Prime vs Zoom Lens

Prime vs Zoom Lens

My Instagram followers ask this question quite a lot, which lens is the best to get when you just start out.

This is a more complicated question than it sounds like since there are hundreds of good lenses for hundreds of different types of photography.

So I thought I will answer this question in 3 different posts to give everybody the know how to find the right lens for them and their unique style.

So let’s get started with post one prime vs zoom lens.

 

When I started out with photography I couldn’t understand why people would buy prime lenses when you can have a zoom. Because I didn’t know the pros and cons.


What is a Prime Lens?

A prime lens is a lens that only has one focal length. like 50mm lens. That means when you want to zoom in you have to walk the zoom or change the lens. 🙂

prime vs zoom lens

What are the Pros of a Prime Lens?

That was my first question because after the first look it just looked like they were cheaper because they don’t have a zoom.


1. Cheaper Than a Zoom

A prime lens is usually cheaper than a zoom lens. That is because a prime lens isn’t as complicated as a zoom lens and has fewer parts in it. So Usually you can buy 3 or 4 prime lenses for the cost of one zoom lens.


2. Better Image Quality.

A prime lens has only one focal length. In opposite to a zoom, it is 100% made for that exact focal length which means It is sharper and has way less chromatic aberration. Of course like always in photography there are lenses that are known to be super sharp and lenses that a known to be a bit blurry.


3. Faster

A prime lens is able to have a wider aperture than a zoom lens because it has fewer parts in it. Which makes it awesome for low light. Zoom lenses are getting better with the aperture but at the moment if you want a fast lens you have to take a prime lens.


4. More Bokeh

Of course with a wider aperture comes a stronger and nicer bokeh.

A strong bokeh like this is almost impossible with most zoom lenses

5. Weight

Prime lenses are lighter and smaller usually, Because of their “simple” construction. My smallest one is the 24mm pancake lens.


What are the Cons of a Prime Lens?

1. You Need Many Lenses

One pretty obvious fact is that you will need more lenses because a 24- 70mm zoom covers already 5 prime lenses. 24, 28,35,50 and 70mm. I like to compensate that problem by thinking exactly about what I want to photograph. But usually, I take a zoom with me anyway 😉


2. You Might Have to Move or Change Lenses a Lot

This is a pro as well as it is a con. Because moving yourself until you have the right framing can train your eyes a lot. At the same time, it can be a huge pain in the ass 🙂 if you are at a soccer game where you can’t just run on the field to get the right framing.


What are the Pros of a Zoom Lens?

prime vs zoom lens


1. It Is Super Practical

Zoom lenses are super practical since you usually only need one in the bag to cover a whole range of lenses.

prime vs zoom lens
So you won’t end up like this guy 😉

2. Weight In The Bag

A zoom lens is usually bigger and heavier than a prime lens. So why is this a pro? Because you still have usually minimum 3 lenses in one and if you think about it that way the zoom is lighter than 3 prime lenses. (one-handed shooting still might become an issue) 😉


What are the Cons of a Zoom Lens?

  1. The Image Quality

I know I said above that prime lenses have a better sharpness and less chromatic aberration than a zoom lens. But at the same time when you use a good zoom lens, most people who look at your pictures wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference.

prime vs zoom lens
This is zoomed in 100%

  1. The Weight On The Camera

Zoom lenses are way heavier than prime lenses because they have more parts in them. They become even heavier over time.


  1. The price

A good zoom lens costs usually up to three times as much as a prime lens which is a bugger sometimes. However, if you keep in mind that they also cover three or more lenses it becomes a reasonable price in my eyes.


Which One is Better?

It is all up to you. 😀

Best answer ever. I know 😀

No, but seriously there are times and places for every lens.

You will have to decide what you want more. The extra edge in sharpness, low light ability, and wide aperture or the practicality of a zoom lens.

I always have a zoom lens with me, just in case. But I prefer prime lenses.

As a beginner, I would also advise you to buy a prime lens just to get a feeling for framing and composition as well as finding out what’s possible with a prime lens.


Alright, that’s already it with my post about prime vs zoom lens. I hope I answered the question you had when you came to my post. If you still have any question or opinion please let me know in the comments. I will get to you as soon as possible.

Cheers

Aaron.

