In the old days of film photography, no one had any love for zoom lenses and that was because they just weren’t any good. In those days, everyone preferred the use of fast prime lenses. People typically selected 35mm as their wide angle lens, a 50mm as their standard lens, an 85mm as their portrait lens; lenses over 85mm were used for sports and wild life photography. Fast forward to modern times, where we are right in the thick of the evolution of digital photography and certain people still prefer fast prime lenses over zooms. What is different now is that zoom lenses are really great and no longer are they the evil step brother of primes.
There are even people who choose zooms over prime lenses. In this article we will give a sort of pro and cons of zooms vs primes and why you might want a zoom over a collection of prime lenses. This is not the bible on zoom lenses but it is information that we hope that you find useful. Let’s begin.
Pro: One Lens To Rule Them All:
Please forgive my nerdiness but I am a Lord of The Rings Fan and I can’t help but to make a play on the saying,”one ring to rule them all.” In many ways, that saying is apropos to the discussion that we are having. It is relevant because with the right zoom lens, you can reduce the weight and bulk of your camera and lens kit. Instead of carrying around two to three lenses, you can carry just one really good zoom that covers all the distances and the depth of field that you enjoy shooting. You just might find that the perfect lens is a zoom because of what all it can do in one unit. Now with constant aperture zooms, you can have a really fast zoom lenses that has a very wide aperture at its longest focal length. Perhaps this is the right choice for you?
Con: It’s Too Long And It Weighs Your Camera Down:
We aren’t talking about super 200mm type zooms but even the average zoom is significantly larger than most prime lenses. Some will just say this is the price of having one lens to rule them all, and personally it is something that I could live with but it really depend on the camera I’m using. With some of the new mirror less digitals that have a large sensor (APS-C even full frame) some zooms see like they over power the camera and shift the weight really far forward. The solution just might be testing it for yourself and finding a zoom that fits the camera.
Pro: It Is Cheaper:
This is subjective and depends on the quality of lenses you buy. But you can save money by buying one zoom that is moderately fast and not investing in primes. It depends on fast the prime is, the brand, the lens coating and other factors. Sometimes the price might come out the same but the real savings is in weight and bulk.
Con: Primes Are Just Better:
Yes and No. It is very hard to beat the performance of a fast prime lens with a zoom, especially when you get into the longer focal lengths but truthfully this is all determined by how much money you have to spend on primes. If all that you can afford are entry level primes, then you might not be missing too much. If you are the type to own a 1.4 50mm or a 1.8 85mm, then you might not be happy with the average zoom.
Ultimately, it is all about compromise, utility and use. The compromise is that you will not have as large of an aperture with your longer focal lengths with a zoom, you will have a longer lens with a zoom but for some people one zoom gives them an overall smaller kit with not as many parts. I’m definitely a fan of using zooms for vacation shots, for saving money and bulk.