Primes vs Zooms

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by vemuri, Nov 20, 2002.

  1. Hi,

    I am starting to get more serious with my Photography hobby and would
    like to hear some suggestions going forward.

    I presently have an Elan 7E with the regular 28-90mm USM lens.

    I am planning to purchase better quality lenses going forward and
    have been looking around trying to gather knowledge of different

    On learning a few things, my biggest question at the moment seems to
    be : Should I go for Zooms or Primes?

    With my inclination being towards Nature Photography, what would be
    the best choice : Zooms or Primes? I understood the basic Pro's and
    Con's of the two but in practical applications, looking into future,
    for a serious but not a professional Photographer, which would be
    better. Coming to Primes, what are the suggested set?

    Thanks for your valuable time.

  2. 1 - What is your budget?

    2 - What are you going to shoot (landscapes, hummingbirds, flowers, macro)?
  3. You have a zoom now, so why don't you buy a prime in its range? You can shoot with both and look at images from both and then sell the one you don't like. If you decide to keep the zoom, the difference between the discount-new price of (say) an EF 50mm f/1.8 and the slightly-used price will be slight.

    And I don't think there's any reason to commit to filling your camera bag with one or the other. I like short primes and long zooms myself. Others find that to them, the extra speed of primes is superfluous in wideangles and very desirable in telephotos.
  4. Nature photography can mean a lot of things: landscape, animals, bird, etc. Be more specific about that.

    I shot landscape with both 35mm and medium and I have no problem prime lenses (as there are much fewer choices of zoom in MF). I decide not to move to zoom since there is no DOF scale on most AF zoom lenses (yet I still use a DOF slider for my prime lenses).

    In additional, zoom-creep is very very common in consumer zooms and it can be very annoying when you set up your camera and wait for shot but your zoom moves by itself due to gravity. However, I have not experienced any "focus" creep in any of my prime lens.

    For wide and ultrawide lens, I usually stick with the prime because zoom lens usually list the "nominal" focal lengths of the lens but the actual focal length can be off a little bit. For telephoto side, it won't make a big difference, but every millimeter counts at the wide angle side (17mm and 19mm can look very different, while 280mm and 282mm looks preety much the same). Prime lenses usually provide more consistency on that regard. Also, prime lens are usually lighter, faster, and less expensive.

    For a prime-lens set, I usually go for the traditional 28mm f2.8, 50mm f1.4 and 85mm f1.8, although I believe quite a lot of responses will suggest the 24mm f2.8, 100mm f2, etc. It's up to you to put the combo...
  5. I use a mix of primes and zooms, Ravi. Zooms are versatile and the best zooms are exceptionally sharp (and expensive). Primes are better in the longer focal lengths (300mm and up) and generally primes are faster and sharper than comparable zooms in the wide angle range. I don't think it's an "either/or" situation. Just find the job you want to do and then decide on the best tools to accomplish it.

    Don't forget a quality tripod. It will be a necessity for many areas of nature photography.
  6. The question that needs to be asked here is what are you ultimately going to do with the lovely images you create?

    If you're only sending the film to the drug store & getting 4x6's - don't bother worrying about lens quality. If you intend on making larger high quality prints (8x10 & beyond) a prime & a tripod will make a world of difference. I would buy a cheaper prime, the 50mm f/1.8 as one mentioned earlier, and shoot some slide film w/ both the prime & the zoom. Look at the slides and decide for yourself about the differences in sharpness, color, contrast & distortion. Its a great learning experience & you can decide for yourself what will be the best solution or compromise for your purposes.
  7. If you want the easiest to lug around, mainly zooms and a prime or two, best image quality, then a bunch of primes, or "L" zooms. I shoot similar subjects as you are intending and what I have finally come to that is reasonable on the wallet is the following;
    70-200 f4 - about $550 - I use this with a 1.4x and 2x extenders (you lose autofocus with the 2x unless you have a 3 or 1v) good for nature animals and the like<br>
    24-85 f3.5-4.5 - about $280 - I use this for snapshots and landscapes, light, and takes good quality pictures<br>
    50 f1.8 - about $75 - very light and fast for low light situations, plus you can't go wrong when it will only set you back $75
    So for under $1000 you can get "pro" quality results without paying "pro" prices. Just my opinion and experiences.
  8. Hi again,

    Firstly, thanks for all the prompt replies. oming to the questions you raised,

    Nature Photography: I am more interested in Landscapes, Flowers, Sunsets/Sunrises etc most of the time.

    Budget: For now is about $1000

    I don't think I will be making a true comparision if I try to compare photographs taken with primes with the ones taken using my 28-90 f4-5.6 USM which doesn't have a good reputation at all.

    As of now, I have been using Films (mostly Fuji Reala 100) but had been careful with the Print labs. I plan to start using slides pretty soon. I do use a Tripod most of the times.
  9. fx


    That's quite a broad question and probably been asked many times. As one of the posters suggested, it all depends on your budget, how many lens you intend to own, the ranges/perspectives you want, and how strongly you feel about versitility. In the end, either lens will produce great images if you mount your light box on a tripod and stop down appropriately. The big advantage with primes is that it's always fast and most the time, if not 95% the time, have an edge over zooms in terms of contrast, sharpness, and flare resistance.

