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Thread: Prime lenses, a good read for newbies =)

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    Default Prime lenses, a good read for newbies =)

    hi all,

    i wrote this for a photog group my friend started and thought that i d just share it here with you all. just my personal view of learning photography. you should consider this, but then again, photography is about expressing yourself so dont be afraid to go against this and form you re own style. =) to other guys and pros, pls feel free to use this thread to share your views and shooting styles as well =) anw, here it is:

    prime lenses are fixed focal length lenses theres no zoom to them. consequently, they re usually cheaper, have better optical quality and are quite alot faster(larger aperture). prime lenses are restrictive. and, event and press photography aside(those you almost need zooms for flexibility), are actually better than zooms- as a start point at least.

    one of the main aspects of composition is perspective. if u take the same area/thing for example a flower, at 50mm and 18mm, you ll notice that though the subject is the same size, the whole feel of the image is different. the subject isolation, front/back separation, whats in the bg, depth of field are all different.

    so heres the problem with zoom lenses. if you re new (i guess most of you are) and some thing is about 10-15 meters away, chances are, you ll zoom in and just snap. if its close, you ll just zoom out and snap. too far, just crop, too near, just compromise abit. so you understand focal length, but not perspective. dont worry, its normal, i ve been there. its ok if u just want to take a picture. and maybe one out of every 100 will have an interesting perspective.

    a prime however, forces you to think how you want to fit the subject in the frame. take a few steps forward, afew back, see how the lens renders the scene, its subjective, but it gets you thinking and forces you to imagine what you want the shot to be like. and makes you think 2ce or 3 or 4 or5 times before releasing the shutter. and has made me just forget it and walk away cos its just not worth shooting.


    anw, better practiced than read so ill list afew. i dun suppose anyones shooting fullframe or film, so i ll write in terms of cropped sensors =)

    a 35mm translates(with 1.5X crop) to 50mm eqv field of view in other words, it gives the same field of view as a 50mm on film or fullframe cameras. its considered a 'normal lens' cos it matches the perspective of the human eye. now.. cos of that, it might be boring, ut if used correctly, can make a person feel involved in the scene cos its the same perspective. good one to get would be e nikkor 35mm af-s f1.8. i use a 1960s 35 f2.0.

    50mm will translate to about 75mm eqv. now, though 50mms are the cheapest, and are really nice on film, due to the crop factor, they re abit not here not there. but, they re decent for street photography and half body portraits. also, they are relatively fast with f1.8 and 1.4. and wont really break your bank. good for low light applications. the 50mm f1.8 from nikon is only about $180 and is a v good start point.

    moving upwards you have telephotos like 85, 105, 135, 200. i recommend the 100/105 as a second lens. this is after you ve spent a good 3-4 months with only the 50. a 100 will give you a closer crop, its not just about getting extra reach. now you have shallower depth of field, and you see less of the bg than if you were to take it with your 50mm. and it makes subjects seem closer together than we see with our eye. its 'tighter' so to speak. its a new perspective to get used to. better for head and shoulder portraits. most of them double up as macro lenses as well.. but macro is another long story. they re also nice for street photography.

    going downwards, a 20,24 or 28mm would do nicely. wide angles exaggerate perspectives. making the foreground seem further apart from they background than what our eyes usually see(wide angle effect). dof is greater. wide angle photography is difficult. you have so much more in your frame, so much more to manage and compose. but if done well they re usually more impressive or impactful so to speak. this one you ll have to go experiment n see.

    anyway, say now you ve got a 24,35 and 85/100mm and you know how to use them and the characteristics of not only the focal length, but also the lens itself(contrast, flare, sharpness and dof). then now you understand more about perspective and you ll be able to use your zoom lens more effectively. you ll find that you start using weird in between focal lengths instead of just the longest or widest setting. you ll be able to tell when to use 3.5 or 5.6 or 8. and you ll probably shoot alot better.

    and you ll probably have more meaningful photos. not just pictures(i say pictures cos i think theres a difference between the latter and a photograph) that have nice colours because u managed to get it right in photoshop. but photos with interesting composition and carefully thought over perspective. pictures that don't need colour to look interesting and arent in black and white just to look cheesy or retro. photos that actually have something to convey or invoke a thoughts and emotion. and thats probably the desired end point.

    just a note.. i m not fond of photoshop and i havent used it yet. i dont mean to say its useless, i understand the need for post processing and i post process my pictures with nikon view nx. but i dont agree when people turn to photoshop as the one thing to make a picture look good instead of practicing composition and other important techniques. in that case, they might as well be considered digital artists. such practice also seldom helps to improve ones skills as one might be inclined to say things like 'it ll be fine after photoshop'.

    hope it helps =)

    Regards,
    benjamin
    Last edited by Ben Ang; 17th July 2010 at 12:59 PM.
    F3, FTN, D700, just primes =)
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    Default Re: Prime lenses, a good read for newbies =)

    Nice article. Recommend this to be a sticky.

