Prime Vs. Zoom

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by eminart, Feb 29, 2008.

  1. eminart

    eminart TPF Noob!

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    So, I've heard that prime lenses produce better results. Obviously, zoom lenses aren't bad either, but how much difference is there? Does it make a difference in how wide the focal range is? For example, does a 70-200mm produce higher quality photos than an 70-300mm?

    The lens choices out there are mind boggling to a newbie like myself. There's a million different kinds in a million different focal lengths. I'm trying to figure out what lens or lenses I can afford and will be the best bang for my meager buck.

    Are Sigma and Tamron close to Nikon in quality?
     
  2. evo5gsr

    evo5gsr TPF Noob!

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    There's another important aspect to a lens that you seem to be forgetting, which is the maximum aperture of a lens. This has a huge part in determining the price of a lens. Usually, people get primes because you can get a lens with a big aperture for relatively cheap. You just have to determine what kind of shots you're gonna be doing in choosing a lens.

    Sigma and Tamron are great brands. Don't be afraid to look at them.
     
  3. eminart

    eminart TPF Noob!

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    Yes, I've considered that, but it keeps getting mixed up with all the other aspects that are swirling around in my shell-shocked mind. :D

    Ok, how's this for a plan......... I pick up a short Nikon prime lens and maybe a Tamron zoom 70-300mm macro? Or maybe just one lens like a Nikon 18-135mm........ or ..... sigh............ I need more money.
     
  4. EOS_JD

    EOS_JD TPF Noob!

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    The smaller the f number the larger the aperture.

    The larger the aperture the more light gets through the lens. this therefore allows faster shutter speeds - particularly usefule when the light is low or you are shooting a very fast moving subject.

    Primes are generally fixed focal length lenses. 35mm f1.4, 85mm f1.8, 100mm f2, 300mm f4 etc.

    Zooms have a variable focal length. 70-200mm, 24-105 etc etc.

    Many consumer zooms have also a variable maximum aperture. That is the aperture gets smaller as you zoom out. 28-135mm f3.5-5.6 is an example. this is not as good as a fixed maximum zoom like a 24-70 f2.8.

    Faster lenses (larger aperture) are generally better and more useful but the fastest zooms in the nikon/canon camps are f2.8 which can still not be a big enough aperture when light is very low, so Primes are really useful when you need speed. and you can always "zoom" with your feet.

    Comparing a 70-200 over a 70-300 is not as simple as saying the 70-300 is longer therefore must be better. You need to look at the maximum aperure. I'd have (well I have got one) the Canon 70-200 f2.8L IS over almost any other zoom lens in that sort of range. IS (or VR) is also something to consider. Image stabalization (or vibration reduction) helps you shoot at slower shutter speeds without fear of camera shake.

    When you shoot using a 200mm lens you need a shutter speed of around 1/200th second. IS allows you to gain around 3 stops advantage (1/50th sec) which is amazing really. Don't forget that IS does not stop subject motion. If your shooting a fast car, you may still need 1/200th or faster.

    So larger apertures are generally better, IS helps particuarly with longer lenses and I should have noted that primes are lighter and sharper.

    Hope this gives a little insight and I'm sure I've missed something :)
     
  5. Socrates

    Socrates TPF Noob!

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    1. Others have already told you about the maximum aperture. In my case, I like very large apertures not for light-gathering purposes but for selective focus - subject crisp but everything in front and behind out of focus.

    2. I don't mean to knock Sigma and Tamron but I bought a Nikon body because I wanted Nikon glass.
     
  6. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    pointy heads like to point to the MTF graphs to also see further differences between two particular lenses.

    Don't forget that Max Aperture does not automatically mean better IQ. There are many examples out there that prove otherwise.
     
  7. Mav

    Mav TPF Noob!

