Do I really need a prime lens?

Started 2 months ago | Discussions
Jeff Farkas
Jeff Farkas Regular Member • Posts: 151
Do I really need a prime lens?

As the title says.. do I really need a prime lens? So far I have two zoom lenses that suit my needs just fine. 1) Nikon 55-200 2) Nikon 18-200. The one I was thinking of getting is the 50MM 1.8 but I wonder if I really need it. I shoot mostly outside and when I shoot indoors I use a flash.

Would it be better to get a third party flash and not get a prime to deal with indoor work?

TIA
Jeff

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D Cox Forum Pro • Posts: 26,406
Re: Do I really need a prime lens?

I think it depends on what you are shooting indoors.

I don't think flash is suitable for informal photos of friends and family as it draws attention to the photographer so that you don't get natural relaxed expressions.

Formal setups where people are expecting to pose and be photographed are a different matter. Likewise still life and product shots.

A 50mm prime lens is generally not very expensive.

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Jeff Farkas
OP Jeff Farkas Regular Member • Posts: 151
Re: Do I really need a prime lens?

I take mostly cat pictures and the flash would disturb them so the 50mm is the best way to go I guess. The price is decent and I can use it outside as well.

Thanks

Jeff

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hotdog321
hotdog321 Forum Pro • Posts: 20,765
Re: Do I really need a prime lens?
1

Jeff Farkas wrote:

As the title says.. do I really need a prime lens? So far I have two zoom lenses that suit my needs just fine. 1) Nikon 55-200 2) Nikon 18-200. The one I was thinking of getting is the 50MM 1.8 but I wonder if I really need it. I shoot mostly outside and when I shoot indoors I use a flash.

Would it be better to get a third party flash and not get a prime to deal with indoor work?

TIA
Jeff

If you are satisfied with your present setup, then no. Prime lenses usually are faster and lighter than zooms and may (or may not) be optically better because they are simpler designs, but many are dissatisfied with being limited to a single focal length.

I'm a pro and used to carry a whole bag of primes during the film era, mainly because zooms of the time were freakin' horrible. But these days I rely exclusively upon high-end zooms except for my beloved old 300mm f/2.8 and a 100mm macro.

You might as well keep the 50mm just in case you need a fast lens, though.

You didn't describe your indoor work. Architecture is typically done on a tripod and party/people stuff typically uses a flash.

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Jeff Farkas
OP Jeff Farkas Regular Member • Posts: 151
Re: Do I really need a prime lens?

I really don't  take many indoor pictures and my plan is to get a good tripod asap. The one I have is junk so I have to upgrade that.  I could get a 50mm when I really need one but for now I'll stick with what I have.

Thanks

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TacticDesigns
TacticDesigns Veteran Member • Posts: 7,536
Re: Do I really need a prime lens?
1

Jeff Farkas wrote:

As the title says.. do I really need a prime lens? So far I have two zoom lenses that suit my needs just fine. 1) Nikon 55-200 2) Nikon 18-200. The one I was thinking of getting is the 50MM 1.8 but I wonder if I really need it. I shoot mostly outside and when I shoot indoors I use a flash.

Would it be better to get a third party flash and not get a prime to deal with indoor work?

TIA
Jeff

I use mostly f/2.8 constant aperture zooms myself. For sports its nice to be able to change focal length quickly. And I find it easier to shoot with zooms.

But . . . I have 2 prime lenses for my APS-C dSLR.

A 35mm f/1.8 and a 50mm f/1.8.

The 35mm f/1.8 I got for shooting pictures in low light, like pictures around the campfire where I don't want to use flash.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/tacticdesigns/9532668118/in/dateposted-public/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/tacticdesigns/9560371057/in/dateposted-public/

The 50mm f/1.8 I use when shooting indoor portraits where my 80-200mm f/2.8 zoom is too long on an APS-C dSLR.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/tacticdesigns/15881083287/in/dateposted-public/

The thing with the 50mm f/1.8 vs. a kit zoom is that you can have a softer background.

