Differences Between Manufacturer Kits And Retailer KitsAs you’re shopping, you might come across different kit options, including some with multiple lenses. It’s common for retailers to put together their own kits, often using third-party lenses rather than those offered by the camera maker. For example, you might find a Canon or Nikon body combined with two Phoenix or similar lenses at about the same price that you’d pay for the manufacturer’s kit with a single lens. While it’s not necessarily a bad thing, you have to remember that in many cases, especially with optics, you get what you pay for. Lesser optical quality compromises your SLR investment, so if you’re looking at one of these alternatives, be sure to do your research on the quality of lenses included with your kit.
Expanding Your SystemAs the typical kit lens is a zoom that covers a moderate wide to moderate telephoto focal range, consider these lens options to expand your focal range wider or longer.
Canon. For some of us, you can’t get too wide. The Canon EF-S 10-22mm ƒ/3.5-4.5 USM is a good option for ultrawide angle (equivalent to 16-35mm on APS-C-sensor cameras). At about $700, it isn’t cheap, but the image quality is excellent, and the wide-angle views will give you a new perspective on scenic and travel photography. For more telephoto range, you might consider the EF-S 55-250mm ƒ/4-5.6 IS. With image stabilization and a zoom range nearly four times that of the standard kit lens, this $300 lens is a great option.
Nikon. Nikon also offers the AF-S DX 18-105mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ED VR. The construction is the same as the 18-55mm, but the zoom range is nearly twice that of the standard kit lens. With the same aperture settings and built-in Vibration Reduction, you’ll extend the reach of your images for about $160 more than the 18-55mm. For greater wide-angle options, consider the AF-S DX 10-24mm ƒ/3.5-4.5G ED, which will give you a 35mm-equivalent range of about 15-36mm for under $850.
Olympus. If you’re looking for more reach with your Olympus camera, the Zuiko Digital ED 18-180mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 is a good choice. The price is about $250 more than the standard 14-42mm kit lens, but for that extra money you’re getting a 10x zoom with excellent optics. On the Olympus, this is equivalent to a 36-360mm lens.
Panasonic. A telephoto option for the Panasonic system is the 45-200mm ƒ/4-5.6 Vario MEGA O.I.S. This lens works with the newer Micro Four Thirds system bodies (the G1 and GH1) from Panasonic (and other Micro Four Thirds bodies) with a street price of about $300. The lens includes Panasonic’s image-stabilization system.
Pentax. Pentax offers the smc DA 50-200mm ƒ/4-5.6 ED zoom (about $250) to extend your range to the 35mm-equivalent of 300mm. The lens utilizes an ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass lens element for improved image quality, as well as a Quick-Shift Focus System to go from autofocus to manual instantly.