Your Old 18-55mm Kit Lens is More Capable Than You Think



Still Own Your DSLR's Original 18-55mm Kit Lens?

Ever stopped and wondered why yours went back into its box or found its way into a mailing sack across the country because someone on eBay fancied it instead?

The reason I ask is because you can get some fantastic shots from a perfectly capable kit lens. Just because you don't have the comfort and quality of f/2.8 (or faster) at your disposal should automatically mean a “write-off” for your camera body's first true companion.

Most of us know this, however, being exposed to “flashy gear” across the web and almost endless forum threads discussing why we should ditch our kit lens like the lid of a tin can, means we're now practically “programmed” to want something better.

We scratch around thinking hmm “an f/2.8 would be nice because then I could shoot…” and what's the answer? Okay, it might be that you could shoot low light photos with much sharper results or create a soft and shallow depth of field in your portraits.

Image by jano gepiga

Alternatively, you could be tempted to jump straight into an 18-200mm because then it's an all-in-one! Except, it's not. The image quality will not be as good and you'll become lazy because now you never have to move your feet, ever!

Your best bet for your first real lens upgrade should almost always be a prime and for APS-C camera users, this is of course, the 50mm f/1.8 aka the nifty fifty. But don't jump in too soon until you've found your style.

Here's why having a mid-zoom kit lens comes with many benefits, some of which you may have overlooked?

1. Excellent Wide Field of View at 18mm for Most Landscape Shooting

Would it be fair to say that after seeing what an ultra-wide lens can achieve we look back at the humble kit lens and think “18mm just isn't wide enough.” Well, more often than not, it's actually a really useful focal length for landscapes – unless of course, you are frequently shooting landscapes.

On day trips and vacations, handled with some care and precision, you really can achieve the photos you want – and don't forget the tripod.

2. A Short-TelePhoto Lens for Portraits

At the 55mm end, the kit lens will perform better than you think due it's abilities to compress the image, therefore making more flattering headshots. On the downside, the depth of field is going to be greater than you'd like, but it's not bad with some clever cropping and composition techniques.

18-55mm kit lens
Image by Olaf Grobben

3. Close Focusing Distance

With a focusing distance of around 25cm from in front of your camera's sensor, the kit lens will allow beginners to at least experiment with “macro” shooting.

It's actually a great lens to use for food and product photography too, because you can really get in close to what you're shooting!

If you find that you're progressively shooting more and more macro photography, you'll then be looking at somewhere around the 105mm or 60mm options for prime macro lenses, but they'll come with a price tag to reflect their build and quality – so be sure…

4. Sharpness is Pretty Excellent on Modern Kit Lenses

With its sweet spot somewhere in the region of f/8-f/11, a kit lens can really give you some sharp images with the correct available lighting setup. Incidentally, excellent apertures for product photography!

5. Vibration Reduction / Image Stabilisation

Having this feature (they're the same, except the former is Nikon and latter, Canon) could potentially mean hand-holding your camera at 18mm with a shutter speed of around 1/20th or even 1/10th sec. and shooting without a blurry outcome.

Excellent for testing out some low light photography skills!

18-55mm kit lens
Image by yeniguel

6. Fast Focusing

It's a pretty good attribute of the kit lens – more likely because it's a relatively simple piece of gear compared to more advanced (and expensive) pieces of glass out there.

Actually getting your autofocus to react quickly so's you can take a picture, it's best to focus on contrast/textured areas because the camera will pick these up quicker and lock in, rather than searching endlessly.

7. Weight Benefit

This probably goes without saying but a lighter lens due to simpler technology and the fact the materials are simply lighter – both carrying around with your DSLR and the lens-to-camera-body weight ratio is excellent (in fact, better than heavier lenses in this respect – thus making it easier to hold).

18-55mm kit lens
Image by Jéshoots

Keep it as a Spare

If you use a different lens most the time – whether a zoom or prime, you never know when you might need a spare lens…just in case!

Images Shot with my 18-55mm Kit Lens

18-55mm kit lens
Image by Russell Goodman
18-55mm kit lens
Image by Russell Goodman
18-55mm kit lens
Image by Russell Goodman


Further Resources

Further Learning

How's your Portrait Photography?
“Creating a Great Portrait is One of THE Most Satisfying Endeavors in Photograph.”

Look no further than this AMAZING eGuide from pro photographer Kent DuFault, who explains how you can go from avoiding people to achieving truly satisfying images!

About Author

Russell is a self-taught photographer who loves travel and capturing life as it unfolds. Having lived in the far east for a few years with some long term travel, this catalyzed his new-found passion for photography.
Lifestyle, Food, and Event Photography are areas he enjoys most.

I still have this kit lens and use it occasionally. The lens that’s usually on my camera is the Sigma 18-250mm. I find it an excellent “workhorse” lens. I got the “nifty fifty” as a present but rarely use it

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