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DPChallenge Forums >> Hardware and Software >> Fixed lens vs. zoom - Which is better.
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09/12/2006 03:50:28 PM · #1
I was wondering how people feel about a fixed telephoto lens vs. a zoom telephoto. I want to do wildlife, even as far away from me as 500 feet. Sony is coming out with a 500mm fixed telephoto lens, available at the end of September. It is the equivalent of a 750mm film slr lens I would imagine. Anyway, they also have the option of getting a 70-300mm zoom telephoto for 1/4 of the cost, but in order to get the focal length I would need a 2x teleconverter. The cost of the two together would be more than the 500 mm fixed lens. What is gained by having the zoom telephoto, and is the quality different between a fixed lens and a zoom lens? Any suggestions, based on your experiences with your cameras.
09/12/2006 03:56:44 PM · #2
From my limited knowledge I would say that the fixed lens is going to produce a sharper image and be faster than the zoom. Also, if you add a teleconverter you're also going to lose some speed there as well making your shooting times difficult. Consider that most wildlife is active near dusk and dawn you're going to be shooting in low light conditions quite frequently.

I'd say, if you're serious, go with the fixed lens.
09/12/2006 04:08:13 PM · #3
Primes are always much higher quality than zooms in the same class, they are also faster, but you lose the flexibility that a zoom offers. If you think you can work with a fixed focal length lens, then get the prime.
09/12/2006 04:10:36 PM · #4
as Glad said, the prime will be sharper then the zoom and with a 2x teleconverter you will lose more image quality and 2 stops of aperture. Your camera may not even autofocus with the 70-300 and the 2x unless it's an F4 lens. If it does autofocus it will rpobably be slow and hunt a lot.

That being said, a zoom lens is much more handy then a prime for wildlife because if you have to move back and forth to change your composition you'll scare the critter away.
09/12/2006 08:25:52 PM · #5
As said before, fixed length will usually be a better lens. Though, that's not to say you can't get great shots with a zoom. Sigma has a few good telephoto lenses for wildlife/telephoto shots. Look into this list, but the KM/Sony mount for a couple are getting harder to find. Maybe they'll start making them again?
Check the list here (zoom) and here (fixed length).The prices listed are MSRP. You can find them cheaper at Sigma4Less. I ordered from them twice and the service is great. They upgraded shipping on one of my lenses so I could get it before vacationtime.
09/12/2006 09:33:58 PM · #6
like they said, fixed is usually sharper, but then again sometimes the difference is neglectable.

Personally I'd go for a zoom-telephoto because then you get more range. I cant see the benefit of shooting at 500mm all the time (Ooh, I got the nose of that gorrilla but I cant get his entire face into the frame!)
09/12/2006 09:48:52 PM · #7
Where did you hear that Sony is coming out with a 500mm prime?
09/12/2006 10:18:06 PM · #8
Originally posted by MrXpress:

Where did you hear that Sony is coming out with a 500mm prime?

SAL500F80
wow I like the contemporary design of the lens - looks sleek and modern.

edit: found an english link instead

Message edited by author 2006-09-12 22:22:25.
09/12/2006 10:19:47 PM · #9
Ohh, the mirror lens. Those have their own set of problems, not the least of which is really strange bokeh.
09/12/2006 10:31:51 PM · #10
idk... somehow paying 700$ for a 500mm lens just doesnt seem right :/

if i were you, ide get a 70-200, and then a 400 prime. this will cost more, but you will be much more satisfied with the results.

-Dan
09/12/2006 10:58:01 PM · #11
The 500mm lens from Minolta/Sony is a mirror lens. These are less than ideal IMO because the bokeh (out of focus area) is rendered in 'halos' or 'donuts' because of the physical attribute of a mirror lens.

Minolta has/had some excellent long primes, but they are pricey. I guess it depends on how serious you are and how important it is, but the zooms do pretty well.
09/12/2006 11:01:47 PM · #12
Mirror is one problem. It's also an f/8 lens. That means it's going to be awfully difficult getting those dawn and dusk shots. And your ability to auto focus may be limited (if at all).

09/13/2006 12:59:07 AM · #13
Originally posted by crayon:

Originally posted by MrXpress:

Where did you hear that Sony is coming out with a 500mm prime?

SAL500F80
wow I like the contemporary design of the lens - looks sleek and modern.

edit: found an english link instead

For $589 (cheaper than that one) you can get the Sigma 135-400 f/4.5-5.6. A bit less length, but faster and a better lens in general.
09/13/2006 07:23:55 AM · #14
Originally posted by crayon:

like they said, fixed is usually sharper, but then again sometimes the difference is neglectable.

Personally I'd go for a zoom-telephoto because then you get more range. I cant see the benefit of shooting at 500mm all the time (Ooh, I got the nose of that gorrilla but I cant get his entire face into the frame!)


