prime lens vs zoom lens

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by jay_briggs, Sep 17, 2011.

  1. Hi Folks. I just reas that prime lens are better than zooms. the only thing I can see is you have to manualy change your lens ofter. Are Chepo lens O.K. to get started with? What do you recommed? I am just getting startedand I want to shot with an F-3 or would it make sense to have more than one camera baby?
  2. Depends on which zoom lens or prime.
    For example, on my D200 I do really prefer my 17-55 f/2.8 over the 24mm f/2.8 AI I used to have. The only advantage of the prime here is the portability since both have the same max aperture. However I have a 50mm f/1.8 AF and a 50mm f/1.2 AIS that are better than the 17-55, they are faster, lighter, smaller and, in the case of the 50mm f/1.2 in much much sharper.
    So, it really depends on which prime or zoom.
    Manual focus lens are cheap and some of them offer really nice optics. Of course, the more separated from the standard 50mm the more expensive. Some people swear by the 28/2, the 105/2.5 or the 35/1.4. Or regarding zoom the 75-150 f/3.5 E or the 80-200 f/4. All manual focus and relatively cheap.
    If you do not have any lens I'd suggest to start with a 50mm f/1.8 AIS. It is very cheap (second hand only), fast and has top optics. Oh, and is very small.
    If you plan to switch to digital any time soon you may want to expand you possibilities by looking to some AF or AFD lenses. You can not use type G lenses on your F3 (they do not have aperture ring)
  3. Since you say you are just starting, a regular kit zoom lens is the best option.
    The kit lenses are not that expensive but with them you get to learn a lot. You will find out what you prefer shooting and what you don't like about zoom lenses in the case you don't like it. From there on you can start choosing better zooms or better primes according to your needs.
    Another way to start is with a 50 mm f/1.8 prime. It's a very cheap lens and really good. Starting with a prime will make you zoom with your feet and learn to compose your shots.
    Either way is fine. Don't worry about it and just enjoy playing with the camera and lens. You don't have to start with the best lenses...
    Have fun....
  4. For an F3? And you don't already have a lens and what cheap options: Here are a couple I really like:
  5. SCL


    A less expensive option (and a terrific manual lens) is the Nikon Series E 50/1.8. I've been using one for about 3 years now and prefer it to my other Nikon 50mm is a pancake design, small and tack sharp. You should be able to find a good used one for $50 USD or less.
  6. Many modern zooms are better than the primes in their range. Some primes are legendary, and certain things about them are better than zooms (like bokeh) in many cases.
    If you're going to shoot film on an F3, if it were me, I'd get a used AI 50mm f1.4 or f1.8 (even the E series lens mentioned) and maybe a wide angle (24mm or 28mm) and NOTHING ELSE for a while... learn to "see" with those lenses and you'll know what you want going forward.
  7. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    A lot of modern zoom lenses are excellent, expecially those high-end ones introduced in the last 5, 10 years, such as the current 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR II, 14-24mm/f2.8 AF-S, 200-400mm/f4 AF-S VR both versions .... The problem is that all of those are G lenses, and for all practical purposes, they are not useable on the F3 and all other manual focus Nikon film SLRs because you cannot control the aperture.
    In the OP's case, he is restricted to AI, AI-S and early AF/AF-S lenses with an aperture ring. With a few exceptions, most zooms from the manual focus era are poor. However, something like the 28-70mm/f2.8 AF-S that is still a great lens on the F3. Whether you want to put such a heavy lens on the F3 is another consideration.
  8. To get started with? Anything will do.... :) Even a point and shoot. But when you are talking about f3.....the best cheapo prime lens available is 50 1.8 AF-D. Real good lens. 35 f2 is not bad at all, if you want a little wider. 85 f1.8 AF-D....excellent for portraits. For F3 I will choose these primes. But if you are looking for a zoom to cover all these and also be a cheapo, then 24-85 f2.8-4 is the one to go for. But this zoom cant beat the primes I mentioned. But pretty close.
    More that one camera baby? body? May not be for the starters......but eventually. When you get addicted to the game. If you go for primes, sure......a spare body would help.
    Good luck with it, Jay!!
  9. I had a 24-85mm f/2.8-4 Macro that I used with a D70s and was very happy with it (even with the crop factor), and the macro function makes it that much more versatile.
  10. If you want a lens with an aperture faster than f/2.8, then a prime lens is your only option. However the quality gap between zooms and primes is small to non-existent these days, especially when it comes to wideangles.
    Here's a boring brickwall example shot with a 28mm f/2 Ai-S Nikkor at f/2.8. Extreme top right corner of frame shown (full-frame not DX).
  11. Now the same boring brick wall shot with a Tamron 28-75mm zoom wide open at f/2.8. To my eyes the Tamron is the clear winner on sharpness alone, but loses out on vignetting.
    The centre-frame sharpness of both lenses is totally indistinguishable and both are excellent.
    I should add that you're seeing about 1/6th of the frame width in these examples.
  12. If you are looking to use it on a F3 you can forget about any G type lenses.
    To me to start out with on a F3 I would look for an AI-S 50mm f/1.8 . It's fast it's small and not to expensive.
    Stick with the one lens till you find it's limiting your photography. By that time you will probably have a better idea about what lens to add to your kit.
  13. it


