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Dilated Aperture Blog

The Dilated Aperture Blog at ETDPhotography: Photography, Portraiture, and Art Discussion.

5 Reasons to Use a Prime Lens

Primes are lenses that consist of a single focal point (they don't "zoom").

Why would you want a lens that can't zoom? Well they have a number of advantages which you can find out in today's list.

1. Cost

Designing a lens for a single focal length means that manufacturers don't need as much glass or include complicated zooming mechanisms. This means the lenses are often considerably cheaper than a zoom. The newest Nikon and Canon 50mm f/1.8 lenses both sit around the $200 mark.

2. Image Quality

Along with the simplicity of primes that allows them to be cheap to make also allows prime lenses to be optimized for the sharpest images instead of having to make compromises to have good quality throughout a zoom range. You will see impressive results from a prime with the same settings as a zoom lens that has the same focal length.

Here is a comparison between the 18-55mm kit zoom lens (left), and a 50mm f/1.8G prime(right) at 100% crop. Both photos were taken at the exact same settings. Notice the increased contrast, sharpness, and color reproduction of the prime lens.

3. Big Apertures

If you like using large apertures to separate your subject and background, or shoot in low-light situations primes are the way to go. You can easily get a prime at f/1.4 or f/1.8, but you would be hard pressed to find a zoom that goes any lower than f/2.8. The zooms that do go that low are also extremely expensive.

4. Size and Weight

Most primes are smaller and lighter than their zoom counterparts and are great for walking around. You may think you won't have a problem carrying a 70-200mm 3 lb zoom all day, until you do.

5. Helpful Learning Tool

Primes keep you from being lazy. You have to physically get up and move to get the right angle and distance for your shots. This does wonders for slowing you down a bit and making you really think about the composition of your photos. A simple prime lens like a 50mm f/1.8 is probably one of the best decisions a new photographer can make.

Links

Want to get your own prime lens? Here are my recommendations for Canon and Nikon photographers.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens

Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S NIKKOR FX Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras