There are two broad categories of lenses to choose from when purchasing a camera: primes and zooms.
A prime lens is limited to a single focal length (for example, 50mm), but a zoom lens is capable of covering a wide variety of focal lengths (e.g. 24-70mm).
Moreover, while it may appear that a zoom lens is a better choice (more focal lengths for the money = greater value?? ), this is not the case. It turns out that there are several reasons to pick a prime!
1. More Light
Because prime lenses have larger maximum apertures than zoom lenses, they offer the advantage of allowing more light into your camera. This is a significant advantage over zoom lenses. For the most part, this means that the hole in the lens may open wider, allowing more light to enter the camera when the shutter is open. Consequently, if you’re shooting in low light, a prime lens will assist you in obtaining the exposure you want without the need to increase the ISO or decrease the shutter speed.
2. Shallow Depth of Field
So, we just discussed how prime lenses have wider maximum apertures than zoom lenses, which is a good thing. Another advantage of using a larger aperture is that it helps you to get a deeper depth of field in your photographs (narrower range of the image in focus). If you’re hoping to obtain those images where the backdrop is completely blurred out and your subject is perfectly crisp, a prime lens will assist you in achieving that appearance!
3. Sharper Images
The majority of the time, prime lenses have a sharper image than zoom lenses. If you look at it from the standpoint of lens design, having fewer focal lengths to contend with makes it easier to develop a lens that delivers sharp images. TIP: Because most lenses are soft when shot wide open, you’ll normally want to stop down the lens a bit (i.e. raise the aperture value) before shooting. Although you can stop down a prime lens by a little amount, the aperture remains wide, allowing for enough of light to enter the camera and producing shallow depth of focus while still producing pleasingly clear pictures.
4. Better Image Quality
Further to that final point, prime lenses provide a number of additional advantages in terms of image quality. Because, once again, lens producers only need to adjust for a single focal length, there is often less distortion and less chromatic aberration in the final product. Consequently, you’re getting some very good quality out of these handy little primes.
5. Good Value
The cost of prime lenses might vary significantly.
Comparing the prices of two 50mm f/1.8 Canon prime lenses (known as the “nifty fifty”), the latter is around 10 times more costly than the former, which is nearly five times more expensive.
As a result, when it comes to high-quality lenses, there is a significant increase in price.
While prime lenses are often more expensive than zoom lenses when it comes to money per megapixel, we believe they are a better bargain when it comes to picture quality.
6. Smaller & Lighter
And when I say “small,” I mean it in the most literal sense! The size and weight of prime lenses are often smaller and lighter than those of zoom lenses. For those who are concerned about the size and weight of their camera equipment, a prime lens might be the best option for them! You can even acquire “pancake” lenses, which are prime lenses that have been designed to be extremely thin and compact. Obviously, this isn’t exactly how I want my pancakes, but I digress…
7. Easier To Get Used To The Focal Length
A primary lens has only one focal length, which is the focal length of the lens. You won’t be able to adjust it the way you would with a zoom lens. However, I have found this to be a really useful method of determining focal length. One of the most important aspects of photography is the ability to look at a situation and “see” the photographs that are possible within it. When you can “see” the way a scene would be translated at a specific focal length, you have a far better concept of how your final photo will appear as a result of your work.
So if you shoot a lot with a 50mm prime lens, you’ll get used to seeing the world through that lens. When you shoot with that 50mm lens, you’ll be able to see exactly how things will look — what will be in the image, what will not be, and how the lines will be rendered. It’s a lot of fun! A prime lens, in its most basic form, assists you in developing muscle memory for a focal length, allowing you to spend less time tinkering with settings and more time “feeling” the photo.
8. Forces You To Move
Another manner in which a prime may be really beneficial to your creative process is by forcing you to move your feet. By zooming in, you will not be able to get much closer to your topic. If you want to become closer to someone, you must physically get closer to them. However, changing your feet is one of the most effective methods of creating very intriguing compositions. Prime lenses will keep you from falling into the poor habit of standing motionless, and for that reason alone, they are definitely worth investing in….
As photographers, we’ve worked with both prime lenses and zoom lenses throughout the course of our careers, and while they both have their uses, prime lenses are our favorites. It is for all of the reasons I’ve outlined above that these are the lenses we reach for the most frequently.