Photography Explained

Should I Buy A Prime Or A Zoom Lens? This Is Exactly What I Think

May 06, 2021 Rick McEvoy Episode 61
Photography Explained
Should I Buy A Prime Or A Zoom Lens? This Is Exactly What I Think
Chapters
Photography Explained
Should I Buy A Prime Or A Zoom Lens? This Is Exactly What I Think
May 06, 2021 Episode 61
Rick McEvoy

Should I Buy A Prime Or A Zoom Lens? This Is Exactly What I Think. Hi and welcome to Episode 61 of the Photography Explained podcast.

I’m Rick, and in each episode I will explain one photographic thing in plain English in less than 10 minutes (ish) without the irrelevant details. What I tell you is based on my lifetime of photographic experience. Not Google. Well there might be the odd thing that I had to look up but mainly this is stuff that I know.

Here is my answer

Here are 10 things to think about before deciding whether to buy a prime lens or a zoom lens.

  1. What is the lens for?
  2.  Quality
  3.  Maximum aperture
  4.  Budget
  5.  Current needs
  6.  Size
  7.  Weight
  8.  Benefits of prime lenses
  9.  Benefits of zoom lenses
  10.  Future needs

Listen for more, or check out the transcript and even the blog post - so many ways to find out more!

What’s next?
Glad you asked! In Photography Explained Podcast 62, What Are Standard Lenses? Let Me Tell You In Plain English.

What to ask a question?
Head over to the Want Me To Explain Something? page on the Photography Explained website and fill the form in and you are done!

Check out my my blog
Check out my photography blog where you will find lots more photography stuff all written by me.

Did you enjoy this episode?
If you did please do the following, which will help me and not take too much time.
·         Rate and review my podcast
·         Subscribe
·         Tell anyone you think might like my podcast

Thank you very much for listening and see you on the next episode.

Rick McEvoy – Photography Explained Podcast


Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/Rickmcevoy)

Show Notes Transcript

Should I Buy A Prime Or A Zoom Lens? This Is Exactly What I Think. Hi and welcome to Episode 61 of the Photography Explained podcast.

I’m Rick, and in each episode I will explain one photographic thing in plain English in less than 10 minutes (ish) without the irrelevant details. What I tell you is based on my lifetime of photographic experience. Not Google. Well there might be the odd thing that I had to look up but mainly this is stuff that I know.

Here is my answer

Here are 10 things to think about before deciding whether to buy a prime lens or a zoom lens.

  1. What is the lens for?
  2.  Quality
  3.  Maximum aperture
  4.  Budget
  5.  Current needs
  6.  Size
  7.  Weight
  8.  Benefits of prime lenses
  9.  Benefits of zoom lenses
  10.  Future needs

Listen for more, or check out the transcript and even the blog post - so many ways to find out more!

What’s next?
Glad you asked! In Photography Explained Podcast 62, What Are Standard Lenses? Let Me Tell You In Plain English.

What to ask a question?
Head over to the Want Me To Explain Something? page on the Photography Explained website and fill the form in and you are done!

Check out my my blog
Check out my photography blog where you will find lots more photography stuff all written by me.

Did you enjoy this episode?
If you did please do the following, which will help me and not take too much time.
·         Rate and review my podcast
·         Subscribe
·         Tell anyone you think might like my podcast

Thank you very much for listening and see you on the next episode.

Rick McEvoy – Photography Explained Podcast


Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/Rickmcevoy)

Should I buy a prime or a zoom lens? This is exactly what I think.

Hi, and welcome to Episode 61 of the Photography Explained Podcast. I'm your host, Rick, and in each episode I will explain one photographic thing in plain English in less than 10 minutes (ish) without the irrelevant details.

What I tell you is based on my lifetime of photographic experience, and not Google - well there might be the odd thing that I had to look up, but mainly this is stuff that I know.

And yes, I'm on episode 61, but I still can't remember the opening. I'll get there, maybe by 100. And as for the 10 minutes, we haven't hit 10 minutes yet, but hey, who's counting?

Right. Let's get straight into this one.

Should I buy a prime or a zoom lens?

