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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Prime vs Zoom Lens. Is Prime Always Better?

Happiness is getting a lift from Mom

My readers know me as The Wildlife Ho-tographer. I have been using Canon cameras and lenses for over 25 years. My most recent trips are to East Africa and Maui for wildlife photography shoots. While catching up on photography posts from the past few weeks, I came across this article from a self proclaimed 'optic nerd'. The gist of the article is prime lenses are better than zooms because :

  • A great zoom is not as good as a good prime at comparable apertures, but it’s plenty good, especially in the center of the image.
  • Zooms have more variation, and most copies of a given zoom will vary at different focal lengths.

After glancing over the article, I can't help noticing the words 'sharp' and 'sharpness' appearing rather often in the verbiage. Copious amount of charts and graphs are offered to support the conclusion. Personally, as a wildlife photographer, I am not that concerned with tack sharpness in my images. My first priority is capturing the images at the right moment, angle and in focus. Anything else can be dealt with later. 

Prime and zoom lenses are really two sides of the same coin, like cell phone cameras and DSLRs. I use all of them at different times to get my desired shots, depending on availability and feasibility. For me, the discussion about prime vs zoom has ended about a decade ago. There is no perfect lens or type of lens. All lenses have advantages and disadvantages. The high end zoom lens from Canon, like the EF 200-400mm f/4L USM Extender 1.4x , EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II , EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II are excellent zooms for my work. They provide a perfect compromise between flexibility and image quality. Of course, I use prime lenses as well, like the EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II, EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II, EF 500mm f/4L IS II when the situation calls for them.     

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