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    From the quality aspect, "generally" primes will give you better image quality than most zooms. But over the last 20 years almost all of the R&D and new technologies have gone into zooms, not primes, so a lot of the better zooms today "can be" just as good if not better than a lot of primes, the designs of which commonly date back 20+ years. That said, the newest primes on the market that have all the new technologies also will definitely smoke zooms, but these are usually super-telephoto (long) primes that cost thousands of dollars. The new technologies haven't made their way into the more normal length primes yet (35mm, 50mm, 85mm, etc) because there simply hasn't been any need to redesign them. Nikon is starting to do this - redesigning their more normal length primes with built-in focusing motors (AF-S) so that they're compatible with their new generation of cameras that no longer have the body-mounted focusing motor. And they'll probably be using the latest optical technologies in the glass while they're at it as well.

    To the OP - if you're thinking of getting a Nikon 18-135, just get it. It's an outstanding and very underrated piece of glass. Via a few sources I think its tested out as the best Nikon "kit" lens in terms of overall image quality when compared to the 18-55, 18-70, and 18-200VR. I have one and love it. It does have a lot of distortion though which can be bothersome (but is fairly easy to fix), and it's still a slow lens (f/5.6 at the long end). But overall it's great. It's nearly as sharp as my 50mm f/1.8D prime lens which is probably the sharpest, most color, and contrastiest lens I've ever owned. Considering it's a zoom that's outstanding, although it's not that sharp throughout its whole range. The best zoom I've tried is the $1200 Nikkor 17-55DX f/2.8. That thing is amazing. Every bit as good as a prime if not better, and nearly as fast too. So of course it's 1200 bucks. :lol:
     
  8. Stranger

    Stranger TPF Noob!

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    Before diving into lenses you should learn what you want to shoot. Once you decide what sort of lens you need, you can narrow down your selection a lot (maybe down to 3 or 4). So i would suggest not spending the money you have on lens that does what other people like and will not be all that fun for you. Keep shooting, decide what your needs are, and then we can be very helpful in your specific question

    Primes make great portrait/macro lens because they are so sharp.
     
  9. Helen B

    Helen B TPF Noob!

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    Possibly of marginal interest: Leica and Zeiss have steadily and continuously improved their wide, normal and short telephoto primes, while Cosina has introduced some fairly impressive primes recently. If you are looking for superb performance at wide apertures as a main priority (it's mine), these primes are probably the lenses to consider, if within budget. Rodenstock and Schneider are also producing remarkable primes for digital use (eg the Rodenstock Sironar Digital HR lenses), albeit specialist and not fast (typically f/4).

    Best,
    Helen
     
  10. sabbath999

    sabbath999 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    First, Helen... I want to marry your lens collection. It can be my bride for life.

    Now, as to the original post...

    I own two of Nikon's newer "Best" lenses, the 70-200 f/2.8 VR and the 105 f/2.8 VR

    The 70-200 is an amazing lens, clear, sharp, and the build quality is fantastic. It is extremely sharp at all apertures.

    Having said all of that, it isn't even BALLPARK as sharp as the 105 VR. Not even close. Nor is any other zoom lens I own (and I own several good ones).

    The 105 VR is RAZOR sharp at all apertures. Amazingly sharp. Fantastically sharp. I run out of adjectives to describe it.

    I don't know "which from what" but I do know that with the lenses I own, the primes are sharper than the zooms... and I have some good zooms.
     
  11. passerby

    passerby TPF Noob!

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    It is hard thing to chose until you know who the produced photos for.
    To me, it is not the speed of the lens or it's build quality that matter, but image quality and the story that generated by the silent picture. The image quality and the ability to produced story telling are first and foremost before everything else.

    But than again who is the person or people are you trying to please with this photos? Beauty in the eye of the beholder applies here. In the case of me I am the beholder. I am is the person that myself is trying hard to please - first and foremost. In the case of you, I think you are the first one you need to please - or is there other person or people?

    Expensive camera with expensive lens is not assurance to please the beholder. But they do help as the helping tools.

    Just an opinion to ease the chosing, hopefully of course.
     
  12. EOS_JD

    EOS_JD TPF Noob!

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    Depends on the image required, In low light you may require a fast lens to get any image at all. Build quality is secondary for sure but again if you are submitting your lenses to hard work, you will need a lens that will stand up to a battering - or you might end up with no image at all!

    I do agree with the rest however.
     

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