Purchasing a camera body is sometimes easier than purchasing a camera lens. When it comes to camera bodies, sure, there are many to choose from, but you generally know what you want. You at least have a price range that funnels you into a certain make and model. When it comes to lenses though, things are all over the place. The range of prices is so wide and the selection is even wider. And to top things off, there’s either prime or zoom to deal with. It can become too much if you sit there and read reviews for too long.
I’ve written posts about zoom lenses versus prime lenses in the past. I’ve even written about depth of field and recently, I wrote about the benefit of prime lenses in general. Today, I’d like to do a recap of my most recent post here. In this forum, I can keep things much more simple than on the blog. It’s pretty fun over on this side of things. Plus, these posts are more open to conversation. All someone has to do is quickly register to reply to any of these threads I start.
So the question is; what’s the benefit of owning a prime camera lens over a zoom one? Personally, I’d say there are many benefits and I’ll briefly cover them here.
1. Prime lenses have fewer moving parts. There are mechanically fewer pieces of glass and moving parts in prime lenses. This makes them not only less expensive, in general, than zoom lenses, but it also allows them to offer higher quality photographs because there’s less compromise. Every time a lens is zoomed to capture an image, the cost is a bit of quality.
2. Prime lenses can have huge apertures. If you look around online, you’ll see lots of zoom lenses that have maximum aperture sizes of f/3.5 through f/4.5. On the prime lens side, you’ll see tons of lenses with maximum aperture sizes of f/1.2, f/1.8 and f/2.8. These are fairly large apertures that these lenses have and they let in tons of light, which can hasten the shutter speed.
3. Prime lenses are awesome in the dark. Because of all that extra light prime (fixed) lenses let in, shutter speeds can be faster. It’s not uncommon to see a photographer use a prime lens indoors at birthday parties and weddings. With smaller aperture sizes, a photographer will either have to slow their shutter speed down, increasing the risk of motion blur, or increase their ISO setting, increasing the risk of grain and noise. Big apertures equal faster shutter speeds and lower ISO values.
4. Prime lenses are small and light. You have seen huge zoom lenses. I’m sure you have. When was the last time you’ve seen a huge prime lens? While larger prime lenses do exist, a good majority of them are much smaller and lighter than their zoom counterparts. This translates into easier storage and carrying around.
5. Prime lenses are perfect for creativity. It’s easy to get very lazy when you’re using a zoom lens. I certainly get lazy when I do. With a prime lens though, you need to move your body to get the shot you want. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard about how someone’s photography has gotten markedly better, simply by using a prime lens.
6. Prime lenses have fixed apertures. When you zoom in and out, you probably notice how the lighting of the scene viewed through your lens changes. That’s the aperture size changing , which, with a zoom lens, can throw you off if you’re not paying attention. While you may think you’re getting that specific depth of field you’re after, you may not be, just because you zoomed in or out. When it comes to prime lenses, there’s obviously no zoom, which requires no automatic aperture size changes, which results in constant and predictable scene lighting. This is a good thing.
If you’re trying to decide between getting a zoom or prime lens, I hope this post helped you in some way. Let me know your thoughts below. Thanks!