Prime vs. Zoom Lenses

Basic Photography Tips
August 3, 2017

Prime vs. Zoom Lenses

Beginners looking to customize their cameras often have a wide array of choices available to them. Needless to say, one needs to think long and hard when it comes to the individual components that you would want to add to your camera. That being said, readers need to understand how these elements work and how they can help improve your shots.

This article delves into the main categories of camera lenses today, namely, prime and zoom lenses. It delves into how these types of lens work and what sets them apart from the other. It also gives a couple of examples so that readers can better differentiate between the two.

Prime Lens: An Overview

Basically, a prime lens has a fixed focal length. This is why it is also commonly referred to as a fixed lens. In a nutshell, this means is that such your lens is set at an angle of view that cannot be adjusted or changed unless the photographer himself moves.

It also means that you cannot make adjust the appearance of the images to make them seem larger or smaller within the frame. Again, in order to do this, the photographer has to get closer to the subject in order to enlarge them in the fill more space on the frame. Conversely, you will need to step back to fit more into the frame.

Remember that the specified focal length of these prime lenses is fixed though they come in all manner of sizes and lengths such as fisheye and super telephoto. While it may seem like an unnecessary constriction upon first glance, many professional photographers actually appreciate these lenses for the sheer level of control it provides.

Here are a couple of examples of well-known prime lenses in the market today:

  • Nikon 50 f/1.8G
  • Sigma 35mm f/1.4
  • Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS

Understanding Zoom Lens

As you may have surmised, zoom lenses are altogether different from the prime lens. While prime lens offers fixed focal length, zoom lens gives users a variable focal length. This means that this type of lens gives photographers the ability to move optical elements inside the lens in order to create the desired angle of view.

Consequently, you can make your subjects appear larger or smaller by simply turning the zoom ring. Readers need to understand that the numbers indicated on their zoom lens refer to the two extremes of its zoom range. For instance, if you take a 70-200mm lens, then you will know that it acts as a 70mm focal length lens and can be adjusted up to a focal length of 200mm.

In addition, zoom lenses also often offer users a variable aperture range that goes hand-in-hand with your focal length. For instance, let us examine an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. By those specifications alone, you should be able to surmise that it has a maximum aperture of f/3.5 when set at the shortest focal length of 18mm. Meanwhile, its aperture will be limited to f/5.6 when your focal length is at 55mm.

Here are a couple of popular examples of zoom lenses:

  • Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II,
  • Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8

It is vital that photographers understand the equipment they are using. That is why this article breaks down the basic definition of prime and zoom lenses.

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