Prime vs. Zoom

Started Dec 20, 2012 | Questions thread
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jrtrent Veteran Member • Posts: 3,863
Re: Ummm.

ch382 wrote:

jrtrent wrote:

BobSC wrote:

You can't dial a 55-200 to 35...

If your zoom was an 18-55 instead, then you could dial it to 35.

* The zoom might have more distortion than the prime. This is not always true, but it is typical.

My experience with most kit zooms has been different, with the zoom having less distortion at the "normal" 35mm focal length than the prime. Photozone found 1.7% barrel distortion with the prime and just 0.533% distortion with the 18-55 zoom. The zoom also had marginally better border resolution and slightly less chromatic aberration, though I doubt there's enough difference to matter. If it were me, and the camera body supported it, the older 35mm f/2 D tested better, with much less distortion and chromatic aberration compared to the 35mm f/1.8 (though the zoom still has less distortion than even the 35mm f/2).

Very, very interesting.. I would not have thought the quality would be better than the prime.. Mm.. Def. have to do my research on that lens now!

It seems I erred in the information I posted above since Nikon's current kit zoom now has image stabilization, less distortion at the 35mm setting, and reduced chromatic aberrations. Photozone tests lenses for distortion, vignetting, resolution, and chromatic aberrations at varying focal lengths. Bear in mind that the performance in any of these areas may change with focal length. For example, the AF-S DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR has extremely low distortions and CA at the 35 and 55mm settings, but is somewhat higher at the shorter focal lengths. Photozone's conclusion seems realistic:

"It's probably not the lens of anyone's dreams, especially regarding its rather poor build quality. However, there's nothing to complain about its performance regarding sharpness, CAs and also vignetting. The only real issue is probably the rather high amount of distortion at the short end of the focal range, but that's quite typical behaviour in this class."

Ken Rockwell's review includes the results of his tests in using Photoshop's lens distortion filter to completely correct distorion; he includes a chart of what setting to use at each of five focal lengths (like Photozone's results, no corrections were necessary at 35mm and up).  His conclusion:

"I'd get one! It's super-sharp, and can give images as good or better than the more expensive 16-85mm and 18-200mm lenses. You lose mechanical durability, not image quality, compared to the more expensive lenses."

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