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Canon T3i body vs. Kit

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Initial post: Mar 21, 2012 10:59:53 AM PDT
Hi -

I would love to hear some expert advice. I am looking to purchase the Canon T3i, my first DSLR. Am I better off buying the body and 1-2 separate lenses OR buying the camera with a lens kit that includes the 18-55mm IS II ? I am looking for general purpose to begin with as I am a beginner :)


In reply to an earlier post on Mar 21, 2012 12:55:42 PM PDT
dgray5150 says:
Buy this if you are getting into photography

Canon EOS Rebel T3i 18 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II Zoom Lens + 16GB Deluxe Accessory Kit

Pick up a 50MM prime lens (sells for around $100.00)

You will have nearly everything needed to take great photos.


In reply to an earlier post on Mar 21, 2012 1:32:54 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 21, 2012 1:33:19 PM PDT
The 18-55mm IS kit lens makes for a decent general purpose starter lens. Once you get an idea of what kind of photos you like taking best, you'll have a much better idea of what other kind of lens might suit you better. You could also add a Canon 55-250mm IS telephoto lens to your order -- if both camera and 55-250 are purchased directly from Amazon at the same time, you'll get a $150 INSTANT rebate when you start check out. Or you could consider switching to the 18-135mm IS kit lens. Any of these options are a good place to start.

Posted on Mar 21, 2012 1:47:53 PM PDT
Richard Hohn says:
As someone who bought a T2i kit with the 18-55 lens I would say don't buy the kit lens. Instead buy the body and the 15-85 lens. Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM UD Wide Angle Zoom Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras This is most likely the best walking around lens for the Canon EFS cameras. It is considerably sharper than the kit lens. It offers a true wide angle and zooms to the correct length for portraits. It has close focus (macro) capabilities and a image stabilizer that works for up to four stops. Now if you want to take outdoor or sports photography then you will need a longer lens. For that I would say the Tamron 70-300 VCTamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 SP Di VC USD XLD for Canon Digital SLR Cameras It is rated better than the Canon. Of course you could spend the $119 for the Canon 50mm f1.8 Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens if you want to take photos in lower light. But you will most assuredly need to have a flash diffuser Gary Fong Puffer Pop Up Flash Diffuser - CANON/NIKON to get the best results from the built-in flash.

Posted on Mar 21, 2012 2:26:47 PM PDT
T. Campbell says:
The main purpose of the kit lens is to provide a walk-around lens at a very affordable price to make the cost-of-entry affordable. It's not their best lens... but it is a good lens (it's a good value considering how inexpensive it is.) The 15-85 is better. The Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens for Canon DSLR Cameras is even better still... but of course it's also more expensive (f/2.8 zooms are always expensive... but they collect a LOT more light than a typical kit lens. If you were zoomed to 50mm to take a shot, the f/2.8 lens is literally collect four times as much light... which means you can shoot in lower light situations without needing a tripod or you can shoot at faster shutter speeds when shooting moving subjects.)

The kit lens doesn't have internal focusing -- which means that the end of the lens rotates as you focus. If you're using a polarizer -- where you "tune" the filter by twisting it to the optimum angle based on the light, then each time you tweak focus the lens rotates and you have to keep re-tuning the polarizer. The better lenses all use internal focusing so it's not an issue.

A prime lens (a lens which does not 'zoom') will offer up the highest quality images and... usually also provides the best (lowest) focal ratios. Always good to have at least 1 prime lens in your bag. The "nifty fifty" is nickname given to the 50mm f/1.8 lens that just about every camera company offers. Canon's is this model Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens. This lens is as sharp as the $400 f/1.4 version ... and even rivals the $1500 f/1.2L version. The main difference isn't the optical quality... but just about everything else. The build on the f/1.8 is a lightweight plastic. It feels cheap... as if it may fall apart on you if you hold it the wrong way. Despite how cheap it "feels", I have never actually heard of anyone having a problem with the build (it only *seems* as if it will fall apart... it won't actually fall apart.) It also has a slow & noisy auto-focus motor. The f/1.4 version... in addition to offering a better focal ratio, also has the silent and fast USM focus motor, a better body build, and 8 aperture blades instead of 5. It's a better lens overall... but not because of optical quality, but rather because of everything else.

The nifty-fifty is definitely the least expensive lens in the line-up. But on a T3i it's a modest telephoto. A "normal" lens (a lens with an angle of view that seems to be roughly how your eyes see things... neither wide angle nor zoomed in closer) would be around 30mm. Canon makes a 28mm and a 35mm which are pretty close.

Ultimately you should buy lenses because they work well with a specific type of shooting you plan to do. E.g. the best lens to cover sports during night-games outdoors would NOT be the same lens as the best lens to cover portraits... nor the best lens to cover landscapes, or architecture.

A lot of people go straight for a telephoto zoom... sometimes I think people are just impressed by how a long lens looks on a camera. I find that I don't use a long lens very often... it wouldn't be my first pick for a 2nd lens.

