Photography / Buying Guide

Prime Lens 101

         

The major benefit of upgrading to a DSLR or mirrorless camera system is the ability to swap out different lenses to fit your specific needs. Prime lenses are available in all lengths and varieties and offer numerous advantages in performance when compared to their zoom-lens brethren. Also, the particular choices associated with sticking to a specific focal length can help improve your photographic technique, as well as help you learn. And, a new prime lens can expand your capabilities with new features like a larger aperture for more effective low-light shooting or a specialized feature that enables you to get the close-ups you’ve always dreamed about.

Prime versus Zoom

Zoom lenses are incredibly convenient. They cover a wide range of focal lengths in a single package, and you don’t have to waste time constantly swapping out lenses to create the composition you desire. However, this huge strength also becomes their weakness. Designing a lens for optimal performance at multiple focal lengths is difficult, meaning that there will be some trade-offs in performance and size. Not to say there aren’t good zooms—there are—but they usually come with a premium price tag.

On the other hand, prime lenses are optimized to a specific focal length or purpose. This means that optical performance is generally much better and that the lenses can be made with larger apertures while still maintaining a fairly compact size. Another benefit is that a prime lens will have fewer moving parts, so there is less of an opportunity for problems to appear from general use. Generally, primes perform better than their zoom counterparts and are sharper, with fewer visible aberrations. These differences can be very apparent, especially with the high-resolution sensors currently available in modern DSLR and mirrorless cameras.



prime lens
 

zoom lens
 
Prime Lens Zoom Lens

Another major difference is the inability to zoom for changes in composition. This requires a photographer to be more thoughtful in their process and to move around a bit more since they can’t rely on a zoom lens to change perspective. This makes choosing a focal length one of the most important decisions when considering a prime lens.

Choosing a Focal Length

Different focal lengths are better suited to certain subjects or styles; this is why you will constantly see lenses like the 85mm referred to as a “portrait” lens, or the 35mm as a “street” lens. This has a lot to do with field of view and what you need the lens to do. Capturing cramped interiors will be the domain of the wide or extreme wide-angle lens, whereas distant wildlife or sports will obviously require the use of a telephoto lens.

Besides the obvious, different focal lengths have their own attributes and looks. For example, the longer the lens is, the shallower the depth of field will be, when they are compared at the same aperture setting. A 100mm lens at f/2.8 will have much shallower depth of field than a 35mm at f/2.8. Also, telephoto lenses tend to flatten features and compress space, making the background elements appear much closer and larger than a wide-angle lens would. This is why an 85mm is a popular choice for portraiture; it has good background separation due to shallow depth of field, and will flatten a subject’s features slightly for a more flattering image. Wide angles will exaggerate perspective, and will make subjects appear distorted, but they can capture a larger area and are well-suited to architecture, landscapes, and other types of photography where dramatized elements are wanted.

Keep in mind that sensor size will affect the effective angle of view captured and that lenses are commonly given a 35mm equivalent focal length for use with different formats, such as a DSLR with an APS-C sensor. A 50mm lens mounted on such a camera, with a 1.5x crop factor, for example, will have an equivalent focal length of 75mm. This doesn’t mean that the specific qualities of the lens have changed, a 50mm is still a 50mm, just that the area captured is similar to that of a 75mm lens on a full-frame camera, as if you had cropped the image in post to capture the same angle of view.

Choosing a Focal Length

A benefit of this is that users can enjoy more reach from their longer lenses. This can convert already far-reaching options to have longer equivalent focal lengths that may not be available otherwise. For example, Nikon’s AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4 ED VR AF lens or Canon’s EF 600mm f/4 IS II USM become equivalent 900mm and 960mm lenses respectively, which is longer than either company’s current longest lens at 800mm.

