One college photography teacher recently banned 18-55mm kit lenses from her classes. You read that right – not recommended against them, not suggested alternatives, but completely forbid her students to use them in her classes. As you can imagine, this has sparked outrage in the photo community. And as you can probably guess – I’d have something to say about it, too.
A student at the aforementioned college shared the syllabus of his photography course on Reddit. Here’s what it reads:
“The 18-55mm kit lenses that come with entry level, crop sensor DSLR’s are NOT good quality. You are required to have the insurance for this class and since most assignments require a trip to the cage for lighting gear, I am also blocking the use of these lenses. You are talented enough by this point to not compromise your image quality by using these sub-par lenses. Student work from this class has been licensed commercially as stock photography, but if you shoot with an 18-55mm lens, you are putting your work at a serious disadvantage quality wise. You are not required to BUY a different lens, but you are required to use something other than this lens. You should do everything within your power to never use these lenses again.”
Oh boy, where do I start? First, let’s clarify the stock photography part because it has caused some confusion in the community. From what I understood, student’s photos don’t belong to the college. The teacher merely suggests that they could sell them on stock photography sites, it’s not the college that sells students’ work.
But let’s move on to the kit lenses. Banned from classes, why?! Sure, a kit lens isn’t the best option in the world. But for many students, it’s the only option. Not everyone can afford to buy high-end lenses that are “good enough” while still in college. Sure, the teacher says that they don’t need to buy them, but renting them is still a hassle and it costs money. I’m saying this from the point of view of a student, which I once was too. Most of us barely keep ends meet in college, I sure as hell wouldn’t buy or rent another lens if I had a kit one in perfectly good shape!
Then, speaking as a photographer, I still think a kit lens is a great option while still learning. In fact, I wish I had a DSLR and a kit lens when I attended a photography course. I only had a point-and-shoot camera, and guess what – my teacher still taught me the basics. And I still acquired them and expanded my knowledge later.
Finally, speaking as a former teacher myself – I’m sorry, but this sounds like something a bad teacher would do. First of all, this person sounds detached from her students and their needs and possibilities. Also, if you teach your students right, they’ll apply the knowledge they have to any gear. And I believe that the point is to teach them to make the best out of their kit lenses, not to force them to buy or rent something that’s “good enough.”
So, what are these students to do if they want to attend the class? In Dave McKeegan’s wonderfully “ranty” video, I stumbled upon a few solutions, some of which I had in mind as well. An 18-55mm kit lens doesn’t work? How about an 18-135mm or 18-105mm? Some Nikon and Canon cameras come in a kit with those lenses, so if you opt for that option, I guess you’re good to go. If you have a Sony camera, it comes with a 16-50mm lens so this one is probably good, too. Alternatively, you can buy a camera body and get any vintage zoom lens that isn’t 18-55mm. Finally, it crossed my mind that you can make some kind of crap lens or “Crapinon” like this one. As long as it’s not 18-55mm, right?
If I were a student in this class, I would buy the crappiest and cheapest lens I could get and go with that. I was subtly rebellious like that when I was younger. How would you handle it?