Luminous Landscape Forum

Equipment & Techniques => Cameras, Lenses and Shooting gear => Topic started by: ErikKaffehr on April 01, 2013, 07:58:20 AM

Title: Zooms or primes
Post by: ErikKaffehr on April 01, 2013, 07:58:20 AM
Hi,

This is intended as food for thought...

It used to be assumed that primes are better than zooms. Personally I prefer zooms and had found little advantage in primes.

But let's do a small figure game using LW/PH values from the http://www.photozone.de site:

1) Take a well known telephoto lens of high quality like the Canon 135/2 and compare to the Canon 70-200/2.8


CenterBorderCorner
135/2 at f5.6 348833083306
70-200/2.8L at 135/5.6349033103263

In this case the zoom lens would be very similar in sharpness to the well known 135/2 L

2) Or a par of Sony lenses
CenterBorderCorner
Zeiss Distagon 24/2 at f/8343432153101
Zeiss 24-70/2.8 ZA at 24/8342430972500

Here the Zeiss zoom is significantly weaker in the corners than the prime lens but the zoom and the prime are quite close at center and border.

So, my take is that if you shoot medium aperture, as I often do, the primes are of little advantage. It is often suggested to zoom using your feet, but moving around changes perspective. There is only one point in space giving you a certain perspective. So you can move around and shoot something else.

Also, moving around is not always an option, see below.

Best regards
Erik
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Petrus on April 01, 2013, 09:01:22 AM
It is true that the best zooms are as good as older primes, but then again the best modern primes have again pulled ahead. In most real life situations there is no difference, zooms are often more convenient especially in fast paced situations. Most press photographers use only zooms (like me) like 24-70 and 70-200 on assignments, but also have a couple of primes (faster for shallow DOF, or for that extra sharpness or focus control) for special situations. In my case they are 35 f/1.4, 85 f/1.8 and 135 f/2. I could do 98% of my work with those 2 zooms only and nobody would complain.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: FranciscoDisilvestro on April 01, 2013, 09:06:49 AM
Another example is with Nikon wides,
Again, using data from www.photozone.de, the relatively old Nikon 17-35 f2.8 AF-S at 21/5.6 is above almost any other lens. Here is a comparison with the Nikon 14-24/2.8 and the Zeiss 21mm /2.8 ZF (which is one of the best primes at that focal lenght)

LensCenterBorderCornerDistortion
Nikon 17-35/2.8 at 21/5.64035336232341.03% Barrel
Nikon 14-24/2.8 at 21/5.63878323532150.5% Barrel
Zeiss 21/2.8 at 5.63902320729861.7% Barrel
                                 
                     
Other primes like the Nikon 20mm f 2.8 D or the Sigma 20mm f1.8 EX DG perform even lower.

If we change the conditions to wide open, then the Zeiss 21/2.8 outperforms them all with almost the same sharpness than at 5.6.

Regards
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: ErikKaffehr on April 01, 2013, 09:09:02 AM
Hi,

Just to remark, the 135/2L used to be considered one of the best lenses Canon makes and the ZA Distagon 24/2 has been released 2012 I think, so these were not older primes.

I am absolutely with you that if large apertures are needed the fixed focals are in their prime, but many of us shoot medium apertures mostly.

Best regards
Erik


It is true that the best zooms are as good as older primes, but then again the best modern primes have again pulled ahead. In most real life situations there is no difference, zooms are often more convenient especially in fast paced situations. Most press photographers use only zooms (like me) like 24-70 and 70-200 on assignments, but also have a couple of primes (faster for shallow DOF, or for that extra sharpness or focus control) for special situations. In my case they are 35 f/1.4, 85 f/1.8 and 135 f/2. I could do 98% of my work with those 2 zooms only and nobody would complain.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: BartvanderWolf on April 01, 2013, 09:11:06 AM
So, my take is that if you shoot medium aperture, as I often do, the primes are of little advantage. It is often suggested to zoom using your feet, but moving around changes perspective. There is only one point in space giving you a certain perspective. So you can move around and shoot something else.

Hi Erik,

Modern zoom lenses can be very good indeed. In resolution, they can be close enough to some fixed focal length lenses, although the corners may be slightly less.

However, there are more image quality determining factors to consider, e.g. Bokeh and Glare resistance.

Cheers,
Bart
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: ErikKaffehr on April 01, 2013, 09:45:16 AM
Hi Bart,

Thanks for pointing that out. I wanted to add a notice about that but simply forgot. There are a few other factors, too...

- Distortion
- Bokeh
- Color bokeh, but that seems to be a major problems with large aperture primes
- Zooms are often weak in one or both ends

Would Sony make a 24/2.8 TS I would buy directly, not because it's a prime but because of the TS. I am also in progress of using a old Macro Planar 120/4 as a tilt lens.

Best regards
Erik


quote author=BartvanderWolf link=topic=76924.msg615700#msg615700 date=1364821866]
Hi Erik,

Modern zoom lenses can be very good indeed. In resolution, they can be close enough to some fixed focal length lenses, although the corners may be slightly less.

However, there are more image quality determining factors to consider, e.g. Bokeh and Glare resistance.

Cheers,
Bart
[/quote]
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Ken R on April 01, 2013, 09:58:10 AM
The photozone.de lens tests are great as a starting point but at which focusing distance do they test the lens? I find that some lenses do not perform equally well at all focus distances. Its something to consider.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: ErikKaffehr on April 01, 2013, 10:26:31 AM
Hi,

Many modern lenses have floating groups which compensate for focusing distance, so they are probably less subject to focusing distance than older designs.

I don't know about subject distance in the Photozone tests, something like 50 times focal length used to be recommended. MTF curves are normally calculated at infinity.

Best regards
Erik

The photozone.de lens tests are great as a starting point but at which focusing distance do they test the lens? I find that some lenses do not perform equally well at all focus distances. Its something to consider.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: stever on April 01, 2013, 12:36:39 PM
I have both the 70-200 f4 is and the 200 f2.8 - have tested with Imatest (a couple copies of each before I bought them) and found individual lenses to have consistent performance with little difference between the zoom and the prime.  rarely use the 200.
- but medium zooms are much less challenging to design and manufacture than wide zooms or wide to short tele lenses.  my experience with the 17-40 and 24-105 is consistent with test results - performance varies with focal length and lens-lens performance varies substantially - particularly symmetrically (which also varies with focal length)

although the 24-105 is certainly not as good 3 or 4 primes, that doesn't keep me from using it - it's good enough for most purposes.

