For beginner DSLR users.....why the kit lenses are more than good enough for you

Started Apr 3, 2013 | Discussions thread
jrtrent Veteran Member • Posts: 4,474
Re: For beginner DSLR users.....why the kit lenses are more than good enough for you

Sovern wrote:

What are your thoughts? Do you think that the kit lenses (18-55 paired with 55-250) offers the most bang for the buck and that most photographers would benefit more from reading books, asking for photo critiques, learning about lighting, and learning more about post production?

While I agree that kit lenses are very good, offer a lot of bang for the buck, and could be the only lenses many people need, I don't like them for beginners.  I've long liked the advice given in an article by Philip Greenspun on assembling a DSLR system.  His advice is to start with a reasonably fast, normal focal length lens.  He has some good reasons for this advice; here are just a couple:

"The novice photographer who starts with a zoom lens typically uses it in lieu of backing up or stepping forward.  An experienced photographer visualizes the scene first, chooses a focal length, then gets into the appropriate position to capture the scene with that focal length.  It is much better to get a lens with a fixed focal length, learn to recognize scenes where that lens can be used effectively, and then add additional lenses once that focal length has been mastered. . .

Being a good photographer starts with the ability to recognize a scene that looks attractive under its current lighting conditions.  You need a lens with a wide enough maximum aperture, typically f/2.0 or f/1.4, to capture that scene even when the lighting is fairly dim, as it will be indoors or near the end of the day. . ."

I also like the way his article suggests specific photographic projects to help focus a person's practice and learning, and that it's a good idea for a beginner to learn software and acquire and use accessories such as a tripod before ever venturing into other focal lengths.

As to your article, first, I would suggest losing much of the bold print and the italics.  It makes it visually painful to look at, and the application seems random rather than drawing the reader's attention to a particular point.  Second, even mild profanity is off-putting to many, and both detracts and distracts from the point you wanted to make.  Third, just a pet peeve of mine, was your statement "If you shoot Landscape photography, you will be stepping down your lens anyways to atleast F8 so that you get enough depth of field."  It's certainly true that a fast lens isn't required for landscape photography, but neither do you need to stop down to F/8 or smaller, even when the desire is to get all elements of the scene in good focus.

I once did a quick survey of the 35mm images in Brian Bower's book Lens, Light, and Landscape, and found that out of about 97 images, with lenses ranging from 16mm to 180mm, he never used an aperture smaller than midway between F/8 and F/11.  26 of the shots were at F/8, but 60 of the 97 pictures were taken at F/4 or F/5.6, and there were 9 shots at F/2 or F/2.8.  All of them had plenty of depth of field, with good sharpness across the entire frame.

I appreciated your point that for specific types of photography where the slow kit zooms would be too limiting, supplementing them with carefully chosen, modestly-priced prime lenses can make more sense than opting for big, heavy, and expensive zooms.  I would only add that while starting with a kit that includes 18-55 and 55-200mm lenses with the crop-sensor body gives you a lot of versatility for the money, a better way to learn photography would be to leave the zooms in the box and start with a modestly-priced 35mm F/1.8 or similar.

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