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Archive 2013 · Frustrated... Primes vs zooms
  
 
gdanmitchell
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p.3 #1 · Frustrated... Primes vs zooms


bambi73 wrote:
THE problem: according to the reviews, the 35l is much better than the 17-40, and i really like to take some photos of my son at f2.
SO if i will take the 17-40, instead of the 35L, I will always think "mmm...i could get a better photo of my son with the 35L".


Photography gear virtually always represents a compromise among competing virtues. You might get a larger aperture and higher potential resolution (if you use a tripod) with the 35mm prime, but you'll be able to get excellent photographs under a wider range of conditions with the zoom.

In the end, both lenses can produce excellent image quality, so the real issue is more about which has the functionality that will most successfully work for the sorts of photography you are doing.

Be careful about following reviews too closely or uncritically, or about overlooking their applicability to your own circumstances. The 35mm L is "better" if you are measuring best possible resolution at a wide range of apertures, along with a few other IQ issues. However, it is not "best" if you need other focal lengths, can do what you need to do at f/4, and so forth. As someone probably wrote, "the 35mm prime is best at 35mm, but the 17-40 is best at 17-34mm and 36-40mm..." ;-)

And be cautious about confusing "best" with "the only one that is good." Some seem to think that gear falls into two categories: "The Best" and "Deficient." In truth, in most cases the options being compared all fall into the "excellent" category, and the differences are matters of degree or emphasis rather than good and bad.

(Edited a bit for clarity.)


Edited on Mar 23, 2013 at 09:25 PM · View previous versions



Mar 23, 2013 at 06:34 PM
bambi73
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p.3 #2 · Frustrated... Primes vs zooms


gdanmitchell -
every one have their own favorite photo gear.
thats why i didnt say to the OP - "forget the zoom and get a prime".

we are in this hobby (i dont talk about professionals) because it makes us happy. and if im happy with my prime lens, with all their advantages - and disadvantage - so its the best way for me.

and if there is someone who always thinks about the photo that he had just missed, because he had a 35mm prime instead of 17mm or 24mm prime - then zoom is the best for him.

its all in our head. there is no "one truth"



Mar 23, 2013 at 07:10 PM
skibum5
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p.3 #3 · Frustrated... Primes vs zooms


andyfs wrote:
I can't make up my mind! My current setup is a 40d with a 24-105L and a 70-200 F4L

I sold my sigma 30mm 1.4 which I loved, but I was drawn by the L glass. Now after about a year I'm getting really tired of the F4 and the size/weight of the 24-105, and I'm considering moving back to primes. Another 30mm 1.4 plus a canon/sigma 50 1.4. Seems about right, but I don't want to get tired of them in a year and want my L glass back. Don't have the money to keep the L and buy primes.
...Show more

Tamron 17-50 2.8 is small and light and you still get to zoom (and it's even sharper than the 24-105 anyway).

Anyway, none of us know if you'll miss the zoom even more than you missed the primes (seems like you don't know so how can we ).



Mar 23, 2013 at 07:14 PM
gdanmitchell
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p.3 #4 · Frustrated... Primes vs zooms


bambi73 wrote:
gdanmitchell -
every one have their own favorite photo gear.


Pretty much exactly my point. :-)



Mar 23, 2013 at 09:26 PM
mttran
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p.3 #5 · Frustrated... Primes vs zooms


i will dump all primers if canon offered short range f1.2 zoomers


Mar 23, 2013 at 09:37 PM
Yakim Peled
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p.3 #6 · Frustrated... Primes vs zooms


lucas lumiere wrote:
I think the OP is M.I.A.


Well, that never stopped us in the past...

Happy shooting,
Yakim.



Mar 23, 2013 at 10:17 PM
dswiger
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p.3 #7 · Frustrated... Primes vs zooms


lucas lumiere wrote:
I think the OP is M.I.A.

I guess that makes this a perpetual thread

I started out with zooms and my first kit on a 20D was a 17-70 and a 70-300.
I thought you needed very focal length from 17 to 300 & this was my answer.
Those were also the days when I thought landscape shooting meat UWA only &
the tele-zoom was for flying things.

