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.


  1. i left the poor kit lens in my canon bag and looking forward to join the *Primes*