A return to fixed 50mm (or 35mm) lenses as kit lenses?

Started Jan 16, 2013 | Discussions thread
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chlamchowder Senior Member • Posts: 2,083
A return to fixed 50mm (or 35mm) lenses as kit lenses?

DSLRs today usually come with a standard zoom as a kit lens. It's easy to see why - covering the standard zoom range offers a nice way to get started. However, the resolution of today's sensors is quickly outpacing what a cheap zoom lens can offer. On a 16 MP sensor, it's not hard to see the kit lens's weaknesses at certain focal lengths, especially wide open at 55mm or in the corners at 18mm (where kit lenses are used a lot). With manufacturers moving to 24 MP sensors, we're really seeing diminishing returns. The extra pixels just make the kit lens's flaws more obvious.

I don't think manufacturers will do this....such a move certainly won't be an easy one, but what do you think about using fast, fixed 35mm (for APS-C) or 50mm (for FF) as kit lenses instead of the traditional 18-55 or 24-whatever slow zooms?

Here's my justification:

  • Fast fixed lenses = better DOF control. A lot of aspiring photographers buy DSLRs to get the 'look' of images they see published in newspapers, magazines, art galleries, and so on. This 'look' often involves shallow depth of field. While a 18-55/3.5-5.6 can do this to an extent, IMO it really doesn't offer that much over some of the new compacts equipped with fast lenses. A 35/1.8 or 50/1.8 will do a far better job of offering shallow DOF. There will be a 'wow' factor with customers trying the lens in shops and seeing the results.
  • Fast fixed lenses = much better low light performance.
  • Fixed lenses can satisfy the resolution demands of high-res sensors without increasing the kit's cost. 35/1.8 and 50/1.8 lenses are listed at about $200, which is about the same level as what 18-55mm lenses are sold separately for. Tons of resolved detail will further add to the 'wow' factor, and customers will see that 24 MP or higher sensors are actually worth buying.
  • Satisfying resolution demands by bundling a high quality zoom as a kit dramatically increases the price. Better zoom lenses designed as upgrades to 18-55 type lenses often cost more than twice as much, and still won't match prime lenses throughout the range.
  • Weight: manufacturers keep advertising their DSLRs as small as light, even though no DSLR really is small and light (pick up a compact camera for that). 50/1.8 and 35/1.8 type lenses are smaller and slightly lighter than those 18-55 zooms, so at least that makes the kit a little lighter/smaller if that's what customers want.
  • Fixed lenses have been used successfully as kit lenses before. I read that many SLRs decades ago sold with 50mm lenses bundled as kit lenses. Why can't we do that now?

Oh, as a rather irrelevant side note: Pretty please...can we have precise focusing screens included by default, for focusing fast lenses manually? Live view doesn't eliminate that need: Peaking is no solution - plastering colors over the image is ugly and distracting, and peaking really isn't that accurate unless you zoom in. LV magnification also doesn't solve the problem, because you lose sight of composition while you focus (which is annoying). Live view also drains battery power, and being forced to drain the battery to focus accurately removes one big incentive to buy a high end camera (endurance).

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Sony Alpha DSLR-A580 Nikon D600 Sony DT 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 SAM +8 more
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