Beginners can sometimes be surprised when they discover you have such an expensive camera and yet you are not able to zoom with it. “In 2014, we have good enough technology to make zooms in every camera,” one of my friends told me once.
However, the performance of the primes lenses is important for a lot of photography areas. I do think primes are better than zooms for different reasons and aspects. Here I am about to tell you why:
You can get very good prime lenses for a reasonable amount of money. Usually, 35 and 50mm f/1.8 are so common they are now quite cheap. Even the Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 is available at around $300. For such a nice and sharp piece of glass, it’s pretty affordable, believe me. For this price, you will have one constraint though. It’s full manual, so no image stabilization and no autofocus. As pointed out in one of our previous article, it’s not always a problem especially for short focals. Unless you need a very long focal lenght like 300 or 500mm, most are good and affordable. For the price of one zoom you can often have 2 primes.
4) Weight and Size
Given that primes don’t need to host zoom mechanism, the engineers manage to make them significantly smaller and lighter. That’s something to take into account at the end of the day! Your back and shoulders will thank you
Your feet are your zoom. Silly to say but you will have to look closer and pay more attention to your composition. Search and find the best perspective. It forces you to be more creative!
2) Superior Optical Performance
That’s one of the reason most mentioned about when it comes to prime lenses. Primes will usually have better results in terms of details and sharpness. The fact that the glass elements do not have to move inside the lens to zoom in and out, the sharpness can easily be optimized for one focal length. Same observation regarding the color rendering, chromatic aberrations and distortions. If you want something sharp and neat, go for a prime lens.
1) Large Aperture
That definitely changes everything. While most zooms can’t open more than f/4 with a constant aperture throughout the focal range (and that’s not bad), most primes open their diaphragm at f/1.8. Alright, the best zoom can open at f/2.8, but the best primes usually open at f/1.2 or even f/0.9 for the most expensive ones. This has a huge impact: a) It receives more light, so it’s faster which is better for sport photography. b) better performance in low light conditions. c) Therefore it’s easier for handheld shots. d) Last but not least, more shallow depth of field and better and smoother/creamy bokeh.
That said, I can already hear, here and there, those who want to highlight why zooms are better than primes. Yes, it depends on one’s photography preferences and practice. So next week we will discuss why zooms are better than primes. 😉