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Thread: Zoom or Prime Lens?

  1. #1
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    Smile Zoom or Prime Lens?

    I notice that the pictures samples captured by prime lens are really sharp. I think this is the reason for their price tag. I have noted that the wide primes are steeply priced which cost as much as the zoom counterparts. Does this means that with primes, we are to adopt the shoot first and crop later workflow?

    Is there any landscape photographer out there who can share his experience? Is prime a good option for the landscape job?

    Mike

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    Not really true, for the Nikkor AF-S 17-35 f/2.8, it's matchable or even better than primes at the same range.

    There are some zooms which can compete with the primes in it's equiv range.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikenth
    I notice that the pictures samples captured by prime lens are really sharp. I think this is the reason for their price tag. I have noted that the wide primes are steeply priced which cost as much as the zoom counterparts. Does this means that with primes, we are to adopt the shoot first and crop later workflow?

    Is there any landscape photographer out there who can share his experience? Is prime a good option for the landscape job?

    Mike

    Hi Mike,

    If you look at magazines of people who shoot beautiful landscapes from a few years back (there is no 1Ds Mk I or II), these are people who used Medium Format or Large Format cameras, where most of the lens are primes. In fact zoom lens for MF and LF are only starting to be available probably in the last few years. Do primes only restricted their images? No, but they can work around it like some cropping and getting another angle, which might in fact be better. Does it change the fact that you get still get excellent photos with primes, now that there are zooms? Yes, you still get excellent photos with primes, just that you have to zoom with your legs or crop later.

    Personally, I do not think you should compare the price tag and the performance you can get with primes. Primes are normally as fast or faster than their expensive high quality zooms in terms of aperture. For example, a 85/1.8 + 135/2.0 + 200/2.8 is a set to replace the 70-200/2.8. Yes, you get more weight overall, paid more but you also do get faster, lighter per lens' weight, better quality and better bokeh generally.

    For doing landscape, of course you must have a range of primes to make sure you crop the least. Ever wonder why a landscape photographer can bring over 60 pounds of gear, which includes 2 bodies, lens, heavy tripod, xx sheets of slide film and other stuff? I would think they will being zoom lens to reduce the weight if there are any good ones. So primes are not really good options or not, it can be a 2 edges sword that works for and against you. If you are a slow shooter like me, changing lens is not that time consuming and I think personally it is a good option.

    Christopher

  5. #5

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    I think it also depends on your shooting style. Zooms are convenient, but sometimes you could end up not being able to decide which focal length to use. For primes, you would have already to a certain extent decided on the perspective of photos you are going to take before you mount the lens, thus you would shoot faster. My humble opinion.

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    If you're a newbie or an amateur, zoom is the way to go - the convenience, the cost and the weight.

    BTW, zoom lenses have gone thru' lots of development in the last 20 years or so, and it is still being developed and improved. The difference in optical quality is very marginal.
    I love big car, big house, big lenses, but small apertures.

  7. #7

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    Prime
    - cheap
    - light
    - fast
    - but only has 1 focal length

    Zoom
    - cheap/expensive
    - heavier
    - slow to fastest@f2.8
    - flexible in composition


    Of course for best result in term of quality, prime lens is better.
    See my Photo Gallery at the Clubsnap

  8. #8
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    Prime lens are generally lighter,smaller and faster than zoom lenses but at the expense of the obvious la..

    u dun get the same wide perspective of a 24mm by standing further behind and zoom in till the same framing.

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    well, for prime lens general you can get lens of bigger aperature <2.8... and generally at a cheaper price...
    but sometimes there will be a hazard of keep changing lens for different focal lengths.
    As for zooms, the biggest aperature is normally F/2.8 and normally it will cost a lot... but you have the convenience especially when you are taking an event and there will not be time to swap lens.

    When going for a trip, you may want to just go light and therefore only one lens and here zoom lens come in handy...
    for indoor situations when flash are not allowed, F/2.8 may not be enough and in these situations Prime lens with wide Aperature comes in handy...

    my 0.0002 cents

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    For shoots where you can take your time.
    Try prime lens. In time you will learn the perspective of it without looking through it.

    For fast pace shoots.... zoom is better.

    For newbie...eh.... my advice is start with 1 zoom (the kit lens) or 1 prime to master it's perspective before moving on add more lens.

    I like my 35/f2 for it's weight compare to any 28-70/f2.8 zoom.
    But for events.....guess which I will use most

  11. #11
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    I use my zoom lens most of the time for street shot as on a DSLR my 50mm become 80mm a bit hard to use...
    TO SEE, TO FEEL, TO PHOTOGRAPH.

  12. #12

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    When u don't know what lens u want, always best to start with cheap standard zoom lenses first. Know which aspect of photography that interests you first before investing in expensive high performance gear.

  13. #13

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    1 As a "rule" primes are sharper than zoom. There is no need to belabour this point. The mechanics/optics of zoom design requires more lens elements with more air/glass interfaces -> more aberrations

    2 Notwithstanding (1), zoom lenses are very good today, and short of some really trashy lenses, most zooms offer more than the average photographer's skills.

    3 There is an important point which people miss regarding prime versus zoom. This is the aperture especialy when you use a SLR, or any equipment that requires you to look through the lens. The wider aperture in primes allow for a brighter viewfinder and would be a great asses in low light situation.

    4 There is also another thing about zooming with legs versus barrel. Perspective. It is just different. Zoom is without question more convenient, but the perspective changes are very important in landscape photography. The lack of a zoom forces you to see better. Human nature. Heck! The lack of anything forces you to be creative! See how children in poorer countries entertain themselves!

    5 Someone once said "If you have many lenses, the one you have on your camera is always the wrong one!"

    Don't be obsessed about prime versus zoom. Take what you have , learn its characteristics, and go make some picutres.

    For me, I hope fungus have not got into my zoom lenses, even though they were carefully kept in dry boxes.

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