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fixed focal length lenses vs. zoom lenses

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by ralf-11, Apr 24, 2019.

  1. Size, Wt.

    59 vote(s)
  2. Sharpness

    38 vote(s)
  3. Bokeh or other quality in the rendering

    41 vote(s)
  4. Wider aperture

    71 vote(s)
  5. Ergonomics - fun to use

    27 vote(s)
  6. Forces me to think more when taking photographs

    42 vote(s)
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. ralf-11

    ralf-11 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 16, 2017
    I see a fair number of people say they prefer a fixed focal length lens over a zoom - why?
  2. ac12

    ac12 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 24, 2018
    For me,
    Speed. But it is preferring a prime in a specific situation (low light).
    Or reach. Like with a 500mm lens. Again, a specific situation (long distance).
    But not in general.

    In general, I prefer using a zoom.
    • Agree Agree x 3
  3. archaeopteryx

    archaeopteryx Gambian sidling bush Subscribing Member

    Feb 25, 2017
    I ticked other quality since, so far as I know, the 70-180 Micro-Nikkor is still the highest magnification zoom at 0.77x. Other than covering magnifications from ~0.2x to 1x with less hassle and easier focus bracketing than close up lenses, I don't have a reason to use primes on their own. I do rely on reversed primes (or microscope objectives, which are technically primes) for magnifications greater 1x but, in those arrangements, the rear lens is currently a zoom.
  4. Holoholo55

    Holoholo55 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2014
    Honolulu, HI
    I use zooms most of the time, and I've invested in good ones. But, there are times when the primes are preferable. Wider apertures for low light situations, quality of bokeh, smaller and lighter (non-pro), for special needs (macro, ultra-wide) and sometimes less expensive (non-pro). Sometimes, I feel like using a single focal length on purpose or as a challenge. :) 

    There's a place for both.
    • Agree Agree x 5
  5. Low light for primes although my budget doesn't stretch to anything faster than 1.8. I dare say that despite my sig, I could very well manage with just my Olly 14-150 for most useage. I went out the other day with just my olly 17mm 1.8 as a challenge and really missed having a zoom, even one as limiting as the panny 12-32. I won't do it again so I guess I'm a zoom freak.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  6. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Nov 7, 2010
    For what I do I greatly prefer the high value, compact size, and low light capability of 1.8/1.7 primes over all else. Zooms have their place for me, but it's easily about 80/20 in favor of primes.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  7. Egregius V

    Egregius V Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jun 14, 2015
    Massachusetts, USA
    Rev. Gregory Vozzo
    Except for the Olympus 7-14 PRO, I haven't been able to choose an f/2.8 zoom over an f/1.8 or f/1.7 prime. I'm very happy with the slower zooms outdoors and primes indoors or at night or when I want more subject separation. Even though that means traveling with two lens kits sometimes.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  8. exakta

    exakta Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jun 2, 2015
    Wider aperture is #1 for me. The Olympus 12-50 is exhibit A...f6.3 at 50mm? I dislike variable aperture in general, but outside of pro zooms there's no alternative.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  9. Mike Wingate

    Mike Wingate Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 21, 2017
    Mike Wingate
    My slowest prime is a Sigma 600mm Cat lens at f8.
  10. davidzvi

    davidzvi Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Aug 12, 2012
    Outside Boston MA
    I don't "prefer" primes over zooms. But when I use them it's for:
    • Wider aperture
    • Bokeh or other quality in the rendering
    • Forces me to think more when taking photographs
    • Agree Agree x 5
  11. BrightonRay

    BrightonRay Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 27, 2019
    Brighton, UK
    I agree totally, these are my reasons too.
  12. corno

    corno New to Mu-43

    Oct 9, 2017
    Wider aperture. Not a lot of f0.95 zooms around as Voigtländer 42.5mm is like 80% of my keepers
  13. The Grumpy Snapper

    The Grumpy Snapper Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 9, 2017
    The above and the fact that all but one of my primes are manual focus. If I'm in a retro mood I can grab a small bag with with a few manual focus primes and shoot the way I shot film.

    Some of the HG and SHG zooms were the first I considered good enough to use.
  14. One thing not mentioned: price!

    Another thing too consider: a lens you own is always cheaper than one you buy.

    I have 41 lenses! And most of them are left-overs from previous systems: Olympus OM Zuiko film lenses, and Zuiko Digital 4/3rds lenses. Most of those are fixed length.

    A lot of people buy lenses with the thought that they will sell them sooner or later, but I generally try to buy a lens as though I were stuck with it for the rest of my life. This means I save up for and buy only outstanding glass, that is always a joy to use, no matter what it is attached to.

    My biggest lens regrets tend to be things I've disposed of, rather than things I've kept. I have sold lenses, regretted the sale, and gone back and re-purchased them, notably the fixed-length, manual-focus Olympus OM 500/8, 350/2.8, 90/2, and 21/2.

    Yea, zooms are versatile. But a legacy film fixed lens, combined with a high-quality tele-extender and high-quality focal-reducer, gives you three focal lengths with image quality generally better than (or at least as good as) zooms.

    If you have enough legacy glass in the same mount, then getting an expensive Metabones Speedbooster Ultra essentially doubles the value of that glass.

    So, my reason for using fixed lenses is because I found them to be outstanding before I got into µ4/3rds. And a lens you already have is always cheaper than one you buy.
    • Like Like x 3
    • Informative Informative x 1
  15. Jeffcs

    Jeffcs Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 20, 2017
    Toms River NJ
    Every one should pick a prime and shoot only with it for at least a week! In that time you’ll come to love a good prime. Do I use zooms yes...I love the results achieved with a good sharp prime.
    • Agree Agree x 2
    • Like Like x 1
  16. Bushboy

    Bushboy Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Apr 22, 2018
    The small prime lenses for M4/3 are where its at for me.
    There isn’t a zoom lens that I want....
    • Like Like x 3
  17. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    IOW Stockholm syndrome.
    • Funny Funny x 6
    • Agree Agree x 1
  18. Ludwig T

    Ludwig T New to Mu-43

    May 29, 2018
    I remember when shooting Pentax I loved the quality of the better kit lens, 16-45 f4. After discovering their Limited series however I got stuck and quickly ceased using zooms altogether.

    I do have the excellent PanaLeica 12-60 f2.8-4 yet always keep gravitating towards my fixed Voigtländer 17.5mm, Sigma 100mm f2.8 Macro and PanaLeica 200mm.

    The challenge of restriction and taking time exploring opportunities appeals to me more than plain old snapshot:ing. Getting very sharp and lovely end-result is also a lovely bonus!

    The 12-60 is excellent when photographing events but I mostly photograph nature.
  19. SLOtographer

    SLOtographer Mu-43 Regular Subscribing Member

    Sep 1, 2013
    Lots of reasons to like primes and zooms. I tend to prefer primes for people or travel and zooms for landscapes, but that’s oversimplifying. Astrophotography or wanting to use short dof might mean primes for landscapes, and using off camera lights and a background might make using a zoom for portraits a better choice.

    If I had to pick one type, I’d choose several primes. But luckily I can have both.
  20. alex66

    alex66 Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jul 23, 2010
    Instinct, I can with a 25(50) look at the scene raise the camera and just get it bang on to what I felt was the photograph in there, I am getting there with the 17mm but not as precise. A lot comes from when I first got a camera a second lens was not an option financially for a good few years so it was a 50mm or nothing. Not sure if I prefer one over the other zooms are brilliant for their ability to pick out parts of a scene or expand on it and looking through my photographs it seems 50/50.
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