prime lens vs zoom lens

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by cypilk, May 23, 2004.

  1. cypilk

    cypilk TPF Noob!

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    for variety purposes... wouldn't people want to get a zoom lens over a prime lens... i mean.. it all does the same thing... just that if you wanted to get closer to something..you would have to walk up to it.. or walk further away. i don't see the benefit in lenses without zoom.

    for example.. say the shot you want to take is too small. and does not fill up the frame you wanted it to... or vice versa..

    also, macro lenses are just.. closer focusing ranges right?... so you can get closer to the subject you want to take a picture of.. but then again...some zoom lenses can get pretty close to the subject with focus too.. lets say "give or take a foot" i mean.. 24mm is "good enough" isn't it?..

    well i just wanted to know what the pros and cons of prime lenses and zoom lenses... and macros vs 24mm - 120 zoom lenses
     
  2. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    In the past prime lenses usually did a better job with sharpness, etc... Modern zooms are probably just as good as most primes.

    The biggest difference these days is maximum f/stop. Affordable consumer zooms tend to max out around f/4, and if you want a pro zoom that does f/2 you'll pay through the nose. On the other hand, you can probably pick up a 50mm prime that is faster than f/2 for less than $100.

    Also the increased number of elements in a zoom can increase chances for flare, contrast reduction, etc... Once again, these days they are doing an excellent job of building the zooms, so probably not worth worrying about.

    The word "macro" gets put on a lot of lenses that I don't consider a true macro lens. I was taught that a macro lens will magnify 1:1. This means that if you shoot a coin at 1:1, on the neg the coin will be life sized. Most of the lenses that claim to be macros, particularly the zooms, don't come anywhere near this ratio. They just put it on the lens/box as a sales gimmick.
     
  3. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    And here you point out the true, insidious evil :twisted: of zoom lenses.

    You shouldn't stop, stand still, and zoom in and out to compose your picture. You should observe the scene, decide on a focal length that is appropriate for how you want the scene to look, set the zoom lens, and then move yourself back and forth to crop in the camera. This will teach you much more about how different focal lengths affect an image. Only crop with the zoom if you are constrained by your environment (wall at your back, cliff in front of you, etc...).

    A common photog exercise is to stick with only one focal length for an extended period of time. In this way the photog learns the characteristics of a particular focal length.
     
  4. drlynn

    drlynn TPF Noob!

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    What Matt said. Zooming out because you don't want to back up a step, and vice versa will completely change the way your shot looks.

    Wide angles distort by stretching things out, telephotos compact everything together. When you want a certain effect, you can't just stand still and zoom in or out, because you won't be able to get the desired effect if you change your focal length.

    Matt's point about the extra f/stops is also a good one. With a good prime, you can shoot handheld in some pretty dim lighting situations that the average zoom couldn't handle.

    I have found very few pics I couldn't hand-gold with my 50mm or even my 135mm f/2.8. The same shot with an f/4-5.6 zoom would be unrecognizeable.
     
  5. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    My favorite 35mm light combo for vacations, and when I don't want to carry a ton of gear is my 28-200 f/3.5 zoom, and a 50mm f/1.4 prime lens. The zoom covers most every situation I need to deal with, and the fast prime works in low light conditions.
     
  6. cypilk

    cypilk TPF Noob!

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    thanks for the insight.!.. now..i gotta go shopping =)
     
  7. cypilk

    cypilk TPF Noob!

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    ok..i looked through websites for lens shopping..and yet another question arises =)

    what is the pros and cons of a manual lens? and for nikon, what is ai-s?
     
  8. Harpper

    Harpper TPF Noob!

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    Matt and drlynn have already pointed out prime vs zoom but I would like to add that the faster f range will also give you the nicer smoothed blurred backgrounds. Unless you get an expensive zoom with say an f/2 then you have to use a slower f range which in my opinion gives the blurred background more of a grainy blur as opposed to a nicer smooth blur.

    My 50mm prime lense has a much more pleasing and smoothed blur than my 28-200mm. Although Matt is right in that zoom quality has come a long way. I'm still suprised at the quality of my 28-200G ED Nikkor lense but my 50mm still beats it though. They were a lot closer than I would have imagined.

    You would think it would be that simple but there is reason why people still buy dedicated macro lenses. I have a 60mm macro lense which allows me to get about 2 inches from my subject. I can't do that with my 28-200. The minimum focusing distance with my zoom is about 1 foot. I know what you are going to say, you'll say so what just zoom.

    You would also think 200mm would zoom close enough but it's not as close as my macro lense. It's probably close enough for most macro work but you can't get the dramatically large pictures of something like an ant filling up the frame with a zoom. You also won't have the faster f stops so you are limited in the type of pictures you can take. Macro lenses are also razer sharp which is important for macro work.
     
  9. Harpper

    Harpper TPF Noob!

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    You must have posted while I was typing...
    AIS I believe are manual lenses. Go to these sites to learn about Nikkor nomenclature: site 1, site 2, site 3

    Some people like manual focus as opposed to autofocus, but if you buy autofocus G or D Nikon lenses then they usually have the option to switch to manual focus. I believe the only big difference is that manual focus lenses maybe cheaper and lighter because they don't have any autofocus motors. I'm not completely sure on that but unless you fully trust your eyes I would say get autofocus.
     
  10. Sash[DSL]

    Sash[DSL] TPF Noob!

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    im new to this forum hey everyone...


    Harpper
    THis is a very interesting point, can you explain why the blur is "nicer" from the technical point of view?

    to everyone:
    Can some1 explain me the deal with "fast" lenses?
    Oh and when you do use the f/1.4 50mm lens for example, you get an extra few f stops over an f/4 BUT YOU ALSO GET A MORE SHALLOW depth of field, right?
     
  11. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    Extra f/stops and shallow DOF is pretty much the draw.

    f/1.4 is 3 stops faster than f/4, so you could raise the shutter speed say from 1/15th sec, which might be too slow for hand held work, to 1/125th sec, which would be fine for many lenses and subjects.

    The shallow depth of field (with the nice bokeh, as mentioned) is popular for portrait work.

    Another thing to consider is that your lens is probably sharper a stop or two away from the ends of the range. An f/1.4 lens can be stopped down to f/2.8, still getting shallow DOF, and take advantage of the sweeter spots of the lens, while the f/4 is having to go to f/8 to get to the sweet spot; on a very long focal length lens (which also decreases DOF), this may not be a problem.
     
  12. jadin

    jadin The Mad Hatter

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    AI is aperture indexing. Non-AI lenses were back in the 70's and weren't compatible with AI camera bodies. There was a way to add AI to non-AI making them AI-S I beleive. Unless you have a super old-school camera avoid non-ai.

    I think the big difference is non-ai you set the aperture with the aperture ring. ai you could use the camera body to set the aperture.
     

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