A few good primes or constant-aperture zooms... your thoughts/experiences

Started Dec 9, 2012 | Discussions thread
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whyamihere
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A few good primes or constant-aperture zooms... your thoughts/experiences
Dec 9, 2012

I've seen this question asked a few times on DPR, though answers were rather particular to the camera system being discussed (Nikon DSLR, Sony NEX, Micro Four Thirds, etc.) or the particular event (wedding, landscape, etc.). I didn't see anything for Canon, so without further ado:

I'm looking to get my first full frame DSLR, and it's likely to be a Canon. I'm not a pro, and I have no intention of selling my services as a photographer anytime soon. Right now, photography is an artistic hobby/pastime/interest/endeavor. The rationale for going full frame is the light gathering capability of the format, especially in indoor and other low-light situations. I'd highly doubt that I'd be walking around and taking 'in the moment' photos with a DSLR, but I could see myself taking cityscape photos at night where deliberation and composition matter more than being able to shoot from the hip. It would also be nice to get low ISO images in the row homes and apartment buildings in my city where there isn't a lot of natural light available.

With that said, what do you use: Constant aperture zooms or primes?

To me, there are obvious temptations and caveats in both cases. Zooms obviously give you the convenience of carrying around one or two lenses to cover a number of focal lengths, but even the fastest available L zoom lenses are only f/2.8. That's not bad, but considering even cheap-ish primes will give you f/1.8 or better, I feel it dulls the value of a ~$2,000 lens. (To be clear, in no way am I saying something like, "The 24-70mm f/2.8 L is a bad lens." That's just silly.) A handful of prime lenses give you the speed and the opportunity of really shallow depth of field, and decent lenses can be had for a wallet-sparing amount of money (I hear the 50mm f/1.4 can be had for a mere $300 these days). The obvious problem with primes is you'd have to carry the whole lot of them with you to cover different focal lengths and change them out depending on the situation. There's also no odd 'in-between' focal lengths with primes: A zoom can hit anything within it's focal length, but with primes you're pretty much settling for 'close enough' even if you have a lot of them on hand at any given time.

So, what say you? Are fast zooms good enough for you, or do you opt for primes? If you have any specific suggestions (or, better, samples) that you would like to share, that would be most helpful.

 whyamihere's gear list:whyamihere's gear list
Nikon D7000 NEX5R Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G +2 more
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