    You reas wrong
  14. Jay, primes are superior to zooms in just about every aspect apart from convenience. I don't think that convenience has anything to do with good photographs.
    Primes are smaller, lighter (than similar quality zooms), produce better image quality, much much faster, and less intimidating to subjects. Primes are the perfect way to start learning photography. They will teach you about visualisation and composition, which is important. Now if your chosen manufacturer is producing zoom lenses that are sharper than prime lenses, then I'd be looking for a manufacturer that was trying a bit harder.
  15. There's so many great AIS lenses around for the F3. Look at some of the review sites that have all the lenses, of course opinion comes into it, like this guy. You don't have to accept the conclusions, but it will give you an idea of what lenses are out there to choose from.
    Good luck. Like if you like the 80-200 range, there is the old 4.0 "slide" version or the little older 4.5. They are still very good lenses. The AIS 50 1.8 is solid good lens, there's many others. Good luck!
  16. Jay, I still shoot with the F3 with fair regularity and have many lenses both zoom and prime. What do I shoot with? A Nikkor AI-S 50mm f/1.4, Nikkor AI 28mm f/2 and a Nikkor AI 105mm f/2.5. This is a dream prime outfit, for me, that handles a wide range of subjects. Later you can add a 24mm, 35mm and a 200mm for the times that those focal lengths are useful or if you develop an affinity for them. Keep in mind many of these older lenses will benefit from professional servicing to bring them back to their original glory.
  17. Ty. What you say might have been true over 15 years ago, but the introduction of affordable aspherical elements has changed everything. The acknowledged best superwide you can buy from any maker is the 14-24mm f/2.8 AF Zoom Nikkor. True it's huge and expensive, but then so is the 14mm Nikkor Prime with its inferior corner definition.
    Most of the affordable used primes that are 20 to 30 years old really don't hold their own against many modern zooms, and even going back a while there were zooms that were every bit as good as their contemporary primes at like for like apertures. The 75-150mm Nikon E zoom is one lens that I would recommend anyone having, especially for a camera like the F3. This neat little zoom has a constant aperture of f/3.5 and delivers superb image quality. It's barely bigger than a 105mm prime, takes a 52mm filter and is fully useable wide open. And if you want to fill the gap between 50mm and 85mm, then a zoom is your only real option.
    It's a shame that most of Nikon's recent lenses have been gelded and are unusable on older cameras, so you're really stuck with buying used AF-D, AF, Ai-S or Ai lenses, or from those 3rd party suppliers that haven't abandoned the aperture ring completely. If you want a really nice 85mm or 35mm f/1.4 prime I can heartily recommend those lenses from Samyang. But small, neat, light and non-intimidating they're not!
  18. I have no opinions in terms of "image quality" (that most overrated aspect of modern photography), but I do find there's a world of difference in the experiencing of the photography when you have a zoom vs a single prime lens. It's really a whole other world. You could do the same thing with a zoom lens if you were extremely disciplined, I suppose, but there is nothing like a prime lens to force you to get in there and find a composition. It's hard to explain, you just have to experience it for yourself.
    Also, with the fast prime, that fast aperture is there for you at all times, and you get it very cheaply compared to what you have to pay for a decent zoom (and it still won't be as fast as the prime). With cheap zooms, you only get a slowish best aperture, and only at the widest angle. With the prime, once you have your composition, you can still decide on what your depth of field or "bokeh" requirements are for the picture (much more so than you can with the cheap kit zooms).
    Even if you have or buy a collection of zoom lenses, you can still find a fast standard prime lens very useful, and I would say, enjoyable. I still say as I've said before, you can't go wrong if you fulfill the typical anxiety over having everything covered with a zoom, and also have one prime lens... preferably a fast one (1.8 or better). Once you have those two, then you can proceed to fill the empty slots in a camera bag with lenses you never really need. Good for the manufacturers and distributors, good for the magazines and websites, indispensable for generating discussion on camera forums, and the bane of insects, birds, squirrels and frogs everywhere.

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