12 thoughts on “Prime vs Zoom Lens

  1. Wayne

    Hello Aaron, enjoyed reading your blog, very informative.I have been interested in photography for some time, have always had not so expensive cameras.
    I have been thinking a lot about cameras and lenses for some time now, wondering which ones to get. You have answered some of my questions.
    Didn’t have a clue what Bokeh is, I had to ask Siri!
    Have bookmarked your site, so I can get more information before I purchase my new camera.
    Talk to you soon as I will have more questions. Wayne

    1. Aaron

      Hey Wayne, I’m glad that I was able to teach you something new and thank you for pointing out that I forgot to insert a link that explains bokeh 🙂 thanks for the good feedback and feel free to ask me if you have any questions. 🙂 

      Cheers aaron

  2. Paul

    Thanks, Aaron, for this very clear and concise description of lenses.
    As a beginner to photography, I have been using a bridge camera for a few years now.
    My camera has a mode called “intelligent auto” and this feature does “all” the heavy lifting for beginners like me.
    It produces excellent photos and I am very pleased with it.
    I do, however, want to extend my range and I am now learning how to this.
    I find this post very helpful and I am looking forward to your two others.
    Can you recommend a good starting camera as a step-up from bridge photography?
    In addition to prime and zoom lenses, What else should I be focusing on in the beginning?
    Paul

    1. Aaron

      Hey paul, I’m glad that I was able to help you with my post. 🙂 If I would be you I would go for the rebel t6s https://whatcameraguide.com/ca… or the brand new EOS 2000D wich is much cheaper but I personally haven’t tested yet, but it basically is the newer and better version of the 1300D. In the beginning there is really just one thing you should focus on and that is shoot a lot of pictures. 🙂 If you need some creative and technical  guidance, here are two links to two posts about that 🙂 

      1. https://whatcameraguide.com/ph… 

      2. https://whatcameraguide.com/po

      I hope that helps you if not let me know. 🙂 

      Cheers Aaron.

  3. Avareth

    This was a very informative article that I appreciate 🙂 I would’ve never considered starting out with a lens that couldn’t zoom until reading this and learning more about it. That picture of the man with all the bags made me chuckle. I think I would choose to get a prime lens over a zoom lens to start out with based on the pros you give. It seems like the pros outweigh the cons, especially for someone totally new to photography.

    1. Aaron

      Hey Avereth, I thought the same way too at first. 🙂 I would also recommend you to buy at least one prime lens just to get a feeling for it. At the same time good zoom lenses are also very handy to have. You can read in my next post about my recommendation for beginner lenses. 🙂 

      Until then have an awesome shooting time 😉

      Cheers Aaron.

  4. Marcel

    Thanks Aaron, this is the perfect post for my sister in law that recently started her photography business. She is always looking for new lenses and your post is well written. The Zoom lense is excatly what she was looking for. I know they cost a little more but I will let her know to read up. Great info, thanks!

    1. Aaron

      Hey Marcel, Im happy to hear that your sister in law started with her photography business. She probably already knows about the difference because it is a very basic thing, but maybe she will be able to find some new portrait ideas here since portraits are pretty much something every new photographer has to go through 🙂 

  5. Megan

    Hi Aaron
    What a great explanation of the differences between Prime and Zoom Lenses. I had never understood there was a difference but you made it very clear. I am not a great photographer, just ask my teenager (although she takes amazing shots), but with some practice I should get better. I have only got two zoom lenses so I might look into purchasing a couple of prime ones to “teach” me. Do you think this is a good idea?

    1. Aaron

      Hey Megan, you just need to practice and you will crush photography. 🙂 To the lenses you want to buy I would say just go with one for now. So you can really learn the lens. If you have a bigger budget go with a better one. You will have more fun with those 🙂 But don’t go and spend a fortune 🙂 That happens really fast. (to me) 🙂 

  6. Darren

    This is a really interesting take on the differences between results with prime lenses and zoon lenses. I actually don’t have a prime lens in my kit at the moment, but I really should have one.

    prime lenses look like they have it all over a zoom lens, from price to image quality. I guess the real advantage of zoom is the ability to vary the focal length, which is really handy and something I use all the time.

    However, there are times when I’d like a faster lens and really be able to reduce that depth of field nicely for portrait photography.

    1. Aaron

      Hey Darren, once again 🙂 Yes exactly the best thing about zooms really is the zoom and that you only need 1 lens usually. In opposite to prime lenses 🙂 I would recommend that if you know what you will shot (for example portraits) then you are better of with a prime lens because of image quality and the bokeh. If you go shooting something that moves really fast you won’t have a lot of fun with a prime lens 😉 

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