Are primes brighter and sharper than wide open zooms

Discussion in 'Digital SLR' started by Siddhartha Jain, Sep 28, 2005.

  1. Siddhartha Jain

    Nostrobino Guest

    [ . . . ]
    Well and truly said.

    Nostrobino, Oct 1, 2005
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  2. Siddhartha Jain

    Jan Böhme Guest

    Nostrobino skrev:
    This is a misconception, both with respect to Darwinian evoloution of
    species, and with respect to the evolution of language. Evolution does
    _not_ ipmly "improvement", which is a pretty subjective term.
    Evolution, both biological and, linguistic, is a combination of
    stochastic change - what evolutionary biologists call "neutral drift" -
    and adaptation.

    And adaptation isn't the same thing as "improvement". One can easily
    see the new meaning of "prime lens" as an adaptation to the fact that
    today's photogs know less about the history of photography than
    photographers uesd to.

    Jan Böhme
    Jan Böhme, Oct 1, 2005
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  3. Google has a pretty long memory on this sort of thing. Here's what I
    could find:

    Eric Thomas, Sep 12 1990, 9:21 am

    "I have used it once on a Sigma 400/5.6 to make pictures of the moon,
    but the results were disappointing; to get good results, you need a
    prime or perhaps a "first class" zoom like the 80-200/2.8ED (I don't own
    one so I've never tried)."

    Eric Thomas, Sep 25 1990, 9:14 pm

    "I have a Leitz Colorplan 90, which is supposed to be one of the best,
    and I fine-tune the focus for the area of the slide I'm looking at, but
    I still can't tell the difference between some of the shots with the
    sharpest lenses. However, I can very definitely tell a zoom from a prime
    and a bad f-stop from a good one. But be careful, using the lens that
    came with the slide projector I can't see much of a difference between
    the various slides... "

    Wilson Heydt, Jun 26 1991, 2:22 am

    "I won't argue the merits of autofocus, but I have found that in
    low-light, a fast prime lens will beat a zoom every time."
    gbuchana(a)rogers(dot)com, Oct 1, 2005
  4. Siddhartha Jain

    Peter Guest

    There were also people using the term the "correct" way:

    Andrew Davidhazy, (Imaging and Photo Technology, RIT)
    Apr 13 1991, 11:34 pm

    "I believe close up lenses can be very good. They are convenient that
    is for sure. The weaker they are the less they affect the performance
    of the prime lens. Typically they affect performance most when prime
    lens is used at large apertures. They do not cause light loss."

    In this case "prime" is clearly used to ditinguish the main lens
    from the supplementary lens.

    Peter, Oct 1, 2005
  5. Siddhartha Jain

    Jeremy Nixon Guest

    Well, now you know how things like "prime lens" happen, then. :)
    It's just wrong; light meters are not, nor have they ever been, calibrated
    to 18% gray as a standard. What they really read can vary slightly from
    one manufacturer's opinion to another, but it's closer to 12.5%. ISO
    sensitivity is of course not based on middle gray at all, which accounts
    for the variation.

    The 18% myth seems to be based on what Ansel Adams wanted rather than what
    actually came to be. Adams lobbied for 18% gray to be the standard. He
    was not successful.
    It really is, yes. Unfortunately, 18% gray is about a half-stop up from
    middle gray, and if you meter reflected light from it without somehow
    accounting for that (by angling the card, for example) you will be
    underexposing by a half stop from what you thought, more or less. With
    a Nikon it will be a half stop, but I'm given to understand that Canons
    meter a bit higher, so it may be less than that (I have no Canon, so this
    is secondhand information).

    But the 18% gray myth is so pervasive that even Kodak makes 18% gray cards,
    when they most certainly know better.

    By now, of course, lots of photographers have over the years been consciously
    or unconsciously working around the error in their workflows, to the point
    that "18% gray plus workarounds" can actually work. If someone came out
    with a 12.5% gray card right now, people wouldn't know what to do with it!
    Jeremy Nixon, Oct 1, 2005
  6. Siddhartha Jain

    Nostrobino Guest

    Thanks to both of you. These tend to support my recollection that this
    misuse of "prime" first appeared c. 1990, and also that the term was still
    in correct use at the same time. I would be very interested to see if anyone
    can produce a substantially earlier example of "prime" being used to mean
    fixed focal length.

