Why are Kit Lenses so Underrated?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by MrDoug, Jan 7, 2012.

  1. MrDoug

    MrDoug Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 5, 2011
    Boise, Idaho
    I hear a lot about the Kit lenses that come with Lumix, Oly and many other cameras as being kinda inferior to upgraded lenses for the same models.. why is that? I see some great images and have got great images from Kit lenses.. but I'm thinking some of it's a stigma type thing in the minds of owners.. kinda like: well, if this lens was included with the camera.. it probably is not that good!!.. your input..
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  2. nseika

    nseika Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 22, 2010
    Jakarta, Indonesia
    Real Name:
    Maybe the same thing, it's "given free with camera purchase" or "it's cheap".
    Then there's the numbers (that one zoom longer, this one is faster, I want those lenses with golden rings).

    But often I heard older participant in local photo contest chatting about how enthusiasts play with expensive lenses while the regular winners get the prize with their trusted Canon or Nikon 18-55
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  3. meyerweb

    meyerweb Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 5, 2011
    And then there's the fact that a lot of people are more interested in test charts than in actual photography.

    You're right, though, even the basic kit lenses are capable of taking excellent photographs. Many of today's kit lenses, while they don't have the robust build quality of some "better" lenses, are optically better than many "pro" lenses of 20 or 30 years ago. Computerized optical design and modern, high diffraction glass formulations allow lens designers to accomplish things their predecessors could only dream about.
  4. G.Sal

    G.Sal Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 4, 2011
    The Philippines
    Not the case with the Panasonic's 20mm (GF1) and 14mm (GF2 and GF3).

    I guess Olympus should start bundling their cameras with bigger aperture lenses. How about the 45mm on EP4? :biggrin:
  5. Spuff

    Spuff Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 5, 2010
    Berkshire, UK.
    I think the kit lens for the EPL1 is a very decent lens.
    It seems a great shame that it seems to have have no re-sale value. I think if I listed mine for any price on Ebay it wouldn't be sold.
  6. nseika

    nseika Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 22, 2010
    Jakarta, Indonesia
    Real Name:
    Could be another reason :D
    Because most peoples already have it in case of low and middle level DSLR, it has very low resale value.
    Peoples who want it likely already have it from their own camera purchase, unlike the non-standard lenses.
  7. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Because our kit lenses are the exception.

    In general, with DSLR kit lenses are mediocre at best.
  8. Jonathan F/2

    Jonathan F/2 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 10, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    I have no problem with kit lenses as long as they're fixed aperture glass! :wink:
  9. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    I've no qualms with the quality of the kit lens, just the boredom of using one. I tend to shoot either at the short end (14mm) or the long. At the long end, 42mm at 5.6 is pretty meh. On the short end, I have the P14, which is a bit faster and far more compact.

    I suppose I find most zooms pretty boring. Not very challenging. Add in the small aperture, and it holds no interest for me. That's different, though, then them being inferior.

    In general, though, I think many of them lack color and contrast, even if they are relatively sharp.
  10. speltrong

    speltrong Mu-43 Veteran

    May 8, 2011
    Northern California
    I've actually heard great things about the 14-45 that came w/ my GF1, but that lens was only ever mounted once to make sure it worked, and then off to the original box it went to wait to be sold with the GF1. 14-45 is a range that I can walk in with my 20mm. My technically inferior, yet not physically too much larger Olympus 14-150 travels with me for those times where I absolutely need the reach. My favorite shots come from my 7-14mm and 20mm.

    So good glass or not, I don't have a need for the kit lens and it's not worth the space in my bag.
  11. leonberdi

    leonberdi Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 15, 2011
    In terns of picture quality, I love my 14-42. But, it is very slow... so I only use it outdoors in good light. It's great for when I take my daughter to the playground in the summer as a fast lens is not crucial with so much light, and a compact zoom really comes in handy.
  12. gsciorio

    gsciorio Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 29, 2011
    Miami, FL
    Kit lenses are fine to use. The advantage with pro lenses is not that they are sharper, which most are only a bit, but rather the reliability of the lens and brightness is increased. When you are shooting for profit your gear needs to keep pace and the kit lenses often come with plastic bodies don't handle wear or the elements well.

    Unless you're into pixel peeping the sharpness in the real world between a kit lens and a 'pro' lens is virtually the same.
    • Like Like x 2
  13. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    You can't call something inferior without comparing it with something else. When you say they're inferior to "upgraded lenses", well of course they are or those other lenses wouldn't be upgrades. If I have a 14mm/2.5 and a 45mm/1.8 then I don't need a 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6. If I have a 14-50mm f/2.8-3.5, I don't need a 14-42mm f/2.8-3.5. You need something to compare to before you call a lens inferior, and there are better lenses out there than the kit lens. The kit lens is a great starting point, but we all want to improve our systems as much as we can, right? That's the first thing to improve.

