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Thread: Primes vs Zoom for Portraits in Enclosed Areas.

  1. #1

    Default Primes vs Zoom for Portraits in Enclosed Areas.

    I like to find out from the pros here regarding the usage of zooms and primes. If i were to shoot in a building with not much room, would using a zoom be better or a short focal prime? For example, the distance btw u and the model is less than 5m, what shld i use to capture a full length shot?

    I am contemplating getting a prime for the sharpness but no idea which one to get. Of course i can use my zoom lenses but the IQ just can't cut it.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Primes vs Zoom for Portraits in Enclosed Areas.

    IQ is not the limiting factor. Esp if you use L glass and shoot handheld. A prime may be better, but the convenience of using a zoom is a huge advantage.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Primes vs Zoom for Portraits in Enclosed Areas.

    Quote Originally Posted by waileong View Post
    IQ is not the limiting factor. Esp if you use L glass and shoot handheld. A prime may be better, but the convenience of using a zoom is a huge advantage.
    So i shld just stick with the zoom?

  4. #4

    Default Re: Primes vs Zoom for Portraits in Enclosed Areas.

    well, which lenses and focal lenghts are you thinking about? 35mm?

  5. #5

    Default Re: Primes vs Zoom for Portraits in Enclosed Areas.

    All things being equal, for pure IQ and lens speed at a give price range, a prime will always beat a zoom, and a manual focus will almost always beat an AF lens at a much lower price point. It's the physics of lens design and construction/limitations, not a snob appeal thingy.

    But for practical reasons, there may be times where a zoom is invaluable, even though it may be slower, have a lower IQ and costs tons more (for L glass at least). How much room is there to move around in if the place you mentioned is so small (aka, what's the real usefulness of the zoom in such a situation?)?

    The other time I can think of when a zoom becomes irreplaceable is when you want to go really wide, and are using a 1.5 or 1.6 crop body. Then the UWA zooms are like life (and pocket) savers.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Primes vs Zoom for Portraits in Enclosed Areas.

    Quote Originally Posted by hacknet View Post
    well, which lenses and focal lenghts are you thinking about? 35mm?
    yep. or 50?

  7. #7

    Default Re: Primes vs Zoom for Portraits in Enclosed Areas.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dream Merchant View Post
    All things being equal, for pure IQ and lens speed at a give price range, a prime will always beat a zoom, and a manual focus will almost always beat an AF lens at a much lower price point. It's the physics of lens design and construction/limitations, not a snob appeal thingy.

    But for practical reasons, there may be times where a zoom is invaluable, even though it may be slower, have a lower IQ and costs tons more (for L glass at least). How much room is there to move around in if the place you mentioned is so small (aka, what's the real usefulness of the zoom in such a situation?)?

    The other time I can think of when a zoom becomes irreplaceable is when you want to go really wide, and are using a 1.5 or 1.6 crop body. Then the UWA zooms are like life (and pocket) savers.
    u sort of answered the qns already. guess i will use my zoom this weekend.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Primes vs Zoom for Portraits in Enclosed Areas.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dream Merchant View Post
    All things being equal, for pure IQ and lens speed at a give price range, a prime will always beat a zoom, and a manual focus will almost always beat an AF lens at a much lower price point. It's the physics of lens design and construction/limitations, not a snob appeal thingy.
    Depends on whether it's a 2007 zoom vs a 1950 prime or not, and whether it's a new MF vs a new AF of the same focal length and max aperture. For Nikon, when AF lenses first came out, they were about the same price or cheaper than the manual counterparts. Of course, construction of the AF lenses is plastic instead of the solid metal construction of the MF lenses.

    But for practical reasons, there may be times where a zoom is invaluable, even though it may be slower, have a lower IQ and costs tons more (for L glass at least). How much room is there to move around in if the place you mentioned is so small (aka, what's the real usefulness of the zoom in such a situation?)?