Some manufacturers take the popularity of crop-sensor cameras into account when making lenses. This means that some prime lenses work properly only on APS-C or smaller sensors and will not provide full coverage when using a full-frame camera. This does allow lenses to be much smaller than they would need to be or to achieve equivalent focal lengths that are desired. Fujifilm does this with their APS-C mirrorless camera series by releasing 23mm, 35mm, and 56mm lenses, which are equivalent to the popular, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm lenses on full-frame cameras.

If you do own a crop-sensor camera and your brand offers full-frame options, you should consider whether you would like to eventually upgrade to the larger sensor later on. If you do, crop-sensor lenses will not work on your later camera, though full-frame lenses will work properly on crop-sensor cameras. Purchasing full-frame-compatible glass now can save you time and money later.

There are other features, such as maximum aperture, minimum focus distance, and autofocus motors, which will play a huge role in any final lens choice, but focal length will remain the most important. 

Standard Lenses

One of the most common options is the standard or normal lens. These lenses have an angle of view close to 45°, which replicates the perspective seen by our eyes. This makes it a good first lens for beginners because it is easy to imagine what images will look like before you even put the viewfinder up to your eye. In 35mm terms, these lenses fall between 40mm and 65mm, though the 50mm is the most popular and well-known option.



Standard prime Lenses
 

Many prominent photographers have claimed this as their favorite lens, such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of the most important photojournalists of the Twentieth Century, and an icon for amateur and professional street photographers. He famously used a 50mm lens almost exclusively as it acts as “an extension of (the) eye,” permitting photographers to trap life in a frame that resembles the way we experience the world.

Normal primes are also well liked because they are easy to manufacture, inexpensive, and usually quite good due to their simple design. Also, manufacturers tend to make multiple varieties of this lens for all levels of photographers, be it beginner, amateur, or professional. Lenses like Nikon’s 50mm f/1.8G and Canon’s EF 50mm f/1.8 II are great budget options with wide maximum apertures that can dramatically expand a beginner’s capabilities compared to a kit zoom lens. Or, if you are a professional, there are higher quality optics like Zeiss’s Otus Distagon T* 55mm f/1.4 Lens that are designed to provide near-perfect imagery, at a cost. 

Telephoto Lenses

Beyond a normal lens, photographers can find themselves wanting or needing a little more reach, this is where telephoto lenses come in handy. Telephotos typically have focal lengths greater than 80mm and can extend to upwards of 400mm, though at that point they are usually referred to as super telephotos.


prime Telephoto Lenses
 

Short to medium telephotos are the first branches of this category and include the popular 85mm, 100mm, and 135mm options. Each of these lenses has a slightly different perspective, but the longer the focal length, there will be more compression, shallower depth of field and, obviously, the greater the distance you can be from your subject. Portraiture generally sees the use of these shorter lengths because photographers like to maintain a good working distance from their subjects since yelling across a field on a windy day isn’t ideal. Also, the shorter lengths are easier to shoot handheld and can be less intimidating, without losing the benefits of shallow depth of field and flatter features.

Standard telephotos and super telephotos are the next level of lens and offer the huge advantage of distance. If you need to capture a faraway subject, like a rare bird or a football player downfield, there is really no other choice. The drawback to these larger lenses is the size and aperture. The longer the focal length, the larger aperture required, which makes options like an 800mm f/2 lens practically impossible. But, aperture is an important consideration when purchasing a telephoto lens, especially if you are considering the use of teleconverters.

Additional size and weight, coupled with the narrow field of view, make image stabilization an essential feature of telephotos, especially once you exceed a focal length of 200mm. This technology will correct for camera shake, especially since the longer lengths amplify its appearance. Image stabilization is incredibly useful for shooting at slower shutter speeds and low ISOs, allows users to capture photographs that would’ve otherwise been impossible. Additionally, video shooters will greatly benefit from this tech as it will dramatically smooth out handheld footage. 