What do you like to photograph? That'll dictate what focal lengths you should consider.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 21, 2012 3:10:04 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 21, 2012 3:12:54 PM PDT
"A lot of people go straight for a telephoto zoom... sometimes I think people are just impressed by how a long lens looks on a camera. I find that I don't use a long lens very often... it wouldn't be my first pick for a 2nd lens."

When you're just starting out, you want to try everything. There's no good reason to short-cut the pure joy of the experimentation process. Its just part of figuring out your relationship with photography. I think that's the true value of budget priced kits lenses - a good place to start without having to have a very specific goal in mind or spending a LOT. A telephoto can be a lot of fun (not quite fisheye fun but still up there) so why not.

Posted on Mar 21, 2012 5:39:56 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 21, 2012 5:46:16 PM PDT
Thank you all so much for the feedback thus far. I plan on shooting both indoor and outdoor - mostly daytime - focusing on kids ages 10 and under. I hope to produce *quality* photos that I can put on my website that promotes local activities for kids. I think I will go ahead and purchase the kit lens with the camera to get my footing on photography and work my way up to different lenses as I feel more comfortable. I have a feeling that I will be impressed with the quality (even on a bad day) compared to what I currently own. THANK YOU!

Posted on Mar 21, 2012 9:03:12 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 21, 2012 9:06:05 PM PDT
T says:
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In reply to an earlier post on Mar 21, 2012 9:22:09 PM PDT
Nicole, that sounds reasonable.

Indoors is where you may find something like the Canon 50mm f/1.8 to be useful if you have room to work in. An external flash may also be very helpful indoors. The built-in flash will appear harsh and has limited range. A powerful tilt-swivel flash like the 430EX can be bounced from a white ceiling or wall giving you much softer and much more flattering quality of light.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 22, 2012 4:01:10 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 22, 2012 4:01:23 AM PDT
Neo Lee says:
The kit lens is about $120 new. If you're upgrading to Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 for example, you can sell it on eBay. Everyone and his dog will jump on it if it's on sale at half the price.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 22, 2012 10:03:46 AM PDT
T. Campbell says:
"the kit lens on t3i is a joke"

Not really. Lenses are always a game of trade-offs.

The kit lens is designed to offer reasonably good quality (and it actually is reasonably good quality) for a very affordable price. It doesn't have USM focusing motors, internal focusing, internal zoom, nor is it parfocal and it has a variable aperture (as all but the most expensive zooms do) and the body construction is plastic (although I've never heard of one actually breaking... so it's not cheap plastic). BUT... if you were using a point & shoot and trying to afford a DSLR without breaking the bank, then a body with that particular kit lens will be a huge upgrade over any results you would have been getting from a point & shoot... and it's the starting point to a world of lens options where you can spend anywhere from $100 to $14000 on your next lens.

If manufacturers refused to offer a consumer grade lens option and forced everyone to buy the lens with the best possible focusing motor, internal focus and zoom, constant focal ratio, weather sealing, metal body construction, etc. etc. then suddenly the first lens becomes a minimum $1000 part and the cost of entry goes from $500... to $1500. There are a LOT of consumers for whom a $1500 camera is just not an option.

Posted on Mar 22, 2012 10:47:13 AM PDT
k. sandmann says:
Yes yes yes the kit lenses are a great value if you get a package deal. They are good deal for an average consumer your not getting anything professional snazzy or what not but you are gettin a good bang for your buck.

Posted on Mar 23, 2012 9:20:12 PM PDT
DSLR Novice says:
I just recently purchased the T3i with both the 15-55 and the 55-250 kit lenses. They are adequate as I did not want to spend a lot without understanding more. By purchasing some filters for close up work and for outdoor use I have been having a lot of fun and getting a lot of experience. My brother-in-law had a Sigma 100-400mm lens which I have been using for wildlife and landscapes (c.$1300 to $1600) for one like it. I also just borrowed a 50mm 1.4 Canon lens which really does make a difference with the light over the kit lens. But for overall usefullness in starting out I still like the idea of the kits. It is real easy to spend a lot of money. Be sure you know what you want to do and GET MORE information about how each step changes what you have.

Good luck and enjoy.

Posted on Mar 24, 2012 9:39:52 AM PDT
T. Campbell says:
There are two different things that are referred to as "kits".

The camera companies will offer any given DSLR camera body either with or without a lens. Without a lens they call it a "body only" (even though you also get the battery, software, cables, ... basically everything you need except a memory card and lens). If the lens is included then the manufacturer calls it a "kit".

There are sellers, however, who will bundle in all sorts of other things... filters, tripods, bags, etc. and they call those "kits" as well.

The "kit" that the manufacturer sells is usually a good value considering it's everything you really need to start shooting (except a memory card... they typically don't include a memory card). The "kit" that 3rd party sellers offer is usually a BAD value. It's not that having filters and tripods are a bad idea... they're a good idea. But the 3rd party sellers generally bundle rock-bottom trash quality accessories.

As a generalization:
Manufacturer kit = good value
3rd party seller kit = bad value

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 24, 2012 10:52:53 AM PDT
k. sandmann says:
Totally agree - with one little exception.

Adorama basic kit - sometimes **not always! ** you will find the kit ( filter & cleaning kit) is $9.99 or even ends up being free. It could be a glitch in their catalogue system.