Get them all. Multiple bodies for multiple lenses ;)

In general, primes are faster and sharper than their zoom counterparts. But it all boils down to what you think the best tool is for the job, and there is no right answer. If you specialize and the specific length is a good fit then go for the prime. If flexibility is a higher priority then go with the zoom.

I do avoid teleconverters though. I've never been happy with the image quality hit or the speed sacrifice.
09/13/2006 08:57:57 AM · #15
As has been said - It's a mirror. I have no real issue for them for what they are but make sure you see some images from them. Also notice the f/8 - need to have more than a little bit of light for something @f8 and 750mm (effective on the sony). :-)

Better is subjective - prime will have better characteristics (speed, weight e.t.c.) to a comparable zoom. On the other hand it's easier to zoom back then change lenses in a hurry :-)
09/13/2006 09:01:17 AM · #16
Wildlife photography requires at least a 300mm lens for some semblance of frame filling shots. A 500mm is preferred. The single focals are great, but good ones are several thousands of dollars. A compromise lens for me was the Sigma 50-500Ex. OK speed, good decent glass, and a 10x optical zoom range for excellant framing variability.

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Message edited by author 2006-09-13 09:03:08.
09/13/2006 09:17:32 AM · #17
' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/3084/thumb/36724.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/3084/thumb/36724.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

I own two mirror or catadioptric lenses. Mine are the Nikkor 500mm f8.0 and the 1000mm f11.0. The above image was taken with the 1000mm and a x2 converter.

Mirror lenses are unique in as far as lenses go and do offer some amazing artifacts related to depth of field since the aperture is always fixed. So, all exposure adjustments need to be made with changes to the shutter speed, ISO, or by physically adding neutral density filters at the exit pupil (perhaps just a Nikon feature?). The chief benefit of a mirror lens are significant reduction in both size and weight. As the name suggests, these lenses are constructed of both optical lens elements and mirrors to achieve the physical reductions compared to a classic linear lens design.

Others described the image characteristics above, so I will not repeat the comments about bokeh and doughnut effects. But, I personally love these lenses and suggest that it may be a worthwhile purchase. With that said, I can not comment on the Sony / Minolta product specifically.

I will add a few image links below. I use them for work as an RF engineer in broadcasting, so I take a lot of boring images of giant towers.

Cheers,
Michael

CN Tower in Toronto


09/13/2006 10:26:02 AM · #18
As I read all your comments, I can see that unless you are placed exactly right, you will probably not be able to get correct framing with a 500mm lens. Anyway, I will be watching what is said about the lens, anyway, but I want to avoid the 70-200 mm zoom lens that Sony is issueing for around $250. My instincts just say not to get that lens. Of course, the one I really want is the 300mm that they want 6000 for. In my dreams. Have to sell my car to get that one.
Thanks for the ideas regarding Sigma. I think that it currently does not have a Minolta or Sony mount so that one is out for now, but once these lens companies test the waters regarding Sony, they may create some mounts for it.
09/13/2006 12:02:51 PM · #19
Add me to the list of (former) satisfied users of the catadioptric (mirror) lens; I had one for my Nikon back in the day. It was very sharp, and it was a joy to work with even with its aperture limitations. I actually liked the donut bokeh. A good catadioptric lens (which I'm sure Sony's is) is definitely a viable option IMO. It's a HELL of a lot easier to carry around than a "Bigma"...

R.

BTW, I find it odd that the posted site is marketing the Sony as a "Telephoto Zoom" lens; it ain't no such thing, it's fixed focal length...



Message edited by author 2006-09-13 12:03:45.
09/14/2006 04:20:44 PM · #20
Wrong lens is listed on this thread. It is not 31,000 but 689. I guess that this is the good one, not the one I was looking at.
Originally posted by MrEd:

Originally posted by crayon:

Originally posted by MrXpress:

Where did you hear that Sony is coming out with a 500mm prime?

SAL500F80
wow I like the contemporary design of the lens - looks sleek and modern.

edit: found an english link instead

For $589 (cheaper than that one) you can get the Sigma 135-400 f/4.5-5.6. A bit less length, but faster and a better lens in general.
09/14/2006 04:46:07 PM · #21
I know its already been said but the most important feature of a long lens is the speed or fstop rating. If its f8 then unless you shoot in very bright conditions or using ISO 1600 then your shutter speed will be SLOOOW!

Wildlife and nature photography usually (not always) required a fast shutter speed and fast focussing to capture action as very few birds and animals stay still for long. OK so sloths are an exception!

This means that for the best wildlife lens you would be looking at 500-600mm f4ish and with the ooption of image stabalisation. You are talking thousands to meet these criteria.

I have a 500mm f8 mirror on my bookshelf, cna't remember the last time I used it. It wasn't an expensive one and never gave good results.