Roger's tests at lensrentals.com are very informative (and unique) in evaluating lens-lens variation of several to many samples.  single lens tests are informative, but i'm not too sure how reliable they are - photozone has tested a few bad sample (and probably some better than average as well) in the past. 
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: EgillBjarki on April 02, 2013, 02:41:39 AM
I have been asking my self the very same question!

Over the years, I have been through Nikon, Canon and even ventured into a H2 and a P30+.

Currently I shoot Canon, use 24-70mm L II and 70-200mm L II. Both of these lenses are stellar! For video, I use the Tamron 24-70mm. That lens is the only none-camera maker lens I have ever bought. Very good lens, but the Canon is for sure sharper.

At one point, my kit only contained prime lenses. In general, I found my self often stopping them down to f/2.8, if I did not, I was not happy with the quality. The exception was the above discussed Canon 135mm, very sharp wide open.

For me, shooting with prime lenses is very different to zoom. I think that my time with prime lenses elevated my work ethics. It is like photographing with film, personally, I tend to take more time for composition. You do not have the usual 1.999 card you can delete from, you only have the film.

I am sure that many people have a completely opposite path, going from zoom's into primes. What it all comes down to, a lens is just a tool. What you are comfortable and confident with, you can and will get good results with.

Best regards,
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Jim Pascoe on April 02, 2013, 07:25:52 AM
Yes, I've gone from zooms to primes.  It's true that with my 24-70 and 70-200 f2.8 zooms I could do almost anything I wanted and the quality was fine (these are not the latest versions of the Canon lenses but bought around 2003).  However I got bored, particularly with the 24-70.  The 70-200 is a gem I have to admit.  Now most of my work is with 35, 50 and 85mm primes and I think the better for it.  Yes the quality is a bit better, but it makes me think more which just seems to work for me.

Jim
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: LawrenceBraunstein on April 02, 2013, 07:29:33 AM
It is often suggested to zoom using your feet, but moving around changes perspective.

Point well taken, Eric! Changing the camera-to-subject distance also changes perspective which effects the image more profoundly than a change in focal length (which merely effects the crop of the image). In my own photography I have often found it better to first determine the strongest perspective (when possible) and then use a zoom to best make use of what sensor real estate I have. However, if faced with the choice of either changing perspective to best fill the frame or staying at the better perspective and cropping (within reason), Id rather stick with the more propitious perspective and crop in post.

Best regards,

Larry
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: theguywitha645d on April 02, 2013, 10:24:00 AM
There is one other factor, a personal one--I don't like using zooms. I chose a lens for its apparent perspective and I learn to see how it sees. With a zoom, I cannot visualize the intermediate focal lengths and so just use it at one end or the other.

And maximum aperture is important to me. While I might take most of my images stopped down, I do not take all of my images stopped down. I also prefer a brighter viewfinder image with a shallower DoF for focusing.

As far as the "wrong lens on the camera" argument. The lens is never wrong, the photographer's solution is wrong. There is no such thing as the right focal length.

But none of this has anything to do with whether someone else prefers a zoom.

As far as optical quality, a zoom may be equal to a prime focal length at that focal length, but if it is not good at all focal lengths, then you are back to having a mix of primes. Personally, having shot medium- and large-format cameras for most of my career, the choice of lenses has always been limited. Fortunately, the lenses tend to be consistently good. I see small-format photographers constantly complain about their optics and it really puts me off going to those formats. Folks complain that the RX-1 is "stuck" with only one lens, but that is kind of like being in a marriage and "stuck" with one girl, Audrey Hepburn.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Fine_Art on April 02, 2013, 12:30:05 PM
In the recent series of articles 'lenses for the D800', DxO claims primes are consistently better than zooms. A lens is a lot more than resolution.

Personally I find Minolta/Sony primes to have more perfect bokeh than the signature nikon bokeh. The nikon bokeh is an attractive style. It does not smoothly vanish like the Minolta bokeh. I think maybe Nikons are designed more for the resolution of edges (hence the top DxO scores) and minolta is designed more for smooth rendering.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: NancyP on April 02, 2013, 01:25:27 PM
I started shooting 35mm film in 1968, so had primes only, initially a 55mm f/1.4 Mamiya Sekor for a year, then gradually adding other Vivitar and Tokina lenses (Vivitar 20mm and 200mm, Tokina 135mm). Foot zoom worked fine most of the time.

After a very long hiatus, I started shooting digital in 2010, with APS-C format and 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS EF-S Canon lens. That is still my walk-about workhorse lens. I then added a Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS L, a Canon 400mm f/5.6L (birding), and a Canon 60mm f/2.8 macro EF-S lens. Very recently I added a Sigma 35mm f/1.4 (FF) for a genuinely fast normal prime, and a manual-everything bargain Samyang 14mm f/2.8. I am fooling around with wide field astrophotography with the Sigma and Samyang - astonishingly good wide open, particularly when used with stacking programs (Lynkeos). Eventually I will add a basic FF body, likely the 6D, and at that time I would look for a counterpart to the APS-C-only 15-85mm.

I am not a pro, and I don't need greater than 11x17" prints. The two zooms are very capable, and are usable wide open, though I usually stop down the 15-85 one stop if possible. The 15-85mm gets used at 15mm a lot.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Ray on April 02, 2013, 11:54:55 PM
Everything is a trade-off and a compromise in some respect, without exception I believe. The ideal lens would be a relatively lightweight, image-stabilized, F2.8 superzoom with the performance of the best prime lenses at each focal length and F stop. Such a lens does not exist.

Each of us has to determine which of the trade-offs are the more significant in relation to our style of shooting. My own experience is that it's sometimes easy to get seduced by glowing reports of the sharpness, and nice bokeh, of a particular prime lens, buy it, then find over time that one doesn't use it much because its fixed focal length is too restrictive.

Getting the shot and capturing the moment most of the time, albeit without the sharpest resolution and the nicest bokeh available, is perhaps more important than frequently missing the shot whilst trying to get to the right distance with one's feet, or missing that critical moment because one needed to change lenses.