Wide-Angle Lenses

Sometimes you just can’t fit everything into the frame, whether it is a group picture or your favorite piece of architecture. Wide-angle lenses, usually found at focal lengths of less than 40mm, fill in this gap with their large angles of view. They work well for landscape and architectural photography, as well as street photography, with the 35mm lens commonly found attached to a photojournalist’s camera.


prime Wide-Angle Lenses
 

Options like the 28mm and 35mm will slightly expand your field of view, which makes them critical to some users. Beyond just getting a tad more captured in the frame, wide angles offer a couple of notable benefits, due to their design. One of these is deep depth of field, caused by the shorter focal length. While not ideal for portraits, the ability to capture entire scenes in focus is ideal for landscapes and architectural photography. Also, photojournalists are afforded more room for error in focus on split-second shots.

There is one other category of wide-angle lens that is popular, and that is the fisheye lens. These lenses are found at the widest area of lenses with focal lengths around 8mm, like Rokinon’s 8mm f/3.5 HD Fisheye Lens. It offers a unique perspective by capturing a surreal 180-degree angle of view, which is great for conveying the overall feeling of a location as opposed to the limited field of view of most lenses.

Specialty Lenses

The specificity of prime lenses allows them to be used to make high-performing lenses with a dedicated purpose. Macro lenses are such a type of specialty glass by enabling extremely close minimum focus distances, usually enabling a 1:1 magnification ratio for true-to-life sizes. They are also available in a variety of sizes, from wide to telephoto, though more commonly you will see telephoto options like the Makro-Planar T* 100mm f/2 Lens from Zeiss. These telephotos offer users a good working distance so that you won’t accidentally block light from hitting your subject or scaring away a tiny insect. If still life and product photography, or extreme close-ups of blooming flowers and other natural beauties are subjects of your photographic interest, then a macro prime lens is uniquely suited to help achieve the best image quality possible.


Prime Specialty Lenses
 

Another type of specialty optic is tilt-shift and perspective-correction. These options allow users to alter the tilt and shift of the lens axis compared to the sensor in order to correct converging lines or to adjust focus to a different axis. The advantages of these lenses are dramatic, and they are the only way to get movements similar to a large-format camera on a DSLR or mirrorless camera body. Image effects like keystoning, when shooting upwards at a building, can now be corrected in-camera to avoid the headache sometimes associated with dramatic edits made in Photoshop.

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I enjoyed reading this rticle until you started to call the APS-C sensor a crop-sensor. Do you call the 1" sensor a crop-sensor? Or the 4/3 sensor a crop- sensor? Then why call the APS-C sensor a crop-sensor. It's not. 

As I've said before the APS-C sensor cameras are the 35mm cameras of the digital age. Get used to it FF users because your cameras just aren't pratical for everyday and all day usage. 

PS: I love primes and for that reason I left my Nikon DX cameras in the closet and I'm now a Fuji X series shooter.

Correction: ALL digitals are crop sensors unless stated that the camera is a full-frame sensor. There are only three types of sensors at this point and my knowledge. Point and click cameras are diminishing in the cell phone age.
 

Note, also, that a 35mm camera that is not full-frame is 1.6 smaller than the size of a full-frame. It is simple math no different from converting miles to kilometres or vice versa:

• APS-C crop sensor focal length to EQUIVALENT FOV full frame focal length - MULTIPLY by 1.6
• Full Frame focal length to EQUIVALENT FOV for APS-C crop sensor - DIVIDE by 1.6

I would like to start a YouTube channel . I have the Sony a6000 with the 16-50mm. I was told for autofocus I would have to get a lager lens . Which would you recommend? 

Hi Jo -

It sounds to me like you are looking for this lens:

The black Sony E 50mm f/1.8 OSS Lens is a prime portrait-length lens featuring a bright f/1.8 maximum aperture and a 35mm-equivalent focal length of 75mm. The lens has a lightweight and compact design with an aluminum alloy lens barrel and engraved focusing ring to provide greater handling as well as an aesthetic appearance. Greatly benefitting handheld usage with this lens is Optical SteadyShot image stabilization, which works to minimize the appearance of camera shake by up to four shutter speed steps to support use in low-light conditions.

