Prime Lenses VS Zoom Lenses: Which is Better?

Let’s unpack it together in this photography tutorial.

Prime or zoom lenses - which to use and why!

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Which are the better lenses: Prime or Zoom Lenses?

Are Prime lenses really better than Zoom lenses? 

There are so many different types of lenses, it can be difficult to keep them straight! Prime or zoom lenses, wide angle or telephoto lenses, lenses with this or that feature, and more.

In this tutorial, Joris Hermans explores the differences between prime and zoom lenses, what their pros and cons are, and which is the better type of lens!


Prime or Zoom lenses – which to use and why!

You may have heard it said that prime lenses are better than zoom lenses. But the zoom lens users would definitely disagree! So which lens type is better? Find out below!

What is a Prime Lens?

A Prime lens, otherwise known as a fixed lens, is one with one fixed focal length. They will be labelled with the focal length, such as “35mm” and their aperture such as “F1.4”.

Prime lenses have a wider aperture than a zoom lens with lets in light better. The aperture is the width of the opening on the end of the lens that lets in different amounts of light. 

The wider the aperture, the more light goes into your camera. Which means that Prime lenses are more well suited for low light situations because the wider aperture can let more light in.

A wider aperture also is used to create separation between the subject and background by making the subject clear and the background blurry – ideal for portrait photography.

Prime lenses tend to be smaller and lighter, and offer sharper images as there is less glass in the lens.

Examples of prime lenses include the Sony FE 24mm F1.4, the Canon EF 50mm F1.4, the Tamron 35mm F2.8 Di III, the Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG HSM Art, or the Nikon NIKKOR 85mm F1.8.

Prime lenses are great for fixed focal lengths and portraits


What is a Zoom Lens?

A Zoom lens is one with a zoom ring around the lens that can adjust it to various focal lengths.

They’re labelled with their min and max focal lengths, like “24-70mm” and aperture in F-stops, like “F1.8-2.4” which indicate the maximum aperture at the shortest and longest focal length. 

The varied focal length allows them to zoom in on a subject from great distance giving you more shot options from a fixed position. Whereas with a Prime lens you need to run around to different positions to get a closer or further shot.

You can also zoom super fast allowing you to get a shot of fast moving objects at different distances as they approach. That makes zoom lenses ideal for shooting cars or wildlife for example. 

Zoom lenses tend to be more expensive, larger and heavier. But they do offer more versatility in your shots and add the convienience of being able to stay more stationary.

Examples of zoom lenses you can buy are the Sigma 50-100mm F1.8 Art, the Nikon NIKKOR 200-500mm F5.6, the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens, the Tamron 100-400mm F4.5-6.3, or the Sony 24-105mm F4.

Zoom lenses are great for landscapes and fast motion photography


Prime or Zoom lenses – Which Type is Better?

The honest truth is that the lens you choose to use all depends on your style as a photographer, and what type of shoot you are doing. 

Prime lenses are great in certain situations like portraits, street photography, and even some landscapes. Zoom lenses are amazing in other scenarios, like large landscapes, for fast moving objects, and to get a nice deep depth of field.

Prime lenses tend to be less expensive, give sharper images and can handle a variety of lighting situations better. But there is no replacing the ability to zoom in on a subject when you need to.

Use what works well for you. Try out different types of lenses and learn what lens works well in your situations.

Prime or zoom lenses, you should use what works best for you!


Ultimately it’s the person behind the lens that makes a great photograph, not the lens itself. 

If you want to learn more about lenses, check out this post on the only lenses you need!

Check out this comprehensive photography guide to improve your skills as a photorapher!


Which of the tips above on lenses will you use to choose your NEXT lens to use?

Comment below!

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