    Nostrobino, Oct 2, 2005
  7. What difference does that make? As long as you want to claim it
    means "the term was still in correct use", you are simply wrong
    no matter what.

    The "correct" use has evolved. Get used to it because it
    won't regress.

    On the other hand, it you rid yourself of this insistance that
    whatever the use was at some specific point in time is "correct"
    as opposed to all evolution that happened at a later date being
    "incorrect", then yes it is interesting to catalog the
    evolutionary process to see when it changed and to compare that
    to the external factors that guided that evolutionary process
    (such as the appearance of higher quality zoom lenses at prices
    that made the distinction between fixed focal length lenses and
    zoom lenses so important that jargon had to be developed to
    easily mark the distinction).
    Floyd Davidson, Oct 2, 2005
  8. Siddhartha Jain

    Nostrobino Guest

    Nostrobino skrev:
    This is a misconception, both with respect to Darwinian evoloution of
    species, and with respect to the evolution of language. Evolution does
    _not_ ipmly "improvement", which is a pretty subjective term.
    Evolution, both biological and, linguistic, is a combination of
    stochastic change - what evolutionary biologists call "neutral drift" -
    and adaptation.

    And adaptation isn't the same thing as "improvement". One can easily
    see the new meaning of "prime lens" as an adaptation to the fact that
    today's photogs know less about the history of photography than
    photographers uesd to.

    I acknowledge the correction, but adaptation does imply improvement at least
    with respect to the situation being adapted to. (Why else adapt?) I don't
    see that using a term incorrectly, out of ignorance of that term's actual
    meaning, can reasonably be described as "adaptation."

    Shortening a term because it no longer needs to be full length to be
    understood is a natural form of such adaptation. For example, submarine
    boats quickly became "submarines," and automatic pistols became
    "automatics." In both cases the adjective became the (and replaced) the
    noun. That's evolution. To take "prime lens," a term that already had a
    specific technical meaning, and give it an entirely different and unrelated
    meaning, is not evolution in any way that I can see.

    Nostrobino, Oct 2, 2005
  9. Siddhartha Jain

    Nostrobino Guest

    Oh yes! I've always been convinced that people only misused that innocently,
    in the way they had seen it used by others whom they presumed to be

    Very interesting. Thanks!

    Nostrobino, Oct 2, 2005
  10. Siddhartha Jain

    Peter Guest

    The word "evolved" suggests that one use of the term grew out of
    the other. This does not appear to be the case. Both uses of
    "prime lens" appear to be current and I believe that they are
    almost totally unrelated to each other.

    For instance in:


    I read:

    "With the Zeiss Mutagon 0.6x there is now a wide-angle converter
    available which matches the optical performance level of the Zeiss
    Vario-Sonnar 1,7-2,2/3,3-33 lenses used in high quality digital
    camcorders from Sony. . . . The Mutagon is threaded to the front
    of the prime lens, as distinguished from the well-known Zeiss Mutar
    which is inserted between the lens and the camera."

    This clearly shows that the term "prime lens" has been in recent
    use to describe a zoom lens when used with a supplementary lens.

    Peter, Oct 2, 2005
  11. It does not necessarily have to be that one grew out of the
    other. However, I *don't* see them as totally unrelated.
    Rather, it is a logical progression. And the newer meaning
    does not necessarily negate correctness of the older meaning
    any more than and older meaning makes a new one incorrect.
    So? I could probably come up with a single paragraph that used
    at least 4 or 5 different meanings for the word "prime". Does
    that make the more recently evolved meanings incorrect just
    because there is also an older meaning?

    Language just doesn't work that way. As the late Steve Allen
    used to say on TV about timing being everything in comedy,
    context is everything in word usage.
    Floyd Davidson, Oct 2, 2005
  12. Siddhartha Jain

    Jeremy Nixon Guest

    When you have two terms that mean different things, and you change one of
    them to mean the same thing as the other, that's not progression, it's
    regression. It's entropy. It's loss of meaning and precision for absolutely
    no good reason -- there was no need to change the meaning of the term, since
    another perfectly good one already existed.

