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The Best Camera Lens: Prime Vs. Zoom

August 28, 2013 IADT General, Photography 0 Comments

Differences Between Camera LensesAdding a new lens to the camera bag is a great way to spark creativity. But, choose wisely. Picking out just the right camera lens for a project can make or break the shoot. Do you know the difference between prime and zoom lenses? Here's the 411.

Prime Lenses

Also known as fixed-focal length lenses, prime lenses are the cornerstones of still photography. Before zoom lenses were created, photographers only had access to lenses that operated at one focal length, or the distance between the subject being photographed and the focal point on the lens. The photographer had to use her feet to get closer or further away from the subject.

Did you start your photography venture with a 50mm lens? That's a classic prime lens. It doesn't zoom, and you can only admire your subject with one perspective. The benefits of shooting with a prime lens include:

  • Sharper images: There's less glass for the image to move through, making details pop.
  • Easier to shoot in low light: Prime lenses have a set aperture opening, unlike zoom lenses that close down as you go in for a tighter shot. The aperture opening determines how much light can enter the lens.
  • Lightweight: Prime lenses are compact and don't telescope like most zoom lenses.
  • Cost-effective: Because these are more simple, standard sizes like 50mm, 135mm and 200mm are usually easy on the wallet.

But with all those perks come a few reminders. Toting around several prime lenses can be heavy and you'll be changing lenses more often (which cuts into shooting time at fast-occurring events like football games) to get a variety of close-up and wide-angle pictures.

Zoom Lenses

When you want versatility, zoom lenses are the best option. These camera lenses offer photographers a range of focal lengths in one lens. A few popular zoom ranges include 28mm-105mm, 35mm-200mm and 70-200mm. With a twist of the lens barrel, you can obtain various perspectives from wide to telephoto (close-up) images by moving through the focal lengths.

The convenience of zoom lenses really comes in handy for changing subjects quickly. For example, one multipurpose zoom lens could be used for documenting events at a local carnival. Use the wide-angle settings (17mm-35mm) to capture the towering Ferris wheel. Then use a mid-range focal length such as 50mm-70mm to capture a picture of your friend tasting a funnel cake across the table from you. Finally, use the longer focal lengths, such as 150-300mm, to zoom in on a child's smile as he floats by on the merry-go-round. Remember, all that was with just one lens!

Zoom lenses do have a few downfalls:

  • As you zoom, the aperture ring closes down making it increasingly difficult to work in low-light situations.
  • They can be heavy, long and cumbersome to maneuver.
  • The farther you zoom, the more support you need to avoid unwanted camera shake and blurry photos. Use a monopod or tripod whenever possible to stabilize the lens.

Photo source: Morguefile

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