The Idea of the Kit Lens Needs to Change

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 50mm f1.8 STM lens review product images (2 of 2)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 4.0

Throughout much of the history of digital cameras, kit lenses have often been looked down on by more advanced photographers. While they’ve improved greatly over the years, they still haven’t done enough. For a person buying a brand new camera and that wants some extra flexibility, they’re usually satisfactory.

Well, in some ways.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Panasonic 20mm f1.7 II review lead image (1 of 1)ISO 4001-30 sec at f - 2.8

Here’s what I’m getting at. Years ago back in the film days, camera manufacturers gave customers so many kit lens options. If you wanted a nice 28-85mm f3.5-5.6 zoom, you got one–and that’s very akin to what we get today. But when you consider one of the biggest reasons why people purchase a DSLR or a mirrorless camera, then you’ll see that there is so much more possible.

Let’s think about it: what’s one of the biggest advantages that a camera can give you over your phone.

That’s right: bokeh.

Back in the day, manufacturers gave photographers the option of various 50mm lenses. There was f1.8, f2, f1.4, and sometimes you even had the option of a 35mm kit lens.

So why don’t we get that anymore?

Surely a prime lens will give a customer more of that glorious bokeh that they want. These lenses are also sharper and usually offer better image quality. For what it’s worth, they also can be smaller and more compact. Even further, the smartphone camera users are so used to working with prime lenses. If someone wants a photo of something, they simply move closer or all around. Indeed, these folks don’t need to do the 365 project where a photographer shoots with a single prime lens for a year because some of these people have been doing it for years.

And for that reason, we don’t understand why there are so few prime kit lens options.

If you’re reading this and wondering what the heck I’m talking about, a prime is a single focal length like 40mm, 35mm, etc.

Canon makes a very good and very small 40mm f2.8 and 50mm f1.8 STM, but don’t offer it as a kit.

Panasonic has the venerable 20mm f1.7, but doesn’t offer it as a kit.

Canon 40mm STM on 5DmkII

Olympus offered the 25mm f1.8 as a kit with the Olympus Pen EP-5, but unfortunately no one really talks about that camera despite the fact that it was and still is incredible.

Sony offers a 20mm f2.8 pancake lens, but doesn’t bundle it with their APS-C E-mount line up despite the fact that it would be the perfect size for their small cameras.

It makes no sense. Yes, consumers love zooms. They want something to be easier. But lots of them would also appreciate and like moving around to get the shot. The idea of “Zooming with your feet” is something that these people can totally wrap their mind around and appreciate even more when they get better image quality.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.