04
Jun '15

Prime vs. zoom lens

An argument which constantly comes up amongst photographers is the age old debate of prime lens versus zoom lens. In honesty if used well then both are fantastic additions to your kit but there are different pros of each lens.

A prime lens is a lens with one fixed focal length and can range from a wide angle to a longer telephoto version; whereas a zoom lens is a lens with a range of focal lengths.

 

Arguments for prime lens

  • Quality
    The quality of zoom lens has moved massively in the last few years when DSLR cameras have become more and more popular but fixed lens tend to be able to produce crisper, cleaner and generally higher quality shots. It is worth remembering though that in each manufacturer’s range there is always going to be some lens which produce crisper images than others, so don’t make this assumption of all fixed lenses.
     
  • Price
    As prime lens are far less complicated on the inside and they are more simple in production there are therefore cheaper to buy. There are many things which can affect the price of a lens so don’t assume that all fixed lenses are cheap. The most common fixed lens is the nifty fifty which is a fixed 50mm lens and you can get pretty cheap for both Nikon and Canon.
     
  • Weight
    Because of their simple construction it is often the case that prime lens are both smaller and lighter than a zoom lens. Due to the difference in weight they can be more practical when you’re shooting outdoors or having to take your gear outside of your own home.
     
  • Speed
    In general fixed lens are quicker than zoom lens, but this is starting to change in newer generation zoom lens.
     
  • Technique
    An argument which a lot of people tend to make is that a zoom lens can make a photographer lazy as they can stand in one position and just zoom in and out to get different shots, whereas with a fixed lens a photographer is needed to move around themselves to get different shots.

 

Arguments for zoom lens

  • Portability
    While a zoom lens might be heavier than its fixed lens counterpart a lot of photographers argue that they then only need to carry one lens rather than a range of fixed lenses. So instead of carrying around a 14mm, 50mm and 85mm lens you can carry one lens which covers all (or close to) that range. Due to this you might not ever need to change your lens and risk getting dust on your image sensor.
     
  • Price
    While a fixed lens might be cheaper separately, in the long run a zoom lens might be a better investment. The price of 3 or 4 fixed lenses can be the same (if not more) than buying a zoom lens in the first place.
     
  • Flexibility
    Perhaps the biggest argument for a zoom lens is the flexibility it gives a photographer to shoot at a variety of focal lengths within a fraction of a section. This type of lens is ideal for lots of different types of photography such as wedding or sports where you need to be constantly looking for random shots and may not have the time to move closer, or change lenses before the potential shot is over.

 

It really depends on what you’re looking to use your camera for as to what lens you should buy and while one lens might work for one photographer it’s unlikely to work for another. For most photography lighting is key- especially in food photography, bright colours are definitely more appealing to the senses- so if you’re stuck where to begin then get a 50mm f1.8 lens and see how you get on.
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