Some serious questions about serious compacts and system cameras

Jock Elliott

Hall of Famer
Jan 3, 2012
Troy, NY
In my post about my experience with the Canon T5 and the kit lenses -- -- Luke said a couple of interesting things:

- "the long end the Canon 70-300 (or any other bundled telephoto lens for that matter) will always be soft."

My reaction: this makes total sense. Canon is trying to deliver a bundle at a price and make money at the same time, and the average consumer who is not doing comparison shots will likely be happy with the results.


- "The problem you will likely find when comparing a superzoom to any ILC camera with the kit lenses is that your Panasonic has the best lens available for the system permanently attached to it."

My reaction: this also makes sense. Since the Panasonic FZ200 has a "captured" lens, it's probably optimized for the camera through hardware and software.

In my mind this raises some serious questions:

- Are there any ILC cameras with kit lenses (not necessarily telephotos) that are really good? Or are they all placeholders until the user can afford to buy decent lenses? I'm thinking here about the basic kit lenses that come with the GX7, A6000, etc.

- Do ILC cameras "know" which lens is attached and apply any software tweaks based on which lens is fixed to the camera at the time?

If I am thinking about this in entirely the wrong way, please feel free to educate me.

Cheers, Jock


Hall of Famer
Nov 12, 2010
1. Among mirrorless / CSC cameras, I think the Fuji 18-50 is the only kit lens that's consistently described very enthusiastically. Some others are perfectly decent (both the majority of m43's myriad of 14-fortysomethings and the new powerzoom for E-mount, for instance), and some are meh (the original sony 18-55 was not bad per se, but also not great, especially on the newer higher resolution sensors).
2. yes. Sometimes they apply the tweaks to the raw files as well, but not always. Tweaks to the jpegs based on the lens profile are universal.


Jan 16, 2014
In my opinion the X-E2 and XF 18-55mm is a very good combination und belongs not to the cheap kit lenses.
I think every lens on a modern camera of the same manufacturer is corrected by firmware. E. g. it is known that the change of m4/3 lenses between Olympus and Panasonic bodies lead to purple fringing because the correction for the foreign lenses is not activated.
Nov 11, 2011
Milwaukee, WI USA
I don't have much to add, but my experience with the Fuji 18-55 was that the results always impressed. At the time I was using Fuji, I was of the mind set that zooms were all a compromise and primes were for REAL MEN. As I used it more and more, I realized that those last couple ounces of IQ you get from a prime lens compared to a really good zoom are really nice, but I also learned that a really good zoom is much better than a cheap one. And that REAL MEN can and should use a zoom when the situation calls for it.

Also, despite it's magnification power (usually creating more of a compromise) , I always felt that the Pentax 18-135mm (sometimes sold as a kit lens) was pretty impressive, but I can't say I'm the type to read DXO mark lens profile charts or anything so take that with a grain of salt.

Actually spending some time at that website (though it may fry your brain) should show you which kit lenses are better than others (I think)
This all comes down to what your definition of a good lens is.

Are you looking for the most sharp lens possible, no matter the cost? What are your expectations of sharpness? Many images with kit lenses are plenty sharp for sharing online to friends and family members and printing out small 5x7's. However for serious professional work, they start showing issues. It all depends on your expectations and intended audience.

While many kit lenses are plenty good, the manufacturers are looking to keep the cost down when you are looking at a new system. Rarely are you going to see the top end lens placed on a system at the store. Many times these might be included as a bundle, but not as a basic kit.

Ray Sachs

Sep 21, 2010
Not too far from Philly
you should be able to figure it out...
The EM1 and EM10 have been sold in kits with the 12-40 f2.8, which is a little bit more than a lot better than your typical kit lens. Even the 12-50, initially sold with the EM5 and really only intended as a kit lens, was a pretty great little lens - definitely not a FAST lens but optically pretty damn nice and a highly functional little piece of gear with a decent macro-ish setting also. The Fuji 18-55, as mentioned above, is an awesome lens. In the full frame world, the Nikon 24-85 is a great little kit lens (little by full frame zoom standards). The Nikon 24-120 f4 is supposed to be bundled as a kit with the new D750 and I can tell you that's a wonderful lens. I tend to hate zooms, but I love that one, just because it gives you a really good portrait range in addition to the wide and normal ranges you find in most kit zooms, and f4 on a full frame camera is actually quite useful for both low light and narrow DOF, particularly at the long end. There are definitely LOTS of cheap kit zooms out there that companies are selling just to move cameras and an awful lot of people will be happy with them. But there are better options out there too, even among those lenses sold as kits.



