Posts Tagged educational

Learning Photography — Prime Lenses

Whether you’re new to photography or you’ve been shooting for a while, if you’re still using your kit zoom lens — you should consider getting a prime lens as your next lens.

July 16 - The Spiffy New Lens
An EF 85mm f/1.2L II mounted on my 40D

What is a “prime” lens? A prime lens is a lens with a fixed focal length meaning that it can not zoom. So you may wonder why in the world would you want to get a lens that doesn’t allow you to zoom? Well there are at least a dozen reasons I could give you — among them: primes are cheaper (generally for the quality you get), sharper, and faster.

Zoom optical systems are generally fairly complex because they have to correct for more factors; thus, with a simpler design, primes often require less glass (lower price) and/or produce a higher quality image (higher image quality). Furthermore, prime lenses often have larger apertures (especially for the price). You’ll find primes with apertures around f/1.4 for under $500, whereas most zoom lenses with an aperture of f/2.8 are going to very likely cost over $1k! Faster apertures also make these lenses great for taking photos at night or in a dim room without a flash. The shallow depth of field makes these lenses great for taking portraits with a beautiful background blur as well.

In addition to the tangible benefits, prime lenses also help reinforce important concepts in photography. Many photographers become lazy and use zooming to compose their images. Zooming rather than physically moving yourself to recompose your shot makes a big difference! Using a prime lens forces you to move around to recompose and makes you a better photographer. Using a prime also encourages the photographer to focus on other thing such as focusing and exposure.

Shows the same subject shot at 24mm vs. 200mm.

Shows the same subject shot at 24mm vs. 200mm.

You can see in this example that the same subject shot at two different focal lengths produce two extremely different images. Notice how the wide shot at 24mm emphasizes the shape of the glass and there is quite a bit of the background in view. In contrast, the 200mm shot compresses the detail and the glass looks pretty flat. Not as much of the background is also in the shot because the field of view is narrower. Because of this, telephoto lenses are generally preferable for shooting portraits because it does not emphasize facial features such as the nose or chin.

So which lenses should I get? Here’s a list of some prime lenses…

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