Just think what it could do for your cat pictures!

The other benefit was when my oldest took a photography class.

I give her a camera with the kit lens, but I also tossed in the 35mm f/1.8.

The 35mm became her favourite lens.

I guess the thing was that in her course, the instructor made them take every picture in manual exposure mode.

I suspect it was easier to use the prime to explore manual exposure vs. a kit lens, because when you zoom with a kit lens, the aperture setting may change on you, messing up your exposure.

With a prime, you can't zoom, so if you set your aperture setting in manual exposure, it's not going to change on you.

Take care & Happy Shooting!

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Chris R-UK Forum Pro • Posts: 20,599
Good lens for cats
1

Jeff Farkas wrote:

I take mostly cat pictures and the flash would disturb them so the 50mm is the best way to go I guess. The price is decent and I can use it outside as well.

Thanks

Jeff

I think that a 50mm f/1.8 is a pretty good lens for cat photos indoors.  It is a useful focal length for cats and f/1.8 allows you to shoot in pretty low light.

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Chris R

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Clickalot
Clickalot Regular Member • Posts: 181
Re: Do I really need a prime lens?
4

"I take mostly cat pictures and the flash would disturb them..."

Have you tried a Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce with a 45-ish degree angle on the flash head? Very nice results and most kitties will stay put for repeated use of it.

yardcoyote Forum Pro • Posts: 12,705
Re: Do I really need a prime lens?

Not if you don't want one.  Do I really need a zoom?

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Mark_A
Mark_A Forum Pro • Posts: 15,855
Re: Do I really need a prime lens?
2

Jeff Farkas wrote:

I take mostly cat pictures and the flash would disturb them so the 50mm is the best way to go I guess. The price is decent and I can use it outside as well.

Thanks

Hi Jeff,

I had overlap with focal lengths, I had a 28-70 and was considering why I might want a 50 but the 50 1.8 is a fast lens, other things are possible with a fast lens.

However cat pictures, here is mine.

I forget which lens, but it was with flash, (indirect flash, bounced). It didn't seem to disturb her and I got her eyes wide open as they were in the lowlight conditions I took the photo in.

Mark_A

LordKOTL
LordKOTL Senior Member • Posts: 1,510
Re: Do I really need a prime lens?
1

Jeff Farkas wrote:

As the title says.. do I really need a prime lens? So far I have two zoom lenses that suit my needs just fine. 1) Nikon 55-200 2) Nikon 18-200. The one I was thinking of getting is the 50MM 1.8 but I wonder if I really need it. I shoot mostly outside and when I shoot indoors I use a flash.

Would it be better to get a third party flash and not get a prime to deal with indoor work?

TIA
Jeff

Need? only if the specific prime will do what your zooms won't. So, hypothetically the only thing that I can see is the 50mm f/1.8 is the aperture.  Are you looking for a more slender DoF?  Do you need more light at a given shutter?  Do you just want to challenge yourself to be stuck as a specific AoV and compose around that or do you like the ability to compose via zoom?

Also, one thing to mention:  if your camera does not have screwdrive autofocus (D3xxx, D5xxx, and I believe the D7500), get the 50mm f/1.8G.  Do not get the D.

Jeff Farkas wrote:

I take mostly cat pictures and the flash would disturb them so the 50mm is the best way to go I guess. The price is decent and I can use it outside as well.

Thanks

Jeff

Bounce flash or softbox:

Homemade softbox made with a box (best guess was about 30"x30"x10"--this was years ago), tinfoil, an old white t-shirt, and a infraredremote triggered SB-500

Bounce On-camera flash (Godox TT685N) off of some white curtains Holly (the cat) was staring right at them.

Godox AD-200 in a 23.6x35.4 softbox camera right, Godox AD-200 in a stripbox camera left.  As you can see, Firefly (car) is looking almost right at the softbox.

