which professionals vocations use zooms vs primes?

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Ivan, May 24, 2004.

  1. Ivan

    Ivan Guest

    A non digital photographer asks:
    I've always assumed it to be an arguable fact that the overall image quality
    of a prime lens is superior to a zoom set to the equivalent focal length.
    But now that I'm becoming more aware of digital equipment I'm noticing that
    zooms take up the majority of lens talk even among the more serious
    photographers if not professionals. So I'm wondering if the new generation
    of zooms have also seen a remarkable increase in optical quality.
    I can understand how zooms have been a preference in some professional
    fields. Sports and wild life come to mind as two subjects that require a
    hefty use of zooms and to a lesser degree, some scenic photography. But
    what about portraiture, still life, and anything else where optical
    perfection is preferred over the ability to frame your subject without
    moving back and forth? Are the professionals in these fields who are
    ditching film for digital also abandoning their primes and manual focus
    lenses for AF digital zooms? Listening to conversations in the NGs one
    would gather from the fervor in the reviews that auto focus, zooms, digital,
    and any combinations therein are all that are worth considering.

    Although I don't understand completely why a lens produces a narrower angle
    of view ( and consequentially a larger image? )with a digital sensor, I
    accept it. One of the things I've always admired about a long focal length
    lens is it's flattening / compressing effect. A 105mm lens (in 35mm SLR
    terms) and higher produces that pleasing effect. Now in order to achieve
    the same shallow depth of field, I have to step back 1.5x further if I want
    to frame the subject the same. Is this a correct observation? My 105mm
    lens with it's sweet spot now becomes a 150mm?...requiring me to push back
    or push my subject away.

    Also, for the more artistic photographers I think a zoom is a creativity
    defeater. I find that when I move around with a fixed focal length lens to
    frame in closer I also discover new angles and points of view. I can shoot
    almost into the sun with minimal ghosting, and even closer into the sun for
    effect and retain good optical performance. Not so with a zoom. To a
    degree I believe that zooms are churning out "arm chair" photographers who
    are not even aware of the possibilities waiting to be discovered between the
    lens and the subject.
    If I had an overall question or a point to make, I've forgotten it now.
    thanks, Ivan
    Ivan, May 24, 2004
    1. Advertisements

  2. Ivan

    YoYo Guest

    With lenses, the primes are usually sharper! However Canon makes some
    zooms that are almost equal/better in sharpness (the L series). But you get
    what you pay for because its quite a price jump. You really need both,
    sometimes the zoom is nescessary and sometimes the fixed is the only best
    way! With digital more people are learning how to correct or sharpen there
    images with software so a zoom can be good enough.

    With portrait I found (and many will agree) the 50mm 1.4 is my best portrait
    on my digital it equals an 80mm. The sharpness of the 50mm 1.4 when
    compared to a 28-105mm 3.5-4.5 zoom is superior!! To get equal quality of
    the zoom I have to do editing.

    This article ventures into the topic a bit
    YoYo, May 24, 2004
    1. Advertisements

  3. Ivan

    dadiOH Guest

    Agreed. Used to be - pre-zoom lenses - that one of a good photographer's
    best tools were feet. They still are for users of larger format - which
    means the bulk of non-journalistic professional photographers.


    dadiOH's dandies v3.0...
    ....a help file of info about MP3s, recording from
    LP/cassette and tips & tricks on this and that.
    Get it at http://mysite.verizon.net/xico
    dadiOH, May 24, 2004
  4. Ivan

    Chris Guest

    Primes are generally of better quality, yes.

    With digital photography, zooms tend to be pushed more, especially in
    P&S-class cameras, because it allows a greater dynamic range overall. If
    all they had were fixed 50mm, they'd have to position themselves relative to
    that 50mm, with every photo they take.

    Professionally, the same is true. If you need to take a variety of ranges
    into account, quickly, the zoom is generally more cost-effective than
    carrying 3 or 4 lenses, or buying them, and zoom can be adjusted with the
    lens mounted. Also, it's easier to carry afew good zooms, than it is to
    carry several more primes.

    I'd say press photographers, nature/wildlife, and similar pros will be using
    alot of zooms, as they don't usually have control over where they stand, or
    what angle or location they can reach, to make use of primes as a rule.

