Fast primes vs good zooms

Started 4 months ago | Questions
Space the final frontier Contributing Member • Posts: 815
Re: Fast primes vs good zooms

The faster aperture of fixed lenses is often cited as the primary reason and advantage. However, I feel that it is a blanket statement without proper context. The next important factor to consider is depth of field, which decreases with larger aperture opening. In many situations that I am interested in, depth of field is just marginally deep enough even at f/4. Any shallower will be the wrong direction. So, I don't typically use fixed even though I have all of the f/1.7 and f/2.0. Instead, I use the 12-100 (most of the time) and 12-40 (some of the time) for flexibility. It is my habit and preference. YMMV.

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Bassam Guy Senior Member • Posts: 1,162
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.

Getting GAS about a PL15 f/1.7 but didn't pull the trigger when got the prime in the cross hairs. hesitated to burn 300 something euro's

Primes are often faster in aperture so f2.8 against a f1.7 is a officious victory for the prime. I don't want a shelf full of lenses to choose from before i leave the house and don't want to over-tech/buy my gear for the use i have. I like my one bag solution of only choice do i bring my tripod or not, rest in a backpack ready to go. There is some room for the prime but what do i get more out a fast prime besides the officious of faster aperture and shallower dof up close.

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

Why is an apple is preferable to an orange? Not a fair comparison.

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

field of use i can think of: inside buildings, evening city /landscape/ architecture. (when there is no movement no difference to the zoom and the zoom is more convenient wile walking and i have 12-15mm more FOV.)

So Do i want it because of , well, to much time here on DPR fireing up GAS for no reason other then rub off / inhalation of Techtalk? or is there a good practical upgrade for a casual shooter experience and is a 300-469 euro the proper investment?

please push me of the fence either way because it starting to itch LOL.

The technical differences: size, weight, aperture/DOF, and focal range versatility are obvious.

Perhaps "compromise" with a PL 12-35 f2.8 or Oly 12-40 f2.8?

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Dreeke Senior Member • Posts: 1,031
indoors, moving subjects without flash

That is my main application of fast primes.

Now a days that is indoors sports, where the flash I would have to bring to light up the player in the court wouldn't be apriciated

Some years ago it was the kids playing indoors. I don't want to flash kids. f/2.8 works as long as they are more or less stationairy but if they are walking f/1.7 or f/1.8 (or, if you don't mind the size, a sigma f/1.4) makes a huge difference.

And then there is the fun factor. I just like primes more than zooms. On family outings I use the zooms, if I go out by myself (or for myself) I carry a bag of primes

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OP spike29 Senior Member • Posts: 1,983
Re: Fast primes vs good zooms

Space the final frontier wrote:

The faster aperture of fixed lenses is often cited as the primary reason and advantage. However, I feel that it is a blanket statement without proper context. The next important factor to consider is depth of field, which decreases with larger aperture opening. In many situations that I am interested in, depth of field is just marginally deep enough even at f/4. Any shallower will be the wrong direction. So, I don't typically use fixed even though I have all of the f/1.7 and f/2.0. Instead, I use the 12-100 (most of the time) and 12-40 (some of the time) for flexibility. It is my habit and preference. YMMV.

Took your example in my calculating-app and a 15mm at f/1.8  and focusplane set at 3m will give me a DoF  of 2.47m 0.79m til 1.68m

At 2m focusplane it wil have still a DoF of 1m

And after 8.32m it's hyperfocal.

So indeed, when i need to shoot a bigger/deeper object i need to be more then 8m away from my selected "i want this sharp"

That's not that bad or not?

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windmillgolfer
windmillgolfer Forum Pro • Posts: 16,420
Re: Fast primes vs good zooms

Fast zooms are large and heavy, and still 2 to 3 stops behind an f1.7 Prime.Note that f1.7 is only used when needed due to low light or if the lowest depth of field is desired.

I prefer to use a mix of kit level zooms and Primes. That way I have the flexibility of zooms 7-14/12-60/14-140 when travelling, usually in good light. When needed I can use, say 20mm or 15mm f1.7, when light is poor or in the evening after the sun has gone down.

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OP spike29 Senior Member • Posts: 1,983
Re: indoors, moving subjects without flash

Dreeke wrote:

That is my main application of fast primes.

Now a days that is indoors sports, where the flash I would have to bring to light up the player in the court wouldn't be apriciated

This can be a huge factor to buy a f/1.7 i play a fast game as in Badminton and freeze the moment just right(only motion in racket and shuttle flight) is a difficult task. ( i don't take my camera a lot with me when i play myself but it can be fun with a 15mm f/1.7 (post before about dof fits in this matter. (3m distance will give me a field of view of 3.46m by 2.60m high. (DoF of 2.47m) So clear subject selection/isolation.) Standing next to the field will do with a 15mm.

Some years ago it was the kids playing indoors. I don't want to flash kids. f/2.8 works as long as they are more or less stationairy but if they are walking f/1.7 or f/1.8 (or, if you don't mind the size, a sigma f/1.4) makes a huge difference.

And then there is the fun factor. I just like primes more than zooms. On family outings I use the zooms, if I go out by myself (or for myself) I carry a bag of primes

i am starting to see the pro's and con's in practical use and when its a advantage to bring a faster lens like a prime.