I am shooting with a Sony a600 and have 4 lenses: the Zeiss Touit f/4 1670 zoom, the Zeiss Touit 2.8 12mm, the Zeiss Touit 1.8 32mm, and the Zeiss 1.8 55mm.  I prefer using prime lenses vs. the 1670.  I like the sharpness of a prime lens and have had difficulty with dust intrusion into the 1670 zoom in windy, dusty conditions.  I'd also prefer an f2.8 vs. the f4 on the zoom.  To enable me to do macro photography and to provide a telephoto for shooting church interiors and close-ups of architectural details, I am thinking of selling the 1670 and buying the Zeiss 2.8 90mm macro lens.  Would the 90mm work well for architectural and landscape details where a telephoto is needed, or would I be better off staying with the 1670?  Or do you have another suggestion?  Thanks.

If you think you could use a lens that is slightly more telephoto than the 16-70mm, then the 90mm would be a solid option.  It would be a great option for getting close up shots of detail work, and also images of objects slightly further away.  If you find that you mostly use the 16-70mm for the 70mm, and can suffice with your primes to cover the rest of the range, I think the 90mm would definitely suit.  Especially if you find that you prefer using prime lenses.  It would definitely be the best option for a telephoto prime amongst the current E-mount lens selection. 

Thanks.  I do use the 1670 primarily for the full zoom.  I love the crisp sharpness of the primes.  It is a nuisance to change lenses, and risky in a dusty environment, but as I've mentioned, I had the dust problem with the 1670.  Will I need a tripod with the 90mm, or will OSS really help with camera shake?  I haven't sprung for a tripod yet, mostly because it's awkward when traveling in a group.  Do you have a recommendation for a moderately priced travel tripod that is super compact and will hold the a6000 with the 90mm lens?

You should be able to shoot the Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens hand held as long as there is a reasonable amount of light.  The OSS will give you a couple more stops to work with, and the a6000 should be able to shoot at fairly high ISO before noise becomes noticeable.  That being said, you might look at the MeFOTO BackPacker Travel Tripod for your a6000.  It’s an extremely compact and light weight travel tripod that would be more than capable of supporting your a6000 and lenses. 

Thank you for this article. I have been shooting auto since 2008/9. Finally, I have the time to shoot manual. It was difficult to transition to manual until now. I have challenged myself to shoot in low light settings. Recently, I didn't understand why my 28-70mm zoom lens couldn't open up to pass f/4.5 with an ISO of 400 without my subject looking blurry or grainy...Then I spoke to an instructor regarding prime lenses...Now, I will be looking into a 55mm f/1.8 and 90mm f/2.8 prime lens for Sony A7.

Wonderful article. I'm learning to use prime lenses for my T5i. I already have the nifty-50 and am looking at the 24mm 2.8. I was wondering if a 35 or 40mm was necessary if I have the 50 and 24.

Thanks 

A 35mm prime might be a nice addition to a kit with 24mm and 50mm prime lenses.  Though, I would start out shooting with the 24mm and 50mm for a bit.  You might find that these two focal lengths cover everything you need.  If you do find that you’re missing something betwixt the two, I would definitely suggest looking into one of Canon’s 35mm prime lenses.  

Thank you very much for this great article, I am new to photography and this article helped me a lot. I am going to buy my first prime lens for my Sony A6000, but the Sony lens is a little bit too pricey for me, so my first option is Sigma lens, but I was told that Sony does not allow third party lens manufacturers to utilize full screen hybrid focus area in intelligent auto or superior auto, I would like to know more details about that. Does it mean that I will have a very slow auto focus when I use a third party lens? Does it have a big impact on performance?

According to Sony, the camera's Fast Hybrid AF feature can only be utilized by Sony lenses.  Other 3rd party lenses such as Sigma's options will be able to autofocus, but not as quickly as the Sony options.

