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Prime vs Zoom lenses...
Hi all,.

Yet another "newbie" question....

Please explain the pros and cons of both types of lenses...

And, if you had to pick 3 or 4 lenses (combo of primes and zooms or just primes or just zooms) which ones would you pick for all around general photography...What would you want in your camera bag for a weeks worth of shooting..

As always, thank you all in advance,.

Steve..

Comments (14)

SoCalStev1 wrote:.

Hi all,.

Yet another "newbie" question....

Please explain the pros and cons of both types of lenses...

And, if you had to pick 3 or 4 lenses (combo of primes and zooms orjust primes or just zooms) which ones would you pick for all aroundgeneral photography...What would you want in your camera bag for aweeks worth of shooting..

As always, thank you all in advance,.

Steve.

Well, it really comes down to your personal preference. Prime lenses are faster than zooms and are regarded as having better optical quality. With zooms you get as fast as f/2.8 but of course you can cover a lot more focal range than with primes. Plus modern day zooms are really good. I mean there's no way you're gonna look at a picture and determine if it was a prime or zoom..

For me, the only prime I currently own is a 50mm f/1.4. It's absolutely wonderful, but it's not on my camera much because I have a zoom that covers the range and gives me great IQ..

So my personal preference are high quality zooms with constant max apertures of f/2.8 and f/4 with the exception of my ultra wide angle lens. I have 3 or 4 lenses that cover the range of 11mm-210mm and they do an awesome job..

'I reject your reality and substitute my own' -Adam Savage..

Comment #1

Primes are easier to design (and thus less expensive), have better IQ, and typically are faster than zooms as mentioned in the previous reply..

That said, zooms are much more versatile - I think this is important in the wide-to-mid-telephoto range. As you get into super telephoto length (300mm and more) I think the versatility becomes secondary to image quality (at least IMO based on my usage)..

My ideal lens lineup:10-2224-105 F4L IS70-200 F2.8L IS100 F2.8 Macro300 F2.8 L IS500 F4 L IS800 F5.6 L IS.

I currently have the 24-105 and 70-200, and a 300 F4L IS. The IQ on some of the zooms is great - the 24-105 is probably my sharpest lens or at least tied with my 300 F4L. Conversely I have used several zooms that cover the 300 range and none were as good as the 300 F4L..

SoCalStev1 wrote:.

Hi all,.

Yet another "newbie" question....

Please explain the pros and cons of both types of lenses...

And, if you had to pick 3 or 4 lenses (combo of primes and zooms orjust primes or just zooms) which ones would you pick for all aroundgeneral photography...What would you want in your camera bag for aweeks worth of shooting..

As always, thank you all in advance,.

Steve.

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Comment #2

I use the following lenses:.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 (for low light)Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro (for portrait and macro)Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L (primarily for landscape)Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS (my walk-around)Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS with a 1.4 Extender.

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Comment #3

SoCalStev1 wrote:.

Please explain the pros and cons of both types of lenses...

Convenience of zooms of course. And prime lenses are going the way of film and flash bulbs.   At least on consumer cameras..

Primes are still used for a few special purposes, for macro, longest tele, fisheye, and f/1.4 for example, but are too limiting for general purpose work, at least now that we dont have to suffer with them any more..

40 years ago on early Nikon F, we would buy a 28mm lens, and the 50mm standard lens, and the 105 and the 200mm, so each was 2x view of the previous, to have a range to cover whatever we encountered. It was still a pain, we had to move ourself closer or farther from the subject to make the view work, and this was awkward. We just did it without thinking, that was the choice we had. There were a few early zooms, but they were pretty poor back then, not really to be considered. But they are vastly improved today..

Prime lenses can be "better" quality at their one focal length, but this does not necessarily mean "sharper". Zooms like the extreme and awesome 11x 18-200mm do have lots of problems regarding distortions, vigenetting and corner sharpness falloff, are f/5.6 to begin with, and are not great wide open, and if you only seek out those problems, it can seem awful. But the central portion can be quite qood at f/8, so that the problems are often indistinguishable in most of the pictures that we take. Not all pictures, but most. But one lightweight lens does the work of a full bag of primes..

And of course, there are less extreme zoom choices too, with problems far more minor. The better ones would be a close race, except they win convenience easily...

Comment #4

For portraits with 3 or less people, I use a 50mm 1.4 prime lens 95% of the time. It's relatively cheap (1.8 is even cheaper), fast in low light, nice depth of field blurry backgrounds, and sharp..

The downsides are you have no zooming in or out, some are a little noisy sounding when focusing, and in situations with a lot of change you have to keep switching lenses..

Basically I recommend buying a 50 1.8 - roughly $100 Canon or Nikon and play around with it...

Comment #5

Primes are usually cheaper and faster than zooms. They are also sometimes sharper..

Modern zooms have come a long way in terms of sharpness and now often rival the primes. Zooms offer more versatility. The big tradeoff is maximum aperature. Zooms are universally slower than primes and fast zooms are VERY expensive..

The greatest of mankind's criminals are those who delude themselves into thinking they have done 'the right thing.'- Rayna Butler..

Comment #6

For all around general photography, I want a reasonably fast (F/2.0 is fine), normal focal length lens (about 50mm equivalent). For a 1.5 lens multiplier factor DSLR, this would be a 35mm lens. This is also a focal length covered by the kit zoom that likely came with the camera, but the prime is faster, lighter, and more compact. The faster speed helps with low light situations, of course, but also gives a brighter image on the viewscreen and is easier to manually focus. I don't like pointing a big lens towards people, and so I appreciate the smaller size of the prime. My photography does not involve creating striking images to enlarge and hang on a wall; I'm looking to take a series of pictures that help me remember a place or event, and I view them as a "slide show" on my television or computer monitor.