Zooms have drawbacks too in that they are generally not as sharp as primes and also lose a few of those precious fstops too. I have the 100-400 Canon L but am always looking with envy at the BIG Whites.

I would recommend hiring or borrowing one for a few days to see if they really match your requirements before paying out for either a mirror or a zoom.
09/14/2006 09:34:20 PM · #22
The thing with this lens is it is a fixed aperture. It only does f8. You can only control exposure by shutter speed. It doesn't appear to have a manual focus ability either. I guess that is why it is inexpensive. Anyway, I won't be buying anything real soon. Need to do a lot of research, and see some results through articles or others use before I make any decisions.
Originally posted by Falc:

I know its already been said but the most important feature of a long lens is the speed or fstop rating. If its f8 then unless you shoot in very bright conditions or using ISO 1600 then your shutter speed will be SLOOOW!

Wildlife and nature photography usually (not always) required a fast shutter speed and fast focussing to capture action as very few birds and animals stay still for long. OK so sloths are an exception!

This means that for the best wildlife lens you would be looking at 500-600mm f4ish and with the ooption of image stabalisation. You are talking thousands to meet these criteria.

I have a 500mm f8 mirror on my bookshelf, cna't remember the last time I used it. It wasn't an expensive one and never gave good results.

Zooms have drawbacks too in that they are generally not as sharp as primes and also lose a few of those precious fstops too. I have the 100-400 Canon L but am always looking with envy at the BIG Whites.

I would recommend hiring or borrowing one for a few days to see if they really match your requirements before paying out for either a mirror or a zoom.
09/15/2006 10:16:28 AM · #23
Originally posted by Morgan:

' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/3084/thumb/36724.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/3084/thumb/36724.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

I own two mirror or catadioptric lenses. Mine are the Nikkor 500mm f8.0 and the 1000mm f11.0. The above image was taken with the 1000mm and a x2 converter.

Mirror lenses are unique in as far as lenses go and do offer some amazing artifacts related to depth of field since the aperture is always fixed. So, all exposure adjustments need to be made with changes to the shutter speed, ISO, or by physically adding neutral density filters at the exit pupil (perhaps just a Nikon feature?). The chief benefit of a mirror lens are significant reduction in both size and weight. As the name suggests, these lenses are constructed of both optical lens elements and mirrors to achieve the physical reductions compared to a classic linear lens design.

Others described the image characteristics above, so I will not repeat the comments about bokeh and doughnut effects. But, I personally love these lenses and suggest that it may be a worthwhile purchase. With that said, I can not comment on the Sony / Minolta product specifically.

I will add a few image links below. I use them for work as an RF engineer in broadcasting, so I take a lot of boring images of giant towers.

Cheers,
Michael

CN Tower in Toronto


Morgan - glad to see you back. Haven't seen you post in awhile. Hope all is well.
09/15/2006 10:25:49 AM · #24
Might also be worthwhile to check into flash extenders if this is what you will be doing...

If you know what you are doing, it's possible to set up a flash remotely and set up a position with some food or bait or something and let the animals come to you...
09/20/2006 07:47:28 AM · #25
Hi Flash,

I am currently pursuing another graduate degree, an MBA this time. So it consumes a lot of my free time beyond work and family. The D2X is gathering a lot of dust as are the other camera and lenses.

As well, after four years of DPC participation, I find it to be a bit boring and redundant, perhaps it is just me, I am not sure. But, the same topics seem to be rehashed over and over again as the community expands.

Maybe it is time for DPC to provide some vertical segmentation or horizontal stratification in order to better serve the varied demographic? [Geez, there I go sounding off like an MBA again... lol]

Cheers,
Michael

Originally posted by Flash:

Originally posted by Morgan:

' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/3084/thumb/36724.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/3084/thumb/36724.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

I own two mirror or catadioptric lenses. Mine are the Nikkor 500mm f8.0 and the 1000mm f11.0. The above image was taken with the 1000mm and a x2 converter.

Mirror lenses are unique in as far as lenses go and do offer some amazing artifacts related to depth of field since the aperture is always fixed. So, all exposure adjustments need to be made with changes to the shutter speed, ISO, or by physically adding neutral density filters at the exit pupil (perhaps just a Nikon feature?). The chief benefit of a mirror lens are significant reduction in both size and weight. As the name suggests, these lenses are constructed of both optical lens elements and mirrors to achieve the physical reductions compared to a classic linear lens design.

Others described the image characteristics above, so I will not repeat the comments about bokeh and doughnut effects. But, I personally love these lenses and suggest that it may be a worthwhile purchase. With that said, I can not comment on the Sony / Minolta product specifically.

I will add a few image links below. I use them for work as an RF engineer in broadcasting, so I take a lot of boring images of giant towers.

Cheers,
Michael

CN Tower in Toronto


Morgan - glad to see you back. Haven't seen you post in awhile. Hope all is well.

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