Prime vs Zoom Lenses A Beginner’s Guide
If you’re capturing images at all you’re probably aware what are differences between Zoom vs Prime are prime lenses better than zoom. So, Primes have a fixed focal length, which is measured in millimetres and this means that when you put this lens on a camera, the angle of view of what it sees, how wide it is, or how much the image is magnified is set at one distance and cannot be changed.
Zooms have a range of variable focal lengths. So by moving the zoom ring on the barrel of a lens, you can change how wide an image is in some cases all the way from a very wide angle to a close up telephoto shot.
So, with dozens of different lenses out there to choose from everything from prime lenses zoom lenses anamorphic lenses, and even vintage lenses sometimes it can be really hard to decide which lens to pick up, especially if you’re new to filmmaking and photography there are a number of reasons to use Prime over Zoom lenses I’ll share the reasons that make Prime superior to Zoom.
Table of Contents
What is Prime Lens?
- So, a prime lens is a lens with a fixed focal range and some of the most popular ones that you’ll see is a 24 millimeter a 35 millimeter 50 millimeter and a 85 millimeter.
What is Zoom Lens?
- the zoom lens is a lens that can zoom also it has a varied focal length so some of the most popular ones that you’ll often see is a 16 to 35 millimeter 24 to 70 millimeter and 70 to 200 millimeter.
What are Diferences between Zoom vs Prime Lenses?
- the main differences between a zoom lens and prime lenses are bokeh which is essentially the blurry part of the image that’s not in focus.
- the speed of the lens which is how much light it can let in your stop range. Also, how low of an F-stop you can go the sharpness of the lens.
- there is a more bokeh on a prime lens you can get a more shallow on a prime lens you are getting a large amount of depth of field.
- When it comes to flexibility you can run with a zoom lens and you can get like five or six good shots in a couple of minutes because you can go wide, you can go tight, you can go wide you can go medium range and you’ve just stood in one place.
- Another important difference is that prime lenses often have a wider aperture, the aperture is the hole in the lens that lets in the light and the bigger the hole the better it will perform in low light, and the lower the number The Wider the aperture is and a wider aperture will also allow you to get a more blurry background more separation between the subject.
- So, the background prime lenses can have apertures as wide as F1.2 even the Canon 50 millimeter 1.2 so really wide open apertures which means lower depth of fields and better low light performance whereas the high high-end pro lenses zooms are only going down to F2.8 for the most part. So, some brands like canon have been releasing zoom lenses with wider apertures the Canon RF 28-70mm F2 L USM Zoom lens which is awesome but F2 is still a full stop above F1.4 so even with the craziest newest zoom that’s out there prime still beat it in aperture but they’re super expensive.
Zoom vs Prime Are Prime Lenses Better Than Zoom?
So, prime lenses are great zoom lenses but they do offer slightly different feelings to your photo so prime lenses tend to be a little bit faster you might get F1.8, F1.4, F1.2. It lets more light into the lens that’s going to allow you to shoot in lower light without having to bump up that ISO.
You’re going to have a shallower depth of field, you’re going to have a much kind of more blurred out background and in some situations, you’ll have the eye in focus. Also, having amazing background blur having a wider aperture will also allow you to have better low light performance since the lens is literally opening up wider it actually allows more light into your sensor.
So, with a prime lens, you have a fixed focal length so 50 millimeters 85 millimeters whereas zoom lens the convenience is you can zoom you can change the focal length 70 to 200.
Which Prime Lens Should You Buy?
- the 24 millimeter is considered a wide angle lens since it takes in a little more of the scene than the human eye this lens does have a little bit of an unnatural sort of look to it it’s a focal length that most mid-range zooms will start at.
- the 35 millimeter is a bit closer to what the human eye sees it is closer than the 50 millimeter focal length lens you can take a few steps forward and get really nice close-up image this lens has the most perspective distortion so objects that are closer to the lens in the image seem much larger than objects that are further away.