My next stage was a better mix of zooms, 17-40, 24-105 & 70-200. Good for overlap & range, .
but still zoom only. I was covering events and needed the flexibility.

"THEN" I picked up a MF film camera. Only had primes in the kit,
which were 50(24, )65(32), 110(55) and 180(90). This forced me to pick my compositions
more carefully and my results were worth the restrictions. Hard to explain until you've been there.
I found that my most used lens with this setup was the 65(32) and next the 110(55).
BTW, using film gear will slow you down too.

Now when I shoot with the 5DMkII, I use the the 35mm Samyang prime, followed by the 24-105
and for those compressed shots, the 70-200, event a 400. I also have a 14mm Samyang for when the super UWA suites the scene.

So I went
ZOOM ZOOM to ZOOM ZOOM ZOOM to
PRIME PRIME PRIME PRIME & PRIME PRIME ZOOM ZOOM PRIME

Funny how that worked out

Which of course supports Dan_ contentionl.
But I arrived at it by buying & selling a lot of lenses.
Had I known Dan_ sooner, I could have saved a lot of money!

Now I'm happy with both kits. What I learn from one setup teaches me something I can use with the other.

Dan



Mar 24, 2013 at 03:29 AM
Paul Mo
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p.3 #8 · Frustrated... Primes vs zooms


dswiger wrote:
...my results were worth the restrictions. Hard to explain until you've been there.



I had the same experiences. Ahh, photography.

I have a love-hate relationship with my 24-70 but at a crowded wedding it is indispensable.

However, when I'm on my time I prefer primes for the discipline of using them and the IQ (the way they render a scene).



Mar 24, 2013 at 03:38 AM
ultimaterowdy
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p.3 #9 · Frustrated... Primes vs zooms


I will try to say this calmly. if you have a crop body and you can't decide if you like zooms or primes then BUY THE 17-55 2.8. worst part about selling my 40D (3 years ago maybe) was Ii couldn't use this lens anymore. a joy of a compromise, felt like no compromise at all. a range of slow primes on your camera all at once.


Mar 24, 2013 at 06:17 AM
Paul Mo
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p.3 #10 · Frustrated... Primes vs zooms


ultimaterowdy wrote:
I will try to say this calmly.


ultimaterowdy, well done on writing calmly.



Mar 24, 2013 at 10:12 AM
 

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Imagemaster
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p.3 #11 · Frustrated... Primes vs zooms


Paul Mo wrote:
ultimaterowdy, well done on writing calmly.


Paul Mo, well done on listening calmly. I bet you listen to everything you read.



Mar 24, 2013 at 07:33 PM
Tony B
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p.3 #12 · Frustrated... Primes vs zooms


Imagemaster wrote:
Paul Mo, well done on listening calmly. I bet you listen to everything you read.


& thanks for writing slowly as I am not a fast reader.



Mar 24, 2013 at 10:55 PM
RobertLynn
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p.3 #13 · Frustrated... Primes vs zooms


I own a few of both.

16-35, 24-70, 70-200, 24-105
35, 50, 85, 135

My most used lenses are the 24-70, and 70-200.

I can get over the lack of sharpness compared to primes (well the 70-200, I have no complaints), but I need the versatility!

I pull out the 50 at weddings, and everything else is backup...I'd say as much as 90% of my work is with my 24-70/70-200 combo.



Mar 26, 2013 at 12:45 PM
gdanmitchell
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p.3 #14 · Frustrated... Primes vs zooms


RobertLynn wrote:
My most used lenses are the 24-70, and 70-200.

I can get over the lack of sharpness compared to primes (well the 70-200, I have no complaints), but I need the versatility!


Yes to the "no complaints." But "huh?" to "their lack of sharpness!"

Sometimes it seems that people divide lenses into two categories. The first consists of a single lens that they deem to be "the sharpest lens." The second category consists of all other lenses, which they deem to "lack sharpness."

Fact is (or facts are?):

  1. All of these lenses are quite "sharp" and capable of producing excellent print quality even at very large sizes.
  2. The differences in sharpness may be theoretically significant - e.g. you can measure them if you look closely enough, but they won't materially affect your image quality.
  3. The decision to switch to a prime rather than a zoom (or a zoom rather than a prime) is generally more about factors other than sharpness.
  4. If you are shooting handheld, the sharpness business is even less significant in that you are introducing more non-sharp elements into the image than will be produced by any of these lenses.