    And now you have what used to be a perfectly good term, "prime lens", that,
    having become ambiguous, is now *useless* for *either* of the meanings we
    are talking about here. It is a dead term. It can't be used to mean
    "fixed focal length" because that's stupid and it doesn't mean that; and
    it can't be used with its original meaning because everyone thinks it
    means something else.

    Not every change in language is "evolution", or anything approaching a good
    thing. The changes made by marketing people, for example, are always bad.
    Marketing is responsible for more abuses of our language than anything else.
    Evolution adds something; all this does is remove.
    Jeremy Nixon, Oct 2, 2005
  13. Right, but since that is *not* what happened, what's the point?
    Why would you say that? Prime had several meanings long before
    this happened, and yet you say it was not ambiguous then but is
    now???? That's not logical.
    Clearly it *does* mean that and *is* being commonly used with
    that meaning more often than not.
    And just as clearly it *is* still sometimes being used with the
    previous meaning (which is *not* "its original meaning"). As
    with the other various meanings, context is everything...
    You need to look up the word "evolution" and find out what it
    means. And as to whether change is "a good thing", that is
    subjective and your opinion that it is not really isn't worth a
    plugged nickel. (Neither is mine, so don't be upset that the
    world continues to turn even if we don't like it.)
    As a guy who worked my whole life in Operations (and never
    stopped making fun of Marketing), even I have to tell you that
    you've over stated the case there.
    We can probably agree on that one! But that doesn't mean I'm
    not going to accept that those changes are *fact*.
    You can try to justify your bias with false statements like that
    one all you like, but the world still turns, and language
    evolution continues...
    Floyd Davidson, Oct 2, 2005
  14. Siddhartha Jain

    Nostrobino Guest

    No, it has not. As shown repeatedly, it is still in current use and means
    the same thing it always meant.

    Nor is there any obvious way that "fixed focal length" could evolve into
    "prime." You might as well expect a horse to evolve into a cabbage.

    Go ahead, outline "that evolutionary process" for me. I'd sure like to see
    how you get "fixed focal length" to evolve into "prime." What might the
    intermediate steps look like, I wonder?

    Nostrobino, Oct 2, 2005
  15. Your definition of "improvement" is highly suspect then.
    Likewise, your use of "adaption" is not correct either, because
    evolution is a *change*, and that is not necessarily either an
    adaption or an improvement. It is just different, and that's

    Here's a quote for you:

    "From Moby Thesaurus II by Grady Ward, 1.0[moby-thes]:

    41 Moby Thesaurus words for "evolution":
    addition, advance, approximation, beautification, change,
    developing, development, differentiation, division,
    elaboration, embellishment, equation, evolvement, evolving,
    extrapolation, flowering, formation, growing, growth,
    integration, interpolation, inversion, involution,
    maturation, multiplication, notation, perfection,
    phylogeny, practice, production, progress, progression,
    proportion, reduction, refinement, ripening, seasoning,
    subtraction, transformation, unfolding, upgrowth

    Do you see any indication that either "adaption" or "improvement"
    could be correctly inferred from "evolution"?
    Fine. What has this or the rest of your discussion got to do with
    the entirely different case of the use of "prime" to mean a fixed
    focal length lens vs a zoom lens?
    Yes, that is evolution, but that is *not* the only type of
    evolution possible. Just because that paradigm is evolution
    does not exclude something different from also being evolution.
    That's not valid logic.
    Well, lets apply logic to your statement then, and see what we
    get: you can't see.

    There is no other logically valid conclusion which your
    statement can lead to.
    Floyd Davidson, Oct 2, 2005
  16. You continue to make logically invalid statements that are
    patently absurd.

    There is no *one single meaning* for the word "prime". The fact
    that there are half a dozen or more previously used and still
    commonly used meanings does not even begin to negate the simple
    *fact* that you continue to try denying: it has evolved a *new*
    meaning, which is now in relatively common use.

