Prime lens vs zoom lens is a debate which has been going on since decades, some of you would prefer the former and some latter. In past 5 years, I have used many prime and zoom lenses and felt that prime lenses are somehow better in terms of quality and sharpness. A zoom lens has its own plus points, but if you are a beginner, i would advise you to go ahead with a prime lens and explore the subjects around you.
It is not that I am against the zoom lens, I do use it for my professional work where using a prime lens is not an option. But in this blog post, i only want to concentrate on the plus points of using a prime lens.
Before I start listing down the reasons why you should grab a prime lens for your next photo shoot or trip, let’s first get to know what prime lens and zoom lens actually mean.
What is a Prime Lens?
In simple terms, a prime lens is a lens which has a fixed focal length. This means that if you want to get closer/away to the subject, you will have to walk towards/away from it. There is a wide range of prime lenses available in the market, ranging from wide-angle prime lenses to telephoto prime lenses.
What is a Zoom Lens?
A zoom lens has a range of focal lengths available within one lens, all you need to do is rotate the zoom ring to shoot wide or telephoto. The zoom lens can let you shoot wide angles and closeups both standing stationary at one place.
7 Reasons Why Prime Lenses are better than Zoom Lenses:
1. Improves Visualization
If you have just started with photography, I would advise you to invest in a prime lens instead of a zoom lens. Why? A prime lens gives you a fixed point-of-view and makes you move around the location or scene to get the desired shot. While shooting with a prime lens, you can concentrate on and observe things happening around you and move left, right, forward or back to capture the scene. Whereas a zoom lens would make you lazy and you would spend all your time adjusting the focal length of the lens.
With a zoom lens, you would simply stand stationary at one position and move the focal length ring to take your shot. You could have got a better perspective had you moved your footsteps around and give more thought about the point-of-view instead of angle-of-view.
In my opinion, a beginner should master the basics of photography using a prime lens to boost the creativity skills and later switch to a zoom lens.
2. Wide aperture
One of the key reasons why a prime lens is loved by many professional photographers is that you can shoot at aperture as wide as f/1.8, f/1.4 and f/1.2, depending on your budget. Whereas, with the zoom lenses you can only shoot till f/4 or f/2.8 if you spend a good amount of money.
3. Shallower Depth of Field
Who doesn’t like a photo with a blurry background, especially when it is a close-up shot. Using the wide aperture on a prime lens, you can capture magical shots with shallow depth of field. You can get shallow depth of field using a zoom lens as well, but not as shallower as f/1.8, f/1.4 or f/1.2. As per my experience, the quality of bokeh is better on a prime lens as compared to zoom lens. Using shallow depth of field you can focus only on the selected part of your subject, making rest of the frame out of focus.
4. Better Low light performance
A prime lens is ideal for clicking photos in low light conditions as you can easily let in more light into the camera by using a wide aperture. This means that without increasing the ISO sensitivity of your camera, you can capture the moment by using a wider aperture. Whereas, if you are using a zoom lens, you will have to compromise on ISO as the aperture cannot get wider than f/2.8.
5. More Sharpness and better image quality
Using a prime lens can get you sharper results than a zoom lens because of lesser optics inside. But with the advancements in the zoom lens, the sharpness is slowly coming at par with that produced by prime lenses. As per my experience, I have experienced less chromatic aberration and distortion in photos clicked using a prime lens as compared to the zoom lens.
Prime lenses are comparatively smaller in size and thus a great companion if you are planning a street photo shoot or a lengthy wedding shoot. You can pack light for your trip if you are carrying a prime lens in your bag, whereas a zoom lens can weigh almost double. Prime lenses such as Canon 40mm f/2.8 and Canon 50mm f/1.8 are so light and small in size that you can easily carry them in your pockets if you wish to.
Zoom lenses that are constant at f/2.8 are way costlier than a f/1.8 prime lens. For example, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens would cost you nearly $2,000 and the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens for approximately $1,800. Whereas the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens comes at a price of around $110 and the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens at $350 only.