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DPChallenge Forums >> Hardware and Software >> Primes VS Zoom
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Showing posts 1 - 25 of 34, descending (reverse)
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06/19/2008 11:32:56 AM · #1
Originally posted by DrAchoo:

There can also be a placebo effect present. The OP noted a very large difference between the 50mm 1.4 and 50mm 1.8. this lens comparison will show you that at 2.0 there is a small difference seen but once you get to f/2.8 they are virtually identical.

That being said, I actually own 3 primes and one zoom so what are you gonna do?


and you do own the same 50mm like i do... I feel honored :P
06/19/2008 11:21:42 AM · #2
There can also be a placebo effect present. The OP noted a very large difference between the 50mm 1.4 and 50mm 1.8. this lens comparison will show you that at 2.0 there is a small difference seen but once you get to f/2.8 they are virtually identical.

That being said, I actually own 3 primes and one zoom so what are you gonna do?
06/19/2008 09:50:03 AM · #3
Originally posted by Prof_Fate:

I have a selection of zooms and primes (L and non L in both) and each has it's place. It's like golf - you get to take 14 clubs on every round, but you don't use every club every time. Some you use a lot - the putter for instance. Even your driver only use 12 or so times on 18 holes. Same for lenses. I don't need 1.2 often but when I need it, there is no substitute. Generally a zoom will give you the ability to frame it just the way you want everytime where a prime may force a compromise or you'll miss the shot because you're changing lenses.

As for sharper...how sharp do you need? For portraiture sharp can be a bad thing - ask any woman with bad skin! Focus speed is a bit tougher call though. Most primes focus faster, but L glass focus' faster than non-L and the 85 1.2 is slow as snot to focus.


I think this sums it all.. Great post :)
06/19/2008 09:44:24 AM · #4
As with most things photographic, there isn't just one right answer.

I prefer to shoot with primes when possible because I get better results when I pick my perspective (focal length) first and then adjust my position to get the image I want. If I have to move back ten feet to get a compressed perspective, I have time to change lenses on the way. This isn't the right answer for everybody, it's just what works best for me.

I have recently purchased a 24-70 f2.8L zoom for the situations where I must get the shoot and may not have time to switch lenses. I think I have a good copy, but when shooting portraits I still prefer the crisp images I get from my 50 1.4 or 85 1.8.

This isn't to say all primes are better, I tried two different 28mm lenses and both were terrible. One thing I have learned is that you cannot look at lenses simply by the focal lengths they cover. Each lens will have it's own characteristics that go beyond focal length and aperture, you find the ones that suit your style of shooting and stick with them. For example, I find canon's 85mm f1.8 on a 1.6 crop camera to be an amazing portrait lens and I would not go to a portrait session without it. It's just what works for me.
06/19/2008 09:25:35 AM · #5
I have a selection of zooms and primes (L and non L in both) and each has it's place. It's like golf - you get to take 14 clubs on every round, but you don't use every club every time. Some you use a lot - the putter for instance. Even your driver only use 12 or so times on 18 holes. Same for lenses. I don't need 1.2 often but when I need it, there is no substitute. Generally a zoom will give you the ability to frame it just the way you want everytime where a prime may force a compromise or you'll miss the shot because you're changing lenses.

As for sharper...how sharp do you need? For portraiture sharp can be a bad thing - ask any woman with bad skin! Focus speed is a bit tougher call though. Most primes focus faster, but L glass focus' faster than non-L and the 85 1.2 is slow as snot to focus.
06/19/2008 08:07:55 AM · #6
Originally posted by hopper:

...Like ' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21.gif', '/') + 1) . ' kirbic said (years ago now)...


...and he still looks sharp as he was years ago :P

by the way, shouldn't we address him as "Captain" ' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21.gif', '/') + 1) . ' kirbic? or he retired by now :P
06/19/2008 07:47:28 AM · #7
wow, old thread ... but on a topic that I still think about often.

For me, I wish my photography was so specialized that I only needed a single prime or 2 and never had need for anything else, but that simply isn't the case for most of us. Like kirbic said (years ago now) - I won't buy another consumer zoom, but I do see the benefit in owning a zoom.
06/19/2008 07:32:13 AM · #8
Originally posted by Corwyn:

...I heard people say to be a pro you need prime...


That I don't believe. You should have a prime or two but I just can't think of any pro without a zoom or two as well. That would be giving wrong impression to people who wants to be pro and pushing them to do something they probably are not ready for full time... using prime only.

I have NO problem with any of my zoom lenses, I don't disagree my 50mm 1.8 is sharper, although I can't use it in all my studio shootings. I need flexibility when I have only limited time and shoot verity of shots. Money has a lot to do with it (they are expensive), but also I am not for to keep changing lenses every minute if things move fast...