    Some other info you might want to consider:

    What is "standard" or "normal" FOV? Some say it is acutally 43mm on FX, not 50mm (Voigtlander 40mm Ultron comes to mind). This equates to 29mm on DX (Sigma 30/1.4 comes to mind).
    Read more here: http://blog.dpreview.com/editorial/2...dard-lens.html

    Portrait prime lenses are best from 85mm to 135mm on FX. 57mm to 90mm on DX. So lenses like Voigtlander 58mm is more suitable than a 50mm on DX?
    Read more here: http://blog.dpreview.com/editorial/2...it-lenses.html

    Hope these viewpoints help.

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    Default Re: Prime lenses, a good read for newbies =)

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Ang View Post
    just a note.. i m not fond of photoshop and i ve never used it. thats not to say its useless, but if you re using it to push something lousy to ok, and you re happy with it then you re probably not gonna get anywhere.its a supplementary tool to make already good things stand out. if theres no substance in the start point then there wont be any at the end point. i speak for hobbyist. on the flipside, if you re shooting professionally then you probably need it. no conflict there.
    Question is: How many times did you snap a picture, and find what you see on the LCD is the exact representation of what you saw with your own eye?

    One of the reasons for Post Processing (there are other software besides Photoshop) is that the dynamic range of modern day cameras are no way close to the human eye. Our eyes are capable of registering an insane amount of range of light with minimal noise and the same time auto corrects almost all distortion in our brain instantaneously while doing super accurate WB constantly. If we are trying to capture a scene as our eyes see it (and our brains remember it), we will have to use tools to pull back those dynamic ranges, correct the colors, fix the distortions. Thus the use of GNDs, and PP comes in.

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    Senior Member ZerocoolAstra's Avatar
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    Default Re: Prime lenses, a good read for newbies =)

    there are a number of photographers who choose not to do any post processing on their photos, and I say "to each his own". But I just wish the "I don't use Photoshop" banner wasn't used like a symbol of pride, as though it's shameful to do post-processing.

    If ever there was an affordable ultra-wide angle prime lens (eg. 12mm f/4 DX) which has the distortions well-controlled, that would certainly be on my "must-buy" list, but otherwise I'm left with few other options, which are all zoom lenses.

    My final point is that if people amass a collection of prime lenses (eg 24, 35, 50, 85, 100, 135), what's to stop them from standing at one spot and choosing the appropriate prime lens to photograph a subject 15m away? That's basically the same as standing there and operating the zoom ring, am I right?
    To think that using a prime lens will somehow train a photographer's perspective is a bit naive, I feel.
    Exploring! :)

  5. #5

    Default Re: Prime lenses, a good read for newbies =)

    Quote Originally Posted by daredevil123 View Post
    Nice article. Recommend this to be a sticky.

    Some other info you might want to consider:

    What is "standard" or "normal" FOV? Some say it is acutally 43mm on FX, not 50mm (Voigtlander 40mm Ultron comes to mind). This equates to 29mm on DX (Sigma 30/1.4 comes to mind).
    Read more here: http://blog.dpreview.com/editorial/2...dard-lens.html

    Portrait prime lenses are best from 85mm to 135mm on FX. 57mm to 90mm on DX. So lenses like Voigtlander 58mm is more suitable than a 50mm on DX?
    Read more here: http://blog.dpreview.com/editorial/2...it-lenses.html

    Hope these viewpoints help.
    That;s why I love my m4/3 cam with 20mm lens(40mm in 35mm terms). Really back to basic and enjoy it.

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    Default Re: Prime lenses, a good read for newbies =)

    Quote Originally Posted by ZerocoolAstra View Post
    there are a number of photographers who choose not to do any post processing on their photos, and I say "to each his own". But I just wish the "I don't use Photoshop" banner wasn't used like a symbol of pride, as though it's shameful to do post-processing.

    If ever there was an affordable ultra-wide angle prime lens (eg. 12mm f/4 DX) which has the distortions well-controlled, that would certainly be on my "must-buy" list, but otherwise I'm left with few other options, which are all zoom lenses.

    My final point is that if people amass a collection of prime lenses (eg 24, 35, 50, 85, 100, 135), what's to stop them from standing at one spot and choosing the appropriate prime lens to photograph a subject 15m away? That's basically the same as standing there and operating the zoom ring, am I right?
    To think that using a prime lens will somehow train a photographer's perspective is a bit naive, I feel.
    On your last pt, I do not think I would bring all the lens if I have those collection to go on a shoot.I believed most of us would rather have a zoom lens and add a "favorite" fixed lens on an outing.