    The other time I can think of when a zoom becomes irreplaceable is when you want to go really wide, and are using a 1.5 or 1.6 crop body. Then the UWA zooms are like life (and pocket) savers.
    If you're doing a shoot were you can take your time and you can afford a couple of good primes, then there should be no problems with using primes because most of them are able to give better bokeh and have faster maximum aperture than zooms.

    Zooms are mostly compromised because of the requirements to change the focal length, many engineers would optimize the lens to get sharpness over the entire focal length range than to care about bokeh. Having said that, some of the more expensive modern zooms have good bokeh also, but the price for these zooms could have bought you several faster primes.
    Last edited by lsisaxon; 1st November 2007 at 01:06 PM.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Primes vs Zoom for Portraits in Enclosed Areas.

    Actually, you highlighted one point that I was wrong about....

    Things cannot be equal, because fixed non-af primes are no longer being manufactured by say the major players like Canon or Nikon or perhaps Olympus (are they?). So the only comparison is between a FD 50mm 1.4 and an EF 50mm 1.4, which would put many years between them.

    Of course if you go further back before the advent of more powerful computers and multi-coating, and other ultra-precision technology, and take a pre-60s Nikkor 50mm 1.4, it might not compare to a 1980s version, or a current AF version. Similarly, a pre 60s 50mm 1.4 Nikkor may not be a match to a current premium AF Nikkor zoom that incorporates 50mm in it's range, but I doubt if you could get 1.4 in a zoom of that configuration.

    OK, let's put a cap on things and move ahead a little into the 'modern' era. If I were to take a 1980s Nikkor 50mm 1.4 and pitch that against a present Nikon AF 50mm 1.4, which do you think would give better IQ under the same exact test conditions? Switch brands out as apporpriate. FD for EF and OM for ZD and so on.

    I hope I'm not wrong, but I've always felt that the all metal and glass MF lenses from the MC era onwards pretty much could outperform an AF lens of a similar catagory (same era, or current) simply because physical tolerances are usually a lot tighter on the MF lens. I'm not sure about optical glass composition and coatings, but that might have an impact as well.

    Things get a lot more complicated when you start mixing brands .. like I have. What if you start pitching an OM 50mm 1.4 against an EF 50mm 1.4? Or a CZ YC 50mm 1.4 against a AF Nikkor 1.4? I guess if you rerally want to expand the comparisons, you could include medium format lenses, even though I've heard arguements that putting a CZ 80mm meant for a Blad on a 35mm body may not necessarily gain you sheer lpi as the medium format lenses were deisnged with a much larger film format (to compensate) and image circle in mind.

    You can tell I just came in from too much time in the sun. LOL!

  10. #10

    Default Re: Primes vs Zoom for Portraits in Enclosed Areas.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dream Merchant View Post
    Actually, you highlighted one point that I was wrong about....

    Things cannot be equal, because fixed non-af primes are no longer being manufactured by say the major players like Canon or Nikon or perhaps Olympus (are they?). So the only comparison is between a FD 50mm 1.4 and an EF 50mm 1.4, which would put many years between them.

    Of course if you go further back before the advent of more powerful computers and multi-coating, and other ultra-precision technology, and take a pre-60s Nikkor 50mm 1.4, it might not compare to a 1980s version, or a current AF version. Similarly, a pre 60s 50mm 1.4 Nikkor may not be a match to a current premium AF Nikkor zoom that incorporates 50mm in it's range, but I doubt if you could get 1.4 in a zoom of that configuration.

    OK, let's put a cap on things and move ahead a little into the 'modern' era. If I were to take a 1980s Nikkor 50mm 1.4 and pitch that against a present Nikon AF 50mm 1.4, which do you think would give better IQ under the same exact test conditions? Switch brands out as apporpriate. FD for EF and OM for ZD and so on.
    Honestly, I think they would not differ too much if they are of the same optical design although the newer lens might have the advantage of a better modern day multicoating which would improve the contrast and colour quite a bit.

    I hope I'm not wrong, but I've always felt that the all metal and glass MF lenses from the MC era onwards pretty much could outperform an AF lens of a similar catagory (same era, or current) simply because physical tolerances are usually a lot tighter on the MF lens. I'm not sure about optical glass composition and coatings, but that might have an impact as well.