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Space the final frontier Contributing Member • Posts: 815
Re: Fast primes vs good zooms

spike29 wrote:

Space the final frontier wrote:

The faster aperture of fixed lenses is often cited as the primary reason and advantage. However, I feel that it is a blanket statement without proper context. The next important factor to consider is depth of field, which decreases with larger aperture opening. In many situations that I am interested in, depth of field is just marginally deep enough even at f/4. Any shallower will be the wrong direction. So, I don't typically use fixed even though I have all of the f/1.7 and f/2.0. Instead, I use the 12-100 (most of the time) and 12-40 (some of the time) for flexibility. It is my habit and preference. YMMV.

Took your example in my calculating-app and a 15mm at f/1.8 and focusplane set at 3m will give me a DoF of 2.47m 0.79m til 1.68m

At 2m focusplane it wil have still a DoF of 1m

And after 8.32m it's hyperfocal.

So indeed, when i need to shoot a bigger/deeper object i need to be more then 8m away from my selected "i want this sharp"

That's not that bad or not?

It depends. Focal length is a significant factor, 15mm is not as bad as 45m or 60mm. The DOF calculation is quite objective, but perception can sometimes be subjective, like textural complexity and contrast. There is no absolute right or wrong, just personal preferences.

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OP spike29 Senior Member • Posts: 1,983
every one thank you for the post and experience sharing.

I appreciate all the thoughts and advises.

It's difficult to imagine myself in front how a prime like a 15mm f/1.7 will fit in my normal use of gear. And spending 250-469 euro on a hunge and GAS attack isn't my budget approach.

My conclusion is this PL15mm f/1.7 can be a part of my kit and it will be bring me a extra which my trusty PL12-60mm f2.8-4.0 can't give.

- inside sports photo's if i can be close to the action.

- motion freeze inside buildings without using a flash to much and still have low-ish iso. (about 2 stops)

- lower iso's at  the end of the day or sunrise.

It's not a huge part in my cake of use but still it can grow on me.

(Still i am staying a zoom user by default so it will be a "specialty tool" to take/mount when it's necessary. )

When a good opportunity, read second hand prices 200-300 euro, comes by i will bite this time.  No hurry to buy but if i am see one i am try to get it for a reasonable pricetag.

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ahaslett
ahaslett Veteran Member • Posts: 5,810
Re: every one thank you for the post and experience sharing.

The cheapest used fast primes are Panasonic 20/1.7 mk I.  London Camera Exchange has several.

Apart from slowish and slightly noisy focus, it is a great lens.  No CAF and not suitable for video, but a cheap entry into fast, small primes.

Andrew

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Aaron801 Veteran Member • Posts: 6,305
The way that I see it...

... is that primes are good for certain reasons. 1) they're going to be smaller and lighter and that might be nice for on the go, incognito shooting. 2) If you're shooting in low light, like I do when I occasionally shoot indoor musical events, fast primes, especially for m43 which doesn't do low light as well as bigger systems is a really useful thing. 3) A prime can force you to shoot a certain way and that isn't necessarily a bad thing. If the prime that you're using isn't too far from the range that you'd use most on your zoom then you aren't really limiting yourself much anyway... I'll admit to not using the few primes I have all that much, but I think that if I had something in the 17mm range, which is probably my most often used focal length, I might try going out shooting with just that lens...

There is of course the matter of better ability for shallow DOF as well for prime lenses. Unless you are dealing with a very fast prime though (like a f1.2) in which you're going to loose the benefit of the lighter weight and smaller size) or you're using a longer focal length then it seems that the extra shallow DOF isn't going to be all that much of a factor...

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Resident Tourist New Member • Posts: 3
Re: Fast primes vs good zooms
1

Look MFT is all about going small and ILCs. There is room in your quiver for BOTH fast primes and zoom lenses. Example, just last weekend I took my wife out to see live performances on multiple stages in a public San Francisco space by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Because it was "date night", I left my Canon FF camera and L zoom lens at home and brought my Panasonic Gx8 mounted with the PL 12-60mm. I used this combo until night fall which performed well up to ISO 800 when I realized is was night. Then I switched between using my Oly 25mm f1.8 and Pana 42.5 f1.7 OIS shooting at ISO 200-500.

Performances include acrobats, plays, dance with fast moving ornate Samba and Flamenco dancers requiring SS of 1/125. The Dual IS of the Gx8 and 42.5 OIS worked well.

Fast primes are sharp wide open and the Pro lenses are even better as the same for zooms. That is why I went with the Pana/Leica zooms 12-60mm and 50-200mm for travel and compactness as well as tack sharp through the lens range.

I am no longer frustrated with soft image results due to lens quality. You can't beat the portability. As for the evening, my camera bag was my vest pockets for the lenses. I'm hand-holding for shots and anonymous compared to the Canon and Nikon users for the street crowd, thus less of a target for theft and less distracting when spending time with my wife.

Win Win.

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glassoholic
glassoholic Senior Member • Posts: 4,820
Re: Fast primes vs good zooms

F2.8 zooms are very good and versatile. F5.6 zooms can drag you down into shutter speeds or ISO's you don't want. F1.2 to f1.8 primes can give you a different looking shot due to background separation and allow less noise in low light. At least one fast prime like the 15mm f1.7 can be very useful to complement zooms.

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