Why You Should Ditch The Kit Lens

My very first DSLR was a Canon 550D. It was one of the cheapest camera you could buy at the time. It wasn’t until nearly a year after buying the camera that I started to see an improvement in my images.

It took me all of that time to realise the problem wasn’t the camera…it was the lens. Almost ready to pack in photography for good, I put the last of my hope into a cheap, 50mm f1.8. Luckily, it saved the day and reignited my passion for taking pictures.

It was a revelation. It’s at this point that I actually began to learn and grow, to be a photographer and capture images I was truley proud of.

If I could go back in time, and tell myself one thing before getting disappointed with myself and my abilities it would be this:

Ditch the kit lens. Buy a cheap, fast prime and buy nothing else until you learn what photography is about. 

That’s it. I’ve spoken before about the downside of kit lenses and the great things about cheap prime lenses. But here’s an overview.

Kit Lenses are named so because they come included with the camera when you buy it. You can spend up to $1000  or (NGN100,000 for my fellow Nigerians) on a camera, and it will probably come with a kit lens. Depending on the make or model, the kit lens may differ slightly, but they all have a few things in common.

  • CHEAP: These lenses are mass produced on a huge scale. All the way from design, to manufacturing, they are made to be as cheap as possible, even if this means compromising on build quality and optics. A kit lens will be almost entirely constructed of plastic, and will be more prone to failure and breakdown. Other cutbacks such as no lens hood, no focus scale and slow autofocus, just make them not a lot of fun to use.

  • POOR IMAGE QUALITY: It makes me so sad to hear from people who have made the jump to buy a DSLR, but become disappointed when the see the crappy, blurry, dull images taken with their shiny new cameras. The problem is nothing to do with the camera. It’s all to-do with the lens. I mean you are putting $500 – $1000 worth of high tech, high resolution camera, and making it shoot through $60 worth of plastic and glass. It’s such a waste.

  • SLOW: Finally, the one last nail in the coffin is the slow aperture of the kit lens. Most kit lenses are a f3.5 – 5.6, which in terms of light gathering ability, is nothing. Anyone trying to use the standard kit lens for anything other than half decent daylight is going to find blurry and/or noisy images a fact of life, and not much better than a compact camera.

Hopefully, by now you realize that kit lenses aren’t very good.

At this point I could suggest some alternative lenses, that offer a similar zoom range but with better optics and build quality. But, I’m not going to, because these would cost upwards of $400 – $1200.

I really want reiterate the point that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a fantastic lens, and one that will be the perfect companion to your first few months/years with your camera.

Anyone buying their very first DSLR needs buy a Nikon 35mm f1.8 or a Canon 50mm f1.8. These lenses are just fantastic for the money, and offer so much more than a standard kit lens.

For just a little extra outlay, you are getting a lens that is small, light but well built, with a metal mount, and an included lens hood. Both also offer, quick and virtually silent autofocus, and whole load of other benefits.

They are almost the polar opposite to kit lenses. They remain cheap. but they gain the ability to take sharper, more colourful images in low light, and help you to learn about the rules of composition and framing. They are also superb lenses for making the often sought after “3D effect”, due to the lens ability to blur out backgrounds.

In short, these little primes lenses will teach you more about photography, and produce some fantastic, beautiful images straight away, without much effort.

I hope I’m not coming across as pushy about this, but I am just passionate about photography, and I hate the idea of new photographers being disillusioned and disappointed when they buy their first camera.

Trust me, the camera is fine. Any camera is fine. Trust me. I know a photographer who still shoots with a Canon 40D (Yes a 40D in 2013). But it’s the kit lens that’s crappy.

If you know someone who is thinking of buying their first DSLR, please, please help them out and beg them to spend a lil extra cash and pick up a decent lens to go with their new camera. They will not regret it.

Restart on my Life + New Gear.

Today the June 12th marks the end of 5 years 1 month of working in a corporate audit firm. I finally got the courage to take my future in my hands and quit my job. Quitting my job brought a whole bunch of feelings: fear, excitement, uncertainty. But I know it was one of the best decisions I could have made. Working in a corporate organisation taught me a lot of things but alas it was not for me.

One of the greatest things I've learned from the last 5 years is that if you are not doing what you love, then you will never be happy. I remember being in office during the week; counting the days till the weekend when I could be reunited with my wonderful camera and lenses. My dad always says that nobody enjoys going to work seven days a week. On the average you should enjoy going to work 4 days a week. When you don't enjoy going to work not even one day a week (which was my situation), then you need to make a change.

So I made a change. I quit my job. I made the decision to be a full time photographer. What kind of photographer? Right now, I'm stuck between weddings and portraits. Who knows I might end up doing both. But at least I'm on the right path now. So first order of business on my new photography journey. GEAR. Which photographer doesn't love new gear. I ordered a bunch of gear and as if by some divine sign, my gear arrived today my last official day of employment.

I ordered my gear from B&H and shipped it through Circuit Atlantic Limited. All my gear arrived in tip top shape

All my gear all laid out. I'm so excited

First off, my Pocketwizards. I wanted to go for the Plus IIIs but because of my budget I had to spring for the Plus Xs. I ordered four to get me started

I'm gonna be needing a lot of batteries so I ordered me 20 Watson NiMH rechargeable batteries

I'm a big fan of prime lenses. I already own the 50 1.4 so I ordered myself the 85 1.8. Now all I need is the 28 1.8 and I'll be solid

I also got myself two 45 inch impact Black and White umbrellas for my lighting needs. Umbrellas are the most versatile lighting modifies you can get. Next is a ram upgrade from my Macbook pro 13-inch. I had already upgraded the HDD to an SSD so the next thing was to upgrade the ram from 4gb to 16gb. I also ordered myself a blue yeti USB microphone. I considered getting the blue snowball but at the last minute the price of the price of the Yeti dropped. Talk about lucky

I have been using a backpack to carry my gear and let me tell you, It's a pain have to drop the bag and unzip to change lenses during an event. So I decided to splurge for a new bag. I got the idea for the Tenba from Ryan Greenleaf's blog. He's one of the photographers that featured on Jasmine Star's ReSTARt on CreativeLive. Next on my list was a Wacom Intuos 5 touch small. Everyone say's that if you're gonna be retouching then you're going to need a tablet so I ordered myself one

The Rogue Flashbender XL for those times when I want to make use of my speedlights but get tired of using the umbrellas. Also got the Rogue gel kit for situations where I need to balance my flash with the ambient light

The next two items I got were for my photobooth. I intend to write a blog post in the future explaining how I go about setting it up. I got the inspiration for the photobooth from Fstoppers' How to be a Commercial Wedding Photographer DVD

I can't wait to put all this new gear to good use. It's going to be a blast