Primes vs Zooms

Started May 8, 2013 | Discussions thread
Chad Gladstone Senior Member • Posts: 2,608
Re: Primes vs Zooms

Guidenet wrote:

vbuhay wrote:

I know this debate has been discussed here many, many times and its still going on. I was thinking about this yesterday while reading some post here and listening to a baseball game at the same time and it dawned on me:

Primes are for homeruns, Zooms are for base hits. Either way , we all need runs. Enough said!


I've never really understood this particular discussion. Focal length isn't that important except when you need consider it because you can't get to the position you want, or because you need some particular perspective.

Now, how one gets to the focal length they've decided upon seems to me the most useless information in photography. It strikes me as the ultimate in gearheadism "new word   " Seriously, why would anyone care how you chose the focal length unless it severely affected the IQ as in a super ratio zoom?

To me, a zoom is nothing but a variable prime lens. When I'm going on location and I know exaclty my focal length needs, I probably will take primes because they are usually smaller and faster. If I think I'll need several focal lengths and am not so sure what they will be, I'll bring one or more zoom lenses. It's a bag full of various focal lengths.

But that's all this means, this difference between zooms and primes. That's it. There's no other reason to be concerned or to try and make it part of photography. It always amazes me when people say things like, "I'm switching to all primes" or all zooms or anything of the sort. My retort would be, "So What" or "why would you do that?" What does that have to do with making an image?

Take it easy.

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Cheers, Craig
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For most of us, we started with a kit lens and added a 50mm prime because the kit lens required a flash for many practical applications and the shadow detracted from the image.  We wanted more light but did not want to spend much money.  Many decided it was too impractical to cover the entire range  of our shooting portfolio with primes and rationally decided on one or two of the three trinity lenses and believed we were set.  We then started adding primes for even more light, dof control, sharpness, etc., for the special shots when the zooms were not capable because they lacked the light gathering capacity and the 50's rendering was too pedestrian for our artistic taste.  Sometime thereafter, we acquired as many lenses as we possibly could and developed a sickness and a chiasm developed between those who prefer the convenience of the zooms and those who prefer the convenience of the primes.

Either camp can find verification and support for their proposition, but it is an academic exercise and, while, some of my favorite lenses are anomalous (value having no apparent correlation with their price or measurable acuity), the debate will rage on.  When I have the zooms, I use them, when I have the primes, I use them.  When I have both at the same time it is complicated and I ended up having to make choices.

Every five years - 13 years, new lenses become old and tend to be replaced by superior optical formulas and I want them (whether they are zooms or primes, it doesn't matter because it is a sickness).  Each generation surpasses the last and still many cling to their old lenses because they term them "anomalous" also.

The zoom v. prime argument is how different consumers value limited resources.  With unlimited resources, most would use whatever was most convenient for the application.  Since most of us do not, we seem compelled to justify our choices in accordance with our desire to remain accepted by the "pack."  Both the primes and zooms are liberating and provide different conveniences and optical strengths and yet they also are complicated by cost and versatility.  Those who prefer one over the other only need to wait some time and their opinion will evolve along with the optical formulas and production costs are decreased.  It is nice to have choices.

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Chad Gladstone

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