Primes vs Zooms
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taylorman22
Registered: Oct 29, 2011
Total Posts: 123
Country: N/A


UPDATE: I originally asked this question because I'm wanting to make some changes to my setup. I have a 40D with a kit 18-55 and a 50mm 1.8 and I'm wanting a faster, wider lens for indoors with the kids. I don't use the 50mm too much because a lot of my shots are indoors and on my crop camera, 50mm is too close.

Because I shoot a lot indoors, I was thinking about buying a Sigma 1.4, a 430ex II flash and then keeping my 18-55 for wide angle and my 50mm 1.8, or possibly selling the 50mm 1.8 and buying an 85 1.8. With that setup, I'd have the kit for walking around, 30mm 1.4 for night and indoor shots, and the 85 1.8 for portraits.

Ideally, I wish I could afford the 15-85, 30 1.4, and 85 1.8. I just sold the rest of my extra guitar gear though, so only have the $600-700 to work with right now.

Anyway, I'm finding this is like my guitars.....the desire to acquire new gear (GAS) never ends!!



dwweiche
Registered: Apr 19, 2009
Total Posts: 1429
Country: United States

f/5.6 on the long end can be a bit of a pain some times, but the 15-85 has very good IS.

This is only my opinion, but I would not call an f/2.8 prime "fast". A zoom, yes, but a prime I consider fast if f/1.2, f/1.4, f1.8, and probably f/2. Have you considered lenses faster than f/2.8? 35 f/2? 50 f/1.4? Both reasonably priced.



Zander Alberts
Registered: Dec 25, 2007
Total Posts: 1741
Country: United States

I would say depends what you are shooting. I worked for a newspaper for a number of years and zooms were indispensable for that kind of work. But for other stuff, primes have more to offer. Are you just looking for a basic walkaround type kit?

I would seriously consider at least adding in a 50 1.8 or 1.4 to whatever you get.



gdanmitchell
Registered: Jun 28, 2009
Total Posts: 9477
Country: United States

For almost all photographers who cannot articulate a logical reason why their photography requires something different, the zoom will be the better choice.

You might consider expanding your reading list. There are many other writers providing better, more consistent, and more reliable advice. And "taking a few steps forward or back" is not at all the same thing as using the most appropriate focal length for your shot in most cases.

Dan



n0b0
Registered: Sep 22, 2008
Total Posts: 5654
Country: Australia

For me prime lenses are suitable when I know what I'll be shooting and in what condition specifically, eg. I take 17/4 lens when I want to shoot cityscape, or the 30/1.4 when I'm out at night. But if there are unknown variables that would affect the framing, I find the zoom more useful, eg. I took the 10-22 lens to the recent motorshow because I didn't know how far or close I could get to the cars.

I agree with the point about not covering every mm. That said, I also don't want to be carrying and changing 3 or more primes all the time when I could be carrying one (albeit slower) zoom lens to cover most of what I need without changing lens. But that's just my personal preference. Some people might like changing lenses or carry more than one camera.



skibum5
Registered: Jan 21, 2005
Total Posts: 16603
Country: United States

taylorman22 wrote:
If you were gonna start a new setup, would you rather have a 15-85 lens or a 20mm 2.8, 40 2.8, and an 85 1.8?

I've been reading some Rockwell stuff and he makes good points about not carrying lenses to cover every mm. For those gaps, just take a few steps forward or back. With the primes, they're all fast and with these 3, could shoot almost anything other than sports or stuff that requires significant reach.

Just curious of your thoughts on 3 fast primes vs one lens.


It really depends what you shoot. But:

1. The 20mm 2.8 prime isn't supposed to be all that sharp and some of the best, modern zooms are. On APS-C you can get corner to corner sharpness from the best standard zooms (that didn't used to be the case with FF and even though it is now with FF it costs a ton) so why restrict yourself to these primes when for APS-C you can get f/2.8 and zoom and corner to corner sharp for reasonable money?

