Primes VS Zoom Lenses

I have been involved in numerous conversations on what the best lenses are to be used and why. When to use them and should you use a zoom or prime lens. I can not tell you what lens you should be using because every situation and style of photography is different. What I can tell you is what I use and why.

I am more of a prime lens photographer over a zoom lens photographer, but I still use zooms when they feel fit. I like prime lenses more because of a number of reasons.

1. They are typically smaller and lighter.
2. They usually have a faster f-stop which can produce a more dreamy and surrealistic bokeh effect and also allow me to get more available light in the camera in the dark locations I typically shoot at for weddings.
3. Carrying 5 or 6 lenses in my bag isn’t as cumbersome as carrying 3 or 4 zoom lenses.
4. I have to be more creative in how I shoot and I think more because I can not be lazy and have to zoom with my feet rather a zoom ring on the lens.

A few downsides to using prime lenses will actually make you a better photographer, in my opinion.

1. You need to plan your shoot and how you will capture it so you have the right lens on at the right time. Typically this is not hard to do if you are an experienced photographer. But it still makes you think more and be more on your toes.
2. You will be carrying more gear with you to get the same focal ranges as a 2 or 3 zoom lenses.
3. They can cost more if you buy quality prime lenses. An example would be a 24-70 f 2.8 zoom lens can run you around $1500, give or take a few $$$ to get the same focal range you would need a 24 f1.4, 35 f1.4, 50 f1.4 or 1.2 if you’re a canon shooter, and an 85 f1.4 or 1.2. This could run you around $3500-$5500 depending on if you get 1.2 or 1.4 lenses.

So why do I use prime lenses over zoom lenses if they are more expensive and I would have to carry more? Like I said in my list above, lighter, make me think more and makes me be more creative, and gives me the ability to shoot in lower light. When I was using zoom lenses more often, it made me lazy I felt. I could stand in one spot and get multiple shots at different focal lengths. I don’t feel it effected the quality of my work because I captured some of my greatest work with zoom lenses. I just felt I was missing out on something by only using zooms.

Since switching to primes, I feel I am more creative and have a better eye on anticipating what will be happening next. I also plan more on how I will capture the event or session on the days leading up to it. I can be more artistic and use my of my design mentality to plan my shoots.

I still use zooms in my work because I find that a few focal lengths it is just easier and more beneficial. But my go to lenses are my 35, 50 and 85. I will never get rid of those three lenses. My camera bag contents constantly change, but at the time I am writing this my zoom lenses are a 12-24, 70-200 and a zoom fisheye. Why a zoom fisheye? Sometimes you want extreme fish effects or sometimes just a touch. It saves me time in post production in getting the exact effect I wanted.

So what is my suggestion on the best lenses for you to use? Only you can decide what you need to do your job best. What I do suggest is you get lenses that range from at least 24mm to 200mm. That can be done with just 2 lenses. 24-70 f2.8 and 70-200 f2.8. What ever you do, prime vs zoom lenses, do not get a cheap 18-200 lens or any lens that does not at least have a constant aperture. Get off brand lenses before you get an aperture shifting lens. In fact, half of my lenses are 3rd party lenses. Some of those 3rd party lenses are sharper and better than the name brand canon and Nikon lenses. Check back for another post on 3rd party lenses vs name brand.

I hope this helps you and answers a lot of the questions I get on a daily basis from other photographers. As always, feel free to email me your questions.

- Happy Shooting
Nick

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