See the following link for a list of all the lenses compatible with Fast Hyrbid AF and the A6000 camera:  http://bit.ly/1MSErwo

I have a few questions about lens. Okay so I have a Canon Rebel t3i and I own the kit lens (55mm) and a zoom lens (75mm) and I make YouTube videos. I was wondering what would be the best lens for filming video (preferably full body) and make the background extrmemely blurry. I am currently chosing between the Sigma 30mm because I heard awesome reviews about it and the Canon 50mm because it gives a similar effect as the 30mm but is a lot cheaper. Thank you! :)

What lens to go with would really depend on how much room you have.  If you have enough room to get a full body shot with a 50mm, then I would likely go with the Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM.  If you upgrade to one of Canon’s cameras with autofocus during video, the quiet smooth STM motor will be key for video.  Though, if you have limited space, you might need to go with a wider lens such as the Sigma 30mm f/1.4.  An easy way to get a feel for what focal length would best meet your needs would be to spend some time shooting your 18-55mm at 50mm, and then at 30mm.  That would give you a better since for which focal length would have the angle of view you want.  Both would allow for a shallow depth of field when shooting wide open. 

Nice article.  I would like to see an article just like this in the future but only pretaining to 1.5 cropped sensors.  The lens that would represent a 35mm and 50mm and 105mm as opposed to what they are on full frame and what the f stop becomes and the depth becomesbecause of the crop.  It is easy to understand the formatting done with a 35mm lens on a full frame camera but a lot of people do not consider the fact that there are fundamental differences with APS sensors.

As an example if a person is shooting with a 100mm 2.8 lens on a cropped sensor it becomesa 150mm lens on that cropped sensor.  Does that not change the minimum shutter speed one can shoot at?

Thanks,

Elliot

I will make the suggestion to do an article as you've requested but I cant promise one as a result.  We do our best to keep our topics and artciles useful and relevant and we always welcome any feedback.  Thank you.

As far as your question goes about a cropped sensor and a full frame lens, such as the 100mm f2.8 and the minimum shutterspeed one can shoot handheld at goes yes, it could change the minimum shutterspeed one could shoot at, but its a nominal change that I've  honestly never had to consider as a game changer or pitfall.  Going by the shutterspeed/focal rule -  one's shutter speed should resemble to the focal shooting at for a minimum speed to yield a sharp image with.  With a 100mm focal  your shutterspeed would be 1/125th of a second (unless your using a camera that allows for fractional shutter speed stop selection).  With 100mm f2.8 on a crop sensor of 1.5x and its new field of view being 150mm f2.8, I would say that 1/125th of a second would or could possibly suffice here depending on the particular subject.  Taking it up to 1/250 of a second would be prudent.  With the 1.5x factor it is closer to a fraction of a stop, which at the end of the day is easy to compensate for in either direction. 

Hi there, thank you for this article, nice.

What would be your advice for a multi-purpose lease compatible full-frame ? My wish would have been the Tamron 18-200 (wide enough with great Tele) but not compatible full-frame !

Thanks in advance.

So I may search compatible options for you, can you please indicate what specific model camera you are inquiring about such a lens for?  Thank you in advance. 

article says : " slower the aperture"    did you mean "lower the aperture"  

Thanks for the question Don Low.  I believe the author was trying to suggest that wide-angle primes normally don't offer as wide a maximum aperture as do standard length (50mm) lenses, however we also felt the sentence was a bit confusing so we edited the piece to clarify.  Thank you again.   

I wish the article would have referenced the Sigma 50mm 1.4 ART lens. This is an incredible lens and should be recognized as an excellent alternative to Nikon and Canon lens. Bench reviews put it at near the same as the Zeiss and field use makes it even more appealing as the cost is a quarter of the Zeiss. There are lots of online reviews available --- take the time to read them before making a purchase.

"A good workman never blames his tools."

I went from a 50mm/f1.2 to a 100mm/F2.8 a couple of years ago and never looked back. It works perfectly for most everything I need.

