Friday, April 26, 2013

Zoom versus Prime lenses

I know how I stand on the whole "Zooms versus Primes" debate: I prefer primes.

A "zoom" lens has the ability to change its focal length; a "prime" lens does not.  Here is a link to my son's incredible Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L zoom lens.  Here is a link to my incredible Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 lens.  In terms of image quality, it is arguable that these two lenses, at 50mm, are quite similar.

  • Variable focal length
  • You can often get a decent zoom lenses with image stabilization for a reasonable price.  For example, this new kit lens from Canon.
  • Heavier lens is sometimes easier to hold steady.
  • It seems that the newest technologies appear on zoom lenses first (like the kit lens linked to, above).
  • Great IQ for not much money
  • Small and light (in most cases)
  • Usually, primes are faster (have a larger maximum aperture) than zooms
  • Many artistic photographers like the constraint of a single focal length (and I am one of them).  It forces you to look at the scene carefully and find the interesting perspectives.
  • Only one moving part (focus)
  • Some primes are incredibly small (e.g., this Canon 40mm pancake lens).
  • To get comparable image quality to a prime, you have to spend a lot of money
  • Large and heavy
  • Usually, zooms are slower (have a smaller maximum aperture) than primes
  • Lots of moving parts (focus, zoom and (often) image stabilization)
  • Cannot change the focal length
  • Image stabilization is not common.  When you can get it, it is quite expensive (at this time).

So, I prefer primes for the reasons I state here.

The bottom line for me is stated as Image Quality/Price--you can't beat that ratio in primes.


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