Where (your) dSLR (is a happy dSLR) [The entry kit dSLR Part 6]

(Article continued from part 5)

Nikon dSLR essentials
South of Market, San Francisco, California

Olympus E-P2, M.ZUIKO Digital ED 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6
1/60sec @ ƒ3.6, iso 1600, 16mm (30mm)

Some typical things you might buy with your new dSLR: a memory card and reader, a bag, a spare battery, lens cleaning stuff, and instructional material.

Before I talk about the things you need to buy along with your camera to start using it, I want to talk about the lens(es) that may or may not come with the camera. Some of these models have the option of allowing you to purchase it without the kit zoom (for about a $100 cost savings). I want to caution against that unless you already own a kit zoom—which is unlikely since this is your first dSLR.

Why keep the kit?

About the kit zoom

The only people who should forego the kits are people who already have one. The only lens with more all-around utility is the super zoom. Let’s price these:

Mount type Model Price
Pentax DA 18-250mm f3.5-6.3 (discontinued)
Olympus ED 18-180mm f3.5-6.3 $400
Olympus Panasonic 14-150 f3.5-5.6 OIS $1300
Sony SAL 18-250 F3.5-6.3 DT $580
Sony SAL 18-200 F3.5-6.3 DT $430
Canon EF-S 18-200/3.5-5.6 IS $600
Nikon AF-S DX VR 18-200/3.5-5.6G IF-ED VR II $770
Pentax, Sony Sigma 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 DC $300
Tamron Tamron AF 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di II LD Aspherical IF $300
Canon, Nikon Sigma 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM $400

(I don’t include the Sigma 18-125 for Four-Thirds because it was discontinued, and don’t include non-stabilized lenses for non-stabilized bodies. Links and prices are to Amazon.)

While I love superzooms as always-on travel lenses, you are talking about a $580-$750 purchase—or $300-$400 if you go third party and lower quality. That’s close to the cost of entire kit cameras themselves and not exactly “inside the price range.”

However, since a 55-200 typically costs more than $200 (with image stabilization if necessary), the extra utility of not having to switch out lenses makes the jump from an 18-55 kit zoom (or equivalent) to an all-in-one-lens 18-200mm attractive—a number of people, possibly your future self, would probably be doing that. Thus, the only real way to avoid the kit zoom, in the rare instance you have the option, is if you can get a hand-me-down kit zoom from a friend who already bought a superzoom or is simply too snobby to shoot the kit.

My Nikon D5000 purchase gave me the choice to go body-only, and I already own the 18-200 VR, but I purchased the kit anyway. Why?

Because this isn’t my camera.

A camera can’t take a photograph without a lens. Not providing someone with a lens that they own, is really not buying a camera at all—it’s tethering them to someone else’s photographic system. At that point, you might as well “lend” them your cameras instead of buying them anything—and well all know how that goes. I sold my 18-70mm kit zoom for the Nikon D70 a long time ago. If I still had that, I would have given her that, but no matter what—at least one lens must be owned along with the camera.

Given that, the kit lens is pretty versatile at a dirt-cheap price.

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