Travel Photography with a Kit Zoom Lens

Sometimes when we buy a camera, a standard kit zoom lens is included in the package. The quality of these lenses can vary quite a bit and some folks rarely, if ever, use them. This article features a selection of images captured by my wife during our last trip to New Zealand. All of her images were taken hand-held with a Nikon 1 V3 equipped with a 1 Nikkor 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD kit zoom lens.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Tairua, New Zealand, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD @ 19 mm, efov 51.3 mm, f/5.6, 1/160, ISO-160

The Nikon 1 V3 with a 10-30 mm PD zoom is my wife’s preferred setup. She likes the convenience of the PD zoom turning itself on and off automatically. Of the three models of Nikon 1 bodies we own  (V2, V3, J5) she likes the V3 the best as it provides both an EVF and tilt screen, as well as a horizon levelling graphic.

View from Colville Road, New Zealand, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD @ 11 mm, efov 29.7 mm, f/6.3, 1/500, ISO-160

We enjoy driving holidays so we can plan our own route and do some exploring on back roads. When we stop to capture some images we sometimes go in opposite directions as we can be attracted to different things. We often discuss the composition aspects of specific images as we view them on the rear screens of our cameras.

Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD @ 26 mm, efov 70.2 mm, f/6.3, 1/400, ISO-160

My wife will typically ask for some feedback on her photographs, and is always open to comments and suggestions.

Hobbiton Movie Set Tour location, New Zealand, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/6.3, 1/320, ISO-160

I seldom use the 1 Nikkor 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD kit zoom lens as I typically use the 10-100 f/4-5.6 non PD zoom instead. After we return from a trip and I have a chance to work on her images in post, I always tell myself that I should use that kit zoom lens more often. She always seems to get good results with it.

Kayaker at Okere Falls, New Zealand, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD @ 18 mm, efov 48.6 mm, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-160

Working with images captured with the V3/10-30 mm PD zoom combination does take a bit longer in post when compared to J5 images. I find I need to dig a bit more to get as much highlight and shadow detail as possible.

Castlepoint, New Zealand, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD @ 25 mm, efov 67.5 mm, f/11, 1/200, ISO-160

I also have to do more colour enhancements than I typically would with a Nikon 1 J5 file. This is understandable given the differences between the 18.4 MP sensor in the Nikon 1 V3, and the 20.8 MP BSI sensor in the Nikon 1 J5 in terms of dynamic range and colour depth.

Castlepoint, New Zealand, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD @ 23 mm, efov 62.1 mm, f/11, 1/160, ISO-160

When working on her photographs in post I like to block out enough time to be able to stick with them until I have them completed. That allows me to get into a ‘zone’, rather than having to adjust my post processing approach back and forth between V3 and J5 files.

Herbertville, New Zealand, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD @ 17 mm, efov 45.9 mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-400

I often experiment with her photographs in post and inevitably learn something new. For example, I did some experimentation with the Dynamic Contrast control in Color Efex Pro 4 (this is part of the Nik Collection). I quite liked how this control could be used to give her images more definition and the colours a bit more pop. I will likely use this control for a lot more of my images in the future.

Mangawhai Heads Beach, New Zealand, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD @ 24 mm, efov 64.8 mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-160

Travelling with camera gear can be a challenge, and many of us try to keep our gear as small and light as possible. Kit zoom lenses usually cover the most commonly used focal lengths, making them useful for travel photography.

Mangawhai Heads Beach, New Zealand, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD @ 20 mm, efov 54 mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-160

A kit zoom lens may not be our favourite lens, but it can come in handy. Of course that assumes that we are confident that it can produce acceptable quality images.

The Stone Store & Kemp House – Kerikeri Mission Station 1822, New Zealand, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD @ 11 mm, efov 29.7 mm, f/5.6, 1/500, ISO-160

If you have an upcoming trip and haven’t pulled out that kit zoom lens you haven’t used in a dog’s age… it may be a good idea to give it another try. Who knows… it may find its way back into your travel camera kit.

If you enjoyed the images in this article and are interested in viewing more New Zealand information and photographs, you may enjoy our eBook, New Zealand Tip-to-Tip. It is available for purchase and download at a cost of $12.99 Canadian.

Technical Note:
All photographs in this article were captured hand-held in available light using Nikon 1 gear as per the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO PhotoLab, CS6 and the Nik Collection.

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Article is Copyright 2019 Thomas Stirr. All images are Copyright 2018 Rosemary Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication or adaptation of any kind is allowed without written consent. If you see this article reproduced anywhere else it is an unauthorized and illegal use. Posting comments on offending websites and calling out individuals who steal intellectual property is always appreciated!

8 thoughts on “Travel Photography with a Kit Zoom Lens”

    1. Thanks David… I will be sure to Let her know about your positive comment! I think she has a very good eye for photography and often sees things that I miss.


  1. Hi Tom,

    I agree with you and your wife’s photographic treats are enough proofs what kit lens can do at the hands/eyes of someone who can tap into their creative possibilities.

    While I understand the usual bias against kit lenses, these are in no way, totally useless. When I got into digital photography with a Nikon D70 way back in 2004, all I had for a year or so was the 18-70mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. Having just one lens can be a lesson in disciplining oneself in learning what is possible with that narrow range of zoom. In the olden days, this is even narrower, learning to shoot using primes (physically adjusting oneself instead of zooming in or out).


    1. Thanks for adding to the discussion Oggie! It is interesting how different people perceive using a zoom lens. Some folks view a zoom lens as an ‘easy’ way to compose and image, rather than thinking about a zoom lens as a collection of prime lenses that they are holding in their hand at any given moment. When I’ve done photography coaching, especially with less experienced photographers, I’ve stressed the point that shooting with a zoom lens does not preclude someone from using their feet when composing a photograph. Once people understand how focal length impacts depth-of-field and the compression in a photograph, they are far more likely to still use their feet when composing images with a zoom lens.


  2. I think a lot of people dismiss kit lenses too quickly. Providing you can manage with the aperture range they are good value, not too big, or heavy.

    I’m trying to encourage my wife to share in the joy of photography….let’s just say she doesn’t quite have the same enthusiasm for it as I do… ?

    1. Hi Mark,

      Thanks for adding to the discussion! I agree that many people dismiss kit lenses too quickly. While the optical and build quality can vary between manufacturers and lenses, many of them are quite good, especially given their cost.

      My wife doesn’t share my level of enthusiasm for photography either. Certainly switching over to a smaller, more simple camera system has made a big difference for her. I’m sure if I was still shooting with full frame DSLRs that she would be intimidated by the gear and would not be taking any pictures at all.


  3. These photos are excellent. You are a great teacher and she is a wonderful student! Seems like a great lens/camera combo for her! You need to share her photos more often.

    1. Hi Joni,

      I will let her know that you enjoyed her photographs! My wife does seem to have an affinity for the V3 with the 10-30 PD lens. I would love to share more images… she just needs to find the time to do more photography. Typically she only takes some photos when we are travelling. I think she has a good eye for photography… but I am biased!


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