 15 megapixel camera, a Canon 500D. Most pictures are taken at a relatively high ISO. I prefer a high shutter speed to get sharp pictures, and I look a little less on whether there is a little noise in the image. An image must be perfectly sharp, and it is obtained with a short shutter time or a tripod.

It is important, when using a high ISO setting, to expose precise and straight to the point of overexposure. Do so, you can safely go up to 800 ISO. Even at very large prints you will not find a bit of noise. The images are all created in Lightroom, and correcting for lens optical aberrations.

Note that the lens is actually a very good macro-lens . There can be focussed down to a distance of 0.25 m  measured from the sensor. With an achromatic close-up lens, you can get even closer to the object and still achieve a good quality. The lens does not work well with a spacer! This is the case for all zoom lenses!

Click on the pictures to see them in original resolution

ISO 800  55 mm  f/11  1/3200 sekund,  fokusafstand 25cm. 


ISO 800  55 mm   f/8   1/2000 sekund


ISO 200  35 mm  f/8   1/500 sekund 


ISO 800  18 mm   f/8  1/1600 sekund 


ISO 800  34 mm  f/8  1/1250 sekund 


ISO 200  55 mm  f/8  1/320 sekund