Prime vs zoom vs single focal length.

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Early, Mar 17, 2008.

  1. Early

    Early TPF Noob!

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    Please correct me if I'm wrong and confused, but I'd like to clear this up.

    A lot of people are calling a 50 mm f1/8 a prime lens, and zoom lenses non primes when the opposite could be true. It is my understanding that a prime lense is a manufacturer’s premium lens, be it a zoom or single focal length. Like Nikon’s 28-70mm f2.8D would be a prime lens as would the 200 mm f2 because of the build quality. Where as, a 50mm f1.8 is not considered a prime since it is usually cheaply made.
     
  2. Socrates

    Socrates TPF Noob!

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    Commonly, the term "prime" is used to mean "single focal length" and a "non-prime" is a "zoom." I'm not defending that position but merely stating what I've heard.

    There's no "western NJ." The state isn't wide enough for an eastern portion and a western portion!
     
  3. Digital Matt

    Digital Matt alter ego: Analog Matt

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    You are indeed a tad confused. A prime lens refers to one with a fixed focal length, ie: 50mm, 85mm, 135mm, 200mm, etc... and has nothing to do whatsoever with the image or build quality. A zoom lens covers a range of focal lengths.

    Every company has its own terminology for their high end lenses. Canon calls them "L" lenses. Sigma I believe uses the "EX" designation. Nikon has its own as well.
     
  4. Dubious Drewski

    Dubious Drewski TPF Noob!

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    Nope, it ain't like prime chicken or prime rib, though that would be good right about now too.
     
  5. Tasmaster

    Tasmaster TPF Noob!

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    What is the Nikon designation for premium lenses?

    "Prime lens" nowdays means fixed focal length. It used to mean the main lens in a system if lenses i believe, as in "primary" lens. The term doesn't carry any connotations of quality. Prime lenses are usually sharper and faster than zooms and prefered over them in many cases, so you might get that impression.
     
  6. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    It's just a term...different people use it in different ways.

    As the others have mentioned, it usually refers to 'fixed focal length lenses' as opposed to 'variable focal length lenses' (zoom lenses).

    I have heard people use it to describe the lens that they personally use the most (it's their prime lens)...in which case, it might be a zoom or a fixed focal length.
     
  7. Dubious Drewski

    Dubious Drewski TPF Noob!

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    Any respectable photographer wouldn't use the term like that, would they? That just causes confusion.

    "Bagboy, get my Prime lens out of the bag, please. No, I don't actually want a prime lens, I want my GOOD lens!"

    Oi!
     
  8. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Well, if that photographer has been around since before all these people started using 'Prime' for non zoom lenses...then I wouldn't blame them.

    Q: "What lens do you use to shoot portraits?"
    A: "I Primarily use a 100mm."

    Q: "What lens to you use to shoot a wedding?"
    A: "I Primarily use a 24-70mm."
     
  9. Joves

    Joves No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Well considering in the old days most cameras didnt have zoom lenses available. I dont think I had a single zoom till the 70s'. And the late 70s' at that.
     
  10. Helen B

    Helen B TPF Noob!

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    Some of the earliest zoom lenses, including the 1958 Pan-Cinor for example, consisted of a prime lens and a zoom unit. The term 'prime lens' was then, and still is, used to describe the main lens in a combination of lenses (as mentioned by Tasmaster). In the Pan-Cinor the prime lens fitted both descriptions: it had a fixed focal length, and it was the main lens.

    Best,
    Helen
     
  11. jsrockit

    jsrockit TPF Noob!

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    If there is a east and west orange in NJ, then surely there could be a east and west NJ no? ;)
     
  12. Socrates

    Socrates TPF Noob!

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    Hmmm...
    Desperately trying to think of a snappy retort and not having any luck.
     

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