Hall of Famer
May 7, 2011
I don't think Canon sells 75-300 as a bundle, but there are enough shops doing that to give consumers a low price to bite. That is a film area lens. 70-300 IS lens came in the digital time w/ 6-8MP max cameras and it is a decent lens. Canon now has a better and pricy 70-300 L lens. Also Canon has a cheap kit lens 55-250mm for crop digitals which is very good and has fast af for video, but it will not give you the reach. You have to consider the tele reach if you are going to shoot birds. I have m43, so I looked for used cheap 43 legacy glass eg Sigma 50-500mm, which is again is the weakest at 500mm but give me enough reach w/ 2x m43:

Oly 75-300mm reach
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

Sigma 50-500mm, manual focus on gx7 (af works with em1) and a little better lighting, again not maybe Canon 500mm prime sharp but I paid $500 for it:
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

So image stabilization, high ISO, and reach is important for birding, since the most of the teles are slowest at the end. Now Tamron and Sigma has 600mm f/6.3 consumer zooms, but only Canon and Nikon have them and Sony versions will come later. They don't do 43/m43 production any more. Fuji doesn't have the long reach zooms either. Sony has adapters for dslr lenses, but no stabilization except a few Sigma lenses with OS(opt stabilization). So consider that for a long term system... Also tele lenses get heavy, so Nikon 1+new 70-300 lens might be a good compromise for reach and size. It could be perfect if they had the Sony 1" sensor high ISO. Also Nikon's old consumer lenses might not be the best for the 2.7x system.


Hall of Famer
Aug 7, 2011
Jersey Shore
Do ILC cameras "know" which lens is attached and apply any software tweaks based on which lens is fixed to the camera at the time?
I would say this is true of a lot of ILC's these days. Certainly micro four thirds. That's why whenever a new lens is introduced, there is usually a firmware update for all of the micro four-thirds cameras. The update allows the camera body to recognize the lens and apply whatever software tweaks the manufacturer advises. There are also lens software updates that work in conjunction with the camera body. Some of these tweaks may be applied to raw capture but all of them are applied to jpgs. Even my Pentax DSLRs get firmware updates when new lenses are introduced.


Serious Compacts For Life
Dec 15, 2011
I don't see any need to think in terms of "kit lens". If you want to compare a superzoom to a DSLR + lens combo consider what your needs are and your budget and compare away.

Jock Elliott

Hall of Famer
Jan 3, 2012
Troy, NY
I don't see any need to think in terms of "kit lens". If you want to compare a superzoom to a DSLR + lens combo consider what your needs are and your budget and compare away.
It was couched in terms of kit lens because the original set of question were the result of my unfortunate experience with a Canon T5 and two bundled lenses.

Cheers, Jock

Kin Lau

Oct 23, 2012
I have the 24-105/4 'kit lens' for my 5D, which is probably the nicest one out there. The 14-140 that came with my GH1, and was in fact not even sold separately at the time is also a very good 'kit lens'.


New Member
Sep 13, 2014
Here we go....

- Are there any ILC cameras with kit lenses (not necessarily telephotos) that are really good?


Or are they all placeholders until the user can afford to buy decent lenses?


- Do ILC cameras "know" which lens is attached and apply any software tweaks based on which lens is fixed to the camera at the time?

Usually, yes.

I am not trying be cheeky. You asked specific questions, those are specific answers.

With that out of the way, I wonder if, with regards to the first and second question, are you actually looking for examples (like the oft cited Fuji in the comments) to prove the point or are you looking for a specific recommendation. In either case (and again, as others have posted), it's hard to respond without knowing what you mean by decent. Are you seeking MTF or DXO style bench testing numbers; aperture size and design that allows not only the creation of bokeh, but pleasing bokeh; high magnification (in the face of macro/micro market speak) at some useful focal length (i,e, short tele or longer); step-less/click-less silent aperture and silent zooming for video; bright, large f-stop for low light-size be damned or size in proportion the ILC/ML bodies with an okay f stop; zoom vs prime (i.e. Fuji zoom vs EOS M 22 prime--both well regarded); or a general lens that does everything okay and has no glaring faults.

Going with the general lens that does everything okay and has no glaring faults is what you mean by decent and assuming that you're not looking at any of the hi-res sensors (greater than 16MP) or the Sony FF mirrorless, I think that most of what you find on the market today is probably better that the non-IS/VR DSLR kit lenses on entry level DSLRs. When you look at the twin lens kits, I think it's almost certainly true.

