Kit lenses frequently get a bad reputation as it is, but one photography instructor took things to the next level and banned them from her course. As is typical on the internet, outrage ensued.
A photography instructor at a university in North Carolina included a statement in the syllabus that they will not allow 18-55mm kit lenses in the course and students must find another lens to use or buy. It is explained in the syllabus that student work from past semesters has been licensed commercially and says that the kit lenses are low quality and will put students at "a serious disadvantage quality-wise." As a former instructor myself, I have to be honest that I don't necessarily disagree with the ban on kit lenses. I do, however, disagree with her reasoning.
Yes, some kit lenses can be of terrible quality. However, for students learning (and even beyond that, really), they are totally sufficient in terms of quality. Giving their explanation of the potential for getting a commercial license as a reason why students may want to upgrade lenses, instead of being required to upgrade, would have been a much better decision, in my opinion. Kit lenses aren't the worst offenders for poor quality lenses either, so without giving specific advice as to what they should get instead, they aren't exactly setting students up for success. Without knowing what is covered in the course, it could also be a missed educational opportunity.
That said, there are better reasons for limiting the use of kit lenses from a photography course in my book. I have never been a fan of zoom lenses for students. When I took my introduction to photography courses we were required to have a 50mm lens. I then went on to teach in graduate school, where I had no say over curriculum or equipment lists, and students were allowed to use any lens, the majority of which ended up being zoom lenses (and most were kit lenses). Changing focal lengths with your lens results in changes to plenty of other things, so it becomes more that students have to think about and consider at once, or they don't and their images suffer as a result. This is especially true with kit lenses since they have a variable aperture. Their aperture will change when zooming in and out, and they won't necessarily be thinking about or realizing that.
Prime lenses are a much better choice for students in my experience. It allows them to focus on the absolute basics of photography and learn things in steps, as opposed to having to juggle multiple concepts right off the bat. It also can stretch their creativity and force them to adjust in different ways when they have a single focal length, instead of simply being able to zoom in (or out) to whatever they are photographing.
I want to wrap this up with a few closing thoughts. First, I absolutely understand that some students will only be able to afford a kit lens, or perhaps they already had one on a family camera. Excluding such an affordable and accessible option will then exclude certain students from taking part in the course, which I agree is never good. Second, I don't know where this course fits within the photography curriculum of this particular university. My thoughts above are geared towards introductory courses, not advanced courses. If students already have a firm grasp of exposure basics, what focal length means and controls, and other such key concepts, then have at the zoom lenses!
What are your thoughts on the ban of kit lenses in courses? Share below!