Whilst it's often possible to stitch images taken with a prime lens to simulate a wider focal length, and get better resolution in the process, it's not possible to get the resolution of a longer focal length by cropping. The best 100mm prime lens ever made will not match the resolution of a moderately good zoom used at 150mm, for example, and perhaps not even at 120mm in the case of the better zooms.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Fine_Art on April 03, 2013, 12:07:05 AM
That's why I always carry a 300 f4 with 2x tele. If I'm going to do wildlife I pack a 1200 f4.7 in the car. :o
Title: Re: Zooms or primes (an example)
Post by: ErikKaffehr on April 03, 2013, 12:29:25 AM
Hi,

This is an image from Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton NP.

(http://echophoto.dnsalias.net/ekr/Articles/Stuff/OxbowBend.jpg)

I wanted the trees on the left reflected in the river, also wanted the mountains in the background reflected. To the left there were a couple of trees and branches I wanted to keep out. In front there was a lot of vegetation I wanted to minimize. Optimal placement of the tripod was say within 15 cm. Yes I moved it to the right about 15 cm to get rid of some branches, moving more would give new branches sticking into the frame from right.

This image was taken with a 100 mm lens, so I could as well use my 100/2.8 macro, 135 wouldn't work and 85 mm would have needed cropping, neither could help with the smog from over twenty wildfires.

A few days ago I saw a BC movie from Yellowstone, they had a lot of footage shot from the exactly same spot I have chosen, fun!

Best regards
Erik
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: ErikKaffehr on April 03, 2013, 12:38:09 AM
Hi,

I carry a 70-400 zoom and 1.4X and 2X extenders and a APS-C camera in addition. The 70-400/4-5.6 replaced the 80-200/2.8 zoom and 400/5.6 prime I used to carry. The APS-C has a crop factor of 1.5 and 24 MP, so it also helps.

The main reason for the 70-400 was that my shorter zooms were a bit soft on the long end with the 24 MP APS-C. It was also about weight I need to get most of my packing below 10 kg, because weight limitations for checked luggage here in Europe.

I tested the 70-400/4-5.6 against mine 400/4.5 and they were quite similar in image quality.

The 2X extender is not really useful, except for video. In video the camera discards 2/3 of the resolution.

Best regards
Erik

That's why I always carry a 300 f4 with 2x tele. If I'm going to do wildlife I pack a 1200 f4.7 in the car. :o
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: foveonconvert on April 03, 2013, 04:30:03 AM
Hi,

Just to remark, the 135/2L used to be considered one of the best lenses Canon makes and the ZA Distagon 24/2 has been released 2012 I think, so these were not older primes.

I am absolutely with you that if large apertures are needed the fixed focals are in their prime, but many of us shoot medium apertures mostly.

Best regards
Erik



Just because you shoot medium apertures doesn't mean everybody else has to.  Different paint brushes for different paintings.  I prefer primes for photography as I know the perspective before even putting the viewfinder to my eye, so I can visualize what I'm going to shoot and how to execute the vision.  Primes for lowlight too.  99% of what I shoot I have the luxury of time to compose and frame my shot properly.  The larger aperture also helps to isolate subjects should I want to.  Much more versatile than a zoom for me.

With that said, on an African safari, I'd wait for the 200-400/4 w1.4x to come out and bring that.

Not much of a use comparing different tools to achieve different visions.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: ErikKaffehr on April 03, 2013, 07:14:18 AM
Hi,

What I wrote was: "I am absolutely with you that if large apertures are needed the fixed focals are in their prime, but many of us shoot medium apertures mostly."

"Many of us" does not mean all of us or even not most of us, at least not in my dictionary.

As has also pointed out, you cannot change vantage point without changing perspective. Zooms add a dimension to your options but remove some other options.

Best regards
Erik

Just because you shoot medium apertures doesn't mean everybody else has to.  Different paint brushes for different paintings.  I prefer primes for photography as I know the perspective before even putting the viewfinder to my eye, so I can visualize what I'm going to shoot and how to execute the vision.  Primes for lowlight too.  99% of what I shoot I have the luxury of time to compose and frame my shot properly.  The larger aperture also helps to isolate subjects should I want to.  Much more versatile than a zoom for me.

With that said, on an African safari, I'd wait for the 200-400/4 w1.4x to come out and bring that.

Not much of a use comparing different tools to achieve different visions.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes (an example)
Post by: theguywitha645d on April 03, 2013, 11:22:20 AM
This image was taken with a 100 mm lens, so I could as well use my 100/2.8 macro, 135 wouldn't work and 85 mm would have needed cropping...

How do you know? This is a serious question and I am not trying to be flippant. An 85mm and 135mm lenses would have made a different images, but no necessarily a worse image. Certainly a tighter crop could have worked with a 135mm. Not knowing what is outside the frame, it is hard to tell what the image would be with an 85mm. There is no such thing as the right focal length, only right solutions.

As far as perspective, there is also no such thing as the right perspective and how much does perspective change if you move a few feet with a landscape? And while the relationship of image size of elements in the image are fixed by the camera position, the apparent perspective does change with focal length. Some photographers do care about apparent perspective as it does change the perception of an image.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes (an example)
Post by: Ray on April 03, 2013, 12:02:07 PM

This image was taken with a 100 mm lens, so I could as well use my 100/2.8 macro, 135 wouldn't work and 85 mm would have needed cropping......


Hi Erik,
With a static subject like that, the 135mm lens might have worked even better. You could have positioned the camera vertically and taken 2 or 3 or 4 shots for stitching. The result would have been more detailed and higher resolution than the single shot with a 100mm lens, and you could have given yourself more options for cropping in post processing.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes (an example)
Post by: ErikKaffehr on April 03, 2013, 01:56:22 PM
Hi,

Yes, that would have worked.

Best regards
Erik

Hi Erik,
With a static subject like that, the 135mm lens might have worked even better. You could have positioned the camera vertically and taken 2 or 3 or 4 shots for stitching. The result would have been more detailed and higher resolution than the single shot with a 100mm lens, and you could have given yourself more options for cropping in post processing.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes (an example)
Post by: ErikKaffehr on April 03, 2013, 02:19:08 PM
Hi,

A serious question deserves a serious answer.

My point is mostly that in many cases zooms are as appropriate as primes. I don't mean that zooms are superior to primes, just that good zooms at medium apertures are competitive with primes regarding quality. My other intention is to explain that you cannot simply just move instead of zoom, because moving changes perspective.