When I am asked this question by people who are buying a new camera my response is usually, "Hey, the kit lens only adds $XX (usually not much for ILC/ML) to the price, if you don't like it you can upgrade later and if you wait for a lens sale, you'll probably be better off financially. After all, you may decide you don't even like the ILC/ML camera, regardless of lens." I say this knowing most photographers limitations (especially beginners or frequent camera switchers) have nothing to do with the lens and their pictures won't really look better with a more expensive lens until they really fine tune their technique. Most lenses are spectacularly better on digital sensors with software correction than anything you could afford 15-20 years ago and they were taking great photos then too. You of course, may not be in that group and I don't mean to place you there. But for those who are, practice and a couple of classes (good classes) are a better investment when buying a new camera.

With regard to your last question about software correction applied by the camera because it knows the lens, this is an area where opinions rage. Here is mine.

First, lens corrections via software for OOC jpgs is common across the board, whether mirror or mirrorless. It's pretty much a given in m4/3 and really common in APS-C ILC/ML cameras. It's WAY cheaper to design a good lens and make it better via software correction than it is to make a better lens optically. So you get a better lens output at lower cost.

Second, lens corrections via software can be baked into RAW files too. Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw (and other some other RAW processors) tend to recognise that by default (and it's why many camera/lens combos don't seem to have a lens correction listed--because LR and ACR are using the lens correction data embedded in the RAW file. However if you run the same RAW file through some other RAW processors that don't use the embedded software correction, then bingo--you get distortion, chromatic aberration and other issues that the software in the camera would normally take care of. You now get to do it by hand.

Third, the user world breaks out into several groups on in-camera lens software corrections.
Those who don't even know or care that it is happening.
Those who know and are happy that lens performance is improved.
Those who are intensely angry that the lens maker is tricking them by giving them better performance than the lens is capable of with software correction.
Those who are intensely angry that the lens imperfections are corrected in the RAW file, as this is somehow impure.
Note that people can be in both group 3 & 4 at the same time.

As you can guess, I am in group 2.

So overall, despite my ponderous reply, here is my bottom line to the overarching issue in the OP.

ML bridge cameras with largish sensors may often come with a better lens (especially after software correction) than the kit lenses in DSLR kits. In many picture taking situations they can rival or exceed the results you get with a DSLR that has a dodgy kit lens (not all do). In other picture taking situations--even with the dodgy kit lens--the DSLR will win out.

ILC camera kit lenses (with a couple of notable exceptions) are not place holder lenses--as compared to DSLRs bundled with dodgy kit lenses (which doesn't mean all DSLR kit lenses, and it's mostly at the lower end, entry level where the kit lenses can be bad).

Most photographers (not necessarily most photographers here in PL/SC) need to up their game to the level of their kit lens before they worry about their glass.

Cheers JSD

Oh, Here's a low res sample from an RX100--I did not feel limited by the lens, but may have been if it had been an entry level DSLR with a dodgy kit lens.


Jock Elliott

Hall of Famer
Jan 3, 2012
Troy, NY

Thanks for your detailed and high-level approach to the questions posed. And, no, I didn't think you were being cheeky at all.

I currently own four cameras: an Olympus D550 (now 13 years old, I think, and still working and which I used to take hundreds of photos that were published in magazines), an FZ150 (now my wife's camera), a G12, and an FZ200.

I tend to go after three types of images.

The grandeur of the skies:


or the odd thing that catches my eye:

Whatever I am after,though, I want a sharp image if at all possible. And, like you, I don't care how I get there. If the lens does it, the software does it, or there are seven dwarves in the back room hand-retouching the images, I don't care, but I want sharp if I can get it. With the wildlife shots, however, like the eagle shot above, often the only way to even remotely close enough is to settle for full optical and full digital zoom, which means pretty crappy technical image quality.

My original questions were prompted by my suspicion that maybe fixed-lens cameras enjoyed a technical advantage -- that, because the lens is fixed, the designers could then optimally tweak the software for best resulting image quality. Based on your kind response -- and many others in this thread -- maybe that assumption is not so.

Thanks again for your reply.

Cheers, Jock


New Member
Sep 13, 2014
Hi Jock,

Ahh, I see what you're after now. And (IMO) with the RX10 and FZ1000 I think you'll get better results and more reach, especially with the FZ1000, than you'd get with most typical dslr single lens kit(s) and for just the reason you expected. Certainly it would be hard to put together a dslr kit at that price point (around $8-900 street) that would match for the long wildlife shots. But, if your wallet can do it, there are plenty of DSLR and M43 combos that can beat the RX10 and FZ1000, they just cost more. It all comes down to what's decent enough for you. I see you are a DXO fan. Me too, for 10+ years. And I like skies too (Canon EOS M with kit 22mm prime-great landscape lens). Cheers JSD


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