Is this tyical difference between zoom and prime?

Discussion in 'Digital SLR' started by Chris Stolpe, Jan 21, 2005.

  1. Chris Stolpe

    Chris Stolpe Guest

    I am looking to move up from a Canon S45 to a SLR.
    I was thinking of getting a 70mm-200mm f2.8 Zoom (probably a Sigma not a
    Canon L) until I ran across this:
    If this is a typical difference between a zoom and a prime then I think I
    might go for the prime.

    After looking at all the photos I took with my Canon S45 P&S I wonder how
    necessary a zoom is. Out of 1051 photos only 8 focal lengths were used. 34%
    of the time I would use 35mm, 37% of the time I would use 105mm and the rest
    were 4%-7% each. So a 35mm and 105mm would have covered 71% of my shots.

    I'm thinking of a Canon EF 135/2L USM and the 1.4x II extender with a Canon
    T2 body.
    Until I can afford a digital SLR body I figure I will use my S45 like a walk
    around lens.
    This would give me 135mm & 189mm on the film body and 216mm & 302mm on a
    digital body.

    Chris Stolpe, Jan 21, 2005
    1. Advertisements

  2. Chris Stolpe

    Mike Kohary Guest

    I don't know if it's typical or not - certainly that example is dramatic.
    But I do know there are Canon L lenses that are a hell of a lot sharper than
    that, so maybe that's the worst of the lot. For example, the 24-70mm L is
    widely considered Canon's best lens period, and many reviews state that it's
    as good as any prime throughout its range. (I happen to be picking up that
    lens before the month runs out, while Canon's rebate is still on, so I'll
    post my own results soon.) I happen to own the Canon 70-200mm f4 L, and
    though I've had it nearly a year, its sharpness continues to astonish me - I
    mean, just astonish me at times. Sometimes I load up new pictures I've
    taken with it, and just sit there with my jaw drooping at how gorgeous some
    of them come out, exceeding my expectations even as I was taking the shot.
    Mine is the f4, not the f2.8, but I understand the f2.8 is every bit as good
    (just faster). I couldn't recommend it more - it's just that freaking
    awesome. :)

    You talk about "probably a Sigma and not a Canon L", but maybe that's the
    real difference right there. The Canon L lenses are tough to beat, and
    certainly no Sigma lens is going to approach them, prime or not.
    Sure, your style is definitely something to consider. I'm biased, because I
    use a myriad of focal lengths, so primes are simply not for me.
    Mike Kohary, Jan 21, 2005
    1. Advertisements

  3. Chris Stolpe

    Lionel Guest

    Yes, that's fairly typical of the difference between primes & even very
    good zooms. For a real shock, try comparing the difference between a
    cheap prime & a consumer zoom. ;)
    The same's true of me. I do own a few zooms, but I hardly ever use them,
    compared to my primes. If I knew how little I'd use them at the time I
    bought them, I would've used the money on a wider range of primes
    Lionel, Jan 21, 2005
  4. Chris Stolpe

    chris Guest

    Of course a prime lens is got to be sharper than a zoom lens. However,
    what you were reading is about how 100-400L sucks. I read another review
    that compares this lens to the equivalent Nikon's offering. The Nikon is
    sharper and Canon has to stop down to f/11 to be comparable in
    sharpness. This is why I got the 300/4L instead of the 100-400L. I have
    17-40/4L and 70-200/4L and they are great, so don't worry much about
    zoom vs. prime. it's only the 100-400L is less than ideal. I also have
    50/1.4 for low light.
    chris, Jan 21, 2005
  5. Chris Stolpe

    paul Guest

    paul, Jan 21, 2005
  6. Chris Stolpe

    Stacey Guest

    It's what I'd expect from one 100-400 zoom vs another 400mm prime lens, it's
    not what I would expect from every zoom vs every prime lens. He might have
    gotten the same results from a different sample of the same lens and I've
    seen shots posted on that site between two lenses that were focused at
    different points in the same scene and then compared to each other?