- the 35 millimeter lens is great for travel because the focal length is wide enough that you can usually whip it out snap a photo that includes a ton of the background in the environment without having to scoot back an extra two to three feet it opens wide enough to 1.4 to be able to compress the subject nicely with a super shallow depth of field.
- the 50mm is often called a standard lens because a lot of people perceive it as the most natural looking focal length it has a low amount of perspective distortion which means that objects that are closer to the lens in the image don’t generally seem drastically bigger to those that are further away like on a 24 millimeter lens.
- the 50 millimeter is the most popular lens amongst beginner photographers and the focal length is ideal for standard portrait photography it’s versatile and it’s wide enough to place more than two people in the frame without compromising on leaving too much of the background out there.
- the 85 millimeter is the most zoomed in lens it is often called a portrait lens because it flattens the perspective of objects which can often result in more flattering images of people because it is a telephoto focal length backgrounds become much less relevant as the depth of field is naturally much shallower.
- this lens is not a necessity but it does an incredible job for portrait photography, especially close-up portraits like headshots.
What Are the Advantages of the Zoom Lenses?
- When it comes to zoom lenses I think versatility is where zoom lenses shine best since you have a lens that has multiple focal ranges in one you don’t have to keep stopping and switching out your lenses every single time you want a different look you can get a wide shot and also a telephoto shot with one single lens.
- there is one con I guess you can say to using zoom lenses is that most zoom lenses only have an aperture of F2.8 so you won’t be able to get that shallow of a depth of field as opposed to like a F1.8 or f 1.4. You’re definitely not going to get that added low light performance that you would get with a wider aperture like F1.8 or 1.4 and I would say that added extra stop of light definitely makes a difference in low light performance.
What Are the Advantages of the Prime Lenses?
- So keep in mind Prime lenses are suitable in low light conditions so they will allow you to use lower ISO value.
- Another factor to prefer the prime lenses is the smooth blur background when using them at the maximum aperture.
- So, the prime lens comes as the best choice when you want to shoot the best image quality the fastest AF motor, and the best material for building the lens.
- They are suitable in low light conditions as well so they will allow you to use lower ISO values.
- The only con that I can see with using prime lenses is that if you want more variety in your shots different focal lengths then you’re gonna need to carry two three or four more different lenses inside your camera bag and obviously you have to pause and switch out your lenses every single time you want a different focal length.
What Are Advantages of the Wide Angle Lenses?
- Speaking about a pros and cons of wide angle lens the pros are a wide range of focal length and they are cheap the cons are you need to camouflage them and the remote control.
Why Should you Buy Prime Over Zoom Lenses?
- So, a lot of Zoom Lenses have 2.8 or F4 maximum apertures and a lot of them also have variable apertures which means as you zoom IN and OUT the aperture will be changing.
- The prime lenses are kind of the opposite of that they generally are much sharper and have a lot fewer imperfections.
- In terms of their design they generally also have brighter maximum apertures which means they do better in low light.
Is Prime lens Sharper than Zoom?
Well, a prime lens is more sharp it’s only working with one focal range where on a zoom lens you can tend
to get a bit soft when you’re super wide and wide open. If you don’t have a good prime lens when you’re wide open on the lens and you’re trying to focus shallow on a wide shot, it can tend to be a bit soft for that focus so again prime lenses tend to look a bit more sharp.
Zoom vs Prime in low-light
When you’re shooting in low-light conditions you need more light to come in so that you can make the ISO less and shoot a high quality image now since a prime lens has a wider aperture you can shoot a same image with the same exposure at a wider aperture and a comparatively lower ISO.
So, when you compare these two images you will see that the first image taken with a wider aperture and the comparatively lower ISO is much cleaner and much better image quality wise than the other image which is taken at a smaller aperture and a comparatively higher ISO so in low-light conditions, the prime lens is always a better choice to go.
Which Focal Lengths Should You Buy?
these focal lengths have very different characteristics there are no rules about which focal length you should use in any given situation.