If you don't already have a filter and or lens cloth and brush its much better than nothing and if you can find it when the kit is the same price as just the lens alone - well then that is a no brainer.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 24, 2012 1:47:46 PM PDT
Basically, the more stuff they toss in with the shop kit, the worse the value.

Posted on Mar 24, 2012 3:20:49 PM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on Mar 24, 2012 5:06:19 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 26, 2012 7:49:15 AM PDT
Tom Martin says:
With advice like that, now I know NOT to buy your e-book. Since you just seem to be regurgitating the same old line that may have applied to the early EOS kit lenses, but is no longer valid.

The Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II SLR Lens - Mark II has been refined 3 times since it was introduced.

Especially in the wide angle to normal focal range its IQ properties are on par with any other Canon consumer grade lens. As has already been mentioned here, it lacks USM, internal focusing, internal zoom, and has a variable aperture those are its negatives. But, for the most part image quality is not one of its negatives.

In addition to my other larger and heavier cameras and lenses, I wanted a small light camera and lens that I can take anywhere. So I bought a Rebel and a kit lens. For a small, light, lens with a nice zoom range for an APS-C camera, the kit lens can't be beat. I certainly don't regret having one on my Rebel.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 24, 2012 5:43:40 PM PDT
While it is true that it is better than the older version, it is in no way better than the other lenses available. If you have the choice, purchase a better lens. If not, then it will suit, but it will not compare to the other eos lenses. If you have never used anything other than kit lenses, it is true, you don't notice a difference, however, if you have used other lenses, you will notice kit lenses don't compare.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 24, 2012 5:50:10 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 24, 2012 5:53:54 PM PDT
Nicole K. says:
You seem to have a lot of opinions already, but I thought I'd put in my two cents. In general the kit lenses are pretty bad in comparison to most other lenses available to you. For an amateur simply looking to take a step-up from point & shoots they'll absolutely work. But you are far better off investing in a better lens. As one other reviewer mentioned, the more items in a kit, the worse the quality is.
If you're on a budget, its always better to splurge on lenses and save on bodies. The lens you're using is much more important than the body. Also, if you're going to be shooting children outdoors I would suggest a longer lens than the 18-55mm, or at least one with more range. And I don't think anyone else mentioned that you should get yourself a fast SD card for those quick children. You may miss some fantastic shots if you're waiting for a slow card to write.
Enjoy your new DSLR!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 24, 2012 7:24:06 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 24, 2012 7:27:12 PM PDT
OTOH, spending $1000 on, say, the Canon 17-55 f2.8 IS USM, only to discover that 90% of one's preferred shooting needs either a shorter lens, or a longer lens.

The standard 18-55 kit lens at least lets one find out what focal length lens one really wants for the first "good lens". It spans the range from "just" wide angle to "just" portrait. If one finds they mostly do portraits, then something like a 28-75mm f2.8 would be a candidate. OTOH, if one favors large landscapes, a 12-24 (or even the shorter ultrawides) would be something to buy.

After all, everyone now paeans the ubiquitous 50mm f1.8 lens... 30 years ago, THAT lens was "the kit lens" on new cameras -- with the cheaper lens coatings yet (Canon SC coating rather than SSC).

Posted on Mar 24, 2012 8:11:07 PM PDT
k. sandmann says:
Okay I guess I'll just say something opinionated - feel free to take it as a overbearing opinionated remark. For your first lens based on your desire to shoot :-( rug rats in quality get the 18-135 its the best overall compromise.

If you list more or different requirements my recommendation will likely change.

I own more than a couple of lenses, I bought a refurbished 18-135 for my t2i and got another with my 60D. Both are great lenses. While not my best glass I think they are very fine lenses and a very good value and perhaps the best value.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 25, 2012 6:01:26 AM PDT
Tom Martin says:
@ Sandman - I agree given the current Canon T3i pricing the 18-135 kit lens is the way to go. But, it is still a kit lens, and the whole concept that you should never buy a kit lens is in my mind bad advice.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 25, 2012 7:01:19 AM PDT
It would be wise if you buy the kit with the 18-55 mm or the kit with 18-135 mm kit. Canon T3i is also capable of taking video clips so it,s yes for choosing it.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 26, 2012 3:57:14 AM PDT
RogerC says:
I think this is a sensible advice. I bought Canon 500D with the kit lens and it was fine for a while but the quality is not as good as better lens ie; Sigma 17mm-50/70mm F2.8 or Canon 50mm F2.5 Macro.

Buy the body and buy a Canon 50mm F2.5 Macro then decide if you want to go for a zoom. Sigma lenses are good and alot cheaper than Canon. Quality of pictures are very, very good and for the price, you can't go wrong unless you intend to go into a "serious mode".

Then body and lenses will increase significantly.... Good Luck! Start having fun first - save your $100 on kit lens and go for a better standard lens or Sigma/Tamron lenses - pictures are a lot better than kit lens.
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Discussion in:  Photography forum
Participants:  16
Total posts:  34
Initial post:  Mar 21, 2012
Latest post:  Aug 27, 2012

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