    But that zoom doesn't have a very impressive MTF graph so it very well
    could be the case. Some of the newest zuiko digital zooms have a better MTF
    graph than that prime so I guess it just depends on which zoom lens is
    being compared to which prime lens? I'm assuming that 100-400 is from
    pre-digital days and was designed with the limits of 35mm film in mind.
    Stacey, Jan 21, 2005
  7. Chris Stolpe

    Alan Kerr Guest

    Prime or fixed focus lens? What is the difference between a prime lens
    and a fixed focus lens?

    Alan Kerr, Jan 21, 2005

  8. It's not only about sharpness; don't forget vignetting and - especially
    - distortion. Distortion is what especially turns me off zooms.

    There are also minor but meaningful charateristics such as bokeh,
    3d-rendering, color saturation and others which distinguish great lenses
    from the good. But often these are not noticed or considered important
    by many
    The basic combination I use is 35mm + 85mm or 105mm, which is a classic.
    In my case, other lenses in order of use are: 24mm, 20mm, 180/200mm,
    My 300, 400, fisheye & macro lenses are rarely used. YMMV!
    Chris Loffredo, Jan 21, 2005
  9. Chris Stolpe

    grol Guest

    A fixed focus lens is like that of a Fuji Quicksnap disposable camera. You
    cannot focus the camera in any way. The focal length is fixed also. Many 35mm
    non-SLR cameras were made with these. Some early digitals too.

    A prime lens is one that is at a fixed focal length such as 50mm for example.
    There is no zoom. You zoom with your feet (by moving closer or further away from
    the subject). Unlike the fixed focus lens, you can adjust the focus on the prime
    to make objects near or far appear in focus. Primes come in both auto-focus and
    manual-focus varieties.

    And of course a zoom lens is one that you can change focal length eg: 28-300mm
    as well as focusing it.

    grol, Jan 21, 2005
  10. Chris Stolpe

    Owamanga Guest

    Minor niggle here, (not just with this post, but every post in this
    thread so far). Although this describes the difference in terms that
    about 99.5% of the population would comprehend, it is not accurate.

    A prime lens is the first lens attached to the camera that directs
    light towards the sensor/film. The view-finder lenses on non-SLR's
    aren't prime, the filters or di-opters that screw to the front of the
    lens aren't prime either.

    All zooms and fixed focal length lenses that you attach directly to
    the body of your SLR are PRIMES. Zooms or otherwise. No major lens
    making company such as Nikon, Canon, Minolta, Olympus etc describe
    their fixed-focus lens as 'primes' (they are of course, but so are
    their zooms) so I don't see why their customers should either.

    I don't blame people for making this mistake, it's very widespread:

    Here, a website that incorrectly describes prime as meaning

    And again:

    But here is the dictionary definition. Prime means 'first', not
    Owamanga, Jan 21, 2005
  11. Chris Stolpe

    Alex Guest

    It is. What you should be checking out when shopping for a zoom is its
    range of coverage. The smaller, the better the zoom is likely to be
    ("better" with regard to image quality AND/OR speed).

    Yes, that means that those that buy 35-350mm and 50-500mm lenses (10x
    zooms) are getting sub-par resolution.
    Alex, Jan 21, 2005
  12. Chris Stolpe

    brian Guest

    Have to disagree, although your dictionary definition is correct, where
    Photography is concerned, a prime lens is as stated in the first 2 links,
    i.e A fixed focal length lens, NOT a zoom, It is a term used in photography
    and has nothing to do with the dictionary meaning of the word.

    brian, Jan 21, 2005
  13. Chris Stolpe

    Owamanga Guest

    Then it should be easy for you to find an example of Nikon or Canon
    using the term in that way in their sales literature. This is *basic*

    In fact, you may also want to explain why a lens maker such as CARL
    ZEISS call their zoom lenses 'Variable Primes'.

    "These lenses offer continuously variable focal length, but correspond
    in their maximum aperture and imaging performance to fixed focal
    length lenses."

    Schneider does this too.

    Lets look at Sigma, they make a few lenses:

    "Zoom lenses have the ability to vary focal length, and thus change
    image magnifications by simply rotating a ring on the lens barrel.

    For example, a 28-200mm zoom lens makes it possible to stand in one
    spot and shoot a wide angle photo, then shoot a telephoto from the
    same location.

    Fixed focal length (i.e., non-zoom) lenses provide one angle of view.
    Which means you cannot shoot a wide-angle shot, then a telephoto with
    the same lens."

