zoom vs prime

12 years 9 months ago #48996 by T Wolf
What are the pros/cons to having a prime and what are the pros/cons to having a zoom lens?

I only have a 18-55 kit lens, although it's a zoom, I don't feel I am getting my worth out of it, to understand the pros for having a zoom lens.


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12 years 9 months ago #49001 by IIIM
Pro to zoom lens- Less walking to take the shot and get more shots without taking too much time fumbling with lens changing

Pro to prime lens-will usually produce better quality bokeh and can take more shots in lower light situations


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12 years 9 months ago #49011 by Baydream
It ALL depends on what you want to capture with your photography. Decide THAT before you decide what your next lens is.

Shoot, learn and share. It will make you a better photographer.
fineartamerica.com/profiles/john-g-schickler.html?tab=artwork

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12 years 9 months ago #49029 by McBeth Photography
I would say that a person would want to have both. When I don't need the zoom lens I'm reaching for a prime lens rather quickly.

I see on your profile that you have a D50, thats good, it enables you to try a few used lenses here and there which will give you a feeling for the focal lengths that you want before you lay down your money on the latest versions of lenses.

One recommendation that I would make is to pick up a AF Nikkor 50mm f1.8D, on your D50 it is a good focal length for group shots and portraits and it is very light making it a good walk around lens. The best part is you can get a brand new one for about $130 US. I believe that every Nikon amateaur should have one in their bag. Also makes a great low-light lens.

Both zooms and primes have their place, so I will agree with Baydream ...."It ALL depends on what you want to capture with your photography. Decide THAT before you decide what your next lens is. "

It is what it is.
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12 years 9 months ago #49440 by Stealthy Ninja
Zooms = versatile
Primes = faster (usually)

Sharpness = depends. Some zooms are sharper than primes.
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12 years 9 months ago #49786 by Solstar
You've gotten good answers! I might add that my first prime helped me improve my photography a lot. No zoom meant I had to think about my composition a lot more, move my feet and change how I composed. The razor thin (potentially) depth of field allowed my to compose in new ways by controlling what was in focus as well as what was in frame. I use my primes tons, especially since I prefer to avoid a flash as much as possible.


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12 years 9 months ago - 12 years 9 months ago #50949 by Henry Peach
Prime lenses are often faster (larger max aperture), smaller, and cheaper. When you need the extra exposure or want really shallow DOF then you've got to have large aperture options. As someone who carries cameras all day there is a lot to be said about small and light too!

Zoom lenses offer focal length flexibility. You may hear people claim that zooms make photographers lazy, but I wouldn't blame the gear. Lazy folks aren't going to explore the scene no matter what lens they are using. Passionate folks will. Perspective is controlled by the camera's location relative to the scene/subject. Focal length controls magnification and in-camera cropping. With a prime lens I may be forced to crop out of camera to get the perspective and crop I want. With a range of focal lengths I can usually crop in-camera with the perspective I want. With today's large megapixel counts there's usually nothing wrong with cropping out of camera, but it's still nice to take advantage of as much of the sensor as possible.

In comparisons between my prime lenses (all Canon) and my f/2.8 zooms (Canon, Sigma, and Tamron) I cannot see a significant difference in sharpness. I've even compared them with the zooms at max aperture, and the primes stopped down several stops (f/2.8 zooms compared to f/1.4 primes at f/2.8 ) which common wisdom says I should be able to see the difference in sharpness. I can't, and neither can the photographers who I've shown the samples to. I've also considered bokeh, and asked other photographers to give me their opinion on my comparison examples. The prime lens bokeh is not always the winner. Zoom lenses have become amazingly good in the last decade.
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12 years 9 months ago #51032 by Frank The Tank

Henry Peach wrote: Prime lenses are often faster (larger max aperture), smaller, and cheaper. When you need the extra exposure or want really shallow DOF then you've got to have large aperture options. As someone who carries cameras all day there is a lot to be said about small and light too!

Zoom lenses offer focal length flexibility. You may hear people claim that zooms make photographers lazy, but I wouldn't blame the gear. Lazy folks aren't going to explore the scene no matter what lens they are using. Passionate folks will. Perspective is controlled by the camera's location relative to the scene/subject. Focal length controls magnification and in-camera cropping. With a prime lens I may be forced to crop out of camera to get the perspective and crop I want. With a range of focal lengths I can usually crop in-camera with the perspective I want. With today's large megapixel counts there's usually nothing wrong with cropping out of camera, but it's still nice to take advantage of as much of the sensor as possible.

In comparisons between my prime lenses (all Canon) and my f/2.8 zooms (Canon, Sigma, and Tamron) I cannot see a significant difference in sharpness. I've even compared them with the zooms at max aperture, and the primes stopped down several stops (f/2.8 zooms compared to f/1.4 primes at f/2.8 ) which common wisdom says I should be able to see the difference in sharpness. I can't, and neither can the photographers who I've shown the samples to. I've also considered bokeh, and asked other photographers to give me their opinion on my comparison examples. The prime lens bokeh is not always the winner. Zoom lenses have become amazingly good in the last decade.


Excellent post, I couldn't have said it better!


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