    Common use makes it "correct", and indicates the language has
    evolved. The opposite of that is *your* use of unique definitions
    for "adaption" and "evolution", which are incorrect simply because
    nobody other than you understands them to have the meanings you
    have indicated (in a previous article to which I have just posted
    a response).
    Look, it *exists*, so you can't say that it is impossible. It's
    there, and being used. Take you ear plugs out, throw away the
    blinders, and get your hands away from your eyes. You are *not*
    changing reality by refused to admit it exists.
    I could care less whether you wonder about it or not. And I'm not
    going to catalog it for you. The *fact* that it exists is undeniable,
    and therefore it *did* evolve.

    Even if you *are* blind.
    Floyd Davidson, Oct 2, 2005
  17. Siddhartha Jain

    Nostrobino Guest

    It sure does, if it evolved.

    That's what I want to see: that logical progression from "fixed focal
    length" to "prime."

    And the newer meaning
    Like most words in the English language, "prime" has many different
    meanings. But not an *infinite* number of meanings; you cannot legitimately
    just add new meanings willy-nilly because you happen to like them, or
    because you support someone else's usage based on his misunderstanding of
    the term in the first place.

    Some people misuse words because they misunderstand them, and apparently
    think such misuse is perfectly legitimate and the actual meaning is
    unimportant. This is a somewhat annoying thing, and many years ago I coined
    the term "Humpty-Dumptyism" to describe it. (I must admit I'm somewhat
    disappointed that Humpty-Dumptyism has not, after all this time, really
    caught on as an expression. :) )

    For those not very familiar with Lewis Carroll, I should explain (much
    Humpty Dumpty, sitting on his wall, had a conversation with Alice in which
    he used a certain word in an incomprehensible way. Alice told him she didn't
    understand his use of that word. Humpty then gave her a quite lengthy, and
    thoroughly wrong, definition for the word. "But the word doesn't mean that
    at all," Alice protested. "The word means," Humpty replied, "what I choose
    it to mean."

    Nostrobino, Oct 2, 2005
  18. Siddhartha Jain

    Nostrobino Guest

    That's not evolution. That's a misunderstanding which through repetition
    (mostly thanks to Usenet) has unfortunately become fairly common.

    There have been many other terms which through misunderstanding and
    repetition became frequently misused. In fact, several *lists* of misused
    words have been compiled over the years.

    No. The popularity of some misusage does not automatically make it correct,
    as you seem to believe. Look in any authoritative dictionary that has usage
    notes, and you will find misusages that have enjoyed great popularity for
    many, many years and are just still as wrong as they ever were.

    Nostrobino, Oct 2, 2005
  19. Siddhartha Jain

    Peter Guest

    Ok, I'll bite. What relationship do you see between the term
    "prime lens" used to mean the main lens as opposed to a supplementary
    lens or attachment, and the term "prime lens" used to mean a
    fixed focal length lens?
    Again, what is the logical connection between the two?

    Of course. Though having a word with multiple meanings or
    an unclear meaning within a technical lexicon could create
    problems. That's part of why I think "prime lens" in the
    sense of "fixed focal length" while a useful bit of slang until
    someone comes up with something better, shouldn't be regarded
    as a part of the proper technical vocabulary of photography.
    It would be interesting to see such a paragraph in which
    at least four out of the five uses had no obvious connection
    to the concept of "first" indicated by the word "prime."
    I would like to see you try.
    No, but creating additional meanings for an existing technical
    term could be a problem. It makes a lot of sense to deprecate
    the use of a new meaning for a technical term if it is seen as
    beginning to erode the usefulness of the established
    technical use of the term.
    Right, if context is not actually everything, it is a lot of it.
    I've got no strong objection to "prime lens" as a handy bit
    of slang to refer to fixed focal length lenses, but if it starts
    to look as if some people are treating it as if it were a proper
    part of the technical lexicon then it may be time to object.

    Peter, Oct 2, 2005
  20. Well, you can say it isn't evolution from now until the sun
    freezes over, but just as you have misused other words, you are
    misusing that one too.

    *It is evolution.*
    When the new usage becomes common enough that virtually everyone
    understands what the meaning is, and people use it because it is
    understood... that *is* evolution whether you like it or not.
    So just show us examples... ;-)

    In fact the dictionary is chock full of examples of words that
    now have different meanings than they originally did. Dang near
    every word in an English dictionary fits that description! Some
    have even come to mean exactly the opposite of what they once
    Floyd Davidson, Oct 2, 2005
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