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

Started Dec 9, 2012 | Discussions thread
MirekE Contributing Member • Posts: 925
Re: A few good primes or constant-aperture zooms... your thoughts/experiences

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.)

The cheap primes give you f/1.8, but some of them will need to stop down to get results comparable with the expensive zooms.

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.

I don't carry a whole lot of them. Often only one or two.

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.

You may or may not miss them, depending on your style and way of thinking. For example, my favorite National Geographic photographer only uses 28 and 90mm lenses.

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.

You choose between freedom of framing and freedom of light. Different photographers have different preferences and needs. You can't replicate the look of 35L or 85L with a zoom, but with these lenses you can miss some shots you would not miss with 24-70 and 70-200.

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