If you choose to go down the prime lens route which focal lengths you should probably buy for example when you first start out you should probably get a 24mm, 50mm a 51.4 or a 100mm or 105.
Is 24 mm considered Wide Angle?
this is considered a wide angle lens since it takes in a little more of the scene than the human eye naturally does so for that reason this lens does have a little bit of an unnatural sort of look to it.
It’s a focal length that most mid-range zooms will start at this lens has the most perspective distortion so objects that are closer to the lens in the image seem much larger than objects that are further away.
Is 35mm or 50mm Closer to Human Eye?
The 35 milimetar is is a bit closer to what the human eye sees naturally arguably it is closer than the 50 millimeter focal length but I find that what this lens has most of all is versatility it can get great wide angles but also you can take a few steps forward and get really nice close-up images.
the 50mm is often called a standard lens because a lot of people perceive it as the most natural looking focal length it has a low amount of perspective distortion which means that objects that are closer to the lens in the image don’t generally seem drastically bigger to those that are further away like on a 24 millimeter lens you’ll also notice the ability to get a much blurrier background with this lens than the 24 and 35 millimeter lenses the 85 millimeter is the most zoomed in lens.
What is Difference Between 24mm and 50mm?
So, the difference between 24 and 50 is the 50 mil starts feeling a bit like a telephoto it’s in closer you can really blur out the background and the 24 mil at least on a full frame lens gives you a very wide shot and can help you establish an environment and help you get in close.
When Should you Buy 24 or 50mil?
So, if you’re really serious about cinematography and you have a full frame sensor I would recommend buying a 24mil and a 50mil.
When Should Start Using Zoom Lens?
So, I recommend starting with a zoom lens if you are a beginner the reason is that after a few months or
years of shooting with a zoom lens you’ll begin to find your favorite focal lengths in lightroom.
Why Should you Shoot with Zoom Lens?
So, a reason to shoot with Zoom lens is because you didn’t have the flexibility that you would have normally liked when shooting with prime lenses.
Why Zoom Lenses are Better than Primes?
The great thing about a prime lens is that it also fixes the perspective or feeling of an image. When you choose what prime to put on the camera you are therefore forced into making a decision about perspective.
You can’t do the same with a zoom, but when you work with a variable focal length lens it’s far easier to just plonk down the camera at a random distance from the subject and then zoom in or out until you get to the shot size that you want.
If you’re using a prime, you need to first decide on the focal length you want and then are forced
to reposition the camera by moving it into the correct position.
Size and Weight
The prime lenses are extremely light in weight because it doesn’t have to zoom Elements when you’re traveling it becomes very difficult to carry your heavier camera attached to a heavier lens.
So the lenses are light it becomes slightly easier to travel so prime lenses since they’re extremely light become very easy and very portable.
The practical reasons when choosing a lens are important, due to their design, prime lenses are considered to possess a higher quality optical look than most equivalent zooms. This is mainly because
the construction of primes is much simpler and the design more straightforward than that of zooms.
So, a prime lens, in my opinion, will still give you more value for money also because usually, they’re smaller and lighter, and in a lot of cases they’re also sharper because there are less glass elements in the lens.
Which Lenses to Use for Shooting Prime or Zoom?
So, you can buy Zoom lenses if you are stuck in one place and you can’t control how close or how far you are from your subject then definitely you should use a zoom lens, and if you are close to your subject then this is the best time to use prime lenses, but if you’re shooting sports then you might not need to necessarily be on a
prime lens all the time.
Zoom vs Prime Lens Which is Faster?
The prime lenses can focus extremely fast as compared to zoom lenses in daylight when the light is very sufficient you won’t notice a sufficient difference, but when you’re shooting in low-light conditions you will see that the prime lenses can focus much quicker as compared to zoom lenses the zoom lenses will struggle a lot when you’re shooting in low-light conditions to autofocus but the prime lenses will perform better in any light conditions.
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