    Things get a lot more complicated when you start mixing brands .. like I have. What if you start pitching an OM 50mm 1.4 against an EF 50mm 1.4? Or a CZ YC 50mm 1.4 against a AF Nikkor 1.4? I guess if you rerally want to expand the comparisons, you could include medium format lenses, even though I've heard arguements that putting a CZ 80mm meant for a Blad on a 35mm body may not necessarily gain you sheer lpi as the medium format lenses were deisnged with a much larger film format (to compensate) and image circle in mind.

    You can tell I just came in from too much time in the sun. LOL!
    Let's not venture too far back in time. Taking just one aspect of things, the corner to corner sharpness of a modern $600 Sigma 24/1.8EX beats that of the Nikon 28/1.4 until you stop the latter down to about f/4. In modern day optics, computer aided design and aspherical optics has opened up a lot of new posssibilities.
    Last edited by lsisaxon; 1st November 2007 at 03:06 PM.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Primes vs Zoom for Portraits in Enclosed Areas.

    I guess I'm just a romantic...

    I'm not didectic ... just stubborn (I hope). I still feel that the all metal and glass (non-aspherical) designs had tighter tolerances than a modern AF plastic variant. But I also realise that it cannot be generalised because one has to take into account very specific lenses, models, variations of the same model etc etc etc I just hope I don't fall prey to dogma and indoctrination and one day sprout the fatalistic 'You are not a real photographer unless you shoot a Leica'. Slap me silly if I do.

    Now, where did I put my hand-carved wooden computer key-board! LOL!

  12. #12

    Default Re: Primes vs Zoom for Portraits in Enclosed Areas.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dream Merchant View Post
    I guess I'm just a romantic...

    I'm not didectic ... just stubborn (I hope). I still feel that the all metal and glass (non-aspherical) designs had tighter tolerances than a modern AF plastic variant. But I also realise that it cannot be generalised because one has to take into account very specific lenses, models, variations of the same model etc etc etc I just hope I don't fall prey to dogma and indoctrination and one day sprout the fatalistic 'You are not a real photographer unless you shoot a Leica'. Slap me silly if I do.

    Now, where did I put my hand-carved wooden computer key-board! LOL!
    Hahaha... My dad still keep many MF lenses and I still love them, but being an engineer, I believe in measurement and visual results. Hard to believe otherwise. It's really hard to believe that modern zooms can even have quality which surpasses primes designed just a decade ago. The pace at which technology moves now is scary!! Once you missed the boat, you do get left behind.. Very unfortunate..

  13. #13

    Default Re: Primes vs Zoom for Portraits in Enclosed Areas.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dream Merchant View Post
    Things cannot be equal, because fixed non-af primes are no longer being manufactured by say the major players like Canon or Nikon or perhaps Olympus (are they?). So the only comparison is between a FD 50mm 1.4 and an EF 50mm 1.4, which would put many years between them.
    They are. Didn't Canon just launch a 50/1.2L and announce an 800 mm L prime lens?

  14. #14

    Default Re: Primes vs Zoom for Portraits in Enclosed Areas.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dream Merchant View Post
    Things cannot be equal, because fixed non-af primes are no longer being manufactured by say the major players like Canon or Nikon or perhaps Olympus (are they?). So the only comparison is between a FD 50mm 1.4 and an EF 50mm 1.4, which would put many years between them.
    They are. Didn't Canon just launch a 50/1.2L and announce an 800 mm L prime lens?

    While the IQ of a prime may theoretically be higher than a zoom, it's not an issue at this stage. Shooting handheld in an enclosed space with no room for a tripod, on a consumer DLSR is not going to take the resolution of the lens to the limit.
    Last edited by waileong; 2nd November 2007 at 08:38 PM.

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    Default Re: Primes vs Zoom for Portraits in Enclosed Areas.

