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I am new to photography and am looking to purchase my first DSLR or mirrorless camera. While reading Buying a digital SLR on Digital Photography Review the author keeps referring to the camera's kit lens, but never explains what he means. Is kit lens shorthand for starter kit? Does it refer to the lens that comes with the camera? Or does kit lens mean something else entirely?

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3 Answers 3

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DSLRs are designed to allow you to change the lens. They are offered as "body-only" for people that already have compatible lenses, or know exactly what they want.

Most folks who are new to DSLR want to buy a complete camera, body and lens. So all the manufacturers offer a combination of the body with a cheap lens. This is the "kit lens"

For entry level DSLRs, i.e. the Canon Rebel series or the equivalent in other brands, the kit lens is usually the EF-S 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 lens. Its a starter lens. It sells retail for about $100. This is in fairly stark contrast to many popular lenses, such as the EF-S 17-55 F2.8. At a quick glance, these two lenses seem very similar, same basic zoom range. But the EF-S 17-55 F2.8 sells for $1100, so its ten or eleven times more expensive.

In general, the kit lens is the cheapest lens that the manufacturer can make, and it will satisfy an entry level user. Many folks stay happy with the kit lens for years. Others want something faster, with better image quality, better build quality, etc. Its a personal choice.

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The last paragraph is really only true for entry-level cameras. Higher priced cameras often come with better lenses. For example, the Canon 5D and 6D are both available in a kit with the EF 24-105mm f/4L, and the Nikon D600 and D800 are available with the 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR AF-S Nikkor. –  Caleb Dec 31 '12 at 7:22
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Caleb is right, kit lenses are not always the cheapest lens in he product line. it may be correct if we say companies often choose the cheapest lens that they can match with one camera, based on the camera's price and its sensor quality. –  Omne Dec 31 '12 at 22:55
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I think you folks are picking nits. An L-series lens is hardly a "kit lens" even if its sometimes bundled with a $3000 body. In the linked article, they are talking about entry level cameras and cheap $100 kit lens setups. –  Pat Farrell Jan 1 '13 at 1:13
    
It really comes down to the context (language, go figure). You can use "kit lens" to describe a mediocre entry-level lens in general terms, or you may be referring to a specific kit (in which case the lens could be either cheap or expensive, depending on the kit). –  fennec Mar 17 at 12:16
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A kit lens is a lens included with a camera.

The Wikipedia article for kit lens begins with:

generally an inexpensive lens priced at the lowest end of the manufacturer's range so as to not add much to a camera kit's price.

The tag wiki excerpt for :

A "kit" lens is a lens included with a camera body at time of purchase.

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When you're going to answer your own question, please at least provide more information than a simple copy and paste from Wikipedia! people will probably find better answers than yours if they just google "kit lens" –  Omne Dec 31 '12 at 22:51
    
@Omne based on his answer Pat was not deterred from providing exceptional information by my answer. I agree it is a bit light of an answer, but given my limited knowledge seemed appropriate. However, I will defer to your advice in the future. –  ahsteele Jan 1 '13 at 0:56
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A kit lens is a lens that is designed to be sold together with a new camera body to make it immediately useful to new customers. This typically implies a number of things:

  • It is designed to be flexible and usable by novices, which nowadays means a zoom around the "normal" focal length, and of course autofocus.
  • It has to be cheap to keep the price of the kit attractive, which means that low cost will be prioritized above features and quality. Don't expect a kit lens to be the best for any particular purpose.
  • It is produced in very large numbers, which means that it will typically be quite reliable and provide good value for (the small amount of) money, since R&D costs can be spread over many units, and keeping warranty costs low is a top priority.
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