There might be other option, carrying multiple machines with different prime lenses attached... I think that's what most "high-end" pros do.
06/19/2008 05:58:26 AM · #9
I love primes. How much? I use:

15mm 2.8 fisheye
20mm 2.8
35mm 1.4L
50mm 1.4
85mm 1.8
Used to own a 100mm 2.8 macro

I love using so many lenses, I think I got my switching down to under 8 seconds, with the lenses I use most on lens pouches on my belt. Weight doesn't bother me as I'm use them for everything except hiking and mountaineering.
But it's not as though I'm averse to zooms, I own a 17-40 f/4L that I love. It's just as "sharp" as any prime when it's at 17mm, less so at 40mm. I used quotes there because sharpness is an illusion, you're eye can only see so much sharpness. Now, I do understand that the 17-40L is one of the better zooms out there, by far, and most zooms fail to match a prime in terms of sharpness. Thats a given, because they have more elements than primes. But what they lack in sharpness and usually aperture they make up for in certain situations. Personally, I love shooting in the field with a prime, but as stated by some others, hiking with a full bag, especially in strenuous terrain, is almost out of the question. I've come to taking only my 17-40L on most hikes unless I know I'll need another lens, usually the fisheye which is pretty light. Wedding photography, photojournalism and wildlife too, are times when you might not be able to change a lens and still capture the moment. A sunrise can disappear in a flash, more so in the tropics than at higher latitudes, and I'd rather sacrifice a tiny bit of sharpness no one sees in print (thats the catcher, is that so much of todays work is displayed on the web and not in print. Stand three feet from a print and sharpness as you and I think of it goes out the door) than to miss a great moment.

Just use what works best for you.

06/15/2005 02:08:25 PM · #10
Originally posted by kirbic:

(70-200/2.8 IS and 24-70/2.8)

Oddly enough, my next 2 lens purchases. :) I'm ordering the 70-200 first. The 24-70 will have to wait a bit.

Back in my Canon A1 days I too used mostly primes, but constantly switching lenses was such a PITA. IMO, zooms have gotten much better since then. Actually, I would love to have both, primes and zooms.
06/15/2005 01:45:58 PM · #11
Originally posted by hopper:

Originally posted by cghubbell:

But I would bet that outside of the experimental set ups and studios, the optical differences between top zooms and top primes play less of a role in the real world than your compositional decisions.


perhaps true, but the visual difference (as opposed to optical) between 2.8 and say 1.4 plays a very big role in the real world.


Of course an f/1.4 lens will allow for faster shutter speeds than a f/2.8. I'm referring only to image quality for equivalent exposures.

To be specific, comparing a 50mm f/1.8 prime exposure to the same exposure taken through a zoom lens at a 50mm focal length under the assumption that lighting allows for the same shutter speeds to be used.

Message edited by author 2005-06-15 13:46:36.
06/15/2005 01:28:09 PM · #12
Originally posted by Corwyn:

Where would you get a lens like this?

Do they only come manual focus?

Originally posted by kyebosh:

you better just stay away from leica and zeiss glass... the 100mm 2.0 zeiss glass is apparently much sharper than the canon 135 2.0L and the leica 60mm macro is better than the canon 85 1.2L.

yes only MF. You can find them on FM like said earlier or you can look on the internet for them, or go to japan or maybe germany.
06/15/2005 12:44:53 PM · #13
Originally posted by Olyuzi:

No, not a fixed lens. Primes or zooms are both interchangeable while a fixed lens can not be removed from the camera for another. A zoom lens has a range of focal lengths whereas a prime is only one focal length...but they can both be swapped off the camera in favor of another.

Originally posted by LEONJR:

when primes is mentioned we mean a fixed lens? is that correct?


I think by fixed lens he meant fixed focal length lens...
06/15/2005 12:40:37 PM · #14
No, not a fixed lens. Primes or zooms are both interchangeable while a fixed lens can not be removed from the camera for another. A zoom lens has a range of focal lengths whereas a prime is only one focal length...but they can both be swapped off the camera in favor of another.

Originally posted by LEONJR:

when primes is mentioned we mean a fixed lens? is that correct?
06/15/2005 12:36:52 PM · #15
Originally posted by LEONJR:

when primes is mentioned we mean a fixed lens? is that correct?


Yes. 35mm, 50mm, 105mmMacro are primes and 70-300mm, 18-70mm are zooms.
06/15/2005 12:20:53 PM · #16
when primes is mentioned we mean a fixed lens? is that correct?
06/15/2005 12:17:47 PM · #17
Originally posted by Corwyn:

Where would you get a lens like this?

Originally posted by kyebosh:

you better just stay away from leica and zeiss glass... the 100mm 2.0 zeiss glass is apparently much sharper than the canon 135 2.0L and the leica 60mm macro is better than the canon 85 1.2L.


