Benefits of a fixed lens?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by paranoidandroid13, Jun 14, 2008.

  1. paranoidandroid13

    paranoidandroid13 TPF Noob!

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    As most amateur photographers with no money do, I am constantly looking for new lenses. I was just wondering what the benefit of a good fixed lens would be?
     
  2. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I assume you mean a prime or non-zoom lens.

    Unless you are doing very high-end work with very expensive glass, the benefits are limited. A good prime lens of a given focal length will always be sharper than a zoom at the same focal length, but the difference may be so small as to undetectable outside the lab. They are also faster and less expensive, but the trade-off is reduced versatility.

    Unless you have a specific need for a particular prime lens, I would suggest building up your gadget bag with some of the excellent zooms that are out there now.
     
  3. rufus5150

    rufus5150 TPF Noob!

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    Lighter, too, in general, aren't they?
     
  4. Smith2688

    Smith2688 TPF Noob!

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    They deliver the highest image quality at a specific focal length. They're faster, smaller and lighter, and less expensive (well, maybe not always, but find me an f/1.0 - or anywhere near that - zoom lens). You're not constantly zooming around trying to find the "best" focal length to take your picture at. You work and make the best of what you have. Well, that's my 2 cents, anyway.
     
  5. RKW3

    RKW3 TPF Noob!

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    Actually your statement about primes being cheaper holds true when given the prime f/1.0 example because if a zoom was ever able to achieve this you'd know it would be way more pricey. :)

    I agree with everything Smith said. Also to add on what he said, the low light performance of a prime lens is often better than a zoom. In example, the 50mm f/1.8 prime lens can be had for ~$100. Some of the most expensive zoom lenses out there can only open up to f/2.8 (I'm not sure if a zoom f/1.8 lens even exists).

    If you don't mind swapping lenses frequently then I think the benefits of prime lenses are greater than the benefits of a zoom.
     
  6. reg

    reg TPF Noob!

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    Olympus Digital makes some f/2 zooms but as far as I know that's the fastest they get, because they made a big deal about it when they came out.
     
  7. Josh66

    Josh66 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I prefer primes myself.

    The type of shooting I do doesn't require fast lens/focal length changes, so I don't worry about missing a shot because I had the wrong lens on.
     
  8. Moglex

    Moglex TPF Noob!

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    If the type of shooting you do enables you to move (or move your subject) so that you can always use full frame then a selection (or one if you're very specialised) of prime lenses are your best bet. They are better quality, lighter and cheaper (or faster).

    If, however, the type of photography you do means that you need to crop more than the very smallest amount, you lose the quality benefit straight away.

    On top of this (again, depending on what type of photography you do) there may be more danger of losing a shot whilst changing lenses if you don't use a zoom.
     
  9. paranoidandroid13

    paranoidandroid13 TPF Noob!

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    Yeah, a prime lens is what I was referring to. So you would recommend zoom lenses unless I would be doing some kind of photography that would require a prime lens? What kind of photography would a prime lens be useful for?
     
  10. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    prime versus zoom decision has more to do with the photographer's preference rather than the type of photography.

    For most cases, I think the typical photographer will love the versatility of a zoom. For me... I prefer primes for all the advantages already mentioned. Plus.... it makes me "think" about how focal length affects composition rather than instinctively "make it closer" like I (and many) tend to do with a zoom.
     
  11. paranoidandroid13

    paranoidandroid13 TPF Noob!

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    That's a good point that I hadn't really thought about. What prime lens would you recommend? Anything on the cheaper side, as always, helps...
     
  12. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I am not familiar with Nikon therefore I could not recommend specific lenses but we can talk focal lengths:

    On my 1DMII, the primes that got the most use were 24mm, 50mm 85mm 135mm. This pretty much covered most situations. Often, I would just pick 2 when I head out the door. Landscapes and general = 24 and 85. Portraiture 50 and 135. For the street, I'll go with a 35, 75 and 21 (different camera system). The 21mm focal length lends itself very well for shooting at the hip.

    Much of the decision is based on my gut feelings... it is hard to explain. Some of those feelings were just out of past experiences. Most of Canon non-L primes are very affordable so experimenting by via used and trade-in is doable. The focal length chosen by a photographer is a personal choice much like the decision a painter must make when picking a type of brush.

    Also.. don't think of zooms versus primes exclusively. Primes can augment zooms and vice versus. For example... If I forsee my self spending much of the day on my feet walking around (long distances, touring, etc), I'll want to be comfortable. I'll default to a good versatile zoom paired with a fast prime for those times spent indoors or when the sun begins to set. In my case, it ended up being the 24-105 f/4L which provides one of the most flexible, versatile, and compact walk around lenses a Canon shooter can buy paired with my 24L. 24-105 for most situations and 24L for low light .. remembering that wider focal lengths and fast aperture lend itself well to low light (slower shutter, faster aperture, increased DOF).

    I'm sure there are Nikkors that are equivalent to the Canon primes I shoot with... but in general my preferences are based on personal experience and experimentation.
     

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