The debate always rages between photographers – which is better: zoom lenses, or primes? In this video from, photographer Kai W, with the help of his buddy Lok, makes his argument for the benefits of prime lenses:
Of course, every lens has its advantages and its drawbacks, and the appropriate lens depends on the situation, and on your style of shooting. But, while Kai might force his points a little, his arguments in favour of prime lenses hold up:
1. Better optical performance.
Prime lenses give sharper images. This is because zoom lenses have much more glass for the light to travel through in order to reach the sensor; extra elements are required to zoom in and out, and even more are needed to correct the aberrations created by all the extra elements. With the light altered so many times, it is bound to degrade. A prime lens, on the other hand, preserves the integrity of the image by its simple design. Having only one focal length and fewer moving parts, it can be much more precisely calibrated for maximum sharpness.
2. Weight and size.
Prime lenses are smaller and lighter. This is for the same reason as above: less elements, less glass. They are therefore cheaper to design and build, making them cheaper to buy, too. As Kai mentions several times, you can often buy two or three prime lenses for the price of one good zoom. However, while the weight and size of a 24mm prime may be less than a 24-70mm, the combined heft of a 24mm, a 50mm, and a 70mm will be much more; your camera may lose weight, but your camera bag probably won’t.
3. Sexy effects.
Kai is pretty much just talking about bokeh with this one (remotes have nothing to do with the lens you choose). Prime lenses are capable of wider apertures than zooms could ever dream of, allowing a razor-thin depth of field and making it easy to blur the background into a smooth, creamy haze.
4. Low light.
For the same reason (a wider maximum aperture), primes perform particularly well in dim conditions. They can get gorgeous pictures in low light without having to lower the shutter speed and risk motion blur or camera shake.
Zooms are usually the favourite for sports photography, and probably still are for distance sports such as football or soccer. However, in smaller, more intimate games such as the tennis match featured in the video, the ability to use a regular telephoto lens allows Kai a wider maximum aperture, which gets him sharper, clearer pictures, even in a fast-paced indoor setting.
Both the guys use a Canon EOS 5D Mk III, but Kai uses prime lenses while Lok uses zooms. Here’s a quick cast of characters, in order of appearance:
- Canon 24-105mm f/4L – Lok’s landscapes and self-portrait
- Canon 24mm f/2.8 – Kai’s first landscape
- Canon 40mm f/2.8 – Kai’s second landscape and street photography
- Canon 85mm f/1.8 – Kai’s third landscape
- Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L – Lok’s street photography
- Canon 85mm f/1.2L – Kai’s self-portrait
- Canon 300mm f/4L – Kai’s unused sports lens
- Canon 70-200 f/2.8L II – Lok’s sports lens
- Canon 135mm f/2L – Kai’s sports lens
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