Basic Prime VS Better Zoom


Feb 19, 2012
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#1
Hey guys, I've been shooting a 60d for about 2 years now and would like to either add more lenses or upgrade my current lenses.

I'm wondering if the intrinsic sharpness and image quality of a basic prime, say, a 20mm f/2.8 would be better/worse/equal to a 17-55 f/2.8 zoom. While you're at it, how bout a basic prime vs an L zoom?

Why or why not?

Reason I'm asking is because I do a lot of portraits and I already have a 17-55, but I'm thinking of getting the 20mm which has the same max aperture. I also wanna know if an L zoom is just as good/better than the basic/mid range primes cos if they are, I'd rather get them than the primes since they'll take up less space and time overall.

What do you guys think?

Thanks lots in advance!

Nasri


P/S: In case it will give you guys a better picture, my basic kit now consists of the 17-55 2.8, 35 2.0 non IS, 50 1.8 and 85 1.8. Cheap stuff, I know!
 

Last edited:
Jun 7, 2011
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#2
If you want to know whether the 20mm is sharper than 17-55mm, check reviews from sites. I am sure there are a lot. A prime lens may or may not be sharper than zoom lenses.

I personally think you don't need that additional prime :)
 

G-man

Senior Member
Mar 2, 2006
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#4
I haven't used a 17-55. But friends who have told me it is basically a hidden L.

Having said that I don't see a point with getting a 20mm for portraits. Your 17-55 is plenty good if pictures I have seen are anything to go by.
 

Octarine

Moderator
Staff member
Jan 3, 2008
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#5
Rent the 20mm f/2.8, set your zoom to 20mm, shoot pictures with both lenses (cam on tripod to have identical conditions), compare. Decide whether the differences are worth the money for the prime lens.
 

SkyStrike

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Nov 29, 2010
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#8
Other than lightening ur bag load, I personally don't see any 'real' benefits of having another lens of the same aperture. If you feel that the lesser load is worth the money, then go ahead.
 

lewissac

New Member
Sep 20, 2011
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#9
U already have all the good set needed to shoot for portrait -----> yourself.

The lens set is pretty much covers what portraits needed.

IMHO,Prime lens are great but at the expense of tiring to "zoom" yourself. (I myself own 35/1.8, 50/1.8, 85/1.8 and 11-16/2.8; all primes except UWA zoom)
 

rhino123

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Sep 1, 2006
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#11
That's impressive ... But then: pick the current kit lens for comparison :)
Actually hor... don't understand what you mean. TS asked, should he get a 20mm f2.8 prime. So I select the 17-55mm (which he had) and the 20mm f2.8 and ask TS to see if he like what he is seeing in the 20mm and if the difference is worth his time and money. Why do you need to pick the current kit lens for comparison?
 

Turbonetics

Senior Member
Feb 19, 2009
2,701
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#12
If you want to know whether the 20mm is sharper than 17-55mm, check reviews from sites. I am sure there are a lot. A prime lens may or may not be sharper than zoom lenses.

I personally think you don't need that additional prime :)
reviews online are for references and i won't rely too much on it.
 

Turbonetics

Senior Member
Feb 19, 2009
2,701
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#13
randomly for my guess would be not worth to spend extra money for 20mm prime,but if u really want to know the truth,the best is to get both tested in the same environment.
Generally prime should be sharper and have better IQ,but doesn't mean better color and contrast,focusing...etc
 

Dec 12, 2012
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#14
I would personally choose the better zoom.

Case in point. When I wanted to get a portrait lens. I was considering the various popular options. Canon 85mm. Canon 100mm sigma 85 mm. All of which are proven and quite highly rated portrait lens. Bit in the end I chose the 70-200. Granted. At 2.8 it is not the fastest option and neither is it ther sharpest when compared. But in its own, it's really great. And I love the flexibility and the bokeh it produces at 200mm.

Also, don't be taken in by "I can buy a prime and zoom in with my feet".

Using an 85mm you can move close enough to the subject such that the subject fills up the frame as much as it would at the 200mm focal length. But the compression of the background is different. You must keep that I mind when considering your options. All the best!
 

Jun 7, 2011
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#15
reviews online are for references and i won't rely too much on it.
Agree. In the end it's still the photographer who'll decide the action to buy or not to buy.

