The 4 Virtues of Your Camera's Kit Lens!

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I just got back from vacation and made an interesting observation. While enjoying a relaxing cruise with my wife and grandkids, I nonetheless was in photo educator mode and checked out what photo equipment my fellow cruisers brought to capture The Bahamas. I saw a few mirrorless cameras (including my Olympus PEN ), surprisingly few point & shoots (lots of phones, though) and a few high end cameras (including a 5D Mark III that some party animals gave to me to take a group portrait). But l would guess that  85% of the cameras were entry level and mid range DSLRs. And EVERY one them were equipped with their kit lens only!

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I didn't see a 55-200mm zoom lens used the entire week & there were no all in one zooms to be found anywhere on ship or in our travels! I don't know if it was a question of convenience or added weight but thousand of shots (including mine) were taken using the lens provided with your camera. And if used correctly, that's not a bad thing at all! Yes, it is an inexpensive lens made by the camera companies to keep the price camera kits low. It's not very durable and the zoom range is not extensive BUT you can do 4 very things very well with a kit lens and if 85% of camera owners will only use this option, you should be aware of these possibilities.

#1 -You Can Shoot Close! - The picture above of a Canon 18-55mm kit lens was taken with...a Nikon 18-55mm kit lens! One of the cool things about your kit lens is that it allows you to get pretty close to your subjects. The focusing distance is just under a foot in average and in conjunction with the zoom, you can shoot a shot like the one above.Being able to get closer to your subject also allows you to throw more of the background out of focus (bokeh), like the camera body on the Canon kit lens above. You can also get a close up kit ( a set of magnifiing filters) for the kit lens and get even closer!

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#2 - You Can Shoot Wide! -This above shot of the Atlantis Hotel/Resort in Nassau was taken with an Olympus PEN kit lens (14-42mm). At it's widest setting, it's the equivalent to 28mm in a 35mm camera, which is almost twice the width of normal eyesight! Many folks do not realize that you have wide angle on the kit lens, and 28mm is a classic setting that old school photographers have used for years. Your kit lens is also an ideal lens for  family and group shots. Since these type of shots need a high depth of field, the kit lens turn out to be a excellent option. Simply shoot at f/8 which is the sweet spot of these lens to get sharper photographs (Use the aperture priority or manual mode to achieve this) . Avoid going above f/11 as it will soften the image.

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#3 - You can take a pretty decent portrait - Yes, the shot above is what is coined a "selfie", which is a picture that you take of yourself. I used a Sony Alpha A35 with the kit lens setting at 20mm, which is a bit wide since I could only get the camera as far as my arm's length. The aperture is f/5, which does produce a decent amount of background blur. A better focal length to use for portraits is in the 35-55mm range. If possible, try to make sure the background to your subject is at a reasonably far distance. This will allow your kit lens to give you a decent bokeh effect for your background and keep the center of interest on your subject('s)  face.

And #4 -It's the smallest & lightest zoom lens available for your camera! - Space and weight is always a consideration when you travel and  many find that the combination of a DSLR with a long,heavy zoom is just too much to handle. If at all possible, refer to the classic photographic quote by Robert Capa -“if your photographs aren't good enough, you're not close enough"  & get closer instead of relying on a longer zoom.

  O.K. then...I will end touting the virtues of the kit lens and share with you next week why a better, longer or faster zoom lens may be the lens of choice for you instead. Remember that we have our D90/D7000 class on Thursday night!


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