    On the other hand, if you compare the kit zooms on the Olympus and Panasonic cameras to other brands, you will find that the Olys and Pannys have a great history of high quality kits. I don't know anybody who would call an Olympus 14-42mm kit lens, whether E-System or PEN system, or a Lumix 14-45mm or Lumix 14-42mm inferior compared with a Canon or Sony 18-55mm, from the Rebel series, Alpha or NEX. In fact, one of the most ragged on kit lenses in the world was the Canon 18-55mm non-IS version introduced with earlier Rebels before they upgraded to the sharper IS version (I guess they caught on how important that kit lens is to first-time impression). The Sony NEX 18-55mm gets the unfair disadvantage of always being pitted against the Micro Four-Thirds system because Sony was the next major player in the mirrorless field. Olympus and Panasonic give really stiff competition when it comes to kit lenses!

    Yet, how many great photos are out there taken with the Canon Rebel using the old 18-55mm non-IS kit lens? A lot more than the "superior" Oly and Panny 14-42mm and 14-45mm kit lenses, simply because of sheer volume of Rebel shooters out in the world. A lot of them will even use their cheap Rebel with studio lighting and produce fantastic results. Naturally, as a kit lens + studio lighting is infinitely superior to a pro lens + dismal lighting. You could also say the same thing of Micro Four-Thirds users, as a large bulk of them don't upgrade out of their kit lenses. They will still be getting great photos, and the kit lenses available to them are nothing to scoff at either.

    So it's all a matter of what you're comparing to... "inferior" doesn't mean "poor". It just means lesser than something else. If anything Panny and Oly kit lenses are given great reviews for what they are.

    Then you have the case of higher-grade bodies, which come with higher-grade lenses. The same "superior upgrades" you have to your entry-level kit lens could be a "kit lens" to a better body. The Zuiko 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 or 12-60mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD lenses for instance, which came as kit lenses on the E-1 and E-3 respectively. Or the Canon 24-105mm f/4L, which comes as a kit lens to the Canon 5D. They are much better than the entry level kit lenses, but they still have better lenses you can upgrade to... like for instance the Zuiko 14-35mm f/2 or the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L.
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  14. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Real Name:
    I think you're conflating two different things - great images and great optics. Most images we consider to be 'great' are due to composition and lighting, and we rarely examine closely enough to notice any but the most glaring technical flaws.

    But all things being equal, a good lens tends to expand the situations in which one can shoot and obtain acceptable results, and that is often a valuable thing.

    My objection to kit lenses like the Olympus 14-42 or Panasonic 14-42 is that they reduce the quality of the output in many situations to that of a high-end P&S. If I'm going to take the trouble to take a full-sized camera, I expect the results to reflect that extra effort.

    • Like Like x 1
  15. G.Sal

    G.Sal Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 4, 2011
    The Philippines
    The high end compacts have better lenses compared to the kit lens:

    Olympus XZ-1 - 28-112mm f1.8-2.5
    Canon S100 - 24-120mm f2.0-5.9

    Now if these lenses will be ported to micro four thirds, it will cost a fortune. :smile:
  16. shnitz

    shnitz Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 25, 2011
    Austin, TX
    It might have something to do with the just average image quality, so-so build quality, limited zoom range, and highly limited aperture. Companies make them as cheaply as they possibly can to get their bodies out the door, just so that new photographers will have at least something to hang off of their camera, until they're willing to invest in more serious optics. But other than that, I have no idea why they're underrated.

    While the 20mm and 14mm are technically kit lenses, the common usage of the term "kit lens" refers to a cheap zoom primarily used by new photographers that have no other lenses. It is cheap and versatile. The Canon 5D and Nikon D700 both come bundled with $1,000+ lenses, but those don't fall into the category "kit lens."

    Our kit lenses aren't all that amazing. The Nikon 18-55mm lens is optically decent, and so is the Pentax 18-55mm, which also is weather sealed. And that's not even going into the midgrade kit lenses that came with cameras like the D7000 and 7D (Nikon 18-105mm and Canon 18-135mm, which have more range but still lower build, plastic mount, etc). Plus, our m4/3 kit lenses are relatively expensive. The Nikon, Canon, and Pentax 18-55mm lenses are each $200. The m4/3 cameras are $300, for a kit 14-42mm lens!

    Spot on, as always.
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  17. supermaxv

    supermaxv Mu-43 Veteran

    Sep 20, 2011
    Agreed. I'll go as far as say that the performance of the kit zooms give Micro Four Thirds a (unfairly perhaps) bad rap to the system as a whole with many first time P&S upgraders. I don't think they're underrated at all.
  18. MrDoug

    MrDoug Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 5, 2011
    Boise, Idaho
  19. MrDoug

    MrDoug Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 5, 2011
    Boise, Idaho
    I just think that because it's called a KIT LENS.. it's like..... it's CHEAP and I want something better.. LOL.. I have done that.. but looking back at many of my photos... many were with Kit Lenses and were great before I even checked the MetaData of the lens that the photo was shot with..
  20. MrDoug

    MrDoug Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 5, 2011
    Boise, Idaho