Today I would once again like to chat for a moment about using prime lenses. This is a regularly recurring theme here at Speedlighter, because primes are beneficial in many ways.
A prime lens is a lens that does not zoom in or out. It is fixed. Like a 35mm lens, or a 50mm lens, rather than a 17-55 or 70-2oo zoom lens.
So that is a drawback, right? Zooming is more convenient than walking back and forth or than changing lenses all the time.
But prime lenses have many benefits, three of which are pretty well-known.
- They are usually sharper than zoom lenses, and often have less distortion around the edges.
- They are usually faster (wider aperture,lower “f-number”), meaning blurrier backgrounds and better low-light performance.
- They are often smaller and lighter than zoom lenses.
There are, however, three other benefits, and these may surprise you.
- They enforce consistency in a shoot. You do not have a different look and feel for every image!
- “Work it out once during a shoot, you have worked it out for all other shots too”. When you zoom, each shot works differently. Use a prime, this is more predictable. Hands up everyone who likes “predictable”?
- Primes really teach you about depth of field, shutter speed, and how these work together. Using a zoom lens it can be very difficult to get a grip on how all these factors work together. Using a prime, you get to really understand how aperture, depth-of-field, distance, ISO, and shutter all work harmoniously together – an understanding every photographer needs.
This is why I shoot with 50mm and 35mm prime lenses as often as I can.
If you can, get yourself at least a 50mm prime lens.
(Note that the examples here were shot on a full-frame camera, so 50 means 50. If you had a crop camera, like a Digital Rebel or a D90, you would want to use 24mm and 35mm lenses where I use 35mm and 50mm lenses.)