But perhaps these references are useful enough for TS to decide what action to do next.. Probably buy, not to buy, or rent both and do comparison him / herself :)
 

Turbonetics

Senior Member
Feb 19, 2009
2,701
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#16
Agree. In the end it's still the photographer who'll decide the action to buy or not to buy. But perhaps these references are useful enough for TS to decide what action to do next.. Probably buy, not to buy, or rent both and do comparison him / herself :)
reviews are to be read with pinch of salts.
Example someone who probably has limited usage of lenses would say the 20mm lens is super sharp while some would say it's not as sharp because everybody has different standard etc...so reviews online are not to be taken too seriously.. And the best is still compare yourself and see if one like it or not :)
 

Jun 7, 2011
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#17
reviews are to be read with pinch of salts.
Example someone who probably has limited usage of lenses would say the 20mm lens is super sharp while some would say it's not as sharp because everybody has different standard etc...so reviews online are not to be taken too seriously.. And the best is still compare yourself and see if one like it or not :)
Oh I meant reviews that gives you measurable/comparable sharpness result such as MTF number. something like DXO, Photozone, or DPreview. You can then easily compare MTF number between lens A & lens B. Granted, they may have different testing methods, but if all reputable reviewers say lens A has higher MTF number than lens B, then I generally agree that lens A is sharper than lens B. Other websites such as the-digital-picture.com gives you 100% crop comparison. I think sharpness wise TS can also use it to compare lenses.

Other than that.. yeah I also don't care much about reviews that only provide comments.. "This thing is razor sharp!".. or "Booookehlicious!" . Those are almost pointless :bsmilie:

I also agree that some things must be experienced first hand. For example, if we talk about lens weight, let's say lens A is 300 grams heavier than lens B. Probably for some this is already too much, but for others 300 grams is negligible.

Btw I still think that TS doesn't need that 20mm f/2.8 lens ;)
 

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Feb 19, 2012
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#18
That's a really cool tool! Thanks for sharing!



As for reviews, I've looked at many reviews, but the only concluding info I keep finding is the idea that "primes provide sharper images than most zooms". I find that kind of vague since no one ever directly compares how higher grade zooms fair against basic/middle primes. Perhaps the difference in standard is assumed to be too great to even warrant a comparison?

Anyways, after going through your responses and suggestions, I'm leaning more towards not getting the additional prime. I might still rent it and try it as suggested though. Thanks a lot guys! Really appreciate the input and suggestions!
 

kandinsky

Moderator
Staff member
Apr 26, 2008
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#19
As for reviews, I've looked at many reviews, but the only concluding info I keep finding is the idea that "primes provide sharper images than most zooms". I find that kind of vague since no one ever directly compares how higher grade zooms fair against basic/middle primes. Perhaps the difference in standard is assumed to be too great to even warrant a comparison?
Have you seen SLR Lounge's Canon Lens Wars series? Sounds exactly like what you're looking for.

The Concept Behind the Canon Lens War Series

[video=youtube_share;aMwDlRLaGvY]http://youtu.be/aMwDlRLaGvY[/video]

There are plenty of sites and resources for technical reviews that can differentiate on a pixel basis which lens is sharper, has better color, more contrast and so forth. But that’s not the goal of this series. We are not going to do any lab testing in the Canon Lens Wars. Instead, our goal is to find out the perceivable visual differences between Professional L series lenses versus Professional and standard primes at the same focal lengths and aperture settings.

This means that we are testing these lenses on a visual level by viewing images full screen on a 27″ 3K resolution IPS display. While at the same focal focal length, we want to see which lens creates the most and best looking bokeh at wide apertures, to see which lens has visually better sharpness, clarity, contrast, color and so forth.

So for example, we want to compare the visual differences between the Canon 50mm f/1.2L, Canon 50mm f/1.4, and Canon 50mm f/1.8 II prime lenses versus the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II and Canon 24-105mm f/4L zoom lenses at 50mm focal length. We tested all the lenses at their Widest Open Aperture (WOA) as well as at their Widest Common Aperture (WCA).

http://www.slrlounge.com/school/canon-lens-wars-introduction
Happened to read this (http://fstoppers.com/how-many-lenses-do-we-really-need) today, reminded me of your thread too.
 

Octarine

Moderator
Staff member
Jan 3, 2008
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#20
Actually hor... don't understand what you mean. TS asked, should he get a 20mm f2.8 prime. So I select the 17-55mm (which he had) and the 20mm f2.8 and ask TS to see if he like what he is seeing in the 20mm and if the difference is worth his time and money. Why do you need to pick the current kit lens for comparison?
Aiyoh.. look a bit beyond that. The 20mm is quite old lens already, the 17-55 is called 'hidden L' for many years, kit lenses have been looked down on. Now: compare the recently released kit lenses with the 20mm, or kit vs 17-55. The differences are not that obvious and glaring anymore as maybe 5 years ago. On the contrary: the 18-55 IS STM does pretty well against 17-55 based on these test shots.
 

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