Primes > Zooms All Other Things Being Equal?

Started Jan 30, 2013 | Discussions thread
Nigel Wilkins
Nigel Wilkins Senior Member • Posts: 1,006
Re: Primes > Zooms All Other Things Being Equal?

MMACory wrote:

Are primes typically sharper/better image quality (can be subjective) than "comparable quality" zooms at the same focal length and aperture or not really?

Thanks.

I find zooms have more distortion, especially at the wide end.  If you're shooting "hard" subjects it counts for a lot.  It can be edited out mostly, but it's sometimes difficult to know if you've made the subject look different to what it should look like in the process, without a reference image of the subject.

Also, most lenses are at their best stopped-down a couple of stops from maximum, so your f/5.6 zoom won't be at it's best until perhaps f/11, after which diffraction starts to degrade sharpness, whereas an f/2.8 lens is good at f/5.6, so you may have the same sharpness over more aperture settings.

All else being equal, primes tend to appear sharper, partly due to having less glass for the light to travel through, with it's potential for spreading light & reducing contrast.  Although this is somewhat reduced by modern lens coatings, these same coatings can equally be applied to primes.  It's also more difficult to correct a zoom for aberrations due to the added complication of infinitely adjustable focal lengths (between wide & long) & therefore variable aberrations .  Simple is generally easier to design well.

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