If you are an upcoming photographer, you are probably wondering what is a 18-55mm and what is it used for.
The 18-55mm is also known as a kit lens, which means that it comes bundled with your (first) starter camera. It is cheap, lightweight, and a great option for beginners to improve their photography skills. It’s also versatile, so you can use it for a number of scenes, from landscapes to portraits.
Basically, a lot of points about the 18-55mm lens explained (kind of in the FAQ format).
Without further ado, let’s jump in.
Table of Contents
The 18-55mm (Kit) Lens Explained
What is a kit lens in photography?
What is a kit lens and what makes it different from other ones?
In photography, basically, any glass that comes bundled with a camera is called a kit lens.
It is traditionally a starter 18-55mm focal length that is priced inexpensively with the sole purpose of maintaining the overall cost of the camera.
That is because it is the most commonly used and it is affordable.
Obviously, it is made cheaply so you cannot expect the quality to be great, but for beginners, this is more than enough. You will not be getting high-quality photos with this, but it will provide a way for you to get used to using a DSLR.
Nonetheless, when shopping for a DSLR or mirrorless, you will find some models that come bundled with high-quality lenses that can produce professional quality images. They are technically kit lenses as well.
Now, what are the features of 18mm-55mm in photography?
They are small, lightweight, and affordable.
The telephoto setting feature allows you to capture details, making it suitable for portraits. Can you buy it separately? Yes, as a (more experienced) photographer, you can purchase it outside the kit, especially a moderately expensive one.
Why are kit lenses called starter lenses?
This is pretty straightforward, but people still ask this question. There are a few reasons why they are considered starter lenses in photography.
It considered a starter glass because of a few reasons.
The first reason is that they come withyour (first) camera, so in most instances, these are the first lenses anyone ever uses.
By the way, here’s a table of some of the popular entry-level camera options for amateur photographers, in case you were curious:
To put it in simple words, how wide the aperture can open is directly related to how zoomed in the lens is. If the zoomed in subject is at a far distance, the aperture is wider and if the subject is zoomed in is near the photographer, the aperture closes.
This can be somewhat confusing for someone who is just beginning to learn photography and camera settings and features.
Take note though that other lenses will be different from this and will not have a “variable aperture phenomenon.” So, you will have to take this thing into account as long as you are using a kit lens to take photos.
There are also a few things to look after for. Kit glass is:
… not that sharp, so the end result wouldn’t be crisp and clean like a pro-level image.
… made from plastic instead of metal like those of the expensive, high-end glass.
This is why they are cheap, and they are deliberately made this way by manufacturers because there is so much competition, so they try to keep their camera’s price down by using inexpensive plastic materials.
Although they are not that great in terms of quality, that does not mean they will fall apart immediately. You can still take photos and use it adequately.
In short, it will not be able to withstand prolonged use as it is not designed to be durable.
What is an 18-55mm lens good for?
If you have just bought a camera with an 18-55mm lens, you are probably wondering what is an 18-55mm is good for? Below are the primary reasons why it is good.
While the 18-55mm is not considered wide, the 18mm offers a moderately wide-angle glass, excellent for landscapes and architecture. The 55mm range is more relevant for portraits, passport photos, and when one wants to capture small details like macro photography.
The 18mm focal length allows the user to change the focal length and aperture frequently and fast. It allows you to capture numerous photos in different styles without switching them.
It is great for portraits: the telephoto feature allows you to create a shallow depth of field and isolate your object from the background.
What do the numbers on 18-55mm lens mean?
Are you looking forward to purchasing a new lens, or do you already own one?
In either case, if you are wondering what the numbers on them mean, camera glasses usually have numbers informing you of the it’s focal length and aperture.
The numbers in mm on them indicate their focal length. Prime lenses usually have a single focal length, while zoom lenses have numerous focal lengths.
Kit lenses have some useful features too, like image stabilizers, which are also known as vibration reduction on some camera models. This feature allows you to take photos at a slower shutter speed, and this is especially great for taking images in low light.
Usually, the trajectory of lenses after the kit lens starts with a 50 mm prime lens. It is definitely better than a kit lens, and it is also affordable.
A fair price is one of the things that make the 18-55mm glass good for beginner photographers. While you can get one after purchasing a new camera, you can also get one separately at an affordable price.