Now, much because I use zooms, I have an approach where I try to find a viewpoint first, than I find the focal length that gives the crop I want. I move around the tripod, sometimes as little as 15 cm just to find the right spot, this was the case at Oxbow Bend. I actually made a lot of images, at both 100 and 150 mm, and I was actually shooting two different cameras.

In the old time when I was shooting Pentax 67 I had fixed focals on the Pentax and zooms on Minolta, I was using both systems but at that time I was traveling by car. Now, when I am flying I cannot carry dual equipment.

I still use fixed focals. I have a Samyang 14/2.8, a Minolta 100/2.8 Macro, a Carl Zeiss Jena 50/4 in a tilting mount and also a Zeiss Macro Planar 120/4. Add to that 300/4 and 400/4.5, 20/2.8 and also a 50/1.4, but much of that may go into the trunk of the car. In the backpack I normally take three zooms and probably the Macro Planar 120/4 with its tilt mount.

Best regards
Erik

How do you know? This is a serious question and I am not trying to be flippant. An 85mm and 135mm lenses would have made a different images, but no necessarily a worse image. Certainly a tighter crop could have worked with a 135mm. Not knowing what is outside the frame, it is hard to tell what the image would be with an 85mm. There is no such thing as the right focal length, only right solutions.

As far as perspective, there is also no such thing as the right perspective and how much does perspective change if you move a few feet with a landscape? And while the relationship of image size of elements in the image are fixed by the camera position, the apparent perspective does change with focal length. Some photographers do care about apparent perspective as it does change the perception of an image.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Fine_Art on April 03, 2013, 08:24:26 PM
The problem is that spot does not shot the oxbow bend clearly. The proper location is to climb the hill behind you, possibly climbing a tree to get out of the clutter. You do that in the dark before sun up you will get a great shot. You also have a small chance of becoming dinner. The point of that spot is to combine the curve of the river with the mountain background. Everyone goes to stand with the other gaggle of togs close to the side of the road where they put a cement pad for everyone.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: BernardLanguillier on April 03, 2013, 11:27:16 PM
There is little doubt in my mind that:
- Some zoom lenses are good enough for many critical applications. The 6-7 years old nikon 14-24 remains a striking example but the new Canon 24-70 f2.8 also seems outstanding,
- The new technologies used in these designs will result in even better primes. Lenses like the Nikon 85mm f1.4/f1.8 or the new Sigma 35mm f1.4 are simply drop from your chair good on the 36mp D800 and could take 50mp without any problem.

All in all it becomes very difficult to blame the imperfection of our images on equipment. :)

I am seriously considering getting rid of my trio of Nikon pro zooms since I can't even remember when I used them last.

Cheers,
Bernard
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Paulo Bizarro on April 04, 2013, 04:24:25 AM
From my 20 odd years of experience with photography, this is what I conclude regarding zooms vs. primes:

1. The most important aspect is to fond the lens, or lenses, that are adequate for the subjects you photograph, and that suit you personal style. This is much more important than obssessing with lines per mm, or MTF, or wahtever;

2. At f/8 or f/11, even the crapiest lens gives excellent results;

3. Don't forget the "fun" aspect. I have recently purchased the Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 ZE for my Canon 6D, and it is a joy to use. But I also have the 24-105 L zoom for landscape shooting, the flexibility is enormous.

Kind regards.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: nandadevieast on April 04, 2013, 01:15:59 PM
Another point that should be considered is, price.
2.8 zooms are expensive, a 85G from Nikon is inexpensive, but it is not only faster, but sharp wide open, which you can not even do on a 2.8 zoom. The fact that you're even comparing 'primes in general' to the best available zooms goes to show how good primes can be.
I agree with the poster who said that one should chose basis what one shoots.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Quentin on April 04, 2013, 01:30:42 PM
In general, zooms are larger, heavier, have slower maximum apertures, distort more and can encourage sloppy photographic habits.

Good primes are smaller, lighter, often a lot faster, also usually sharper and force you the photographer to think more about composition and framing.

Zooms for convenience, primes for quality. 

I generalise of course and this is only my opinion.   A sports photographer or photo journalist may have other priorities, but I now far, far prefer to use a few choice prime lenses and leave the zooms (most of the time) gathering dust.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: TMARK on April 04, 2013, 02:17:08 PM
Zooms are heavy are bulky, and tend to result in inconsistent looks to images from a shoot that should have consistency.  That is why I rarely ever use zooms now, or used zooms when I was shooting for commerce.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: ErikKaffehr on April 04, 2013, 02:53:26 PM
Hi,

Thanks for the suggestion. I will keep in mind for my next planned trip to Grand Teton NP.

I don't think I would risk becoming dinner just before twilight, more probably breakfast. At one of my visits there was a grizly at that spot and around 300 tourist and two park rangers. So the risk is small, but not non existent.

Best regards
Erik


The problem is that spot does not shot the oxbow bend clearly. The proper location is to climb the hill behind you, possibly climbing a tree to get out of the clutter. You do that in the dark before sun up you will get a great shot. You also have a small chance of becoming dinner. The point of that spot is to combine the curve of the river with the mountain background. Everyone goes to stand with the other gaggle of togs close to the side of the road where they put a cement pad for everyone.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: AFairley on April 04, 2013, 03:00:47 PM
In general, zooms are larger, heavier, have slower maximum apertures, distort more and can encourage sloppy photographic habits.

That can be true, but in the urban enviroments I shoot in, I cannot always position myself with a prime lens to get the FOV I am looking for, e.g., standing in the middle of the street in traffic generally is a non-starter (though perhaps I'm just not dedicated enough to my art  ;) ).  So a zoom gets me what I'm looking for.  That said, I do tend to work within a pretty tight zoom range around what would be my default prime focal length.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: ErikKaffehr on April 04, 2013, 03:01:44 PM
Hi,

What I have shown with my initial posting is that professional zooms can offer image quality comparable to top level primes. The 135/2L I compared to the 70-200/2.8 zoom is by many considered to be Canons best lens.

Yes, primes are faster, but that is no advantage for a person like me who mostly shoots f/8 or so on tripod. I don't think photographic habits depend on using prime or zoom lenses.

The reason I made my initial posting was to indicate that zoom lenses can be as good as prime lenses and contradict the perception that if you are a serious photographer you need to use primes.