2. 15-85 does give a nice wide range, supposed to have solid image quality

3. if you want f/2.8 speed there are lenses like Tamron 17-50 2.8 (or canon 17-55 IS if you want IS and to pay more or sigma 17-50 OS).



willis
Registered: Jul 24, 2005
Total Posts: 476
Country: United Kingdom

The 15-85 is an excellent lens, can you swing it so you get the 85 too? Thats what I'd try to do. You're not losing so much speed at the wider end by going with the zoom and it has great IS. It's at portrait FLs where you miss the extra speed, particularly since the 85 is such a great (bargain) lens.



Mike Tuomey
Registered: Jul 23, 2005
Total Posts: 2857
Country: United States

zooms vs primes is kind of a pseudo-debate. it's not either/or, practically, it's what do you need. imho, the most reasonable answer to the OP's question is "both."

if you want to make very shallow depth of field, bokeh-luscious pics, a fast prime (meaning f1.2-f1.4) will do it best. if you're going to make event or documentary pics from various positions, shooting single to multiple subjects, a zoom will do that best. if you shoot both, i guess you can try to cover both bases with a "fast" zoom (a fixed aperture f/2.8). or, buy a multi-aperture zoom and a fast prime. or, buy a fast zoom and a fast prime, if your budget allows.

and on the other hand, there are lenses that just scream "use me" and you adapt your subjects and compositions accordingly, like the 85L or the Zeiss Distagon 21 f/2.8, just to name two.



justruss
Registered: Jul 05, 2004
Total Posts: 4508
Country: United States

There are professionals and amateurs who are dedicated prime shooters-- and the same who are dedicated zoom shooters. This isn't necessarily based on what they shoot.



dmcharg
Registered: Dec 01, 2003
Total Posts: 788
Country: United Kingdom

Over the last 10 years i have been thru various lens combinations of zooms & primes and my advice would be get the best two zooms you can afford - one wide/normal and one telephoto. After that by all means supplement with the odd prime if you really need what a prime offers. Don't get caught up in the zoom vs primes discussion, its an endless debate.



ggreene
Registered: Aug 11, 2003
Total Posts: 2002
Country: United States

dmcharg wrote:
Over the last 10 years i have been thru various lens combinations of zooms & primes and my advice would be get the best two zooms you can afford - one wide/normal and one telephoto. After that by all means supplement with the odd prime if you really need what a prime offers. Don't get caught up in the zoom vs primes discussion, its an endless debate.


I would agree with this. Good quality zooms will cover you for almost all situations. Fill in with primes in areas that you want to specialize in.



Gunzorro
Registered: Aug 28, 2010
Total Posts: 6658
Country: United States

I take the zoom (especially the 15-85 IS) over primes.

I choose primes when I know in advance what the subject is and transport isn't an issue. But I don't like changing lenses while in motion on location, so prefer zoom.

I don't usually need fast aperture, but when I do, I select a prime.

A super zoom with good IQ is difficult to find, which is why I value the 28-300L in unpredictable situations.

There is certainly a need for both types of lenses in a well stocked photo pantry.

My three favorite zooms: 16-35LII, 24-70L (love the version II, but don't own it . . . yet!), and 28-300L.

Three favorite primes: 24 TS-E II, 50/1.2L, and 100L macro.



curious80
Registered: Jun 18, 2010
Total Posts: 1397
Country: United States

taylorman22 wrote:
If you were gonna start a new setup, would you rather have a 15-85 lens or a 20mm 2.8, 40 2.8, and an 85 1.8?

I've been reading some Rockwell stuff and he makes good points about not carrying lenses to cover every mm. For those gaps, just take a few steps forward or back. With the primes, they're all fast and with these 3, could shoot almost anything other than sports or stuff that requires significant reach.

Just curious of your thoughts on 3 fast primes vs one lens.