    Quote Originally Posted by boredphuck View Post
    I like to find out from the pros here regarding the usage of zooms and primes. If i were to shoot in a building with not much room, would using a zoom be better or a short focal prime? For example, the distance btw u and the model is less than 5m, what shld i use to capture a full length shot?

    I am contemplating getting a prime for the sharpness but no idea which one to get. Of course i can use my zoom lenses but the IQ just can't cut it.
    Zoom or prime depends on your personal style and preferences. I had a normal zoom once. Found myself shooting at its widest and longest ends 95% of the time. Dumped zoom and got two primes: 24 mm and 85 mm and was happy ever since. Your mileage may vary.

    If you can control environment and can get closer/further from a model, you might be able to use a single prime lens. Which one? That depends on your camera system. In full frame format 85 mm lens suits well for full length portrait and 3/4, while 135 mm is good for headshots and 3/4, assuming you have those 5 meters and subjects are adults, not kids.

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    Default Re: Primes vs Zoom for Portraits in Enclosed Areas.

    Quote Originally Posted by waileong View Post
    They are. Didn't Canon just launch a 50/1.2L and announce an 800 mm L prime lens?
    He meant non-AF primes are no longer being manufactured. Although that's also not true. Leica still manufactures lenses for manual rangefinders, Carl Zeiss still manufactures lenses for Hasselblad V System, and Nikon makes excellent lenses for large format cameras (never heard of field camera with AF).

  17. #17

    Default Re: Primes vs Zoom for Portraits in Enclosed Areas.

    Thanks for clarifying that. And the point you made is entirely valid. I guess I was just romanticising.

    I was refering to the popular mass market (35mm body-based? How do you classify or refer to the current scope of bodies, not including range-finder, medium format and large format digitals? 35mm would not be correct unless the sensor is exactly the same size as a 135mm film frame, and most cameras have a 1.3, 1.5 or 1.6 crop) DSLR systems mainly. Sorry I didn't clarify that.
    Last edited by Dream Merchant; 2nd November 2007 at 10:00 PM.

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    Default Re: Primes vs Zoom for Portraits in Enclosed Areas.

    Quote Originally Posted by boredphuck View Post
    I like to find out from the pros here regarding the usage of zooms and primes. If i were to shoot in a building with not much room, would using a zoom be better or a short focal prime? For example, the distance btw u and the model is less than 5m, what shld i use to capture a full length shot?

    I am contemplating getting a prime for the sharpness but no idea which one to get. Of course i can use my zoom lenses but the IQ just can't cut it.
    In enclosed areas, I found myself wanting a bigger aperture as I didn't want to up ISO and I am not allowed to use flash, hence I choose prime over zoom.
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    Default Re: Primes vs Zoom for Portraits in Enclosed Areas.

    Quote Originally Posted by boredphuck View Post
    I like to find out from the pros here regarding the usage of zooms and primes. If i were to shoot in a building with not much room, would using a zoom be better or a short focal prime? For example, the distance btw u and the model is less than 5m, what shld i use to capture a full length shot?

    I am contemplating getting a prime for the sharpness but no idea which one to get. Of course i can use my zoom lenses but the IQ just can't cut it.
    It depends... if my zoom can give me the angle I need, I would use the zoom, if the prime can give me the angle I need, I'd use the prime.

    Full length shot? I'd go with my 24mm on my 1.5x crop camera.
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  20. #20

    Default Re: Primes vs Zoom for Portraits in Enclosed Areas.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hitz View Post
    Zoom or prime depends on your personal style and preferences. I had a normal zoom once. Found myself shooting at its widest and longest ends 95% of the time. Dumped zoom and got two primes: 24 mm and 85 mm and was happy ever since. Your mileage may vary.

    If you can control environment and can get closer/further from a model, you might be able to use a single prime lens. Which one? That depends on your camera system. In full frame format 85 mm lens suits well for full length portrait and 3/4, while 135 mm is good for headshots and 3/4, assuming you have those 5 meters and subjects are adults, not kids.
    oic. i guess if u have done your homework, primes are the way to go. however, i usually only bring 1 lens with me.

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