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    Default Re: Prime lenses, a good read for newbies =)

    Quote Originally Posted by JW73 View Post
    On your last pt, I do not think I would bring all the lens if I have those collection to go on a shoot.I believed most of us would rather have a zoom lens and add a "favorite" fixed lens on an outing.
    or most prime users would just bring 3 lenses that will cover wide, normal and tele, e.g. 24, 50, 85/105, and compromise the rest with leg-zooming

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    Default Re: Prime lenses, a good read for newbies =)

    I would say shooting with prime lenses does train you in some ways to differentiate the differences each lens looks at a situation.

    With a zoom, we probably can't remember which focal length we had used for a particular shot. We just zoom and shot. That's the difference.

    A fixed lens will force us to move around more and to observe more during the process.

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    Default Re: Prime lenses, a good read for newbies =)

    Quote Originally Posted by JW73 View Post
    On your last pt, I do not think I would bring all the lens if I have those collection to go on a shoot.I believed most of us would rather have a zoom lens and add a "favorite" fixed lens on an outing.
    That's true. It would seem impractical to bring a large collection of lenses on any one outing.

    My point is I doubt how effective the prime lens would be as a 'training tool' for perspectives. I see some benefit, but I don't encourage swearing by prime lenses as though it's the only/best way to learn.
    Exploring! :)

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    Default Re: Prime lenses, a good read for newbies =)

    Quote Originally Posted by johnlim View Post
    I would say shooting with prime lenses does train you in some ways to differentiate the differences each lens looks at a situation.

    With a zoom, we probably can't remember which focal length we had used for a particular shot. We just zoom and shot. That's the difference.

    A fixed lens will force us to move around more and to observe more during the process.
    good point.
    Exploring! :)

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    Default Re: Prime lenses, a good read for newbies =)

    thnx all, for the contributions.

    in response to the photoshop paragraph, my sincere apologies for making it sound so harsh. its just that my intended audience which would be my friend's photog group, was focusing alot on serious photoshoping and not too much on the essence of composition and things like that. i just pasted it here and should probably have tailored it a little first.

    just to clarify, i understand the need for post processing. i post process my pictures with nikon view nx. but i dont exactly agree when people turn to photoshop as the one thing to make a picture look good instead of practicing composition and other important techniques. in that case, they might as well be considered digital artists.

    its also vexing when u take time and effort to get things right in camera and people go take afew looks and say 'ahh, confirm use photoshop one lah' and things like that. i ve even been disqualified from competitions before. haha.

    so again, to all who use photoshop, my apologies, i din mean to come across as condescending.

    regards,
    benjamin
    Last edited by Ben Ang; 17th July 2010 at 12:40 PM.
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    Default Re: Prime lenses, a good read for newbies =)

    nice write up... I guess TS have come across many who thot prime lens= expensive lens.

    Same like others, I feel photoshop is modern dark room which is part of photography to enhance/ tweak to closely what you really see. I do hope TS could explore and discover the usefulness of editing software.
    ...:::..::.Nikon.::.:::..
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    Default Re: Prime lenses, a good read for newbies =)

    Quote Originally Posted by daredevil123 View Post
    Question is: How many times did you snap a picture, and find what you see on the LCD is the exact representation of what you saw with your own eye?

    One of the reasons for Post Processing (there are other software besides Photoshop) is that the dynamic range of modern day cameras are no way close to the human eye. Our eyes are capable of registering an insane amount of range of light with minimal noise and the same time auto corrects almost all distortion in our brain instantaneously while doing super accurate WB constantly. If we are trying to capture a scene as our eyes see it (and our brains remember it), we will have to use tools to pull back those dynamic ranges, correct the colors, fix the distortions. Thus the use of GNDs, and PP comes in.
    thnx for the pointers =) have replied and edited accoringly

    regards,
    benjamin
    F3, FTN, D700, just primes =)
    http://littleredcake.smugmug.com/

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    Default Re: Prime lenses, a good read for newbies =)

    Quote Originally Posted by ZerocoolAstra View Post
    there are a number of photographers who choose not to do any post processing on their photos, and I say "to each his own". But I just wish the "I don't use Photoshop" banner wasn't used like a symbol of pride, as though it's shameful to do post-processing.

    If ever there was an affordable ultra-wide angle prime lens (eg. 12mm f/4 DX) which has the distortions well-controlled, that would certainly be on my "must-buy" list, but otherwise I'm left with few other options, which are all zoom lenses.

