This topic has been up for debate by a few photographer friends of mine and needs less to say it is still an ongoing debate which I found rather interesting. It has not only been a topic with a group of my close friends but something often discussed online as well amongst other photographers and I decided to share my view on why I think prime lenses are better than zoom lenses in just a few ways. Of course, these reasons are from personal experience and learning which brought me to the opinions I have no. Some of you may feel the same and some may not but here are some of the reasons why I think prime lenses are a lot better than zoom lenses.
One of my favorite reasons for using prime lenses is definitely the bokeh achieved when I’m shooting. Of course, as you know you can achieve a shallow depth of field in many different ways but its something about prime lenses that create bokeh so beautiful and appealing. Most if not all prime lenses tend to carry a very wide aperture such as f/1.4, f/1.8, f/1.2 and the list goes on and on.
It’s this wide open aperture that gives primes lenses the capability of capturing such beautiful and evenly blurred backgrounds. Zoom lenses don’t really carry the capability of having these low apertures with the exception of the Sigma 18-35mm which has an aperture of f/1.8. Zoom lenses will usually have at an aperture of about f/2.8 or higher. If it is lower than f/2.8 then it’s not by much either. The low aperture in primes lenses have proven to be an asset in many ways more than one but its capability of achieving amazing bokeh cannot be denied.
In addition to the first point made in regard to the low apertures that prime lenses are equipped with. It enables you to do low light photography with such ease. These wide open apertures will compensate a lot for your shutter and ISO values. With a wide-open aperture, you can probably change your ISO value from 1600 to about 400 very easily.
As you know, a high aperture can indeed add a lot of grain to your image and has the potential of ruining the image or giving you more work to do in post-production to make corrections. You now also have the freedom to bump your shutter speed up a bit to avoid any camera shakes or possible motion blur in your shots.
Primes lenses are considerably lighter than zoom lenses and you can’t deny how easy they are to carry around. For example, a prime lens such as a 24mm f/2.8 or a 50mm f/1.8 can pretty much fit in your pocket or a handbag with ease. Most if not all telephoto lenses may require you to travel a little bit heavier due to their size. This can be a bit of a hassle if you’re traveling often especially in a daily commute.
If you do a test on both prime and zoom lenses then you will eventually notice that prime lenses tend to take considerably much sharper images than that of a zoom lens. There is not much extra glass inside a prime lens as compared to a zoom with more glass inside. As a result of there being less glass, you will experience less diffraction, which only goes up with the more pieces of glass there is in the lens.
As I started out in photography, my camera came with the basic kit lenses one would expect to get with a DSLR. I gradually started to explore possibilities of what these kit lenses were capable of and over a period of time I found myself becoming bored with them and not getting what I expected or getting what I saw some of my favorite photographers were doing. Over this period of time, I was told that a 50mm lens is one of the first lenses a beginner in photography should get. I didn’t really understand why until I got my first 50mm in the mail. Very excited and filled with anticipation I ran for my camera and mounted it on it right away and I can assure you I fell in love instantly.
Having a prime lens helped to teach me a lot more about the foundation of photography such as composition and your essential settings when shooting. This encouraged me to purchase other prime lenses such as a 24mm and 85mm which up to this day I do not regret getting. Primes lens help to teach you a lot about photography without you even really noticing it and that is the beauty in owning a prime lens.