Fast primes vs good zooms

Started 3 months ago | Questions
Tim Reidy Productions
Tim Reidy Productions Senior Member • Posts: 3,617
Re: Fast primes vs good zooms

Isola Verde wrote:

Tim Reidy Productions wrote:

The main reason to get a f2 or less prime is to get more light than a zoom lens would.

Wouldn't that cause over-exposure, every time?

not every time as some places are really dark and you really cant overexpose them.

so if you run in to situations where more light is preferred get a fast prime.

I could have used a fast prime yesterday, but not for my whole day.

I guess I know what you meant, but...

Peter

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motormatic New Member • Posts: 24
Re: PL12-60 vs P12-35 f2.8

left eye wrote:

I generally avoid constant aperture zooms - the constant aperture is usually not optical but achieved by automatic aperture adjustment.

Whether aperture is fixed or variable has to do with where the diaphragm is located relative to the zooming elements. If any of the elements in front of the diaphragm move to zoom, the aperture will be variable. If only elements behind the diaphragm move to zoom, the aperture will be fixed.

Hobbling a variable aperture zoom that is actually faster at the short end so it can work as a fixed aperture is kind of silly. Can you think of an example of such a lens?

Tom Axford Veteran Member • Posts: 6,521
Re: PL12-60 vs P12-35 f2.8

motormatic wrote:

left eye wrote:

I generally avoid constant aperture zooms - the constant aperture is usually not optical but achieved by automatic aperture adjustment.

Whether aperture is fixed or variable has to do with where the diaphragm is located relative to the zooming elements. If any of the elements in front of the diaphragm move to zoom, the aperture will be variable. If only elements behind the diaphragm move to zoom, the aperture will be fixed.

Hobbling a variable aperture zoom that is actually faster at the short end so it can work as a fixed aperture is kind of silly. Can you think of an example of such a lens?

Do you mean aperture as entrance pupil or aperture as f-number?

pattymeboy Regular Member • Posts: 410
Re: Fast primes vs good zooms

The PL 15 f 1.7 is a very nice rendering, quality lens. I find it on my GX8 about half the time. for a $300 investment (I bought used), it has served me quite well.

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yardcoyote Forum Pro • Posts: 12,178
Re: Fast primes vs good zooms
1

It is excatly about "enjoy". I don't like shooting with zooms except for telephoto, so i don't  own the "good zooms" or indeed any zooms at all except a cheap variable aperture telephoto for the zoo and such.

This leaves my budget clear to buy primes, fast or not. (My MFT primes are all slow because I chose them for small size and light weight. )

The opposite of course may be equally true--you have the good zooms and like using them, you may not need any primes at all.

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Kent Ekasak
Kent Ekasak Contributing Member • Posts: 609
Re: Fast primes vs good zooms
1

I am a prime guy, and have both 15/1.7 and 1260/2.8-4.0..

15/1.7 is much more fun to use, especially aperture ring, and yes better in low light, extremely useful in shooting both photo and video.. It's good for general use, street, party, dining, cycling etc.. It's not ideal for portrait..

1260/2.8-4.0 is better for outdoor nature travel, sport, outdoor event.. It can tell "more stories" than 15/1.7..

But If I have to choose 1, I would go for 15/1.7, because I am a prime guy

OP spike29 Senior Member • Posts: 1,955
Re: PL12-60 vs P12-35 f2.8

left eye wrote:

spike29 wrote:

Could you be so kind to show some examples of your use of the 15mm?

and the counterpart of the zooms like the PL12-60/ oly version or pl12-35?

(it should outrun the lumix zooms in resolving power/resolution but does it the PL-zooms?)

This is comparing the PL12-60 to the P12-35 f2.8, so not a comp with the 15mm prime, anyway these are full res so you can compare as far as the zooms are concerned, may be of some help, though I realise not the comp you are really after...

it confirms my choice to get the pl12-60 f2.8-4.0

Sharpness, fully open,

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/60830735

Distortion

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/61779585

Curved plane of focus at infinity

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/60833972

Reach

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/60831815

/

Both are a similar size weight and price.

The PL 12-60 is slightly sharper than the 12-35 at all FL plus has extra reach.

The PL has better microcontrast and colour, the 12-35 has lower overall contrast and often a bluish wash.

The PL 12-60 at the wide end has slightly more distortion (when un-corrected), though even when corrected the corners are slighter sharper than the 12-35.

Both are good options, though the PL12-60 is just a bit better in every way.

i find it also a great lens.

For video, the PL 12-60 is parfocal if that is of use and when zooming the aperture shows no flickering.

that's a bonus.

