Next lesson playing in 5 seconds

  • Overview
  • Transcript

5.1 The Good and Bad of Prime Lenses

Prime lenses are another great tool to have in your kit, but they're not right for every situation. In this lesson you will learn about what makes primes great and why you might want to leave them at home.

5.1 The Good and Bad of Prime Lenses

Prime lenses are another great tool to have in your kit, but it's not the right tool for every situation. In this lesson, you'll learn about what makes primes great and why you might wanna leave them at home. So as we talked about earlier in this course, a prime lens is a lens that has one focal length only. They come in focal lengths ranging from wide angles to telephoto. After all this talk about zooms, why would you wanna bother with a prime? First, let's talk about why primes are a good option. One of the best features in a prime lens is the larger maximum aperture. In general, prime lenses are faster than zoom lenses. This is slowly changing as zoom lens improvements continue to be made by manufacturers. But in general, the faster, wider aperture offered by prime lenses will allow you to shoot in lower light without the need of a flash. Next on the list is quality. While zoom lenses have been getting much better in the quality department, prime lenses are known for being high quality and having the ability to produce great images with less distortion. It makes sense that a tool designed to do just one job is going to be better than a multi-tool. Now, this is not a blanket statement. All primes are not superior to all zooms. Just like everything else, there are some primes that are extraordinary and some that look kind of muddy looking. Another factor is price. Prime lenses are generally simpler in terms of construction because they have less moving parts. As a result, they're generally less expensive. Not all primes are cheap, in fact some of the pro lenses cost a small fortune. But there are some excellent values to be had out there. One great example are the Nifty 50 lenses or 50mm prime lenses, particularly from Nikon or Canon. Weight is another factor to help the case for primes. Because of their simple construction, prime lenses are generally smaller and lighter than zoom lenses in similar focal lengths. Now for the other side. Working against primes is portability. A single high quality zoom will cover several prime lens focal lengths. This means that you only have to carry one lens, instead of several lenses to have the same focal length range. You also never have to change your lens and risk getting dust on your image sensor. Price is something that works against primes as well. A zoom lens may be more expensive than a prime lens but, the cost of multiple lenses to cover the same focal lengths can often be the same or more. One of the biggest arguments for zooms is, flexibility. They allow the shooter an array of focal lengths, the ability to quickly change perspective, and add variety into their shots within moments. For many types of photography this is the way to go, including weddings and sports. In these situations you may not have time or ability physically to move closer or further away to your subject. My thinking is this, if you're just getting into photography or you are looking to build out your kit, spend money on high quality zooms. This is especially true if you have a newer, higher end camera body with exceptional noise performance. Many fast zooms are around f2.8, if you get a prime lens that's f1.4, that's going to be two full stops faster. But you might just be able to push up the ISO to the same level without any trouble. On the other hand, if your shooting with an older camera body a prime can be a great way to get some really fast clean images. There are also some very good values out there in the 28, 30, 50, 85, and 100 millimeter prime lenses. If you use you camera for video, you may appreciate prime lenses with a manual focus only. Manual focus only lenses are much nicer to use in the video realm. Manual focus rings on photo lenses only travel about 45 to 60 degrees. Which makes them very fast for auto focusing, but very awful for focusing for video. Manual focus only lenses have dampened focus rank. So it has some resistance, which makes it really nice for following the action. And the throw is a lot longer than you'll find on photo lenses, which makes following your subjects and tracking focus much easier without missing your mark. If you're not into video these manual focus only lenses will probably be more annoying than anything else. Unless you're in a studio situation and you're doing a lot of critical focusing. In that case, you might wanna use the manual focus anyway even on a photo camera to make sure you're getting exactly what you need to be in focus. Now that you know about prime lenses, you're ready to move on to the next lesson where you're gonna learn about a very interesting prime lens, the fish eye.

Back to the top