My take is that a serious photographer is one who makes best use of the gear he or she has.

Best regards
Erik

In general, zooms are larger, heavier, have slower maximum apertures, distort more and can encourage sloppy photographic habits.

Good primes are smaller, lighter, often a lot faster, also usually sharper and force you the photographer to think more about composition and framing.

Zooms for convenience, primes for quality. 

I generalise of course and this is only my opinion.   A sports photographer or photo journalist may have other priorities, but I now far, far prefer to use a few choice prime lenses and leave the zooms (most of the time) gathering dust.

Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: TMARK on April 04, 2013, 03:09:37 PM
That can be true, but in the urban enviroments I shoot in, I cannot always position myself with a prime lens to get the FOV I am looking for, e.g., standing in the middle of the street in traffic generally is a non-starter (though perhaps I'm just not dedicated enough to my art  ;) ).  So a zoom gets me what I'm looking for.  That said, I do tend to work within a pretty tight zoom range around what would be my default prime focal length.

For events or documentary zooms work fine, but for a catalogue, where the images will be displayed against each other, I alwasy used a single prime.  Ocassionaly I would use a single zoom but within, as you stated, a narrow zoom range.

I couldn't imagine a modern journalist not using zooms.

Title: Re: Zooms or primes (an example)
Post by: ErikKaffehr on April 04, 2013, 03:21:48 PM
Hi,

I'm the original poster. I would add that for a long time I was shooting zooms on 135 film and primes on Pentax 67. My main motivation for zooms was that I could find the optimal vantage point without cropping. On the other hand, shooting primes on the Pentax 67 worked just fine.

I used to carry some primes with my 135 film kit, but they got never used and when I used them I could see little advantage. When I went to DSLRs I just continued to use my old zooms and primes. Still the primes got little use, except in extreme wide angle, the Sigma 12-24/4.5-5.6 is extremely wide but not extremely good. I got a 70-400/4-5.6 zoom instead of the 80-200/2.8 and 400/4.5 APO lens I had. In my tests the 70-400/4-5.6 was a dead ringer for the 400/4.5APO, but by using one lens replacing two I have no less problems with carry on weight limits on european flights.

I just added a Hasselblad Macro Planar in a tilt adapter to my gear, so I'm not against primes.

Best regards
Erik
Title: Re: Zooms or primes - cost factor
Post by: NancyP on April 04, 2013, 04:01:56 PM
The best zooms are not cheap. Dream Duo: Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II, $2,300.00; Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L II IS, $2,200.00. A wedding or event photographer or photojournalist wouldn't need much else - perhaps a macro for the wedding ring closeup.
Title: I mostly prefer primes
Post by: Telecaster on April 05, 2013, 04:44:08 PM
But my preference has almost nothing to do with optical quality. When I use zooms for an extended period I find myself getting compositionally lazy. I see it in my photos. I'm just a better photographer when I work with one focal length for a long enough time to, so to speak, get tuned into it. However, not being an either/or kinda guy, sometimes a zoom lens is clearly the best option at a particular occassion or vantage point.

-Dave-
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Ellis Vener on April 05, 2013, 06:01:13 PM
Can't argue with your numbers you give as examples, but in case anyone hasn't already made the point, if you either need or desire f/2 at 135mm, no matter what ISO setting you choose, an f/2.8 isn't going to get you there. case in point: while on assignment yesterday shooting  with a 1D X set to ISO 10,000. Using the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II f/2.8 would have meant longer exposures and more unusable frames due to subject motion.

If your work doesn't require short shutter speeds in low light, then your point is well made. 
Title: Re: I mostly prefer primes
Post by: AFairley on April 05, 2013, 06:48:26 PM
But my preference has almost nothing to do with optical quality. When I use zooms for an extended period I find myself getting compositionally lazy. I see it in my photos. I'm just a better photographer when I work with one focal length for a long enough time to, so to speak, get tuned into it. However, not being an either/or kinda guy, sometimes a zoom lens is clearly the best option at a particular occassion or vantage point.

-Dave-

Dave, I find you comment fascinating, since it's the opposite for me.  As I said in an earlier post, because my ability to position myself ideally is usually constrained, I shoot with a zoom (although within a pretty small range centered around my preferred focal length).  When I switched to the D800E I shot only with a 35mm prime for a while - the only lens I had at the time - and I found that using it I was getting "compositionally lazy" as you put it.  Since the ways I could frame the shot I saw were limited in terms of positioning, it was "get it more or less and fix in post" so I ended up not working as hard on the composition in the field because my choices were constrained.  Whereas with the zoom (which I am back to using having acquired one) since I can nail the composition in camera I am forced to think about what it really is in the scene that caught my eye and what I have to do compositionally to convey that.  So for me, paradoxically, the zoom makes me a better photographer.  Just goes to show . . .  :)

(That said, my advice to beginners who want to develop their eye is to use a single prime to avoid the trap of being scattershop with a zoom.)
Title: Re: I mostly prefer primes
Post by: ErikKaffehr on April 05, 2013, 07:06:08 PM
Hi,

I would suggest that are basically two different approaches. One is to use a small set of focal lengths that you know well. Than you choose perspective and crop to suit a lens you have. The other approach is that you select perspective and crop and find the matching focal length. Both approaches are workable, indeed, when I shot both 135 and MF on film I used zooms on 135 and fixed focals on MF. So I could shoot something on one day with zooms and 135 and with primes and 120 another day.

Best regards
Erik

Dave, I find you comment fascinating, since it's the opposite for me.  As I said in an earlier post, because my ability to position myself ideally is usually constrained, I shoot with a zoom (although within a pretty small range centered around my preferred focal length).  When I switched to the D800E I shot only with a 35mm prime for a while - the only lens I had at the time - and I found that using it I was getting "compositionally lazy" as you put it.  Since the ways I could frame the shot I saw were limited in terms of positioning, it was "get it more or less and fix in post" so I ended up not working as hard on the composition in the field because my choices were constrained.  Whereas with the zoom (which I am back to using having acquired one) since I can nail the composition in camera I am forced to think about what it really is in the scene that caught my eye and what I have to do compositionally to convey that.  So for me, paradoxically, the zoom makes me a better photographer.  Just goes to show . . .  :)

(That said, my advice to beginners who want to develop their eye is to use a single prime to avoid the trap of being scattershop with a zoom.)
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Ray on April 05, 2013, 09:17:03 PM
I must admit that I'm not sold on this idea that making things difficult for oneself and throwing technological hurdles in the way by limiting oneself to the use of a fixed focal length, results in better photos as a general rule. But I can see there will sometimes be instances when a better photo might result from the use of a prime, if for no other reason than the different perspective resulting because one was motivated to get either closer or further away from the subject than one would if a zoom were attached to the camera.