    If you want to try out a quality prime go for the 50mm f/1.4 because it's a keeper no matter what. You'll be amazed how much more you can do with f/1.4 compared to your current zoom lens. It's the one lens I judge most my other lenses on, even the L series.

    Anyways...planning ahead is always good, something you're doing I hope, and choose wisely. Good luck.
  10. There isn't just one answer. Like you I'm starting to get serious about photography but not a professional (I still consider myself a beginner). However, my wife and I bought a 100-300mm f5.6 which is the one we use mostly for outdoor photography aside from landscapes which for those shots we use the 50mm 1.8. Sounds like you already have the 28-90 covered so I would focus on a 100-300 zoom or something on that order. The reason I say that is we had a 28-200 tamron lense and I found myself wanting to be just a little bit closer which is why we bought the 100-300. I prefer the zoom for outdoors so I can frame the picture better if I cannot walk around due to the terrain. If you do low light outdoor photography it may be worth it to get the 300mm f4.0 zoom. Personally I like the primes due to the fact they tend to do better in lower light (we have a 50mm 1.8 and a 100mm f2.0) which is really nice. Also invest in a good sturdy tripod and use it often, I cannot tell you how using a tripod has increased the quality of my pictures. In all the equipment that I have the weak link is me... so given that I'm still a beginner my opinion of what a good set entails would be a 24mm, 50mm, 100mm or 85mm and a zoom that covers the 100-300mm range.
  11. fx


    Reference site you can check out:

    A good write up about primes vs zooms

    A good write up about best combos

    A good write up about best 5 lenses

  12. For lowlight handheld shots, if the choosen focal length increases, you'll need to increase the shutter speed to achieve the same stability as a shorter lens used under the same lighting condition.

    The answer to this situation is a prime combo of 28 f/2.8, 50 f/1.8 and 100 f/2.

    or you can use slow zooms with ISO 800 :)
  13. Start with a 50mm f/1.8 This will give you a prime with a good reputation for less than USD$100. Having the one prime in the same focal range as you current zoom will allow you to see for yourself how the versatility of a zoom's focal lengths compare with the discipline needed to use a prime effectively.

    Should you decide to continue to use primes, then I would suggest the 24mm f/2.8 and the 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM as your next two lenses. These two primes will compliment the 50/1.8 and extend the focal range available to you as well as opening up the macro world.

    Another option is to find a 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 USM and explore the the options that a telephoto lens can bring to your shooting.

  14. I fully second Craig. The 24-85 + 70-200/4 + 50/1.8 combo is great. I will only suggest an additional flash, the 420EX. True, it's a bit more than 1000$ but I think it's worth it.

    Another cheap alternative, 28/2.8 + 50/1.8 +135/2.8 SF. Very good quality and all use cheap 52mm filters.
    For the longer focal ranges, 200/2.8 or 300/4.

    In the end, it all boils down to:

    Which focal lengths do you really need ?

    How important to you is the zooming capability ?

    How important to you is the optical quality of the lens ?
  15. There have been many posts, but i would consider this:

    - the 50mm 1.8 is a remarkable lens for the price but cannot stand the comparison with the 50mm 1.4 - especially in color work - if you are thinking about slides go for the 1.4 (i think it`s cca 500 $) and than go up or down for start - i will consider the 28 mm 1.8 (another 500 $ or the 100mm f2 (i think is a better choice than the 85 f 1.8 at nearly the same price).

    I never been fond of zooms - even though i photograph concerts, sports and portraits most of the time - my setup is 28/85/135 and am looking for the 50mm myself now.
    Bye and good luck!
  16. As for a first prime, I would have to suggest the 50mm f/1.8. It does a great job on all aspects. Good contrast, very sharp when stoped down 1 stop, and great color redition. As others mentioned it is also cheap! I forgot to mention it is the lightest lens that Canon makes. Others have mentiond someting in the 100-300 zoom range, and here I can recomend the now discontinued 100-300 5.6L. In terms of good optics, it is great. Slightly warm in color, but sharp as it can be. It is also very inexpensive. Can be had for under $350.
  17. I am starting to get more serious with my Photography hobby and would like to hear some suggestions going forward.
    Sell the 28-90 buy the 50/1.8 with hood and 250 rolls of film and go shoot it all in 4 months.
  18. Ravi,

    You have a lot of good responses above. I would recommend that you buy ONE prime and see how you adapt to using primes. Some people are not happy using primes and you could be one of those. In any case, do not buy a whole set (24/50/100, or whatever) right away. If you are buying one prime, you might as well get a focal length that you tend to use a lot.

    You wouldn't go wrong if you got the 50/1.8. It's cheap, excellent optical quality, and will give you an immediate flavor of using prime lenses. You can always go to a combo of 20-35, 50, 70-200.
  19. As if there were not enough recommendations for the 50/1.8...

    I just started re-buying into the Leica M system I sold out of about 12-15 years ago. I recently shot a few rolls of Ilford HP5 with a nice used 50mm Summicron-M I had just bought and I processed it with another roll I had shot a few days earlier. That roll was shot with a Rebel 2000 and the EF 50/1.8. Comparing the negatives and final prints, the Summicron's results are superb but the cheap 50mm Canon looks pretty outstanding too. That speaks pretty well of a $70 lens when compared to a $1000 lens.

Share This Page