Flexibility with the focal lengths:
The 18-55mm provides a focal length ranging from reasonably wide-angle to short telephoto. Unlike prime lenses with a fixed focal length, with them, you can comfortably zoom in or out to get the desired photo without moving your body.
It provides a learning opportunity without investing much:
Lenses for professional shooting are expensive, hence not suitable for beginners as one risk getting them damaged. However, with the 18-55mm, an amateur photographer can comfortably practice without worrying about being spoilt as they are affordable.
Cheap and lightweight
Compared to other lenses, these ones are made of less expensive material. They weigh around 12 pounds, adding a little weight to your DSLR. They are easily portable, making them suitable if you don’t like carrying heavy cameras.
What are the cons of kit lenses in photography?
Now that you know what is a 18-55mm glass and how it can help you as a beginner, let’s find out what its shortcomings are and why pros don’t use it as much.
Definitely, it is a decent one, but it has its limitations and once you start to get better at taking photos you will realize that.
If you look forward to doing more with your photos, the 18-55mm might disappoint you. What is the aperture in a camera’s lens? It is the opening that allows light into the camera body.
The 18-55mm has a larger aperture of f/3.5-5.6 compared to 50mm with an aperture of f/1.2. An aperture of f/1.2 means the lens has a larger hole, resulting in a narrow depth of field, producing a more blurry background than when shooting at f/5.6.
In other words, the 18mm focal length is still not wide enough, and you may need an even smaller focal length for a wide-angle view and to fit in more into the view field.
Similarly, the 55mm lens may not get you as close to what you are trying to focus on.
The 18-55mm is an excellent example of a variable aperture as it contains a range in aperture size. While in a fixed aperture (prime) glass, the aperture width depends on the focal length.
The widest aperture can open in a variable aperture depending on how far it is zoomed. Thus, the kit glass is not your best option if you want to shoot a photo with an aperture width of more than f/5.6.
Truth be told, the quality of the material used to make these types of lenses is of lower quality. Quality ones are expensive, and for a camera to come with them at no extra cost means their quality is compromised.
Consider becoming a professional photographer by purchasing a separate high-quality ones to maintain your shot standards.
The autofocus in this glass is slower and noisier. They are not a good choice if you want to capture numerous images quickly and noiselessly, especially in a super quiet setting.
On better quality glass, the autofocus is fast and has no noise. Kit lenses also don’t have a wide maximum aperture, which is mainly because of the associated costs.
They are made of cheap and low-quality materials, ensuring the cost of the camera is kept low.
Unlike other high-quality ones that are made of metal, these ones are made of plastic, increasing their ease of breakage and reducing their durability.
(Expensive lenses are a lot more rugged and durable as they are made from metal and have weatherproofing.)
Tips for Taking Good Photos
Some of these tips apply to all types of glass (and cameras) you’ll have.
By the way, here’s a table of some of the popular options for amateur photographers, in case you were curious:
But I digress. Back to the glass, and tips for taking good photos with your kit lenses.
With 18-55mm, you can zoom up to the desired focal length. The 18mm provides a wide angle for taking photos that don’t require capturing tiny details like landscapes. The 55mm gives you a telephoto that allows you to capture great portraits.
Try out different angles and elevations to capture your subject at different angles and make it more unique.
(Although in the case of selfies, it’s best to start having your camera/smartphone parallel to your body, until you learn how to better create shots of yourself.)
Maximize the use of natural lighting. It is everythinggggg in photography, especially if you’re a newbie. You can use soft shade, direct sunlight, and shadow to illuminate the subject’s excellent features.
While a great camera plays a significant role in bringing out a great image, it is essential to consider choosing a beautiful image in this case, given their quality for better results.
Investing in your learning:
While there are countless of free information online, the best thing you can do is invest in paid courses to speed up your learning curve.
Luckily, I’ve reviewed a bunch of courses and can offer some of my best recommendations. Check out the next section for those.
Photography Courses Online (+ BONUS for You!)
Now, I understand that learning a new skill can be frustrating. However, you can speed up your progress if you have the right guidance/teachers you can learn from.
There are several online photography courses that you can consider. Here are a few:
Founder & content creator at Digital World Beauty. My main objective here is to create a valuable resource for photography enthusiasts with honest tech reviews, course recommendations, and how-to tutorials.