In this sense, perhas the fixed prime lens also has a health benefit because it motivates one to walk more and get more exrecise. This could be used as an advertising slogan. "Want to lose weight? Buy a prime lens."  ;D
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: marcmccalmont on April 06, 2013, 07:39:07 AM
I'm biased towards high quality zooms and always thought that cropping the next widest prime lens to capture your subject would negate the resolution advantage the prime lens might have.
If you can't move closer, which is often the case, the resolution of your sensor is utilized better with a lens zoomed in, this usually is not discussed in these debates.
Marc
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Ray on April 06, 2013, 10:51:04 AM
I'm biased towards high quality zooms and always thought that cropping the next widest prime lens to capture your subject would negate the resolution advantage the prime lens might have.
If you can't move closer, which is often the case, the resolution of your sensor is utilized better with a lens zoomed in, this usually is not discussed in these debates.
Marc


Hi Marc,
There are lots of comparisons that can be made at Photozone, comparing the resolution of prime lenses with zooms of a longer focal length.  Dividing the longer focal length of any particular zoom by the shorter focal length of a particular prime gives one the effective crop factor, which in turn allows one to calculate the resulting resolution of the image from the prime lens that has been cropped to the same FoV as the image from the longer focal length

I have only a couple of Nikkor lenses, both zooms. I've recently ordered the AF-S 85/1.8G because it seems remarkably sharp and good value. It's certainly much sharper at F4 than my Nikkor 24-120/F4 is at 85mm and F4, according to Photozone's tests on the D3X. It's also sharper at F8, but to a lesser degree.

Out of curiosity I wondered how it would compare with the 24-120 at its weakest focal length of 120mm, shooting from the same position with both lenses.
The crop factor is 120/85 = 1.4. The centre resolution of the 85mm prime at F8 is 3693 LW/PH. Dividing that figure by 1.4 gives us a resolution of 2638 LW/PH.
Now, according to Photozone, the resolution of the Nikkor 24-120 at 120mm and F8 is 3385 LW/PH. I'm quite sure there would be a very noticeable difference in practice between these two resolutions of 2638 and 3385.

In other words, if I happen to have the Nikkor 85/1.8G attached to my camera but need a 120mm focal length because I can't move closer, for whatever reason, I should get noticeably better results in the centre of the image by switching lenses and using the 24-120 zoom at 120mm.

However, the borders are another matter. If one crops the image from the prime lens, then the Photozone results for the borders and extreme borders don't apply. The figures will be higher because the borders will be closer to the centre. It looks as though in this example, comparing an excellent prime with a medium quality zoom of longer focal length, the prime might still retain equal or even better sharpness at the borders.

When the lenses are compared at F4, 85mm cropped to the 120mm FoV, it appears that the 85mm prime should actually still be sharper at the borders, though still not quite as sharp in the centre, ie, 2766 for the cropped image compared to 3025 for the zoom at 120mm.

When I receive my 85/1.8G prime, I might try to confirm this with some tests, just to get a handle on the practical significance of any differences.

Cheers!
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Fine_Art on April 06, 2013, 02:34:54 PM
As an old pro Ray, I think you know that if you need a 120mm perspective you will use a 135 prime instead of the 24-120 zoom. Or stitch 4 200mm prime shots. You will use your 85G where you used to use your zoom at normal. etc. Primes are generally small and light so taking a range of 4-5 is not a big deal. Please post your shots, you will make the lens look good.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: ErikKaffehr on April 06, 2013, 04:16:14 PM
Hi Marc,

As far I know you are also shooting MFD on a technical camera. In film days I was shooting zooms on 135 and primes on Pentax 67. I could live with both. I guess it is a different mode of operation, or a different mindset.

I have a number of primes and a number of zooms, but I basically shoot medium apertures using tripod, when I can, and essentially never shoot wide open on the primes I have. So the primes go pretty much unused, unless they have anything special to offer.

Best regards
Erik

I'm biased towards high quality zooms and always thought that cropping the next widest prime lens to capture your subject would negate the resolution advantage the prime lens might have.
If you can't move closer, which is often the case, the resolution of your sensor is utilized better with a lens zoomed in, this usually is not discussed in these debates.
Marc

Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Ray on April 07, 2013, 10:12:11 AM
As an old pro Ray, I think you know that if you need a 120mm perspective you will use a 135 prime instead of the 24-120 zoom. Or stitch 4 200mm prime shots. You will use your 85G where you used to use your zoom at normal. etc. Primes are generally small and light so taking a range of 4-5 is not a big deal. Please post your shots, you will make the lens look good.

Well, first of all, Fine_Art, I don't like changing lenses in the field. I've dropped a lens only once in my life, and that was when changing the Sigma 15-30 zoom, when attached to my 5D, for a 50mm prime. The bulky zoom fell on the forest floor and rolled down the hill for a few metres.

Another issue is, I don't like using tripods, unless I have to, for a night shot, or to blur a waterfall for example, therefore I rely a lot upon image stabilisation or VR.
If the lighting is such that I need a 1/125th sec exposure at F8 and ISO 400 with my 24-120 zoom at 100mm, attached to my D800E, I'm not sure there would be much point in changing to the 85/1.8 G which, without VR, would require a 500th exposure at ISO 1600, assuming I want an F8 DoF. The couple of stops worse SNR and DR would tend to negate any resolution advantage.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Fine_Art on April 07, 2013, 12:39:57 PM
I see. I think it was you that posted some Angkor Wat images a few years back. I figured you were the slow meticulous MLU with cable release type.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Ray on April 08, 2013, 08:43:09 PM
I see. I think it was you that posted some Angkor Wat images a few years back. I figured you were the slow meticulous MLU with cable release type.

I can be slow and meticulous, and with a bag-full of prime lenses instead of a couple of zooms, I guess I would have to be.

