They literally used slide rules and primitive four-function calculators. Even on a cropped sensor, it still ends up being pretty close to the beloved 85mm. This article covers some important topics but fails to mention some other important ones. In the past, when the technology was less advanced than today, this was true. Worst lens I have ever used. Think of a night time festival, and the best lens is going to be a prime lens. A good quality lens, whether it's a prime lens or zoom, will produce a better quality image than cheap glass. When a zoom lens is created, the engineers must design the lens to produce sharp images at any focal length within the lens's range. Canon fixed focal length lenses are usually sharper than their zoom counterparts - especially in the corners, and much sharper in the non-L lenses. On saying that i’ve just updated to the Sigma 50 1.4 for my commercial work. They both work great. Primes are light, relatively small, and fast. It’s true, having one focal distance makes you learn to move around to frame the image, but it’s also good to learn to compose with angle and focal lenth in mind, that’s when zooms come in handy. Not something you want to take a landscape picture with, but for portraits, for example, it gives you a beautiful bokeh on everything that is out of focus – this picture I took recently demonstrates what I mean http://www.flickr.com/photos/blackrivet/5795047516/in/photostream – taken with a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. Why do you need more light? But the gap has closed considerably in recent years… so much so, in fact, that it's almost negligible. I bought the NIkon D700 and 50F1.8, 80-200F/2.8 and that was my kit. The new 14-24mm 2.8 is definitely sharper than the 14mm prime. I understand the rational for recommending a 50mm lens when everyone was using 35mm film but this focal length doesn’t give the field of view with APS-C sensor DSLRs -ie this combination is no longer “normal”. I hear a lot of fans of the 50mm prime. During post-processing I saw a much sharper image than usual. In a side-by-side comparison, you would be hard pressed to figure out which photo was shot with a prime and which was shot with a zoom. A prime lens is simply a lens that cannot zoom from one focal length to another; in fact, prime lenses are often referred to as fixed focal length lenses. As a photographer who recently explored the same concepts that this article is bringing up, I have to say there is an important point that is especially important for beginner photographers (in my opinion, anyhow): a lens with no zoom will make you move and better plan your shot. Prime lenses are generally much sharper than cheap zoom lenses (under $500), but many of the pro level zoom lenses are on the same level as the prime lenses. For those interested Nikon just released a new 50 1.8G which now has an auto focus motor in it so it will work on all their cameras. As an amateur enthusiast I don’t understand telephoto primes though? Photo 1 is softer, but still both pics appear to be almost similar. This makes the lens much cheaper, but at a terrible quality cost. It is about time that zoom lenses are downgraded or at least being used with caution. Completely agree. And your back and shoulders would never forgive you! I usually can't tell between 70-200mm 2.8 and the super-sharp 85mm prime. The long and short of it is that zoom lenses used to be a disaster. I’ve tried a few times and always came back to my zoom. Prime lenses are sharper than zoom lenses. Although this is tackling the misconception as a whole. This means you are going to be short on light running on very high ISO and of course the minimum f-stop. We use camera bodies, lenses, bags and every kind of accessories under the sun just to get the edge for that one spectacular image. I have a Nikkor f1.8 35mm and I agree with others that the images appear less ‘flat’. They let in more light. The purpose of this article is to bring to your attention the advantages and disadvantages of zooms and prime lenses, and to point out that the simplistic “primes are better” mentality is simply outdated and overly simplistic. Thanks for bringing us up to speed on the debate. For the very reasons stated above, prime lenses can be produced much more cheaply and with greater sharpness than zoom lenses. And when it comes to lens selection, one of the biggest debates is whether prime lenses are better than zoom lenses. Great advice from Bob! In real world, your concern should … In this article, we’ll define both types of lenses, their differences, as well as their advantages and disadvantages. In a way, certain zoom lenses allow you to reduce weight, because you don’t need to bring several primes to cover the whole range. Let's face it – photographers are gearheads. 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