I posted those as examples of bouncing or truly softboxing a flash and the lack of reaction of our cats to it.  Now a tiny little cloth sock or a small piece of "tupperware" as a diffuser won't help much--you still have all of the flash power being emanated from a relatively small source--whereas bouncing or putting it in a large box spreads the amount of light over a larger area at lesser intensity, and my cats at least tolerate it--if not seeming to mind it.  When the flash is unmodified--even my pop up invariably causes their eyes to close--as opposed to being wide open as in these examples.  Plus, in the lower photo I killed the ambient light so the only lighting was from the 2 AD200 pocketstrobes, so the light pulses has some decent power to them to illuminate the scene.

If I had to offer a suggestion for your cat photos? I would say bounced flash is the way to go--as long as your ceiling or walls have a good, neutral color.

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TacticDesigns
TacticDesigns Veteran Member • Posts: 7,536
Re: Do I really need a prime lens?
2

LordKOTL wrote:

Jeff Farkas wrote:

As the title says.. do I really need a prime lens? So far I have two zoom lenses that suit my needs just fine. 1) Nikon 55-200 2) Nikon 18-200. The one I was thinking of getting is the 50MM 1.8 but I wonder if I really need it. I shoot mostly outside and when I shoot indoors I use a flash.

Would it be better to get a third party flash and not get a prime to deal with indoor work?

TIA
Jeff

Need? only if the specific prime will do what your zooms won't. So, hypothetically the only thing that I can see is the 50mm f/1.8 is the aperture. Are you looking for a more slender DoF? Do you need more light at a given shutter? Do you just want to challenge yourself to be stuck as a specific AoV and compose around that or do you like the ability to compose via zoom?

Also, one thing to mention: if your camera does not have screwdrive autofocus (D3xxx, D5xxx, and I believe the D7500), get the 50mm f/1.8G. Do not get the D.

Jeff Farkas wrote:

I take mostly cat pictures and the flash would disturb them so the 50mm is the best way to go I guess. The price is decent and I can use it outside as well.

Thanks

Jeff

Bounce flash or softbox:

Homemade softbox made with a box (best guess was about 30"x30"x10"--this was years ago), tinfoil, an old white t-shirt, and a infraredremote triggered SB-500

Bounce On-camera flash (Godox TT685N) off of some white curtains Holly (the cat) was staring right at them.

Godox AD-200 in a 23.6x35.4 softbox camera right, Godox AD-200 in a stripbox camera left. As you can see, Firefly (car) is looking almost right at the softbox.

I posted those as examples of bouncing or truly softboxing a flash and the lack of reaction of our cats to it. Now a tiny little cloth sock or a small piece of "tupperware" as a diffuser won't help much--you still have all of the flash power being emanated from a relatively small source--whereas bouncing or putting it in a large box spreads the amount of light over a larger area at lesser intensity, and my cats at least tolerate it--if not seeming to mind it. When the flash is unmodified--even my pop up invariably causes their eyes to close--as opposed to being wide open as in these examples. Plus, in the lower photo I killed the ambient light so the only lighting was from the 2 AD200 pocketstrobes, so the light pulses has some decent power to them to illuminate the scene.

If I had to offer a suggestion for your cat photos? I would say bounced flash is the way to go--as long as your ceiling or walls have a good, neutral color.

+1

I would say that that suggestion covers even more than cat photos!

It would be the way I'd suggest for portraits and even still or product photography as well!

Take care & Happy Shooting!

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Gerry Winterbourne Forum Pro • Posts: 17,245
Re: Do I really need a prime lens?

Jeff Farkas wrote:

As the title says.. do I really need a prime lens? So far I have two zoom lenses that suit my needs just fine.

The phrase in bold answers your question. If they didn't suit your needs you'd have to say in what way, and then find a lens to fill the gap.