The 12-35 f2.8 to maintain f2.8 has to automatically adjust its aperture - in clicks, I'm not sure if the mk2 solved this. This is actually is why I generally avoid constant aperture zooms - the constant aperture is usually not optical but achieved by automatic aperture adjustment.

/

The 15mm prime will have better uncorrected distortion, other than that has a weight and size advantage. You have to take into account the 60mm reach of the PL12-60mm, if you need that flexibility, and so probably no lens changes, and no other lenses in your bag etc is a big plus. It's really not about IQ, but about FL flexibility against size and weight.

So, if size/weight isn't the factor i am worried about then it only leaves max aperture on the table.

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OP spike29 Senior Member • Posts: 1,955
Re: Fast primes vs good zooms

yardcoyote wrote:

It is excatly about "enjoy". I don't like shooting with zooms except for telephoto, so i don't own the "good zooms" or indeed any zooms at all except a cheap variable aperture telephoto for the zoo and such.

i think you have a different kind of use of your m43kit. more pre thought of what and how.

This leaves my budget clear to buy primes, fast or not. (My MFT primes are all slow because I chose them for small size and light weight. )

The opposite of course may be equally true--you have the good zooms and like using them, you may not need any primes at all.

i have 1 good zoom like a PL, and two good stuff for the money.

That is what i am trying to determinate. is the 2 stops faster Aperture something i need/go to use.

Does it have more then just that. Like more slikysmooth bokeh at several different Apertures.

(i believe the PL12-60 has 9 blades and the pl15 7 blades and more blades does bokeh better nicer.)

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yardcoyote Forum Pro • Posts: 12,178
Re: Fast primes vs good zooms

The first is definitely  true--my MFT kit is not "do everything", just a general purpose three lens mini kit for walkaround and travel when I dont want to carry my larger cameras.

My experience with it so far is that if i depended on my MFT gear I would definitely want an extra stop or two at absolutely crucial focal lengths, for low light performance if nothing else.

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C Sean Senior Member • Posts: 2,164
Re: Fast primes vs good zooms

I don't think there is a right or wrong answer.

My preferences are primes over the standard zoom but there are times it doesn't make sense taking a bag of primes. So it either means taking one prime or taking the zoom lens.

I went to a vintage car show last month which is just more than cars racing around the circuit. There are a lot going on the track and around the track from people to planes. So it require a bag of primes or a standard zoom and a medium telephoto lens for the track action. So on day 1 I brought with me three primes that cover wide, standard and short telephoto. On the second day I brought with me the 12-60mm 2.8-4 and left the primes behind. The idea was to do less shooting and watch the car racing. First there wasn't much to do before the racing started because I saw everything in the previous day so I was doing the odd shot with the 12-60. The results from the 12-60 are inferior.

So in my opinion a bag of primes are superior to zooms. The other thing to consider if we look at Full Frame standard zooms we have.

  • 28-85mm or something similar
  • 24-70mm
  • 24-105mm

So nothing terribly exciting.

addlightness Senior Member • Posts: 3,110
If you have to ask, you don't really need one <nt>
1

No text.

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Gnine Senior Member • Posts: 1,030
Re: If you have to ask, you don't really need one <nt>

addlightness wrote:

This. You're trying to find a problem to suit a solution.

MeVee Regular Member • Posts: 251
There is no "versus"
2

spike29 wrote:

Primes are often faster in aperture so f2.8 against a f1.7 is a officious victory for the prime.

It's not an "officious victory" in some nonsense rhetorical nothingburger "versus" battle. It's a meaningful difference that allows a different photographic result.

You either want that different photograph, or you don't.

So why is a PL15mm f/1.7 preferable over a PL12-60?

- 15mm on the pl12-60 is about f/3.1 so around 2 stops slower then f/1.7

Let's imagine uses for two extra stops of light:

1/ Shooting the 15mm, you're able to use a shutter speed two stops faster. Say, 1/250 instead of 1/60. That's the difference between motion blur and tack sharpness for many subjects.

2/ Or you're able to use an ISO two stops lower. Say, ISO 400 rather than 1600 in marginal light. The photo from the zoom will be noisy and bloomy, the photo from the prime will be clean and crisp.

3/ Two stops means a significant depth of field and bokeh difference, particularly for a near-wide angle field of view with a fairly close subject. The prime's image therefore will have a blurred background, a suggestion of dimension, or an isolated subject; the zoom's won't.

You either want the faster shutter speed, the lesser noise, and the shallower depth of field, or you want different focal lengths at a twist.

That's the difference, the perfectly valid reason for both lenses, and the end of this story.

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dgnelson Senior Member • Posts: 1,211
Re: This is the list which started my GAS

spike29 wrote:

Now i need to determine if this list of plusses is the investment worth.

