One question we’re frequently asked is, “Should I buy a zoom lens or a prime?” And like many age-old questions, the answer is “It depends.” To give you thoughtful response we’d want to know your budget, the type of photography you do, whether or not you frequently shoot in low-light conditions, and how much gear you’re willing to lug around in the field.
The primary advantage of zoom lenses is that, depending upon the focal length; they replace a number of fixed focal length lenses. A modern 24-200mm zoom, for example, enables you to capture everything from expansive vistas to tight shots of distant subjects. And in doing so it essentially eliminates six or seven prime lenses from your bag.
Primes, on the other hand, tend to be smaller, faster, and lighter—and in some cases deliver superior results. The purpose of this tutorial, however, isn’t to re-litigate the zoom vs. prime debate, but rather to simplify your next lens purchase by helping you determine the best focal length prime for your needs.
Mitch Lally is an Australian photographer/filmmaker with an admitted fondness for fixed focal length lenses and a selection of primes in his cabinet. The video below is geared toward those who are contemplating buying their first prime lens, and he takes a look at four popular focal lengths to help you make an informed choice.
Lally compares the perspective offered by 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 80mm primes, while discussing the best application of each. And because any lens can be used for a variety of purposes, he discusses the pros and cons of each focal length for different situations. He also includes some helpful shooting tips so you can make the most of your choice.
There are obviously prime lenses available with focal length not discussed in the video, but a comparison of the same subject photographed with the four lenses he chose will give you a good understanding of what can be accomplished with each.
You can find more helpful information by visiting Lally’s YouTube channel, so be sure and take a look.