Primes vs. Zooms

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Bryant, Aug 29, 2008.

  1. Bryant

    Bryant TPF Noob!

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    I have been reading lately that primes are sharper due to the fix reach. I understand that because I know they get soft as you zoom further. The question is why would you want a prime like 200 when you could have a 100-300. I understand the F/stop etc... But what happens when you're out shooting and you have the perfect shot, but because you're lens can't zoom and you can't focus because it's at that right distance, you lose the shot. If you had the zoom lens though, you could have zoomed a bit and gotten the shot.

    Can you explain why loosing the shot is worth it or any other reasons.
     
  2. epp_b

    epp_b No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    The lack of zoom means that the lens can be of a much simpler design. It can have much higher optical quality and still be cheaper than a zoom in a similar range.

    Every camera ever made has a really cool focus mechanism that is 100% compatible: the photographer's feet ;)
     
  3. prodigy2k7

    prodigy2k7 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Yes, and most (not all) photographers have a common distance to their subjects, such as a football stadium, they can have it handy, and use it when necesarry. A common setup for Canon at football stadiums (depends on ur distance) is 2 camera bodies, one with a prime like 400mm and another such as 70-200 , it depends on the sport and whatnot... It just depends on what you shoot. Many people swear by only primes. If you know what you are shooting and the common distance, use a prime, better IQ and cheaper normally...

    This is just what ive learned in my experience on these forums. :)

    I do have a 50mm F/1.4 $300 and man this thing is tack sharp, much sharper than my other 2 lenses... 18-55 and 75-300
     
  4. prodigy2k7

    prodigy2k7 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Another note... if it wasnt that clear...Most sport photographers have 2 camera bodies, often with 1 telephoto zoom and 1 super telephoto
     
  5. prodigy2k7

    prodigy2k7 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I am no canon/nikon lens expert...
    http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/42713000/jpg/_42713741_photographers.jpg
    To me that looks like all of those are primes, no zoom lenses, actually thinking about it, the biggest zoom is a 100-400 in canon right? everything higher than 400 is a prime, probably too complex and too expensive to produce... The 800mm F/5.6 is what like 10 grand? 12 grand? I forgot... Think the cost of a 400-800 F/5.6L


    Sorry I talk a lot :)
     
  6. Tolyk

    Tolyk TPF Noob!

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    Sigma has a 150-500 zoom, 50-500 and 300-800.
     
  7. prodigy2k7

    prodigy2k7 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Okay fine you got me :p but look how huge it is! lol... (300-500) anyways, still about 10 grand ha!....
    I was referring to canon, forgot to mention that
     
  8. Bryant

    Bryant TPF Noob!

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    Oh ok, I didn't realize that sports photographers carried two bodies. I do know that you can step back, but I just meant if you didn't have time too. Or you had a 300mm prime and you were shooting a bird, you'd have to move, probably scaring it away.
     
  9. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    That is all part of the fun ;)
    most of the time you will never have the "ideal" reach you want - or you will be too close or too far away - you just have to learn to work round that.
    Get closer or get further by feet or compose the shot with the limitation present - maybe focus more on the face if you are too close or try to make the shot more appealing with a greater use of the background if you are too far away. Its all very trick to get perfect - a zoom does give you that added bonus of being adaptable, but one thing I have found is that with a zoom you always worry about being at the "right focal length" more than the composition of the shot itself - whilst with a prime you sometimes only have one choice with not chance to move - so you have to compose as best as you can.

    Some swear by primes, others by zooms - I am neither - each is a tool and each has a use.
     
  10. ksmattfish

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

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    They are sharper because fixed focal length lens technology is relatively simple, and was mastered over 100 years ago. The prime lenses made today are no sharper than those made 50 years ago. It's only been in the last 20 years that computer aided design has allowed for much more complicated variable focal length lenses. 1980's zooms were noticeably softer than what we are using today. I can't see the difference in sharpness between the zooms and primes I'm using in large prints. The reason I choose to use a prime lens is because of it's max aperture or it's compact size.

    This may be your experience with the zooms you are using, but that is not always the case. Most of the zooms I use are softest in the middle of the focal length range. Possibly you are experiencing camera shake, which becomes more of an issue as focal length increases.

    Don't choose gear because someone else says it works for them. It only matters if it works for you. Obviously missing the shot isn't going to be acceptable in most situations.

    Changing focal length affects magnification. Changing where the camera is in relation to the subject changes perspective. These are very different effects when it comes to composition.
     
  11. Tolyk

    Tolyk TPF Noob!

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    I had to mention the sigma 300-800 :p We have one on demo at our store right by the door and it gets talked about every day. Couldn't resist.
     
  12. TamiyaGuy

    TamiyaGuy No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Generally, prime lenses are much sharper, focus faster (I think), are slightly smaller, and are quite a bit cheaper than the equivalent zooms. Of course, you might miss a couple of shots because of having too little (or more importantly, too much) of a focal length in your lens.

    Obviously, there are exceptions to this. Some lenses (I'm thinking of 70-200 f/2.8's) are unbelievably sharp, sometimes even sharper than their prime counterparts. But they're not exactly cheap.
     

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