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Prime vs Zoom Lens

Buying a new lens is always exciting but confusing as well. There are so many possibilities and different types of lenses that one gets analysis paralysis just by looking at them. One of the most common rivalries between lenses is of prime vs zoom lens.

There is no hard and fast rule as to which one is the better option. Both are great depending on your preferences. However, read along to understand the difference between a prime and zoom lens so that you can make a better choice. 

What is a Prime Lens?

The best way to determine the better lens in the case of prime vs zoom lens is to first understand how both lenses work.

The first thing that you need to know is that the main difference between these lenses is of focal length. A prime lens is also called a fixed lens because it has a fixed focal length. Consequently, if you have to zoom in on your subject, then you will have to physically move to get near it. Similarly, if you have to zoom out, you will need to move back. 

Prime lenses come in all sizes and focal lengths, such as telephoto or fisheye, however, an individual lens can only have a fixed focal length.

What is a Zoom Lens?

Unlike the prime lens, a zoom lens is capable of variable focal length. You simply turn the zoom ring which moves the optical elements inside the lens. This causes the lens to change its angle of view. With the help of a zoom lens, you can magnify your subject without moving physically.

The ability to change focal lengths allows a zoom lens to have qualities of two to three different lenses in one housing. For instance, if you take a 70-200mm lens, it covers both extremes of zoom range as well as anything in-between. Similarly, a 35-105mm lens would cover the whole range. This range consists of wide, normal, and telephoto lens. 

This is it for understanding the main difference in prime vs zoom lens, let’s move on to the advantages of both lenses.

Product photo of prime lens - Prime vs Zoom Lens

Photo edited in Lightroom.

Advantages of Prime Lens

Price

If you are on a budget but do not want to compromise on the image quality, then a prime lens is your best option. Generally, a good prime lens is way cheaper than a good zoom lens. You give up on the variable focal range but you can cover most of the focal lengths using a fast prime lens. Therefore, it is better to invest in quality rather than quantity.

Dimensions

If you are familiar with mirrorless cameras, you would know that most photographers are now shifting towards them. The only reason is their lightweight. Prime lenses are also much lighter than zoom lenses since they have fewer optical components. The only problem with weight is that it can cause long-term health complications.

Low Light Image Quality

The prime lens takes this spot, in the prime vs zoom lens debate, of producing better images in low light. This is because they have a wider aperture than the zoom lenses. Also, they have much simpler optics involved in them which lets the aperture open up to f/2 or in some cases f/1.2. 

Learning Factor and Creativity

It is a, somewhat, controversial thought but some photographers are of the view that when you are forced to move to get a better magnification, it helps with creativity. The idea behind this is that moving to different positions and looking for new angles makes you work for better composition. It is true to some degree, but having a zoom lens is also good for creativity.

Camera with zoom lens - Prime vs Zoom Lens

Advantages of Zoom Lens

Versatility

Now, let’s give us some points to the latter lens in the prime vs zoom lens debate. The first advantage, as mentioned in the beginning, is the versatility of the zoom lens. Undoubtedly, the ability to change your focal length with just a turn of the zoom ring is an extremely helpful thing for a photographer. Apart from the weight factor, the zoom feature can single-handedly win this debate. 

Image Stabilization

Most of the newer zoom lenses have Image Stabilization which lets you shoot sharp images by minimizing motion blur. This is done by moving and shifting internal elements of the lens. Although it is more common in zoom lenses, some of the latest prime lenses may also support this feature.

Practicality

Another great point while discussing the prime vs zoom lens is practicality. It is an irrefutable fact that zoom lenses pack the abilities of up to three different lenses inside them. This alone makes them extremely portable since you do not have to carry three different lenses. Not only does it increase its practicality but portability as well.

Conclusion - Prime vs Zoom Lens

In conclusion, prime lenses are cheaper, lightweight, produce sharper images in most cases, but have fixed focal length. On the other hand, the zoom lens lets you play with all of the zoom range but at a higher cost of price and weight. To sum it up, this debate will always be here but what matters is your preference. But once you do get a lens, try to be creative with its features.

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