It so happens that Angkor Wat can be a very frustrating place for the slow and meticulous. You see an interesting scene, but find that your lens is unnecessarily wide. By the time you've changed it to something more suitable, and have positioned yourself in the best spot to get the most pleasing composition, a bus-load of tourists arrives on the scene and remains there till every member of the group has had a mug shot whilst obscuring a most wonderful piece of ancient sculpture that many of us have paid thousands of dollars and travelled thousands of kilometres to see.

However, there is at least one occasion when even the most vain and narcissistic appear content to view the naked scene without an image of the themselves superimposed upon it, and that's the scene of the sun rising behind the temple of Angkor Wat.

However, even in the following shots, only the first one required a tripod for the slow shutter speed of 1/4th second. No. 2 at 1/100th and 28mm would have been okay without a tripod, and the third was nowhere near requiring a tripod.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: BernardLanguillier on April 09, 2013, 01:14:01 AM
Very nice images!

The one below was shot with a prime...  ;)

(http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5259/5563482349_ce693008e0_o.jpg)

Cheers,
Bernard
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Ray on April 09, 2013, 10:50:52 PM
You've captured the light well, Bernard. But weren't you a bit regretful when cropping away some of those expensive Mamiya ZD pixels?  ;)

The fact that stitching programs have improved so greatly in recent years really does offer a way to reduce the resolution disadvantage of zoom lenses in many situations.

I'm susrprised that in Photoshop's Photomerge it's now quite rare that a stitch of a few hand-held shots will not stitch seamlessly. On my last trip to Siem Reap, carrying just two zoom lenses, I would frequently use a longer focal length to take 2 or 3 or 4 shots for stitching, even when standing just a couple of metres away from a bas-relief.

Whilst the resulting image will likely not be as sharp at 100% view as the same scene stitched from shots taken with a prime lens of the same focal length, one would never notice the difference on a print smaller than, say, 4 metres by 3 metres, or even 3mx2m, which is probably much larger than one would ever want to print.

For the following 621 MB stitch (16 bit) I set my zoom lens to 40mm instead of taking a single shot at 24mm. A 33% view on my HD monitor represents a print size of about 900mm x 1 metre, bigger than my 600mm wide printer can handle, without creating a diptych. The 100% view on the monitor, which would reveal the extra detail one would expect from a good prime lens, is representative of a print of about 10ft wide by 8ft 6" high, which is slightly taller than the walls in my house.

Mind you, I suppose I could crop it just a bit more in order to fit it between the floor and the ceiling, but since I don't have my partner or companion on the far bank jumping up in the air or trying to be amusing in some way, it doesn't really pass the narcissism test.  ;D


Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: BernardLanguillier on April 09, 2013, 11:09:26 PM
You've captured the light well, Bernard. But weren't you a bit regretful when cropping away some of those expensive Mamiya ZD pixels?  ;)

The fact that stitching programs have improved so greatly in recent years really does offer a way to reduce the resolution disadvantage of zoom lenses in many situations.

Yep, I am totally sold on stitching, believe me.  ;)

I also did stitch with the ZD, but for some reason not that much in Angkor.

Cheers,
Bernard
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Fine_Art on April 10, 2013, 01:37:13 AM
Stitching removes the disadvantage of 135 format in general compared to medium format.

Very nice images BTW.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Petrus on April 10, 2013, 02:13:59 AM
Stitching removes the disadvantage of 135 format in general compared to medium format.

Very nice images BTW.

Then, MF files can be stitched, too...

I have to debrief some of you guys before October, as we (wife & me) are planning a Nepal-Laos-Cambodia trip at that time. Couple of days in Angkor Wat, naturally. Looks like early wakeups...
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Ray on April 10, 2013, 02:55:38 AM
Yep, I am totally sold on stitching, believe me.  ;)

I also did stitch with the ZD, but for some reason not that much in Angkor.

Cheers,
Bernard


In that case, Bernard, you should have no problems using a zoom in preference to a bunch of primes. In circumstances where you would take a single shot with a prime, just take two with a zoom at a slightly longer focal length. In circumstances where you want a really high resolution image and would take two or more shots with a prime lens for stitching purposes, take three or more shots with the lower quality zoom.

It's also much quicker to adjust the focal length on a zoom than it is to change lenses. When I came across the above scene at the Bayon, those swans might have flown away whilst I was stuffing around changing lenses.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Ray on April 10, 2013, 02:58:25 AM
Stitching removes the disadvantage of 135 format in general compared to medium format.

Very nice images BTW.

Thanks. Yes, it does, provided the scene is reasonably static. I guess a model would have to remain unusually still in order for two shots of her face to be successfully stitched.  ;D
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Ray on April 10, 2013, 03:13:34 AM
Then, MF files can be stitched, too...

I have to debrief some of you guys before October, as we (wife & me) are planning a Nepal-Laos-Cambodia trip at that time. Couple of days in Angkor Wat, naturally. Looks like early wakeups...

That's true, but if you can easily make a stitched image with 135 format that's large enough to fill an entire wall from floor to ceiling, do you really need to stitch MF files to make an even bigger print?  ;)

Best of luck with your planned trip to Nepal and Cambodia.

Cheers!
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: BernardLanguillier on April 10, 2013, 03:38:52 AM
That's true, but if you can easily make a stitched image with 135 format that's large enough to fill an entire wall from floor to ceiling, do you really need to stitch MF files to make an even bigger print?  ;)

If you stitch then there is very little value using MF compared to, say, a D800.

In fact there are mostly advantages in favor of the DSLR.

Cheers,
Bernard
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Ray on April 10, 2013, 04:57:42 AM
If you stitch then there is very little value using MF compared to, say, a D800.

In fact there are mostly advantages in favor of the DSLR.

Cheers,
Bernard


Yes, I'd agree absolutely. The following image is a 333MB stitch of just two frames taken with my D800E and mediocre Nikkor 24-120 zoom set at 50mm, hand-held. No problems at all with the stitching in PS6.

If I were to make a print of this image, about 1 metre by 1 metre, what people would see from a close-up inspection of the detail, would be the same as a 50% enlargement of the image on a 24" HD monitor. At this degree of enlargement, every grain of sand on the surface of the sandstone appears to be clearly discernible.

Cheers!
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: BernardLanguillier on April 10, 2013, 05:00:58 AM
At this degree of enlargement, every grain of sand on the surface of the sandstone appears to be clearly discernible.