Mar 26, 2013 at 01:27 PM
RobertLynn
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p.3 #15 · Frustrated... Primes vs zooms


gdanmitchell wrote:
Yes to the "no complaints." But "huh?" to "their lack of sharpness!"

Sometimes it seems that people divide lenses into two categories. The first consists of a single lens that they deem to be "the sharpest lens." The second category consists of all other lenses, which they deem to "lack sharpness."

Fact is (or facts are?):

  1. All of these lenses are quite "sharp" and capable of producing excellent print quality even at very large sizes.
  2. The differences in sharpness may be theoretically significant - e.g. you can measure them if you look closely enough, but they won't materially affect your image quality.
  3. The decision to
  4. If you are shooting handheld, the sharpness business is even less significant in that you are introducing more non-sharp elements into the image than will be produced by any of these lenses.

...Show more

While newer zooms are certainly much better, if you do not agree that primes are generally sharper than zooms, then there is no point in me further explaining my point.

At like apertures, primes generally kick the butt off of a zoom lens at a comparable focal length. One can suggest this is as a result of the ability of most primes to have an advantage stopping down over the zoom, but still...even after giving the zoom several f/stops to stop down, the prime is sharper. One example is the 50 1.8mkii, and the 24-70 2.8 mki. At 2.8, the 50 is better, at 8, the 50 is still better. I'm one of the people that many consider "lucky" to own an incredibly sharp 24-70, and I observed this with my own lenses.

While you are correct, a handheld image may or may not be sharp as a result of...well being handheld, that doesn't mean that a less sharp lens becomes sharper or the other way around...you'll still see the sharper area of the image in the area that's in focus.

You are also correct, the decision is generally for the ability to shoot at a faster f/stop...that is a consideration for some who purchase them. Or there are people that demand the best optical quality that they can get. Generally speaking, that's from a prime.

And lastly, you are also correct, all of my lenses are capable of producing sharp, large prints.



Mar 26, 2013 at 10:10 PM
CalBoy87
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p.3 #16 · Frustrated... Primes vs zooms


I don't think anybody here will answer this for you. All of us swear by either or both. I love primes, all I have are only single focal length lenses. Meantime my friend has only 24-70 and 70-200 and he is all happy camper. I need 5 lenses to cover (not completely) what he does with 2. I am swapping lenses, while he is zooming. Will I follow his way? NO! I like, small, light lens which gives me more light and nicer bokeh. My point is, you can't expect anybody to give you advice here, only their preferences. Your only way to decide is to use both primes and zooms and see what you like, hoping that in 2 months you won't change your mind...


Mar 26, 2013 at 11:43 PM
AmbientMike
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p.3 #17 · Frustrated... Primes vs zooms


Get a 18-50/2.8 tamron + 85/1.8


Mar 26, 2013 at 11:45 PM
gdanmitchell
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p.3 #18 · Frustrated... Primes vs zooms


RobertLynn wrote:
While newer zooms are certainly much better, if you do not agree that primes are generally sharper than zooms, then there is no point in me further explaining my point.


I pretty much stipulated that they can be "sharper" than zooms. I think my description said that the difference could be measured.

At like apertures, primes generally kick the butt off of a zoom lens at a comparable focal length.

Here we part company. "Kick the butt," in my world, suggests a radical, no argument, obvious-to-any-observer, difference. Or at least one that is very significant when it comes to making photograph. That just isn't the case.

I know that the 135mm f/2 can be sharper than the 70-200mm f/4 IS, but I'm not going to use the 135mm f/2 because it is sharper. I do use it sometimes, but because of the larger aperture. I can produce a photograph that is as sharp as a full-frame DSLR photograph needs to be with the 70-200mm lens at 135mm, and I can print it very large.

I could also shoot 24mm with a 24mm f/1.4L or a 24-70mm f/2.8 L II, but I'm far more likely to use the zoom. Both lenses can produce truly excellent "sharpness" - but one goes to f/1.4 and is a bit smaller and lighter while the other provides greater flexibility and adaptability.