Now, in the last two episodes I've been talking about prime lenses and zoom lenses, and this is the end of that series. Next week, I'm going on to standard lenses, which I'm surprisingly excited to be talking about, actually.

So what I've got here is 10 things to think about before deciding whether to buy a prime lens or a zoom lens. Now then, this is 10 bullet points, there are no other notes.

So this is this is straight off my head, which I should know really.

1 What is the lens for?
I'll put it another way. Why are you buying the lens? Do you really need another lens? Haven't you got lenses that will do the job you need them to?

I'm quite a big one for not buying gear. No, it's not being tight or anything. It's just that I bought loads of gear in the past and did not use it. I can add camera lenses to that.

I bought a fisheye zoom lens, a Canon 8-15mm lens. They're not cheap. It was about 1200 quid, I seem to think.

I bought it and I didn't need it. I didn't think - why am I buying this lens? I had the money and I could afford it, so I bought it.

Sure I took some funky photos, but it then sat in my camera bag for a while, then I would find it again, go out there, use it, get some funky stuff, but I genuinely did not need the lens.

I also I bought a macro lens. There's nothing wrong with trying things out - I'm just saying that I thought - I'm going to get into macro photography.

So I bought a lens. I took about four photos and never used it again, so I sold it.

This is quite a long list, isn't it? This is all relevant to the point I want to make, so don't worry.

I also bought a Canon 40mm pancake lens. Pancake lens? It's not, it doesn't look like a pancake. Yes, it's flat, but it's not as flat as a pancake. I guess that's the idea isn't it?

I had no need for it whatsoever. I used it. I didn't like the fact that it wasn't a zoom lens, because I'm used to zoom lenses. 40mm fixed focal length, I'd no need for it. It just made my camera slightly smaller, didn't give me any benefits.

So I sold it. Now, that's quite a few lenses that I bought, that I did not need.

Oh, one more. I bought a tilt shift lens, tilt shift lens just so we're clear. I thought that I needed a tilt shift lens, because I do architectural photography. I hadn't needed one up to that point.

I bought one. And I hated it. So I sold it.

I didn't sell it straightaway. I kept it in my bag for a couple of years.

The guilt got the better of me, and then I sold it. So yes, I've bought a number of lenses I didn't need and sold them.

So buying a prime or zoom lens, think about what you need the lens for.

Do the lenses that you have do the job?

Right, that was number one. If I carry on like this, this is going to take an hour, don't worry, it won't I'm going to be quick from here on in. But they were all good, relevant points and very good examples of fixed, (prime lenses) and zoom lenses. They were all very relevant examples of prime and zoom lenses that I have bought that I just didn't need.

2 Quality
What quality of images are you after? In general terms, you get higher quality images with a prime lens than you do with a zoom lens, in general terms, making sensible similar comparisons.

Point three I might not have said points one and two, but that's what they were.

3 Maximum aperture
Do you need a large maximum aperture? A prime lens will have a larger maximum aperture than a zoom lens. And on a zoom lens, when you get a larger maximum aperture, the lenses are getting really big, chunky, and expensive.

I don't need a large maximum aperture.

My lenses are all F4, and that's fine for me.

4 Budget.
How much money are you prepared to spend to get the lens that you need? Okay, so you decided what lens you need. You've decided the quality of the lens that you need and the maximum aperture.

How much are you going to pay?
How much are you prepared to pay for this wonderful optical thing? Talking of budget, there’s something that I said in one of the previous episodes.

When you buy a camera lens, there's a wonderful thing that happens. They hold their value fantastically well. But if you get a camera system that's about to be phased out, obviously it won't. But I bought Canon lenses and sold them five years later for more than I paid for them.

So budget - in general terms, the more money you spend the better lens.

5 Future needs.
Now, if you get zoom lenses, you're covering lots of different focal lengths, which reduces the need to buy lenses in the future. If you're determined to have prime lenses, you know that you're going to need to buy other lenses in the future as and when your needs change.

Now what happens with photography is this, as you progress in your photographic journey, your needs become more specific. And that's when you need more specialist gear.

If you're just starting off and you look at all this gear available, like how do you buy a lens cost £15,000? 

How does anybody you know afford that?