    My final point is that if people amass a collection of prime lenses (eg 24, 35, 50, 85, 100, 135), what's to stop them from standing at one spot and choosing the appropriate prime lens to photograph a subject 15m away? That's basically the same as standing there and operating the zoom ring, am I right?
    To think that using a prime lens will somehow train a photographer's perspective is a bit naive, I feel.
    hi,
    yup, my apologies for the photoshop point, its been ammended.

    as for your example, you might stand there and zoom to take the shot, but i would walk around the subject to fit it to the FOV of my prime lens. thats the difference. it forces me to explore many different perspectives.

    thats not to say u cant do the same with a zoom, but for new shooters, theres always the tendency to just stand there and zoom in/out. so i feel primes will train u them to use a zoom. and thats in fact, what it helped me do.

    regards,
    benjamin
    F3, FTN, D700, just primes =)
    http://littleredcake.smugmug.com/

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    Default Re: Prime lenses, a good read for newbies =)

    Quote Originally Posted by JW73 View Post
    On your last pt, I do not think I would bring all the lens if I have those collection to go on a shoot.I believed most of us would rather have a zoom lens and add a "favorite" fixed lens on an outing.
    yea, its crazy to bring a whole collection to shoot. my usual 3 lens kit is 20-35 2.8, 50 and 105 or 135. if i shoot digital, then the 50 is replaced with 35. i haven t found it restrictive exp for the very few occasions where an 85 would have worked better.

    regards,
    benjamin
    F3, FTN, D700, just primes =)
    http://littleredcake.smugmug.com/

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    Default Re: Prime lenses, a good read for newbies =)

    Quote Originally Posted by johnlim View Post
    With a zoom, we probably can't remember which focal length we had used for a particular shot. We just zoom and shot. That's the difference.
    That's only applicable to film cameras. Most (if not all) modern day DSLR will also capture the focal length used according zoom ring position of the lens and store the data in exif header (provided it's a native mount lens). Manual lenses and adapters will not provide such data.
    EOS

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    Default Re: Prime lenses, a good read for newbies =)

    When people have migrated from SLR films to DSLR it means they are are already making changes to photos using the settings which they could not have done with SLRs. So in the same line why not Photoshop. PS is an art as well, not every one can use it effectively. At the end of the day, more then the Camera, the lenses or the software, it is person behind the camera which matters, it is his composition and imagination which matters. Photography skills is like an inner beauty of a women, make-up is like the lenses and Photoshop - enhance the beauty but as we all know want matters is the inner beauty!

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    Default Re: Prime lenses, a good read for newbies =)

    Quote Originally Posted by nitinjaiswal View Post
    When people have migrated from SLR films to DSLR it means they are are already making changes to photos using the settings which they could not have done with SLRs. So in the same line why not Photoshop. PS is an art as well, not every one can use it effectively. At the end of the day, more then the Camera, the lenses or the software, it is person behind the camera which matters, it is his composition and imagination which matters. Photography skills is like an inner beauty of a women, make-up is like the lenses and Photoshop - enhance the beauty but as we all know want matters is the inner beauty!
    Actually, even during the film days, a lot of image manipulation is done in the darkroom. Just that it is more troublesome and have to be done in a darkroom with dim red light and people don't see it outside, doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

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    Default Re: Prime lenses, a good read for newbies =)

    Quote Originally Posted by daredevil123 View Post
    Actually, even during the film days, a lot of image manipulation is done in the darkroom. Just that it is more troublesome and have to be done in a darkroom with dim red light and people don't see it outside, doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

    Interesting perceptional that in film times there was no image manipulation. A few runs with Google will reveal plenty of them, ranging from simple adjustments to complex manipulations (cutting out entire persons). But I guess it's because it happened in the darkness (literally), far away from most people's eyes. Even the holiday snaps were done by the photo lab "somewhere, somehow" and once the result looked halfway close to how it looked at those beaches everybody assumed it's a straight line process without adjustments.
    Now, when the same things can be done at home, in the comfort of chair, computer and coffee suddenly people cry foul. Looks like a social problem to me, not a technology issue. Similar to those people insisting on paying with cheques or cash rather than using Giro or Internet banking.
    Last edited by Octarine; 17th July 2010 at 02:36 PM.
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    Default Re: Prime lenses, a good read for newbies =)

    Quote Originally Posted by Octarine View Post
    That's only applicable to film cameras. Most (if not all) modern day DSLR will also capture the focal length used according zoom ring position of the lens and store the data in exif header (provided it's a native mount lens). Manual lenses and adapters will not provide such data.
    I agreed with his point, coz I know that with a zoom lens, there is a tendency to compose a shot by looking through the viewfinder and operating the zoom ring. Hence the photog is not really conscious of what focal length was used to capture the shot. Knowing the focal length later (by looking at the exif) doesn't quite 'connect the dots' in the brain...

    Don't think I've explained myself well...
    Exploring! :)

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