Why Buy A Prime Lens?

Discussion in 'Digital Discussion & Q&A' started by LiveStrong2009, Jul 31, 2010.

  1. LiveStrong2009

    LiveStrong2009 TPF Noob!

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    I am curious why so many people use prime lenses. What are the advantages? I have noticed that many of them are relatively inexpensive and usually pretty fast, but don't their limits bother you?

    I guess I am nearly convinced to buy a 50mm f1/8 just to see what everybody is so proud of.
     
  2. iAstonish

    iAstonish TPF Noob!

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    They are usually much sharper, but cheaper to make, so the cost is less than a fast telephoto. It's like sacrificing the zoom range for better image quality.

    Unless you want to buy a 2.8 telephoto, then you can have both, but the cost will reflect the quality.
     
  3. Neil S.

    Neil S. TPF Noob!

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    Faster
    Cheaper
    Better IQ
    They will improve your skills
    Earns you some respect lol
     
  4. LiveStrong2009

    LiveStrong2009 TPF Noob!

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    How do you decide which prime to get? I have seen many different focal lengths. The 50mm seems most popular but I also see the 24,28,35,85 etc...
     
  5. Neil S.

    Neil S. TPF Noob!

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    I would get the 135L if I was you.

    Its a good deal, and they say the image quality and bokeh are outstanding.
     
  6. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Bought and sold much Canon equipment and the following ended up "surviving" in my bag for many years:

    24mm f/1.4L
    50mm f/1.4
    85mm f/1.8
    135 f/2L

    If necessary, I would add this one... leaving the 100-400L behind.

    300 f/4L

    I would pick and choose depending. I think those lenses are the wonderful balance between cost and quality. I never really had one but the 100mm f/2.8 macro is also nice for macro and portrait.
     
  7. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    What limits are you thinking of in particular? The only real thing that primes "lack" over a zoom is the ability to change their focal length and allow you to zoom in and out. Thus leaving you to have to move either the camera closer/further or the subject in order to change the framing.

    Other than that primes tend to have all advantages over zooms:
    1) Faster max apertures - meaning a brigther, clearer viewfinder image; better light gathering for AF; the potential for using wider apertures for either creative or lightgathering effects (eg shooting in low light without flash)

    2) Improved optical quality - generally primes (of good quality of course) are sharper than zooms, especailly when wide open

    Price wise its moot - primes can be cheaper and also far far more expensive than zooms.

    Also note that whilst primes might be better optically than zooms its not to say that zooms are not usable. In the past zooms were generally too poor in quality for pro use; today however there are many on the market that give very highquality results - maybe not as sharp as a prime, but certainly still giving very usable results.

    There are also somethings that primes can do that zooms can't - like achive 1:1 (true) macro (I'm not aware of a zoom 1:1 capable macro lens).

    In the end its about fitting your needs against your assests (budget) and seeing which lenses fit those requirements.
     
  8. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    50mm is popular because it's cheap. You need to ask yourself what the goal is. Do you run around taking average sized portraits? A 50mm or 85mm is great for single shots of people. Take photos of groups of people, or with a natural looking perspective, then 35mm is for you on a modern digital camera. 24mm makes a good wide angle. 400mm is great for chasing birds (the winged kind) and getting birds to chase you (the boobed kind).

    Don't buy a prime for the sake of spending money. Buy a prime to expand and improve what you love. I too have the popular 50mm. It rarely leaves my bag. 85mm and 105mm are the focal lengths for me.
     
  9. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    yup.. they are right.. you should let what you are shooting drive your purchases.

    I'd just like to add that sometimes people think in terms of Zooms VERSUS primes. That simply isn't the case. Often primes can supplement the zoom you have in hand. In my case, I ended up selling everything listed and simplifying. 24-105L + 50mm f/1.4. The decision to keep the 50mm wasn't because it was cheap but because it is an all around good performer and I like mild telephoto (1.33x crop). In low light at wide apertures, I tend to shoot subject (as opposed to story telling) type photos.

    I now shoot primes with a different system (1.3x crop).. they tend to be one of two sets.

    35 and 75

    or

    50 and 90.
     
  10. Petraio Prime

    Petraio Prime TPF Noob!

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    I own 28, 50, 90, 180, 350, and 560mm lenses. Want more!
     
  11. subscuck

    subscuck No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Why? On a crop body, that's effectively 216mm. $1000 for a first prime that's only useable in certain situations? 30,35 or 50mm are far more usefull fl's for far more situations.
     
  12. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    With an understanding of how lenses and photography work, deciding what lens to get is easy. You get the prime lens that does what you need it to do.

    It's only hard to decide if you don't know how it all works. ;)
     

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