I'm not arguing that the zoom can resolve as many lp/mm as the prime. I'm not even arguing that you might not be able to distinguish subtle differences in sharpness in side-by-comparisons on the screen at 100%. I am arguing, based on some experience, that these differences range between insignificant and invisible even in quite large prints and that there are other factors besides sharpness that have some - or even a lot - of importance.

... And lastly, you are also correct, all of my lenses are capable of producing sharp, large prints.

Yes. That is my primary point when it comes to over-concern with and sometimes single-minded, uh, focus on sharpness. Sharpness is not an unimportant consideration, but when considering a group of lenses that can all produce excellent sharpness, sharpness is rarely the most important factor. In fact, it may be among the least important considerations, and a number of others are often very significant.



Mar 27, 2013 at 02:17 AM
retrofocus
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p.3 #19 · Frustrated... Primes vs zooms


gdanmitchell wrote:
I know that the 135mm f/2 can be sharper than the 70-200mm f/4 IS, but I'm not going to use the 135mm f/2 because it is sharper. I do use it sometimes, but because of the larger aperture. I can produce a photograph that is as sharp as a full-frame DSLR photograph needs to be with the 70-200mm lens at 135mm, and I can print it very large.


I agree that good zoom lenses can easily compete in overall picture sharpness with prime lenses. Especially the 70-200/4 IS is a super sharp lens at all aperture stops; it is definitely my sharpest zoom lens which I own. But isn't it true that best lens sharpness (not talking about DoF!) is achieved a few stops beyond the fastest aperture? For a 50/1.4 lens this would be between f/2.8 and f/4. For a zoom lens at f/2.8, this position would be moved to smaller apertures. I think it simply matters what sort of composition you want to achieve - especially at faster apertures prime lenses have an advantage.



Mar 27, 2013 at 02:32 AM
gdanmitchell
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p.3 #20 · Frustrated... Primes vs zooms


retrofocus wrote:
I agree that good zoom lenses can easily compete in overall picture sharpness with prime lenses. Especially the 70-200/4 IS is a super sharp lens at all aperture stops; it is definitely my sharpest zoom lens which I own. But isn't it true that best lens sharpness (not talking about DoF!) is achieved a few stops beyond the fastest aperture? For a 50/1.4 lens this would be between f/2.8 and f/4. For a zoom lens at f/2.8, this position would be moved to smaller apertures. I think it simply matters what sort of composition you want to achieve - especially
...Show more

Again, the main issue isn't "best sharpness" when all of the options are very sharp. I understand how counterintuitive it is for many folks, perhaps especially those in photography forums, but in cases like this "sharpness" differences are pretty much the least important considerations if they matter at all.

As I wrote, if I need maximum aperture (and a few other potential characteristics) I may choose to use a prime. If I need focal length flexibility (and a few other characteristics) I may choose to use a zoom. But I can produce a very, very sharp photograph with either.

Sometimes the obsession with The Very, Very Sharpest Lens brings to mind an imaginary automobile shopper. This shopper decides that one must get The Very, Very Most Powerful Engine. (Or whatever other thing you want the imaginary shopper to obsess over.) One vehicle does, indeed, have an engine that is .5% more powerful than the nearest competitor, so our shopper buys that vehicle - after all, it is "The Most Powerful Vehicle" available. However, it turns out that it is also bigger and heavier. It only seats two and our buyer has a family with two adults and two kids. It has uncomfortable seats. The sound system isn't as good.

Yes, it is .5% More Powerful, but the other options were within fractions of a percentage of being as powerful, all of the options were more than powerful enough, and getting the Most Powerful Among The Powerful had a very real cost in terms of other important considerations.

With lenses, getting the Very, Very Sharpest Lens at a cost flexibility, size, bulk, ability to fit filters, usage issues, and more does not always make sense, and it usually won't make a difference in the perceived sharpness of the resulting photographs. There are some cases in which it can make sense, but typically not for sharpness alone, but rather when the functional characteristics of the lens match up better with the functional requirements of the shooting.



Mar 27, 2013 at 01:40 PM
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