1) Nikon 55-200 2) Nikon 18-200. The one I was thinking of getting is the 50MM 1.8 but I wonder if I really need it. I shoot mostly outside and when I shoot indoors I use a flash.

See above.

Would it be better to get a third party flash and not get a prime to deal with indoor work?

I use primes almost exclusively so I have nothing against them; but in your situation a combination of the zooms you already own (and are familiar with) and flash seems much more appropriate.

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Gerry
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Jonsi
Jonsi Veteran Member • Posts: 5,740
Re: Do I really need a prime lens?
1

Here's another vote for "if you don't know why you need something... you don't need it".

SmilerGrogan Senior Member • Posts: 1,202
Re: Do I really need a prime lens?
1

For about four years I shot cats every week for our local animal shelter and as long as you're not having problems with your current setup, spend the money elsewhere—tripods are nice. The problem with all small animals is that you need to get pretty close to fill the frame with a 50mm lens and all that beautiful fur will be out of focus at wide apertures. I think this was at around f/5.6 and it gets soft quickly.

Flash in my experience only frightens 1 out of 50 cats, but when it does, it's pretty traumatic for the animal.

I don't know if anyone's told you this yet, but always let the cat sniff and poke at the camera before you start shooting. It makes them much more relaxed and much less prone to bite; cat bites are extremely, extremely painful whether it's your hand or your forehead (guess how I know).

The one benefit of prime lenses is that using one teaches you to be more creative about moving around your subject to get different angles. With a zoom, I find I tend to stay in one place and zoom rather than getting up off my a$$ and seeing where else I can shoot from to tell the story I want to tell.

Flashes: Whatever brand you buy, make sure it will work with the camera's autofocus assist light. With Nikons the flash will throw a grid of red light onto your subject in low light when you are in Single Point AF; but check the manual for your camera, it may have changed..

If you're going to get a tripod, consider buying used if you're trying to save money I bought both my small Gitzo and a beast of a Manfrotto for way less than half what I would have paid new, the Gitzo was around $100 and the Manfrotto, which came out of a college equipment sale, was $20.

Or buy new if you prefer. I'm an incurable cheapskate and as the old saying goes "the miser cheats only himself."

Just make sure all the knobs and screws are there and the legs and head slide smoothly. Also be sure and get the camera plate for attaching the camera to the tripod head. Some of them are horrendously expensive.

Jeff Farkas wrote:

As the title says.. do I really need a prime lens? So far I have two zoom lenses that suit my needs just fine. 1) Nikon 55-200 2) Nikon 18-200. The one I was thinking of getting is the 50MM 1.8 but I wonder if I really need it. I shoot mostly outside and when I shoot indoors I use a flash.

Would it be better to get a third party flash and not get a prime to deal with indoor work?

TIA
Jeff

techie takes pics Senior Member • Posts: 1,047
Re: Do I really need a prime lens?

A prime is a lot brighter than your current lenses. Not sure what their aperture is but if your lens starts at a common f3.5, that is two full stops. That increases background blur a lot, and at the same time it can bring a shaky 1/25 shutterspeed to a camera-shake-freezing 1/100.

Are we posting cats?

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You don't need a new camera, you need a new lens.

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SmilerGrogan Senior Member • Posts: 1,202
Incorrect!
2

techie takes pics wrote:

You don't need a new camera, you need a new lens.

You don’t need either one. You need another cat.

Kev_24 Forum Member • Posts: 84
Re: Do I really need a prime lens?

Use fast lens to prevent the overlap of focal lengths

Rambow Contributing Member • Posts: 787
You need a sharp lens
1

With AF that matches the camera.

Doesn't matter which type of lens it is.

Because if it's not sharp, it's rubbish!

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Jeff Farkas
OP Jeff Farkas Regular Member • Posts: 151
Re: Do I really need a prime lens?

Thanks.. I'll give that consideration.

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