I am learning about high end DSLR cinematography. Just wondering which prime lenses are good for the cinematography because some people preffer to have 24mm and 35mm but the other may buy 20mm, 24mm and 28mm lenses. Could anyone let me know the big difference in all those lenses. I do wedding cinematography so just wondering whinch lens is best for me.

Thanks in advance. 

There is no right or wrong answer to your question.  The best lens for any particular shot or scene could change, and each prime lens offers a different field of view/width.  If you are using a zoom lens now, it would pay take some video clips with it and see what focal you most commonly use throughout the various test shots you take.  Otherwise you may wish to borrow/rent prime lenses so that you can get a feel for how each one views on your camera until you see a perspective that appeals to you.  Most shooters would have a wider range of lenses in their kit bag to accommodate each scene’s potentially different need.  If you like, you may email us at askbh@bhphoto.com and indicate what specific model camera you are using, and list all the lenses you currently have for it and which  you use the most, and also what types of shots you envision capturing with a prime lens and our agents there can offer you specific recommendations.

Below is a link to Canon USA’s website to a specific page with a focal length comparison tool, so you  may see how one width compares in the same scenario to the next. 

http://bit.ly/1HuXqoe

Thank you for a great article! I didn't know about the distortion and compression aspects of the lenses. The article says of normal lenses, "In 35mm terms, these lenses fall between 40mm and 65mm, though the 50mm is the most popular and well-known option."

I understand that, on a FF camera, lenses between 40mm and 65mm are considered normal; a 28mm lens will distort my subject a little (close-up shots), and a 135 mm lens will flatten my subject’s features. My question is: what determines this distorting or flattening effect? Is it angle of view or focal length? 

In other words, if I use a crop sensor camera like Canon 70D, and a 28mm EF lens, will faces in close-up shots look slightly distorted, like what we expect a 28mm lens on a FF camera would do, or will the faces look more normal, like the ones taken with a (hypothetical) 44.8mm EF lens on a FF camera? 

Thanks in advance!

Essentially you're on the right track in regards to your understanding of how the lenses behave on the APS-C camera.  What I would state is that a 28mm EF lens on your 70D will have a narrower field of view (due to the 1.6x magnification) but there could be some noticeable distortion still depending on your angle and distance to the subject.  When I purchased my first DSLR many years ago I was working with a 24mm lens on a Nikon DX body (1.5x factor there) and I was less impressed with the images due to the cropping.  It would not quite appear the same as a 44.8mm lens on a full-frame camera (it would appear similar but possibly some noticeable distortion).  On the wider side of focals and APS-C cameras, I would more commonly recommend buying lenses such as the EF-S models which are optimized for the format.

Interesting topic, great article, I use the 35 50 85 100 and 200 can0n primes. lovde the 17-40 for use on crop becomes a 24-70 and wide on full frame. 70-300 is is good for low light 70-200 f4 is good for outdoors, 5d 50 1.4 mm is my favorite daily lense.  thanks, tito

I use both... But the whole zoom vs prime thing is kind of annoying. Use what you need to get the shots you want, and nothing more. 

I use an 18-70 and 70-300 on DX, plus a 30mm 1.4 and 50mm 1.8. I simply don't need anything else. 

If I was shooting weddings I'd upgrade to FX and get a fast 35/85 combo. Other needs require a 2.8 mid-range zoom, etc. etc. 

An artist might only want a 50mm. 

A landscape guy might want a prime 10mm, etc etc.

I also hate the whole post processing aspect, it's not fun, and very time consuming. That's why I think multiple lenses is a better and more fun solution than trying to crop, edit, etc etc. The most I do in post is maybe adjust the brightness/contrast and saturation a bit in lightroom, then I'm done. Most of the time I just pull straight off the camera. 

A great lens for travel photography and architectural/urban photography is a 20 2.8 especially with a high resolution full frame camera. With Lightroom, I can crop if necessary.

