If you are in the market to buy a new DSLR or mirrorless camera you might have seen that you can buy cameras as body only or as a bundle with a kit lens (and sometimes further accessories).
You might hear from people that kit lenses are not the best, but you might also hear lots of people telling you to just get the kit lens bundle.
I’ll go through the questions you need to ask to figure out whether you should buy a camera with a kit lens or not.
Here’s a quick summary:
- Kit lenses are inexpensive starter lenses that tend to come with entry level and enthusiast level cameras as a bundle.
- Kit lenses are useful for people that are complete beginners and those on a budget as they cover a decent amount of focal lengths.
- If you already have other superior lenses that cover the focal length of a kit lens in a camera bundle, then there’s no point in getting the kit lens with a camera.
- If you have some experience with photography and already have other lenses, then you’ll probably be better off getting a camera sold as ‘body only’.
What Are Kit Lenses?
First of all let’s quickly define the meaning of a kit lens.
A kit lens is one which tends to be bundled up with a camera body and will typically be seen as an inexpensive starter lens.
They also tend to be inexpensive zoom lenses with a plastic build with the most popular focal lengths for kit lenses being the 18-55mm.
In general, they will not be very fast with the widest aperture normally stopping around f/3.5.
What’s Your Budget?
If money really isn’t an issue whatsoever, it doesn’t really matter whether you get a kit lens or not.
More importantly, you will have the budget to be able to buy higher quality zoom and prime lenses that will be clearly better than a kit lens.
A 50mm f/1.4 prime lens might cover the same 50mm as a 18-55mm kit lens, but the 50mm prime lens will be a much better lens overall.
Also, you can get much higher quality zoom lenses that cover a similar focal length range to a standard kit lens.
For example, if you are a Canon DSLR user then you could get an EF 24-70mm F/2.8 which covers similar focal lengths to the 18-55mm kit lens.
On the other hand, the 24-70mm lens is a much better lens with a much higher price tag to match the increase in quality.
What’s Your Skill Level?
If you are a complete beginner, then you probably haven’t had much time to practice using a camera and it’ll probably take a while before you can really bring out the full potential of a lens.
You also probably haven’t figured out exactly what type of photography you enjoy the most and what focal lengths you enjoy.
In these situations, a kit lens is great because kit lenses can give you a decent coverage of focal lengths for a very small investment.
If you have a 18-55mm kit lens and you find that you keep wanting to go to higher focal lengths beyond the narrowest 55mm, then you know that you will probably want a longer focal length in your next lens.
What Gear Do You Already Have?
This is an important question.
If you already have lenses that cover the focal length range that the kit lens covers, there’s almost no reason to get the kit lens.
There are two situations where you might still want one though.
A situation that you may want to get the kit lens is where the new kit lens would cover the same focal length, but is significantly better quality than your existing lens.
Also, it may just be that the deal on the kit lens is really good and the kit lens is practically free. In this case, since you already have lenses to cover that focal length you can just sell the new kit lens for a bit of cash.
Which Kit Lens Is It?
In general, the kit lens that comes with a camera will reflect the camera that you are buying.
If you are buying a higher end full frame body, chances are the kit lens you buy is going to be a better kit lens compared to one that comes with an entry level APS-C body.
For example, if you were getting a Canon 5D Mark II then the kit lens that goes with it tends to be the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens.
On the other hand, if you were going to get a Canon EOS 250D/Rebel SL3 then the kit lens to go with it is the 18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Lens.
Here, the kit lens that comes with the Canon 5D Mark II is better than the kit lens that comes with the Canon EOS 250D/Rebel SL3.
It is always important to consider the specific lens and how it would fit into your gear lineup.
So, Is A Kit Lens Ever Worth It?
Yes, if you are a complete beginner with no gear, then it’s a good idea to get the kit lens that comes with your first camera.
It will ease you into photographing subjects at different focal lengths, allowing you to experiment without spending thousands on expensive gear.
Buy new lenses to fill out your line up as you start to feel limited and realise what you are missing.
If you are buying your second camera and you already have lenses that cover the focal length of the kit lens or you are saving for a specific lens, then don’t get the kit lens bundle.
By the time you buy your second camera you will know your style and what lenses you need to match your needs.
For example, if you realise you’re really into wildlife photography there’s no reason you would want to add an 18-55mm kit lens to your line up.
Instead you’d be better off saving for a higher quality telephoto lens that you KNOW you will get use out of.
What Does Body Only Mean?
When buying a camera, ‘body only’ means that you will only get the camera body and any lenses have to be bought separately.
This is more common with higher end DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, but entry level and enthusiast level cameras often come with a kit lens.
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