From the lens collectors on Fredmiranda.com

06/15/2005 12:16:55 PM · #18
Originally posted by hopper:

perhaps true, but the visual difference (as opposed to optical) between 2.8 and say 1.4 plays a very big role in the real world.

Agreed. Not to mention practical reasons.. If I'm shooting in dark conditions I'll be shooting with my 85/1.8 not my 70-200/2.8L.

For a lot of sports photog's I would say one major advantage of a prime is the wide aperture.
06/15/2005 12:11:24 PM · #19
Originally posted by cghubbell:

But I would bet that outside of the experimental set ups and studios, the optical differences between top zooms and top primes play less of a role in the real world than your compositional decisions.


perhaps true, but the visual difference (as opposed to optical) between 2.8 and say 1.4 plays a very big role in the real world.
06/15/2005 12:08:08 PM · #20
Where would you get a lens like this?

Do they only come manual focus?

Originally posted by kyebosh:

you better just stay away from leica and zeiss glass... the 100mm 2.0 zeiss glass is apparently much sharper than the canon 135 2.0L and the leica 60mm macro is better than the canon 85 1.2L.
06/15/2005 11:49:54 AM · #21
you better just stay away from leica and zeiss glass... the 100mm 2.0 zeiss glass is apparently much sharper than the canon 135 2.0L and the leica 60mm macro is better than the canon 85 1.2L.
06/15/2005 11:28:15 AM · #22
Originally posted by Corwyn:

Don't get me wrong. I do believe zooms are able to provide professional pics and no I don’t think you need a prime to be a proffesional. But I am having a hard time believing that the pics from a zoom can be taken as fast or as clear. Again this is my opinion… I think zooms can take clear picture but not as fast or as sharp as the primes. Again I have only tested what I own so I can say this for every brand or every lens, but for all the canon lenses I have owned L or not the primes are Faster and sharper.


I guess my point is that unless you are doing a side by side comparison the difference wouldn't be enough to matter in most cases. The compositional details would make a much bigger impact overall once you're using pro grade zooms.

No doubt, side by side and instrument based comparisons will favor the primes, but for 99% of the practical purposes out there, gear only gets you half way.

I have a 200mm prime Micro Nikkor which is about as sharp as optics can be. No doubt it's sharper than my 18-70 zoom. But I can blow up my 18-70 based landscapes to 16x24 and rarely see anything that makes me question that lens' quality. When I do see something, it's because of a technical flaw I'm responsible for, not the optics. I'm sure that a 17-35 f/2 would look better in a side-by-side, but by how much?

I think in many cases people just feel more comfortable with a certain type of gear, and that's fine. But I would bet that outside of the experimental set ups and studios, the optical differences between top zooms and top primes play less of a role in the real world than your compositional decisions.
06/15/2005 11:20:19 AM · #23
I'm also a lover a primes. I did, however, just order myself the canon 28-135mm IS. I need a lens for family and friend trips, just hangin' out, etc where quality isn't much a need over convenience (snapshots).

In a way, it makes me sad shelling out $400.00 for a lens that is only useful when I'm NOT pursuing my real hobby, but I know it will get a lot of use at birthdays, BBQ's, weekend trips with friends, blah, blah, blah.

But my true love is working with primes :)
06/15/2005 11:16:27 AM · #24
Well said Kirbic... as always

I would love to keep zooms in my bag as well but it's one or the other for my pocket book at this point.(70-200/2.8 IS, 17-40/4 and 24-70/2.8)

Originally posted by kirbic:

I'm more than a little in love with primes myself, but I'm not selling my zooms (70-200/2.8 IS and 24-70/2.8). I have decided, though, that a 16-35/2.8 is not in my future, I will be going with primes only for WA. I will also fill in with primes at certain focal lengths within my zoom coverage range, to provide additional speed and sharpness, or for specialty work like macro or tilt/shift. At some point I also see a long telephoto prime in my future, but that's down the road.
In short, I feel that both zooms and primes have their place. I won't buy "consumer zooms" anymore, they have been disappointments overall. I'm addicted to speed, sharpness, contrast, saturation, and bokeh.
06/15/2005 11:09:48 AM · #25
I'm more than a little in love with primes myself, but I'm not selling my zooms (70-200/2.8 IS and 24-70/2.8). I have decided, though, that a 16-35/2.8 is not in my future, I will be going with primes only for WA. I will also fill in with primes at certain focal lengths within my zoom coverage range, to provide additional speed and sharpness, or for specialty work like macro or tilt/shift. At some point I also see a long telephoto prime in my future, but that's down the road.
In short, I feel that both zooms and primes have their place. I won't buy "consumer zooms" anymore, they have been disappointments overall. I'm addicted to speed, sharpness, contrast, saturation, and bokeh.
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