Very informative and topical. There is one point, and almost the most important for me is: With today's lens quality and amazing pin-point focus and high definition pixel rate, it is certainly better to use a good prime lense and use the digital zoom. This enables the user to have more versatility in picture composition.

The lens I use most is my 100mm/ macro, followed by my 50mm. It's usually pretty easy to back up or move forward a couple steps as needed.:) I carry a few zooms but they haven't seen the light of day for a while.

Good information on lenses

GREAT ARTICLE AS A PRIMER ON LENS NOMENCLATURE.HOWEVER A MORE DETAILED DISCLOSURE ON SOME TYPE OF LENSES ARE NEEDE.

Ej>ACHROMATIC,ED,PLANNAR,DISTAGON, ETC.

I respectfully enjoy using both Nikon Prime and  Nikon Zoom lenses. Primes are expensive, heavy but precise. Zooms are cheaper in cost, lighter in weight plus have an expandable range to shoot wide to telephoto but with a very slight image quality loss. An even mix of lenses will cover all types of jobs. I own several lenses, and have found I like Nikon's lens construction and weight of their lenses to be the best. I have owned Canon cameras and lens in the past. The article is interesting and informative. Remember to add a converter 1.4x to increase your range. I found adding a 2x is too many f- stops lost and some Nikon lenses recommend not to use the 2x converter. One other bit of information most large telephoto lenses should be mounted on a strudy tripod but zooms can be hand-held, very helpful when one is on a tree limb shooting...

"If you do, crop-sensor lenses will not work on your later camera, though full-frame lenses will work properly on crop-sensor cameras."

I don't think this is entirely true, at least for Nikon cameras.  You are able to use a crop-sensor lens on a FF nikon camera, albeit, in crop mode.  However, from what I understand, Canon EF-S lenses (APS-C) will not mount on a FF Canon camera due to the different mounting system.  EF (FF) lenses will however mount on a Canon APS-C camera body.

I do not know Nikon but I do know crop sensors.  The important point you gloss over is "IN CROP MODE."  For a crop lens to work on a full frame bodyyou need to block part of the sensor or you will get an image surrounded by a lot of negative space.  Crop specific lenses are lighter and smaller becase the image "cone" is designed to fit the crop which is why they do not work on full frame.

Good and concise. If im not sure about prime lenses all me have to do is try one time .But can i get at Rant?

Unfortunately we do not have a rental department at B&H.

I share the nostalgia of many towards the minolta equipment. I was inspired and captivated by the Minolta maxxum 7000, thus my foray into photography.Digital does not inspire me; too many gadgets, too many shots, too much post-processing.
Can any one suggest where to find a power pack for a maxxum 7000? Mine has rusted away and can't turn on the camera anymore. Hoping, just hoping to find one!!

Photography is and should be practiced as an art form. Therefore, the photographer (meaning the artist) needs the right material to create an impressive piece of art. The brush becomes more important than the colours. So does the lens. The all important tool in the photographer's hands is The Lens! Just like a diamond, the photographic lens too has its critical parameters - Coating, Contrast, Clarity and Crispness, besides the cost! And, the only lens that wins is the Prime or normal (50mm)focal length. Outstanding image creation with the right perspective, sharpness and contrast are all possible with the 50mm lens. A word about the f/number. My personal preference is f/1.4 for its low light ability. Having said this, I wish to add that my most treasured tool in my camera bag is the Minolta AF 50mm f/1.4 lens. Believe me.Some of the best images I have made in all these 30 years have been made with this great lens!!!

True.....but that lens can only be used on the Sony's...............

Thereby, doubling the choice of lenses that can be used (not including the third party ones)

Ah, but there is a simple solution to this, use a full frame 35mm FILM camera. While digital photography provides the instant gratification that is the thing these days, it also takes away from your photography skills(if you are new to photography) There is the mind set, I'll just shoot until I get it right, or I'll fix it in post(which I hate doing)
With film, you have to be aware of your medium, you need to focus on composition and your environment. Retakes cost money(film) and time(processing) and having to do the extra "work" with film will force you to become better. Also, consider this article, how much will it cost for a full frame DSLR with high quality wide, prime and telephoto lenses, $2000, $3000, $4000 or more? You could get an equivalent used quality SLR with a set of high quality lenses, filters and flash for $500 or less! Just food for thought, and BTW, that 28mm f2.8 Zuiko for my OM-2 I got on E-bay for $40.00 is REALLY nice.