Image quality at 35mm may well be a toss-up between zooms and primes. Comparing lens test data for the Pentax 18-55 kit zoom against their 35mm F/2 prime, the prime has less vignetting and somewhat higher resolution figures, but the zoom has less geometric distortion and reduced chromatic aberrations...

Comment #7

SoCalStev1 wrote:.

Hi all,.

Please explain the pros and cons of both types of lenses...

Primes are:.. faster .. have a larger maximum aperture.. faster focussing because of larger aperture.. sharper wide open.. physically small and unobtrusive..

Low cost, especially if used..

Zooms are:.. slower maximum aperture & slower focussing.. flexible .. ie zooming not walking / stepping.. often large and noticeable (esp if f2.8 for example).. expensive, especially if fast aperture f2.8 or the like.

And, if you had to pick 3 or 4 lenses (combo of primes and zooms orjust primes or just zooms) which ones would you pick for all aroundgeneral photography...What would you want in your camera bag for aweeks worth of shooting..

For general shooting my choice comes down to two options:.

Set 1. primes:.. Nikon 20mm F2.8.. Nikon 50mm F1.8.. Nikon 85mm F1.8.

I will be happy to use this around people because all the lenses are small and unobtrusive, image quality is good, assuming it will not be too hard to change lenses, for example not on a sandy beach with a wind storm blowing..

Set 2. zoom.. Sigma 28-70 F2.8 zoom.

If I dont want to change lenses and want a general walk about lens. This gives me less overall range than the three primes and physically the lens if quite large, a 77mm front lens thread for example so it is hard to be unobtrusive with this lens on the camera..

I swing from one to the other depending on my mood but the primes are my favourites..

Mark_A..

Comment #8

Mark_A wrote:.

For general shooting my choice comes down to two options:.

Set 1. primes:.. Nikon 20mm F2.8.. Nikon 50mm F1.8.. Nikon 85mm F1.8I will be happy to use this around people because all the lenses aresmall and unobtrusive, image quality is good, assuming it will not betoo hard to change lenses, for example not on a sandy beach with awind storm blowing..

Set 2. zoom.. Sigma 28-70 F2.8 zoom.

Just to add, the large aperture of the Nikon 85mm F1.8 (of F1.8) and it's focal length (at 85mm) means that for people shots you can have the face in focus and the background nicely blurred to emphasise the face. This sort of image is very hard to achieve with the Sigma zoom as at 70mm it is not so long and at F2.8 it is not such a large aperture as F1.8 so the zoom despite almost covering the range of 3 primes is a compromise where certain types of image are concerned..

Mark_A..

Comment #9

In the last 10 years, lens design has evolved dramatically. New materials and new barrel designs have made zooms much more portable and often raised the image quality to at or near prime lenses..

Flexability is the key value of zooms. they compose under a wide variety of situations..

Peerceived sharpness at a single field of view is the often touted value of primes. Lens speed is the other. Special circumstances (like macro) is the third added value of primes..

All of these are as true as most generalites. Usually, but not always..

The cons of zooms have been size/weight and speed. The nearly constant maximum speed of high quality zooms is usually f/2.8. that is 1 EV slower than the f/1.8 single FOV 50MM and 2 EVs less than the 1.4 50(s)..

With the advent of faster and better sensors and noise supression. The actual NEED for the faster apertures is dwindling somewhat..

For general purpose use, the flexibility of zooms outweighs the speed. Also, the difference is so small in many instances that there is not perceived difference in print quality at normal sizes.Van..

Comment #10

SoCalStev1 wrote:.

Hi all,.

Yet another "newbie" question....

Please explain the pros and cons of both types of lenses...

Hmmm, already pretty well explained here. I'll add one more thing: a prime will usually have a DOF scale, as well..

And, if you had to pick 3 or 4 lenses (combo of primes and zooms orjust primes or just zooms) which ones would you pick for all aroundgeneral photography...What would you want in your camera bag for aweeks worth of shooting..

Depends on the style. I'll start with a general purpose zoom (18-something). You might want to add another telezoom or not, depending on your style..

Then, there are some primes which are very good to have: a 50mm, who is generally dirt cheap, a "normal" lens for the camera (which is 35 for APS), and a macro lens..

You add from here according to your interest. You do street, you might want a 20mm prime. You do birds, you might want a 400mm. You do people, 85mm or 135 soft focus. And so on..

/d/n.

PS. I bought the cheap version of 50mm. Very good deal, but now I DEEPLY regret the lack of scale and DOF scale. Such is life .

As always, thank you all in advance,.

Steve..

Comment #11

SoCalStev1 wrote:.

And, if you had to pick 3 or 4 lenses (combo of primes and zooms orjust primes or just zooms) which ones would you pick for all aroundgeneral photography...What would you want in your camera bag for aweeks worth of shooting..

The obvious answer to me is a fast normal (low light general), a fast short tele (portraits, street), the standard WA-short tele zoom (in my case, 17-40 on a APS-C camera), and the tele zoom (70-200). With those four lenses, outside of very specific situations, nearly all your bases will be covered.CW..

Comment #12

For a Canon crop camera, money no object..

17-55 2.8IS70-200 2.8L24 1.4L50 1.2L.

Don..

Comment #13

I currently have two luxury zooms and one inexpensive prime. My next two lenses will be primes. They obviously serve different purposes, so you buy what you need..

Jerryhttp://jchoate.zenfolio.com/..

Comment #14

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