Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday's Photo Tip - Zoom vs Prime Lens

Friday's Photo Tip - Zoom vs Prime Lens

targets for practice shooting

a target for practice shooting

There are two basic types of lenses for DSLR cameras.

They are Zoom lenses and Prime lenses.

Both are great to have, and getting a chance to experiment with different ones is a lot of fun.

A zoom lens is the most versatile - with a wide angle to a telephoto lens being the most popular and favorite.

With them, one lens can accomplish both types of shooting with it's varying focal lengths.

When I took the above images, I was standing in the same spot - I hadn't moved at all.

The first image has a focal length of 30mm. I used the wide angle feature on my zoom lens to get the whole scene in the frame.

The second image has a focal length of 70mm. For this image, I used the telephoto feature on the lens to bring just a piece of the scene in closer.

As much as I prefer to use a prime lens, I must admit, I keep my zoom lens on my camera the most when I am out and about.

The prime lenses have a fixed focal length, and they come in all sizes and ranges.

The reason I prefer the prime lenses is that as a rule, they have a sharper, clearer focus.

However, if you are willing to spend the money, you can get a good quality zoom lens that has great sharpness and clarity.

With prime lenses, you need to carry a lot of gear around with you, and taking the time to change lenses is sometimes just not possible.

I purchased a couple of used lenses online a couple of years ago. One was Tamron prime lens that I had read rave reviews about, and the other was a Sigma zoom that also had pretty good reviews.

I was overjoyed with the Tamron - it lived up to all I had read about it and more.

The Sigma had me thinking that I was loosing my eyesight in a bad way. After reading more about the type of zoom I wanted in this range, I was pleased to find a great older zoom lens that had beautiful glass with sharp focus.

It's worth taking the time to research your glass. There are some great older ones out there that perform just as good or better than the new ones of today.


  1. Useful summary, KML. I have my 17-85mm zoom lens on by default.

    It might be useful when you come back to this topic to talk on how a prime lens forces you to move around to compose (which really helps learning) and maybe also cover more advanced aspects like reduced chromatic aberration or that slippery term bokeh (which I confess to not grasping in all it's various nuances).

    Thanks for a good summary :)

  2. Good topic.... it seems I have on my 70-300mm zoom lens most of the time. I should work a bit more with my prime lens though, I think.

  3. Hi Mark - thanks for stopping by and thanks for the suggestions. As for bokeh - I posted about that a few weeks ago and you can find it here:

    Hope it helps!


  4. Hi Michele - The prime lens is more limiting and the zoom is the most versatile. I think that one reason we use them the most.

    Thanks for stopping by - it's good to see you again!

    Take care,

  5. Hi! Thank you so much for being a top dropper at Moms... Check Nyo. Your button will be up on my side bar for the whole month of June. :)

  6. Another great tip Kathy, I only own telephoto lens. It will be interesting to have prime lens too. But I think I need another SLR body, lol, I hate switching lens as my sensor gets dusty really fast. Thanks for useful info again, Anna :)


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