Every manufacturer bring their cameras to market with a standard (normally sub-par) kit lens. Normally I discard these as “not-up-to-my-standard” and they end up in a corner somewhere. The only reason I get some of these lenses is when I can’t find a body only offer but sometimes these lenses surprise me with their image quality. Some of them are not to be discarded as I stated above, “sub-par”.
There are times a lens comes out that really is outstanding and a real bargain. I haven’t by all means used all the kit lenses out there, just the few that come my way with a body. I don’t use any Olympus, Nikon, Canon or Sigma kit lenses. My personal feeling on this is manufacturers should develop one good kit lens and bring that lens out with all their cameras. Ok, that brings some problems along with it when you have different sensor formats like APS-C and full frame etc. Not really viable but a nice thought anyway.
Below, I’ve listed three lenses that I personally think are very good, cheap and stand out as excellent kit lenses. Some are quite old by today's standards but I still own them and still use them extensively. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend these lenses to anyone asking me for a good, not too expensive standard lens.
Note that two of the three lenses I use are from Panasonic. I think they make excellent lenses and it was the same with their Four-Third lenses too. Heavy, but excellent. They make good cameras too but I prefer to use Olympus. Their bodies just appeal to me more and suit my way of doing things a little better.
So, below are the three lenses I feel have been exceptional kit lenses that every beginner should have; depending on the systems they use of course.
There may well be other lenses out there that people feel I may have left out, and if you do have a recommendation, I would be glad to hear of them. You never know, I might just have missed a gem that I could add to my little kit lens collection.
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45 f3.5-5.6 Asph. Mega O.I.S.
This was Panasonic's first lens designed for M43 cameras and came out with the Panasonic G1 camera. It offers a focal length of 28 - 90mm in 35mm terms. Although today my zoom lenses must start at 12mm I still use this lens because of its very good image quality.
Size: 60mm x 60mm
Aperture: f3.5 - f22
Having now used this lens on the GX8 which has a 20MP sensor, I’m beginning to think that it’s reached the limit of its resolving power. The images on the 12 - 16MP sensors seemed clearer with more detail. I came to this conclusion not through any scientific tests or anything of the sorts; but just by looking at the images. So take this with a pinch of salt because it’s just my opinion. I think this will be used now only on the older 16MP cameras where it still performs pretty well.
Fujifilm Fujinon 18-55 f2.8-4.0
This is one of the original lenses released by Fujifilm and it still holds up well today. Not that it’s all that old, being released in 2012 together with the 14 f2.8. When I take my Fuji cameras out this lens is always with me and I find it performs extremely well with the X-T10 which I acquired some months ago. I’m now waiting for the price of the X-T20 to go a little before I purchase it, mainly for its 24MP sensor. (Looking online a minute ago I see that stocks are not available here in Germany at the time of writing this post).
Size: 70mm x 65mm
Aperture: f2.8 - f22
Panasonic 12-32 f3.5-5.6
The kit lens for the GM1 announced in 2013, it’s impressed me from the very beginning on the GM5. Kind of strange but that’s the only camera I use this lens on. Probably because it fits the GM system together with it’s brother, namely the 35-100 f4.0-5.6. Its only drawback for me seems to be the short focal range it gives, 24-64mm in 35mm terms. I like mine to “go a little further” so I always carry a second lens when this lens comes into play. What may bother some people is that you have to zoom the lens out before you can use it. Not being a videographer myself I can’t say anything about its qualities in that function. Having read many reviews on this little gem, it does seem that sample variation could be a problem. Some people swear by this lens (including myself) and others give it a mediocre score.
Size: 24mm x 56mm
Aperture: f3.5 - f22
As you can see, this little wonder lens gives excellent image quality and I love to mount it on the GM5.
The combination is hard to beat if looking for a very small system that gives you great quality.
I like to think of the GM5 as a small camera with a big sensor.
The lenses mentioned above may change over time of course as manufacturers bring out new lenses onto the market. An example of this is the new Panasonic 12-60 f3.5-5.6. It may well replace the 14-45 as it starts at 12mm and zooms to 60mm rather than 45mm. It’s certainly not much bigger than the 14-45 and the weight difference can be ignored. I just have to use the new 12-60 a little more to be sure I’m making the right decision on this.