The article is obviously geared to part aspiring amateurs with their spare cash. Back when I shot film (and I mean hiking, biking, camping etc. where low weight was important) I usually carried at least 2 prime lenses, 28 on the camera and 135 in the bag, often more. I was younger then... Now all my needs in the field are served by one digital superzoom/bridge camera (plus, of course, spare batteries and flash cards). Although I do mostly landscapes, the extra reach and macro mode allow to shoot the occasional critter easily; try that with interchangeable lenses! And what about dust setting on the sensor while you're changing them? (The sensor stays in place, and dust accumulates. Remember how easy it was to blow dust out of a film camera?)
IMHO, DSLRs are on their way out. Unlike film, the sensor does not need to be kept in the dark; and the image for viewing is transferred to LCD screen straight from it. Hence, no need for shutter or elaborate reflex finder. (Here's how the market reacts to it: "Mirrorless" cameras! But of course with a full line of lenses each, to make the extra buck.)
What I see coming for small (viewfinder) LCD screens is catching up in image quality with ground glass, and bingo! overwhelming majority of photographers will abandon their DSLRs, just like they abandoned film. (By photographers, of course, I mean people who shoot images, not those who collect equipment.)
Oh well, this is about prime vs. zoom lenses, isn't it? I believe I've already listed at least 2 points in favor of non-interchangeable zooms. Now comes the image quality, the greatest selling point. I maintain that for vast majority of images you can't tell the difference anyway because they don't get blown up to poster size. Zooms made today beat yesterday's prime lenses in image quality as well, don't they? F-stop of 1.4 to shoot at night? What about ISO 12,800 with today's digital? Blurred background for portraits? Just use a longer focal length...
That said, I agree on one point: Having to use a prime lens makes a better photographer out of you because it forces you to use your legs to compose a picture, instead of zooming. By the same token, 2D photography is harder than 3D, and B/W harder than color: The photographer has to substitute for the missing depth and/or color with his/her skill.

  Love the commemt  "images verses equipment'  My story is old. .Mamaya 645  soft focus portrait lense, 50mm,  wide angel lense and speedatron  4 light umbrella system ,work horse equipment of the late 60. .., ' On location " photgraphy was just becoming  popular.We brought the  studio Speedatron light system  on location to most of the country clubs,I understand from the people in the business now that would not even be concidered. However  it is my understanding some photograghers in Charlotte N.C. still shoot film in the portrait studios.

One for our side.

'was becoming the fashion, but good lighting was still pretty important. Now from my young friends in the  business is how many 100 shots they took and their level of fatigue. Most jobs 3hrs possile 4.We had to worry for a week till we saw our film.  times have 

There are basic lense (FX) that all photographer should have in their kit.They are fisheye, wideangle, 50 mm 1.4g, 85mm 1.4g, 24-70 mm, 70 -200mm. Once you practice them with different options in them like depth of fields.....you will realize that you don't need anything more. UNLESS you have extra bucks to spend for more expensive zoom and telephoto lense.

Top out at 200mm?  That let's out a lot of nature photography.

Not really. After 200mm, you lose sharpness and vibrance. Most pros I have seen workshops on top it at 200mm. Many rarely even use the 50mm lenses anymore, for their own various reasons, of course. I have three lenses, at this point. My "kit" A330 lenses but I just bought two Minoltas: a 28-80 and a 70-300, a 1.4 extender; and a 500 mm prime with a 2x extender. I am still playing with them buy I do know the 200 washes out and loses sharpness over 200 mm. My Sony 55-200 works fine over the whole range.

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