So i try to gather some thoughts of users of primes and people like me, the (lazy) Zoom carriers.

Some people like to carry several primes and change lenses.  I hate changing lenses, so if I take my prime I usually only take one.  I figure that there are enough photos to be taken at the focal length I'm using, so I don't worry too much about missing others.

Dan

OP spike29 Senior Member • Posts: 1,955
Re: There is no "versus"

MeVee wrote:

spike29 wrote:

Primes are often faster in aperture so f2.8 against a f1.7 is a officious victory for the prime.

It's not an "officious victory" in some nonsense rhetorical nothingburger "versus" battle. It's a meaningful difference that allows a different photographic result.

The versus isn't a "battle" it's a "what does it bring me", I have versatility and a great zoom with the pl12-60 which delivers tack sharp nice images with DUAL IS2. The prime fals inside this focalrange so... therefore the list.

You either want that different photograph, or you don't.

So why is a PL15mm f/1.7 preferable over a PL12-60?

- 15mm on the pl12-60 is about f/3.1 so around 2 stops slower then f/1.7

Let's imagine uses for two extra stops of light:

1/ Shooting the 15mm, you're able to use a shutter speed two stops faster. Say, 1/250 instead of 1/60. That's the difference between motion blur and tack sharpness for many subjects.

2/ Or you're able to use an ISO two stops lower. Say, ISO 400 rather than 1600 in marginal light. The photo from the zoom will be noisy and bloomy, the photo from the prime will be clean and crisp.

3/ Two stops means a significant depth of field and bokeh difference, particularly for a near-wide angle field of view with a fairly close subject. The prime's image therefore will have a blurred background, a suggestion of dimension, or an isolated subject; the zoom's won't.

You either want the faster shutter speed, the lesser noise, and the shallower depth of field, or you want different focal lengths at a twist.

That's the difference, the perfectly valid reason for both lenses, and the end of this story.

Sold !

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OP spike29 Senior Member • Posts: 1,955
Re: If you have to ask, you don't really need one <nt>
1

Gnine wrote:

addlightness wrote:

This. You're trying to find a problem to suit a solution.

LOL Don't we all?

Needing is air, food, housing, nice people, pet-animals. having fun with is all other stuff even work related. (yes work is overrated, you need to work for living not live for work.)

Serious again, sometimes you bump in to a "problem" and think what would be a solution in balance with the "problem".

(you don't buy a Ferrari just to win one traffic-light race and then go back to that spacey stationwagon that helps out every time. )

So i tried to find a balanced answer to the problem of my low light moments in buildings and late afternoons. (going to 3200 iso or even 6400 iso. :-O)

DxO helps out very well to minimise visual noise and blotchyness. So the problem is not that big.

And if i have the 15mm f/1.7 my "problem" just shifts 2 stops

So that's why i asked, to get a wider view of the problem/solution and look through the GAS-issue every one gets being on DPR.

(like walking every day in a car-shop, everything shines and is new and better then what you have..)

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gary0319
gary0319 Veteran Member • Posts: 6,963
Re: There is no "versus"

spike29 wrote:

MeVee wrote:

spike29 wrote:

Primes are often faster in aperture so f2.8 against a f1.7 is a officious victory for the prime.

It's not an "officious victory" in some nonsense rhetorical nothingburger "versus" battle. It's a meaningful difference that allows a different photographic result.

The versus isn't a "battle" it's a "what does it bring me", I have versatility and a great zoom with the pl12-60 which delivers tack sharp nice images with DUAL IS2. The prime fals inside this focalrange so... therefore the list.

You either want that different photograph, or you don't.

So why is a PL15mm f/1.7 preferable over a PL12-60?

- 15mm on the pl12-60 is about f/3.1 so around 2 stops slower then f/1.7

Let's imagine uses for two extra stops of light:

1/ Shooting the 15mm, you're able to use a shutter speed two stops faster. Say, 1/250 instead of 1/60. That's the difference between motion blur and tack sharpness for many subjects.

2/ Or you're able to use an ISO two stops lower. Say, ISO 400 rather than 1600 in marginal light. The photo from the zoom will be noisy and bloomy, the photo from the prime will be clean and crisp.

3/ Two stops means a significant depth of field and bokeh difference, particularly for a near-wide angle field of view with a fairly close subject. The prime's image therefore will have a blurred background, a suggestion of dimension, or an isolated subject; the zoom's won't.

You either want the faster shutter speed, the lesser noise, and the shallower depth of field, or you want different focal lengths at a twist.

That's the difference, the perfectly valid reason for both lenses, and the end of this story.

Sold !

All that MeVee has said is right on, and you should try the prime.

