Prime or Zoom?


A friend of mine is getting into photography and he asked me about some of the differences between the lenses that are out there. We then got into the discussion about the pro’s and cons of prime lenses. For me, there is no real debate, prime lenses are superior, no doubt about it. The build quality and the components are superior and the results are amazing. My favourite lens is my 50mm Nikon F 1.8. Take a look at the Flickr Nikon 50mm F1.8 group to get some idea of how good this lens is.

It truly is a great piece of kit. The images are sharp, the bokeh is superb and the overall colour rendition is beautiful. Also, it is small and compact, but it has become my staple

lens for weddings, commercial and other specialised work. I also have a Tamron 90mm Macro which is also a fantastic lens which I use pretty often. At weddings I use it to get those ring shots and detail shots, on the commercial side I use it for certain product shots as it is supremely sharp.

That being said, Nikon has brought out some amazingly sharp Zoom lenses of late. The one that comes to mind is the Nikon 70 -200mm F2.8 with VR. This is a great lens and the sharpness and versatility is perfect. It is a little big and a little on the expensive side, but the money spent will be well worth it. Nikon also has a 24 – 70mm F2.8 and this too is a great pro lens. So, like I said to this friend of mine, buy the best lens you can afford, prime lenses are essential and can add a lot of punch to your camera kit, if you buy zoom lenses make sure they are good quality, avoid the cheapie stuff. I gave him a list of what I look for in lenses, it is below, might be useful to you….

  • Maximum aperture – the pro spec lenses have a constant F 2.8 or lower.  That means you can pull in a lot of light and also get a really shallow depth of field which is essential in low light conditions, also great for moody shots.
  • Sharpness – is the resulting image sharp or does it have softening. The softening can be as a result of bad components in the lens.
  • Chromatic aberration – this is purple fringing on certain objects in the photo, this is as a result of inferior quality glass or plastic in the lens. Nikon now uses ED glass in their lenses which stands for Extra low Dispersion, which lowers the Chromatic Abberation. This will be marked on the lens with ED
  • Internal focusing – This is key, older lenses use a focusing screw which slides the lens in and out and this makes focusing slow. Internal focusing is much quicker and quieter
  • Closest focusing distance – how far do you have to be from an object before the lens can lock into focus? Sometimes this can be annoying if it is too far. You will find on some zoom lenses you need to be quite a distance away from your subject to get the lens to focus, so check this before you buy

Last piece of advice, if you can, put the lens onto your camera body in the shop and try out a few shots. This will tell you immediately whether or not this is a good lens.


2 thoughts on “Prime or Zoom?”

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