Prime vs. Zoom lenses – Which is better?

So you bought your first DSLR camera and are now in the market for some new lenses to go along with it. But wait, there are way too many options and I have no idea what I am looking for!

Hopefully this post can help with your decision!!!

Prime Lenses

nikon-35mm-af-s-f18-prime-lens-large-432x375Prime lenses are a fixed focal length lens that are generally cheaper and sharper. The only draw back is you have to learn to zoom with your feet.

Prime lens characteristics:

  1. Provide sharper images overall
  2. Lower apertures for less money (better Bokeh)
  3. Better low light ability
  4. Overall they are a faster lens due to the lack of moving parts




Zoom Lenses

2159_AF-S-DX-VR-Zoom-NIKKOR-18-200mm-f-3.5-5.6G-IF-ED-700x393Zoom lenses are convenient when you can’t zoom close enough with your feet. For instance, if you were photographing a concert you would not run on stage with your prime lens. You would put on your zoom lens and shoot from where you are standing.

Zoom lenses with lower apertures comparable to a prime lens are generally more expensive. If you are a pro-sumer or amateur photographer they are probably out of your price range.

Zoom lenses characteristics:

  1. Provide an easier shooting experience
  2. Are more versatile
  3. Not as sharp as a prime lens
  4. Low light ability is not as good as a prime lens
Points 3 and 4 assume you are not spending $1200+ on a professional zoom lens.x


Which one to choose?

That depends on what you are photographing. Below is a list of what I use to shoot in different situations:

  • Portraits: Prime lens and zoom lens (50mm or 18-70mm f3.5)
  • Landscapes: Prime lens (35mm or 50mm f1.8 or an 18-70mm)
  • Weddings: Zoom lens (18-70mm F2.8 and 70-200mm f2.8)
  • Products: Prime lens (60mm F1.8 and 70-200mm f2.8)

So what should I have in my camera bag?

Without breaking the bank, you could have the following in your camera bag and would be ready for all situations:

  • 35mm f1.8 prime lens (Approximately $200)
  • 60mm f1.8 or 105mm f1.8 prime lens (Approximately $300 – $400)
  • 18-70mm f2.8 or f3.5 zoom lens (Approximately $400)
  • 70-200mm or 80-200mm f2.8 (Ranges from $900 – $2500)

This is just my recommendation from experience. Keep in mind you do not need to buy all of these at once. In fact, buying them over time gives you the time you need to master each lens.

Posted on September 23, 2013 in Blog

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About the Author

I am a freelance photographer and web designer / graphic designer with a flair for creativity and a passion for anything digital. I love to learn about new and emerging technologies. I currently reside in cambridge, ontario with my beautiful wife and 2 (mostly well behaved) children.

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