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Why are the lenses which are in a kit with DSLRs generally low quality lenses, or at least rarely match the quality of the DSLR body?

For example, a new Nikon D7000 ($1100) comes in a kit ($1300) with a 18-105mm lens. Even if this lens can be great for general usage on a Nikon D3100, it is obviously strange to see a $275 lens on a $1100 body.

It means that:

  • semi-professional photographers who will buy a D7000 - 18-105mm kit will need to replace the lens by a much more expensive 18-200mm VR2, or, if quality matters, a 24-120mm with, if needed, a wide-angle lens and telephoto lens.

  • non-professional photographers who will spend more money for a D7000 - 18-105mm kit will not gain too much comparing to cheaper DSLRs with a separate 18-105mm lens.

So, what am I missing?

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In terms of kit lenses, Nikon is generally regarded as being better than most. Even the 18-55mm isn't that bad compared to the competition. –  Nick Nov 19 '10 at 23:31
2  
If a so-called semi-professional photographer buys a camera, they probably wouldn't buy the kit anyway, just the body, so what lens is included in the D7000 "kit" package is probably irrelevant from the point of view of a semi-professional photographer. –  Conor Boyd Nov 21 '10 at 20:08
    
Methinks you are bitching exclusively about your favoured model, the D7000. Where one has to note, that it is: new. D90 came with the 3,5-5,6 16-85mm VR2 after a while (which I bought then), so just wait for the package. –  Leonidas Nov 27 '10 at 14:05

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

I don't think it's 100% universally true that all kit lenses suck (5D Mark II kit came with a 24-105F4 IS which is a high-quality zoom lens).

Much of it has to do with information, sales, and the psychology of money.

Kits with 'low quality' lenses aren't targeted to semiprofessional/professional photographers. They are targeted to first time buyers who might not yet understand why a lens would cost more than a camera body. If camera kits only came with high quality lenses, first time buyers might balk at the nearly $2000+ price tag.

Kit lenses also simplify the buying process. Imagine being a first time dslr buyer; how overwhelming all those choices are. Having a pre-packaged kit makes it easy for newbies to buy a dslr, which increases sales.

And I suspect for many people, they are perfectly happy with the kit lens.

As photographers better come to understand the relationship between gear and results, it might be puzzling to us, why anyone would buy a cheap lens, but I do understand that not everyone is trying to take their photography as serious as we do. Some people just want to take photos. A kit helps them do that, in a cost-effective way.

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Agree. But wouldn't a first time buyer choose a less expensive D3100 or D90 instead? Or since a first time buyer cares about some not very relevant characteristics like the number of megapixels or the ability to make videos, a D7000 would be more desirable? –  MainMa Nov 19 '10 at 19:34
    
This. Precisely the process I've been through. I've now spent considerably more on lenses than I did on my D50 originally! –  Grant Palin Nov 19 '10 at 21:34
    
Even the 18-105 disparaged by the OP is often considered to be a great value; e.g., Thom Hogan prefers it over the 18-200: bythom.com/nikon-dx-lens-summary.htm –  Reid Nov 20 '10 at 16:58
    
@MainMa many first time buyers are going to look at featurelists and buy the biggest camera their budget will allow. Or the biggest camera/lens package (meaning focal length range for lenses, not optical quality). So it pays to put cheap lenses with large focal length range in your kits, not a narrow range high quality lens. –  jwenting Oct 8 '11 at 12:35

The 18-105mm is a great 'getting started' lens.

It's not as sharp as my 50mm, or as long as my 70-300mm, or as fast as my 24-70mm, but back before I had a feel for what I wanted, the 18-105mm did a reasonable job most of the time. And I still use it when I don't know exactly what's coming and I only want to carry one lens (and it's not dark).

It's a recommendation to someone who's already traumatised enough by the options associated with buying an SLR body, without thinking about what they're going to put on the front of it. If you don't need that, buy the body-only and negotiate with the shop for a deal if you need a specific lens!

I think a D7000 + 18-105mm is still going to be significantly better than a D5000 or D3100 + 18-105mm. The lens isn't going to be the limiting factor in many scenarios.

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Kit lenses exist to provide a "ready to shoot" package at the lowest cost as Alan states.

People new to photography expect to be able to shoot with a camera they just paid a relatively large amount of money for. People also expect to be zoom as every other camera they will have owned would have this feature and anything else would seem like a downgrade.

Kit lenses weren't always so poor optically - the standard kit lens shipped with film SLRs for a long time was something like a 50 f/2, which was a relatively large max aperture and very good stopped down. In those times pocket cameras (or point and shoots) rarely had a zoom function so it wasn't missed.

It's understandable that people new to photography wont immediately be able to appreciate the benefits of prime lenses, but it would be nice to see a fast 50mm or 35mm offered as a kit for those who do!

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