But, in the end, you most likely will either be a prime shooter....or not. The technical pluses and minuses will make very little difference. I have one prime lens, I bought it about 4 years ago, shot it any number if times, kind of liked it, put back on the shelf. I take it down now and then, sometimes I even put it in my bag ....that’s as far as it gets.

I’m just a zoom guy, with the exception of my Oly f1.8 Fisheye that I actually use a lot.

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Lacko Contributing Member • Posts: 525
Re: Fast primes vs good zooms

spike29 wrote:

i am not a photo hobbyist as in go out and fill up my gallery in Flicker more a family shooter who like's to have the proper gear to enjoy photographing wile walking along.

So building a gearset isn't main goal in my budget. It needs to have a clear purpose to help out or fill a gap in my toolbax)

For me it looks like you can save your money for something more useful for you than a prime lens.

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(unknown member) Senior Member • Posts: 7,274
Re: Fast primes vs good zooms

spike29 wrote:

Trying to get insight about why a prime with a fast aperture is "needed" to accomplish a set of zooms for casual photography.

The lens is called "fast lens" when you can get a faster shutter speed with it than with "slower lens" when both are wide open.

So if a fast lens (f/2.8 or smaller) is needed, then you can't get acceptable shutter speed with other f-stops.

The definition of the "fast" or "slow" lens is its effect to shutter speed that does it become "fast" or "slow" for the scene.

You can as well adjust you shutter speed with a ISO, but now you are affecting to definition, but faster lens as well compromises the DOF and so on definition as well, so you are trying to balance compromises for acceptable level with those two for the final image purpose.

(unknown member) Senior Member • Posts: 7,274
Re: Fast primes vs good zooms
1

dgnelson wrote:

Shallow depth of field: There is a portrait style where the eyes are in focus and the rest of the face slips out of focus. This technique can be useful for other photographic subjects as well. That can look pleasing, natural, it's how our eyes work.

Our eyes see only about 2° area in focus, everything else around that is blur. That 2° area is almost as large as your thumbnail when you extend your arm front of you with thumb up.

But we see everything in focus because we scan the scene rapidly starting from key elements (point of interest) that are colors, shapes, motion and familiar locations (safe, dangerous, possible threats positions etc).

And we build up a general memory of the details, like face different parts etc.

We memorize the other people faces from distance of 4.5-5 meters, that is the most pleasing distance as well for portraits where we find face shape most attractive and we recall people faces details from that distance as well.

The human eye is capable (20/15 vision, so most falls below that) for 80 pixels per degree. It means that when you extend that thumbnail that is about 2° in your FOV, you are seeing at best 160 pixels in that area (80PPD). This is as well from where 300 DPI becomes, as at 12" (30 cm) that is normal close reading distance you are limited by fovea.

If someone wants to follow "how our eyes work", then only a very small portion of the portrait should be in focus, like just one eye Iris, but everything else blurred. But if we follow how we see people, everything in the face must be in focus so that we can scan the face naturally and then we build up the face rapidly looking at different parts and still only see that 2° FOV in focus, regardless the DOF.

Blurred background: Photos can look better if the background is more blurred, the result of opening the lens wider.

As the framing is the same that is wanted regardless the format, focal length etc, the DOF will be same when:

  • Format is same
  • Framing is same
  • F-Stop ratio is same

Meaning, your DOF is same is photo taken at 12mm or at 42.5mm, but your focal length changes how blurred the background is. 42.5mm offer far more blurred background than 12mm does, regardless that both have identical DOF at example f/1.4.

If someone wants background blurred, it is done with longer focal length instead smaller f-stop. This is as well reason why example 40-150mm lens is better portrait lens than ie. 25mm as you get at least that 4.5-5m distance to subject for more pleasing look and then you can use tight framing to blur the background more then with short focal length, and as bonus you can use f/4-8 to get the subject in focus while blurring the background. Other bonuses are that you get control of the lighting, now you can more easily balance the environmental lighting and flashes as you don't need to use ND folders etc too overcome ie. sun or other bright light sources. You as well get sharper results as you likely are at any lens sweet spot.

With longer focal length you have full control of the background, more control of DOF, better control of perspective and more attractive results than shooting shorter lens wide open. Zoom is again best for best control of perspective and background instead using a fixed focal length.

https://youtu.be/eM51C9rglz0

But... If background is important that it is recognizable for documentary, theme or other reasons, then shorter focal length is better as you get background visible, more of it with faster shutter speed as you can shoot smaller F-stop and only compromise the subject focus, as you get subject more out of focus while background is more in recognizable.

What is requiring heavy compromises is low light situation with environmental light only, as faster shutter speed for subject and camera motion is required, and so on subject focus or background focus is compromised as otherwise whole frame motion blur makes everything look bad.

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