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Monday, February 3, 2014

Q&A {Should I buy the kit lens that comes with the camera?}

Kate asked over on the Q&A

     Why did my friend's husband, who is a very skilled amateur photographer, tell me to get the body only when I get a DSLR and buy a lens separately? What's wrong with the lens that cameras come with? Isn't it easier to just get the one it comes with instead of going to the trouble of getting a whole 'nother one?   ~Kate

Dear Kate,

Am I correct that you are getting a bit of the photography bug?  Maybe you're like me and feeling that the moments are slipping by so quickly and are getting harder to remember the little ordinary moments that are such a treasure.  Yes a camera in hand does help me not only remember the moments, but it actually helps me slow down and reflect on what's important. Photography is my outlet when life is busy and stressed.  So you can see I'm kinda psyched about how much that little camera has done for my life and excited that it may bring you that joy too!
I am in agreement with your friend's husband.  And here's why.  

There are two types of folks that buy DSLRs.  I'm not sure which type you are.  

The first is the type that understands that taking pics with a DSLR is gonna have a learning curve.  Unless you keep your camera set on Auto, (and really if you're going to keep it set on Auto mode, than I'd like to recommend purchasing great point and shoot camera instead that will be cheaper and much more versatile and convenient) it WILL take time and practice to learn how to use.  It will take a commitment of sorts to figure out all those numbers and buttons and settings.  Maybe a class or two.  Or reading through your instruction manual.  Or both!  And practice and getting it wrong and missing some shots, and keeping at it.  Sometimes they have the photography bug so bad that they actually enjoy this process.  We're a crazy bunch I know!

And then there's the other type of person that will pull that new DSLR out of the box and suddenly realize that learning to shoot a DSLR is not necessarily an intuitive process. And they will get a bit intimidated by all those numbers and settings and the very dry language in the camera manual.  And they will set their camera on the little green box (aka Auto mode) and never shoot a pic another way. 

Now like I mentioned, if you're the second type of person, please consider purchasing a great point n shoot camera.  Did you see the price tag on the DSLR?  Not to mention the lenses and software and countless other do dads that you'll surely want next!  Point 'n shoots are cheaper.  And hauling a DSLR around is heavy.  It can't be shoved in your purse very easily.  And it hurts your neck after a while.  Point 'n shoots are more more convenient.  And And like a DLSR, point and shoots can take wonderful photos!  I don't want to talk you out of a DSLR.  But I don't want you to waste your money or your time either.  

Now back to your question.  (You didn't think I was going to get to it did you?)  If you're the first type of person who understands the type of investment that learning to use a DSLR will take, then you will quickly realize that the lens that came with the camera is NOT going to get you the pics you want the majority of the time.  (See I did get back here.  It just took me a while but now we're finally here.)  The "kit lens" that came with the camera is okay, but you're likely seeing visions of a blurry background with your child in a portrait.  Or taking pics in low light with you child blowing out birthday candles.  Or maybe pics of you child doing basketball or volleyball in the school gymnasium and it focus too.  not that you can't take these photos with the lens that comes with the camera, but it is much tougher and in some settings truly impossible to get the photo to look like what you have envisioned in your head.    And you'll quickly realize after a bit of research that what you need to take these pics is a different lens.  And if you can buy the DSLR body only, and a separate lens that can take the pics you want, then that will save you a bit of money on the long run instead of purchasing a kit lens that you won't use anyway. (Can I get an amen from the folks that have a kit lens collecting dust somewhere?)  The DSLR body only + the lens you're likely going to buy is less expensive than the DSLR body that comes with the kit lens + the lens you're likely going to buy anyway.  

So instead of that kit lens that comes with a DSLR, what lens do you want instead?  What I recommend is a 35mm or 50mm fixed lens.  That's the one without any zoom.  This is a lens that you will use for a long while anyway, and it will enable you to get many of those photos that you have in your head more easily.  There's a post about the nifty 50mm and why it is so awesome here. (Yes, my teenagers just concurrently rolled their eyes at me again for using the word "awesome.")  

And with the kit lens that comes with the camera, I just cannot take photographs like this one.  The kit lens simply does not have the settings that I need to capture this shot. 
So Kate, I guess you totally could buy the kit lens that comes with the DSLR.  But in the long run, if you committed to actually learning how to use your camera to it's potential, I would also recommend saving money buy getting the camera body only and a better lens.

ps--If you think you're one of those people who wants to invest some time learning about your fancy schmancy dslr and get it off the green Auto mode, my next photography class for beginners will be starting next month.  If you'd like to be put on the interest list, please leave me your email address via a comment here or via email (


  1. Thank you for answering, Nancy. I confess the photography bug.
    Should I get the 35mm or the 50mm? What is the difference? (You can tell I need to take a class)

    1. Thank YOU Kate for asking the question! It's a great one that lots of people have. Both the 35mm and the 50mm are wonderful lenses and I don't think you'll go wrong with either one. The 35mm captures a "wider" angle than the 50mm, so it depends on how much of the scene you want to get into your photo. If you can't back up very far, you won't be able to get as much of the scene with a 50mm compared to a 35mm. On the other hand, a 50mm lets you get a little bit closer to the scene without moving forward.

  2. I love the 50mm. I returned my 35mm. I got a 85mm for Christmas and can't wait for spring to really play with it.

  3. Yes, and amazingly, it seems as if there is almost no end to the various types of lens that are available, and each one is special in its own right. Who would have thought it at the beginning of this fun process.

  4. I'm interested please. is the 35-55mm the same as just a 35mm or a 55mm?

    1. Kris, no a 35-55 is not the same as a 35mm or a 50mm although there is some overlap with the angle they capture. ----I'd like to include you on the interest list for the class Kris, but I'll need your contact info, like your email address. You could email me if you don't want to publish it here.

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Well, I think Canon should sell cameras with prime lenses instead of kit lenses.

    1. I totally agree! And Nikon too! But I guess it makes me assume that they actually DO make more money by not selling prime lenses with the body.


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