The Humble Kit Lens

dscf3643” Oh, werry ‘umble, Sir. Werry ‘umble…”*

And werry ‘umble indeed is the reputation of many of the kit lenses that people buy with their digital cameras. and in most cases werry unjustified. Because they are, for the most part, werry good…

This is an example of a kit lens that is sold with the Fuji X-system cameras.You’ll see it listed with the X-E2s, the X-T1 and T2, and with the X-Pro2 as part of package deals. You might get the impression that it is a ‘ starter ‘ lens that you use until you can add more prestigious ones. You’d be wise to revise that thought – this is a good lens in itself.

18mm is about as wide as you can go for most APS-C cameras without starting to suggest real distortion in the view. And I’m not talking about technical distortion of 1-5% – the sort of pincushion or barrel stuff that zoom lenses may be prone to – I mean the distortion of viewpoint that a person gets when they look at a picture that is meant to wrap around them, but is seen from a longer distance away. The 18mm does not disturb the eye.

The 55mm focal length on an APS-C camera is a very good angle of view for an upper torso or bust portrait of one person. There’ll be a shallower depth of field than at the 18mm end, but portrait shooters put that to good use in softening up the background behind the subject’s head.

In between you can tackle most normal distance subjects, groups of people, full-length portraits, etc.

The f:2.8-4 aperture wide open is modest when we remember the f:1.8 lenses of the film era. Only lets in a quarter of the amount of light that the older lens does. But the electronic processors of the Fujifilm cameras are so efficient and high-speed that you can easily compensate for the aperture by raising the ISO. You are not left picture-less. The compromise effected by the designers at Fujifilm is one of size and weight – by accepting that modest full aperture we can benefit from a light and handy lens.

It’s all a question of playing to percentages. Just as we can estimate the success rate for people who leave a camera set to the factory defaults and on the most automated mode as about 85% we can also apply much the same figure for the kit lens. Those photographers can figure that 85% of all their lens needs are right there in that kit optic.

Of course when they get more experience, and more ideas, they can add the wider, longer, faster, closer options. The manufacturers of lenses are more than willing to make more lenses. The shops are more than willing to sell them. The photographers are more than willing to buy them.

Isn’t Nature wonderful?

  • I’m Heeping up praise here…

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