    Okay, no mention of PRIME here either, instead the correct term "fixed
    focal length" was used.

    My point is that if no camera/lens manufacturer uses this term,
    instead they use correct terminology such as a 'variable prime' for
    zooms or 'fixed-focal-length' for non-zooms, and none of the
    dictionary definitions of the word 'prime' means fixed or single, and
    no other common usage of the word 'prime' means fixed or single, WHY
    do people insist on using the term in this way?

    I admit, it is common use, but I don't think (and neither do the
    manufacturers) that the fact alone makes it right.
    Owamanga, Jan 21, 2005
  14. " am looking to move up from a Canon S45 to a SLR.
    I was thinking of getting a 70mm-200mm f2.8 Zoom (probably a Sigma not
    Canon L) until I ran across this:
    If this is a typical difference between a zoom and a prime then I think
    might go for the prime."

    You should see what the Leica lenses do before you plunk down money for

    They trash the competition.
    uraniumcommittee, Jan 21, 2005
  15. Chris Stolpe

    Alan Browne Guest

    The anal retentive object to the term "prime lens" where fixed-focal-length
    lenses are being discussed.

    I confess that I should object to "prime" but it's quicker to write and everyone
    knows what you mean in the context of SLR cameras, so nothing to get upset about.

    Alan Browne
    Alan Browne, Jan 21, 2005
  16. Chris Stolpe

    Chris Brown Guest

    I know your day probably isn't complete without mentioning Leica somewhere
    inappropriate, but given that he's moving from a *digital* point and shoot
    to an SLR, and has posted in, a good
    asusmption might well be that he's buying a *digital* SLR.

    Canon has a digital SLR range which covers the market from consumer, through
    advanced amateur to professional, and is well regarded in the market, having
    built an enviable track record since their groundbreaking D30.

    Leica, in comparsion, has vapourware.
    Chris Brown, Jan 21, 2005
  17. Chris Stolpe

    Frank ess Guest

    While we are investing important energy in correct word use, consider
    "further" in grol's second paragraph. I believe it would further the
    purpose if "farther" were substituted.
    Frank ess, Jan 21, 2005
  18. I'm here to tell you that for as popular as that article is for saying how
    bad the EF 100-400mm L IS is, a sharp copy of the 100-400 is very nice.
    Especially with the IS, an upgrade of about $300, which allows me to easily
    hand-hold and get great images, even with a 1.4x. to get 728mm on my 1D or
    896mm on my Rebel. Try hand-holding the 400 f/5.6 prime at 1/30 of a second.
    Oh, and I have the ability to zoom without using my feet. :)
    Dave R knows who, Jan 21, 2005
  19. Chris Stolpe

    pioe[rmv] Guest

    Yes, it is typical. But there are zooms that are almost as good as


    * EF 24-70mm 2.8 L
    * EF 70-200 2.8 L
    * EF 70-200 4.0 L
    * EF 17-40 4.0 L

    These are roughly equivalent to primes, and if they are not quite as
    sharp, the difference is minimal.

    Other Canon zooms which do not carry the L-label are not so good.

    The 100-400 L is not sharp, and neither is the 35-350 L which I have
    tried. The EF 28mm 2.8, EF 35mm 2.0, 50mm 1.4 USM and 100mm 2.8 USM
    Macro are all incomparably superior to consumer zooms like the 18-55
    3.5-5.6 (does not fit on all cameras) and the 28-135 3.5-5.6 IS. I
    know since I own all these primes and have compared them to the
    consumer zooms.

    The disparity in quality is truly dramatic, but most people are
    unaware of the difference until they see or do a direct comparison.
    They become satisfied because it looks decent, but the affordable
    primes and the L-zooms are just worlds ahead.

    Per Inge Oestmoen
    pioe[rmv], Jan 21, 2005
  20. Chris Stolpe

    Alan Browne Guest

    By "upgrade" do you mean the lens can be turned into an IS for a $300 fee, or
    that difference in price is $300? If the later, then I suggest the word
    "upgrade" not be used as it suggests the former.

    Alan Browne, Jan 21, 2005
    1. Advertisements

Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments (here). After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.