    When you can plan out your shoot, primes work very well, but when you've got
    to adjust on the fly, zooms are more effective.
    Chris, May 24, 2004
  5. Ivan

    D.R. Guest

    Apparently with the Nikon lenses the 50mm 1.8 is superior in
    sharpness to the Nikon 50mm 1.4 at a 1/3 of the price in some
    cases. I am not sure about Canon lenses.
    D.R., May 25, 2004
  6. Some people swear the 50 mm f/1.8 Canon is sharper than the 50 mm f/1.4
    Canon. Honestly, I can't tell the difference, but I would say the
    pictures from my 50 mm f/1.8 tend to have a stale look to them color-
    wise. But hey, it was $80, I'm not complaining!
    Brian C. Baird, May 25, 2004
  7. Ivan

    Chris Guest

    I've been told the f1.8 is a tad more compact, with the upgrade, but that
    the quality is supposed to be more or less the same as the 1.4, and I can't
    really tell the difference either. ;-)

    They have the same parameters basically, except for the slight difference in
    aperture. I'd buy either, and have.
    Chris, May 25, 2004
  8. Ivan

    Slingblade Guest

    35mm film cameras have a film plane that measure 24mm x 36mm.
    If I'm not mistaken, any digital sensor less than about 11 Megapixels
    will have a film plane that is considerably smaller than 24mm x 36mm,
    so you are effective "cropping" the image...

    Or rather the refracted image produced by the lens elements extends
    beyond the limits of the film plane, and therefore appears to have the
    focal length of a longer lens than is actually being used.
    Slingblade, May 25, 2004
  9. Ivan

    sun lei Guest

    sun lei, May 25, 2004
  10. Ivan

    YoYo Guest

    I choose the Canon 50mm 1.4 over the 1.8 because
    of bokeh effects (sharpness was simular). The 1.4 had superior bokeh also
    the 50 1.4 had much much less glare problems then the 1.8.
    YoYo, May 25, 2004
  11. The major difference I can see is in the focusing motor. At time I
    really do wish for the USM of the f/1.4, but then again, $250 saved
    alleviates that quickly.
    Brian C. Baird, May 25, 2004
  12. Ivan

    Ivan Guest

    Then it seems that the interchangeable lenses are larger than necessary for
    the digital sensors. Are the manufacturers planning on producing larger
    sensors in order to make more efficient use of the available field of view?
    btw, thanks for the explanation.
    Ivan, May 27, 2004
  13. Ivan

    Ivan Guest

    But isn't that just creating an "illusion" of sharpness? You can't correct
    focus and optical shortcomings after the shutter is tripped. Basically
    you're graphically altering the image because the area of alteration that
    appears to be sharpened is actually a programmers best guess what belongs in
    those pixels rather than the pixels recording a pure image via superior
    Ivan, May 27, 2004
  14. Ivan

    Chris Guest

    Not necessarily. Afterall, sometimes you guess right.

    Obviously, if you try to do something too difficult to guess at, you'll end
    up missing some detail. But with today's digital imaging and editing
    suites, it's possible to even snap the same photo, or extrapolate parts of
    it, and bring the exact same image to the earlier one.

    We're doing wonderful things with technology these days.
    Chris, May 27, 2004
  15. sunlei6662003, May 27, 2004
  16. Ivan

    YoYo Guest

    Yes but that is what the public is doing, that is why zooms are more around.
    YoYo, May 27, 2004
  17. Ivan

    Slingblade Guest

    What the problem is...is that the lenses already exist for the 35mm
    film cameras. The digital bodies are being produced to accept the
    same lenses, but because of costs, the sensors are not as large as the
    film plane on 35mm film cameras yet. A couple of manufacturers
    already make full-frame digital sensors. Canon and Kodak both make a
    35mm body that produces full-frame 35mm images. The Canon model is an
    11 megapixel and the Kodak is a 13 megapixel model. Kodak's model
    comes in two varieties, one accepts Nikon mount lenses and the other
    accepts Canon mount lenses. I'm not sure what the Kodak model sells
    for but the Canon model is over 7000 dollars.

    I think you can see why a lot of people don't own the Canon model yet.
    Slingblade, May 27, 2004
  18. The reason for that is that you get a lot less sensors from the same
    wafer (round silicon slice) when the size of the sensor goes up. To make
    things worse, the chance of a defect in a sensor also goes up with size.
    Tricks like spare transistors/logic like sometimes used in memory chips
    won't work in sensors, you need the pixels working :)

    Wilko Bulte,,,,TZ=WET From:, May 27, 2004
  19. Ivan

    Ivan Guest

    Given a side by side comparison of the very best 35mm camera lens and sensor
    vs. the very same lens on an film SLR and scanned with the very best
    dedicated film scanner.....which will product the true-est optical file?
    I know the "very best" is debatable, but nevertheless.........
    Ivan, May 28, 2004
  20. You can do some quantifiable tests to determine specific qualities that
    contribute to overall quality - namely resolution, color accuracy and
    noise/grain. When the top full-frame digital SLRs (Canon's 1Ds and
    Kodak's 14n) have been compared to 35mm ISO 400 film, digital has
    outperformed film in all categories. Digital still can't beat Velvia
    50, but I'm sure that will change within the next few years. Right now
    the biggest downside to digital is the cost - but then again, top
    equipment has always cost more.
    Brian C. Baird, May 28, 2004
    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.