The answer is they pay for themselves. So your future needs - will a zoom lens cover them? Will a couple of zoom lenses cover all your future needs or not?

I have three zoom lenses, I actually need two of them a 17-40mm zoom, and the 70-200mm zoom. I don't take photographs using the bits in the middle (of the focal length ranges that is).

And in terms of prime lenses. There aren't prime lenses that I want. I use 17mm. There isn't a lens that has a fixed focal length of 17mm that fits a Canon camera. You can get a 14mm lens, but that's too wide for me. I don't want 14mm (too wide).

So when we're saying future needs I should have said current needs.

6 Size
Is size an issue or do you not care? Zoom lenses can be quite big, prime lenses can be really small. Same applies with weight, you got a big piece of glass (I was not going to say the term glass as I hate the term glass when people refer to lenses. I don't know why. Maybe it's just because I'm English and we're quite stuffy about jargon and stuff like that, but I hate it when you say glass when referring to a lens). Sorry, that was dreadful.

Yeah, zoom lenses, there's more to them. But then again, you don't have as many of them so is it more weight? Depends on what you need.

7 Benefits of prime lenses.
I covered these in previous episodes, I'm just going to very quick recap. prime lenses give you in general terms

  • Higher quality
  • Smaller
  • Lighter
  • Potentially have larger maximum apertures.
  • But you only have one focal length of each prime lens.

8 Benefits of zoom lenses
They give you more than one focal length, but they're bigger, they're more expensive.

There's more to go wrong with them. I've never had anything go wrong with the zoom lens touching wood!

Take for example, my Canon 24-105mm go to walkabout lens. Now I have that so I do not need, and I mean I do not need for the photography I do, the following

  • 24mm lens
  • 28mm lens
  • 35mm lens
  • 50mm lens
  • 85mm lens
  • 100mm lens

That's six lenses (I think) that I do not need because I have got one zoom lens and I am happy with that. Now some photographers will insist on having the six prime lenses and that's fine. That's everyone's choice. We all have different needs.

So, yeah, you got to think about these things.

10 Future needs.
Oh, future needs is in twice. If you buy a zoom lens, what does it cover? What do you need in the future? Let's use me as an example.

I use a 17-40mm lens. I don't really need anything else, every now and then I take photos with the 70-200mm lens.

What do you actually need the lens for? And can you get away with, dare I say it, such a popular term of photography, zooming with your feet.

Could you manage with a couple of really small prime lenses, and spend the rest of the money on something else, like a nice trip, or a course - training, invest in yourself.

I should say I'm not a gearhead, I'm not always looking for new gear. I only buy gear when I need it to help me do something that I can't do at the moment, or to do something better, easier, or quicker.

So I've had prime lenses in the past, I bought them not really understanding them. I bought zoom lenses which I've kept.

I also bought a Canon 100-400mm telephoto zoom which I didn't really need either.

Zoom lenses are very good general purpose lenses, prime lenses, like I say higher quality, a bit more niche, a bit more specialist.

There is no right or wrong answer. Whatever you choose, it is your decision based on your needs and preferences and all those things are perfectly valid.

So if you see someone saying to be a real photographer you have to use prime lenses send them to me and I will say – nonsense - zoom lenses these days are great.

Beginning to waffle.

Next episode.
Well next episode I think I mentioned earlier, I'm going to talk about standard lenses – 50mm on a full frame. How simple could that be? So that's a good starting point.

And then I am going to go into wide angle and telephoto lenses because I'm on a bit of a lens roll at the moment. 

Lens roll - that reminds me I'm quite hungry.

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Thank you
Thank you very much for listening to my small but perfectly formed podcast.

My websites
Finally, please check out my website, Rick McEvoy Photography to find out about me and my photography blog, and also the Photography Explained Podcast website where you can find out all about this podcast and ask me a question of your own.

Brough to you by

This episode was brought to you by Thursday afternoon optimism and loving doing my podcast - no seriously, I really am loving it.

I've been Rick McEvoy thanks again for very much for listening to me, ahhh stumbled on the last line. I've been Rick McEvoy. Thanks again very much for listening to me and for giving me 11, no 12, no 13 minutes of your valuable time and I will see you on the next episode. Cheers from me, Rick.

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