The D4x + stitching will probably enable us to see at molecular level. Crystallographic analysis on screen should become a breeze...

Cheers,
Bernard
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: marcmccalmont on April 10, 2013, 05:16:14 AM
Why stitch 36 mpix when you can stitch 80 mpix! :)
Marc
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: BernardLanguillier on April 10, 2013, 06:00:27 AM
Why stitch 36 mpix when you can stitch 80 mpix! :)
Marc

Hum... price, live view, weight, compactness, battery life, weatherproofness, long lenses, shorter exposures at equal DoF, much better high iso enables reasonnably short exposures in dusk/dawn situations,...

Besides that, no particular reasons. :)

Cheers,
Bernard
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: jonathanlung on April 10, 2013, 02:21:17 PM
The D4x + stitching will probably enable us to see at molecular level. Crystallographic analysis on screen should become a breeze...

Diffraction might pose a bit of a problem. We'll need to upgrade to Nikon's pico crystal coated lens lineup.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: ErikKaffehr on April 10, 2013, 02:43:18 PM
Hi,

Diffraction is no problem if you reduce wave length and wear a radiation protection shield. You would definitively not subject yourself voluntarily to the kind of radiation used for X-ray crystallography.

Best regards
Erik

Diffraction might pose a bit of a problem. We'll need to upgrade to Nikon's pico crystal coated lens lineup.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Ray on April 11, 2013, 10:18:12 AM
Having recently received the Nikkor AF-S 85/1.8 G, I took a few test shots today, comparing it with my Nikkor 24-120 zoom at 85mm. The resolution in the centre is not significantly sharper. The big surprise is the resolution at the borders.

Focussing on a target at some distance, as in a landscape, I was amazed to find how much sharper the Nikkor 85mm prime is at the borders, at full aperture of F1.8, compared with the zoom at its maximum aperture of F4. I didn't expect this. I imagined that the additional shallowness of DoF at F1.8, compared with F4, might reduce resolution at the borders to a degree that would approximately equal the lower resolution of the zoom at the borders at F4. Not so by a long shot. Refer attached 100% crop of the extreme right side border.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: MrSmith on April 11, 2013, 10:51:49 AM
some serious sharpening going on there! :o  didn't realise the sliders went that far to the right.
i bet the differences are even more pronounced out of the camera.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Quentin on April 11, 2013, 11:49:53 AM
Medium format is, I would suggest, redundant if the aim is stitching.  If you need even more detail that can be obtained using, say, a D800/E and standard-ish lens for some unusual reason, choose a longer focal length and shoot more frames.  Medium format brings nothing extra to the party, other than weight, cost and inconvenience.  

As I can and do take impeccably detailed stitched panoramas with my Sigma DP2M, Nodal Ninja III and compact tripod that stitch perfectly, even a D800 is redundant for stitching in most cases.

Of course our experiences may vary  ;D
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Ray on April 11, 2013, 08:55:53 PM
some serious sharpening going on there! :o  didn't realise the sliders went that far to the right.
i bet the differences are even more pronounced out of the camera.

Both images were sharpened by exactly the same degree in ACR, consistent with my impartial and objective methodology, without fear or favour.  ;D

Following are the mushy images reconverted without sharpening, although I did apply an equal degree of 'clarity' to both images in ACR.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: MrSmith on April 12, 2013, 06:32:21 PM
Ah I can see now ;D  they look more natural IMHO. A big difference in the corner crops.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: ErikKaffehr on April 13, 2013, 12:26:54 AM
Hi,

Moving changes perspective. What I normally do is to walk around until I get the view I want. That means I want to include that tree top,  that stone, leave out that bush and have that reflection in that place. When I found the spot, I decide on the lens. This is normally the first time I look in the viewfinder.

I have worked with primes a long time and that was no problem. But now days I feel the zooms have the quality I need, when stopped down, and also deliver the flexibility I like.

Best regards
Erik


Down at the cheapest end of the range; it still seems like the cheapest prime lens for Sony α APS-C, are obviously better at the border and corners than the cheapest zoom lens.

Some of the advantages of either primes or zooms are very personal, and specific to what we're doing badly when we photograph.

One of the things I would do was zoom in and out searching for some perfect framing, instead of just taking the photo! With a prime I take the photo (and then move the frame a bit and take another, and then move my feet a bit...) Someone else might walk around with a prime lens searching for some perfect framing, instead of taking the photo.

Similarly cheap prime lens are so lightweight that I hold the camera in my hand for hours, and that seems to mean I put the camera to my eye and take the photo. Again, that's a fix to a problem someone else might not experience.
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: urbanpicasso on April 13, 2013, 08:50:41 AM
Hi,

Moving changes perspective. What I normally do is to walk around until I get the view I want. That means I want to include that tree top,  that stone, leave out that bush and have that reflection in that place. When I found the spot, I decide on the lens. This is normally the first time I look in the viewfinder.

I have worked with primes a long time and that was no problem. But now days I feel the zooms have the quality I need, when stopped down, and also deliver the flexibility I like.

Best regards
Erik



+1... My feelings exactly.  While there are times I want the utmost corner to corner sharpness, often, in general scenic and landscape situations I would prefer the zoom for the true scene as seen.
db
Title: Re: Zooms or primes
Post by: Ray on April 13, 2013, 10:56:18 PM
What is perhaps missing from this discussion is the usual advantage of IS or VR with zooms, which is sometimes missing with primes, unless one uses a sensor-stabilized camera, as Erik does.

Since most of my shots are taken without tripod, image stabilization is important for me. I'd be very reluctant to buy a 400mm prime without IS or VR, even if it were unusually sharp, lightweight and low cost. The Nikkor 85/F1.8 doesn't boast VR, and that's a disadvantage, but not so serious a disadvantage as would be the case with a longer focal length.

Taking some more shots in bright sunlight today, comparing the prime with the zoom, this disadvantage became apparent. A 1/125th with the zoom at F11 and ISO 100 would have been sufficient, but not with the prime. To compare resolution fairly, I used ISO 400 and 1/500th for both shots, hand-held.

Now, what's interesting is that even at F11 the prime seems a tad sharper, at least to my 70-year-old eyes when viewing a 100% crop on my HD monitor.

Of course, such differences are subtle and probably only of interest to connoisseurs of fine resolution.  ;)