I would have zoom for the times when I am on a trips with family for its convenience in not having to change lenses. I would use primes when I am taking shots at my home or gatherings because of better low light ability and better control over DOF as needed. For my landscape shooting, the zoom would again be fine at the wider and I won't gain much from using the 20mm f2.8

So if I have the 15-85mm, then the primes that I would add will likely be Sigma 30mm 1.4, Canon 50mm 1.8/Canon 50mm 1.4, and Canon 85mm 1.8.

If you really make me choose between the zoom and the primes due to budgets constraints, then I will go for the primes with the following: 30mm 1.4 to cover 80% of my indoor and trip shots, 85mm 1.8 for controlled portraits and 18-55mm because thats the cheapest wide prime that I can find for wider shots.



ggreene
Registered: Aug 11, 2003
Total Posts: 2002
Country: United States

Gunzorro wrote:
My three favorite zooms: 16-35LII, 24-70L (love the version II, but don't own it . . . yet!), and 28-300L.
Three favorite primes: 24 TS-E II, 50/1.2L, and 100L macro.


I pretty much can do all my work with zooms but if I was going to get primes those would be my favorites too. Features that zooms just can't do at the present time.



Tom K.
Registered: Mar 21, 2005
Total Posts: 6758
Country: United States

This will help you to come up with an answer: http://blog.jeffascough.com/photographers/2011/11/zooms-or-primes.html



gdanmitchell
Registered: Jun 28, 2009
Total Posts: 9477
Country: United States

About the prime v. zoom meme: http://www.gdanmitchell.com/2012/08/21/photographic-myths-and-platitudes-primes-make-you-a-better-photographer

Dan



taylorman22
Registered: Oct 29, 2011
Total Posts: 123
Country: N/A

Tom K. wrote:
This will help you to come up with an answer: http://blog.jeffascough.com/photographers/2011/11/zooms-or-primes.html



Great link...thanks. It's so true too! I'm pretty new to to photography, but have even playing guitar for 17 years. I spend time on several guitar forums and I see this all the time an I fall into this trap....spending more time talking about gear, changing gear etc, than actually playing guitar. I can already see its no different with photography.



Tom K.
Registered: Mar 21, 2005
Total Posts: 6758
Country: United States

taylorman22 wrote:
Tom K. wrote:
This will help you to come up with an answer: http://blog.jeffascough.com/photographers/2011/11/zooms-or-primes.html



Great link...thanks. It's so true too! I'm pretty new to to photography, but have even playing guitar for 17 years. I spend time on several guitar forums and I see this all the time an I fall into this trap....spending more time talking about gear, changing gear etc, than actually playing guitar. I can already see its no different with photography.


I am glad it helped you. Make sure you check out his photos for inspiration: http://www.jeffascough.com/



Jabberwockt
Registered: Aug 22, 2011
Total Posts: 557
Country: United States

If i were starting fresh, I'd start with one prime (35 or 50) and probably one zoom. Even if they over the same focal lengths, in practice, I would use each differently.



curious80
Registered: Jun 18, 2010
Total Posts: 1397
Country: United States

gdanmitchell wrote:
About the prime v. zoom meme: http://www.gdanmitchell.com/2012/08/21/photographic-myths-and-platitudes-primes-make-you-a-better-photographer

Dan


Dan, your article is a good read, however I disagree with parts of it. Different people have different personalities and different ways to learn. For me using primes definitely makes me think more about my photography and zooms make me lazy. Is it because primes are superior to zooms? Of course not. I can set a 24-70mm lens to 50mm instead of using a 50mm prime, so there is nothing inherently superior about using a prime. However for me the constraint of being tied to a single focal length helps me learn and helps me develop a feel for different focal lengths. Its not going to be the same for everyone obviously so what works for me is not the same as what works for the next guy. It also depends on how far along are you on your photographic journey. For an experienced shooter who is intimately familiar with various focal lengths and who has already developed a very good sense of what focal length to use at what point, this might not be a consideration. However there are number of people like me who are basically hobbyists and still have a lot to learn. So I think your article is taking a somewhat narrow view of the world.



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