There is no doubt that zoom lenses are awesome because of their super versatility and convenience with which they offer an extensive range of focal lengths just at the flick of your wrist. However, you have to compromise with them about image quality. With a complicated arrangement of huge groups of lens elements moving to and fro to provide zoom, you don’t get the desired optical purity.
If, in such a condition, you switch to a high-end prime lens, the vignetting and distortion posed by zoom lenses is much less apparent. You can also get excellent sharpness and you can indeed get the most out of high-resolution sensors available in current digital cameras.
A professional photographer can get another great bonus from prime lenses and it’s their fast speed. It means they possess a bigger maximum aperture, which allows faster shutter speeds. E.g. a standard 18-55mm zoom lens possesses a maximum aperture of around f/4 at the wide angle end, shrinking merely to f/5.6 at around 50mm. If you change to a 50mm f/1.4 prime lens, you get the largest aperture that is four stops faster.
You have to face limitations with a typical zoom (if you don’t increase your ISO setting) in low light of shutter speed of, say 1/15 sec. But an f/1.4 lens will offer a much faster shutter speed of 1/250 sec.
And the faster lenses are not just good for preventing camera-shakes and freezing the motion in low lighting conditions, but also offer a much tighter depth of field, allowing you to separate the main spot of interest in an image by blurring the background. It’s a popular trick in portraiture, particularly when there is a cluttered background which otherwise could be a distraction.
If you remember the following points, you can make the most of prime lenses.
1. They Make You More Creative
Zoom lenses make you lazy by zooming in and out, making the lens work hard for you. However, a prime lens makes you think more about the shot, thereby inducing your creativity.
2. Less Weightier
Prime lenses have fewer moving parts and so, are lighter and more compact than their zoom cousins. Thus they are perfect to travel light. But you should keep in mind that some costly primes with a number of high-quality glass elements with a tank-like build quality can be very heavy.
3. See Bigger as It’s Better
The “quickest” lenses sport apertures of f/1.4 or f/1.8 and offer higher shutter speeds and lessened depth of field. Because of this they are more useful than f/2.8 lenses.
4. Enjoy Experimenting with Light
Consider investing in a neutral density filter if you wish to shoot in sunny conditions with large apertures. This will extend the shutter speed, enabling you to shoot wide-open at f/1.4 or f/1.8 and prevent the over-exposure of shots.
5. Choose Your Desired Focal Length
Don’t jump for the first prime lens you see. Do some research. You may be under the impression that you want a 24mm prime, but a swift look at the focal lengths you mostly use in Lightroom might indicate that actually you tend to shoot more at 28mm or 35mm.
6. Open Wide
While shooting at the maximum aperture with high-speed f/1.4 lenses, your images may lack in outright sharpness in a few instances, especially at the frame’s edges; however, this differs from lens to lens.
7. Great Combo for Portraiture
A 50mm lens and an APS-C format body is a great combo for portraiture for a professional photographer. You can blur the background far more effectively with a maximum aperture of f/1.4 or f/1.8 than you would with a cheaper 18-55 zoom lens.
Use the prime lens with these tips and you will be increasingly happier with your photography.