Types of Lenses
When it comes down to lenses, there are two main kinds: Prime and Zoom. The most common lens for beginners and first time camera buyers are kit zoom lenses. Usually cameras are kitted with “everyday use” zoom lenses as it covers a wide variety of angles such as wide to portrait. Zoom lenses allow you to reach far away distances or widen up the field of view to capture more.
What you get in a zoom lens is convenience but it comes a couple of trade offs:
1. Quality: Depth of field control & performance is generally limited in a zoom lens. Most lenses have an aperture range where the more you zoom in, the less control you have over depth of field. You can purchase fixed aperture lenses, which generally do not open larger than F2.8 /F2.
2. Size: A zoom lens has a lot of parts inside and outside. Therefore the physical size of a zoom lens is quite big especially if the lens has a large maximum aperture.
3. Price: High quality zoom lenses are quite pricey.
Like a zoom lens, prime lenses come in various types such as wide angle, everyday, portrait, telephoto and more. However prime lenses are not as flexible as the zoom lens in terms of field of view. They have a fixed focal length which means the lens only has one field of view. Therefore the lens that is used has one sole dedicated niche of photography/videography.
For some this is a drawback. In a scenario where someone is travelling they may want to shoot a landscape scene in one situation but then may want to shoot something far away straight after. In this scenario a zoom lens gives the user more flexibility as the one lens is able to cover all bases. Whereas the prime lens user will have to swap lenses between a wide and a telephoto. This runs the risk of the user missing a shot and having the hassle of carrying around an extra lens.
However still to do this prime lenses are widely used among all levels of photographers and here are the reasons why.
Benefits of Prime Lenses
- Better image quality: Prime lenses are generally sharper and this is present throughout the whole image.
- Better depth of field performance: Due to the lack of physical parts required, prime lenses can house larger aperture rings. Therefore allowing a larger control over depth of field. Most prime lenses are able to open up to F1.8 and some as high as F0.95. A side benefit of this is being able to allow more light into the camera, which makes prime lenses better for low light situations.
- A tool to learn composition: Most beginner photographers are suggested to use prime lenses as it challenges them to think more about composition. The only method of composing and zooming on a prime lens is to run in and out. Learning the constraints of field of view will really benefit in the long term. Knowing which focal length to use at each scenario and composing an image properly will grant benefits to shooting accuracy, speed and quality.
- Price: There are expensive prime lenses but most prime lenses are quite affordable. The “nifty 50mm” can be picked up for less than $250AUD which is a good middle ground lens for both landscape and portrait. For beginners who do not want to invest in high amounts of money for gear, prime lenses are a good avenue to learn how to play with depth of field and learn composition.
- Size: A big win for prime lenses is the size of the lens. In most cases prime lenses are half the size of an equivalent zoom if not smaller. In fact they even go as small as “pancake sizes” which basically is the size of a body cap.
Shop our lens range at Georges below: