Should you use prime lenses or zooms?

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It’s one of those classic questions, one that I will answer in the very first line of this article; it’s kinda up to you..You can do better than that! I hear you scream at your computer screen whilst reading this. Well, I was not set on this planet to tell you whether you should use a zoom lens, or prime lenses. But I do believe I was created for the very purpose of telling you what my experiences were using both, and which worked best for me personally.    To start of, I’d like to say that I am a big fan of using prime lenses, but like a lot of amateur photographers out there, I started my photographic adventure using DSLR’s and kit zooms. After a while I would upgrade to a more premium zoom lens that had a larger focal range and was built a bit better. I would scour the web for reviews telling me which lens was best for me. And my first relatively proper lens was the Pentax smc DA 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 ED. It was the first time I held a lens in my hands that wasn’t made out of cheap plastic (I’d used some cheap Tamron zooms before). After shooting that for a while, I discovered that I wouldn’t mind a bit of low light capabilities

And that’s the first point going to team prime. Because zoom lenses often come with limited aperture capabilities, even the really expensive ones won’t reach apertures higher than f/2.8. So middle of the night street photographers won’t often use zoom lenses. Primes on the other hand can have max apertures of up to f/0.95!

 But hang on there! What about the obvious fact that one zoom lens has the same focal range as a bag full of primes? Well, that’s an absolute win for the zoom there. Quite frankly, the zoom gives you the freedom to just go out with all the necessary focal lengths right there on your camera, and for some photographers that is all they need to know. And yet there are many photographers out there that use primes, and many companies making all sorts of prime lenses in loads of price ranges.

 I’m a fixed focal kind of guy. Maybe it’s because I’m lazy, but prime lenses do make photographing easier. Let me explain. When you’re shooting with a single focal length, say 50mm for instance. All your shots will have the same frame, making it easier for your mind to spot a potential photograph. Because after some practice, the 50mm field of view will be somewhat bedded into your eye, all you have to do is point and shoot when you see something worth photographing within that 50mm field of view. Now a zoom lens can be a major distraction. A zoom lens urges you to compose the picture while you’re shooting. You’ll be going back and forth between focal lengths to find the perfect framing for the subject, whilst with a prime, the composing will have happened inside your head before bringing the camera to your eye. Also a big plus of prime lenses is the image quality. Simply put, primes have much less distortion in them because of their more simple optical designs. And they can also be made smaller than zoom lenses because they don’t require as much glass.

These are my assessments, but they come solely from my own personal preferences, so feel free to completely disagree!

Zoom

Cons:

  • bigger

  • lesser image quality

  • poor low light capabilities due to large max apertures

Pro’s:

  • No need to change lenses

 Prime

Cons:

  • Stuck to a single focal length

Pro’s:

  • Smaller size

  • Higher image quality

  • Very large max apertures                                                       

So, as I said in the beginning, it’s really up to you. Some people feel more confident shooting a zoom, they know they are more flexible and that works best for them. Others prefer primes because they have adapted their brains to the using of certain focal lengths. In the end it’s all about you and how confident you feel using your gear.

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