fixed focal length lenses vs. zoom lenses

Why do you prefer a fixed focal length lens over a zoom?

  • Size, Wt.

    Votes: 60 56.1%
  • Sharpness

    Votes: 39 36.4%
  • Bokeh or other quality in the rendering

    Votes: 43 40.2%
  • Wider aperture

    Votes: 72 67.3%
  • Ergonomics - fun to use

    Votes: 27 25.2%
  • Forces me to think more when taking photographs

    Votes: 43 40.2%

  • Total voters
    107

ralf-11

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I see a fair number of people say they prefer a fixed focal length lens over a zoom - why?
 

ac12

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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.
 

archaeopteryx

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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.
 

Holoholo55

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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.
 

Bidkev

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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.
 

Egregius V

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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.
 

exakta

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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.
 

corno

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Wider aperture. Not a lot of f0.95 zooms around as Voigtländer 42.5mm is like 80% of my keepers
 

The Grumpy Snapper

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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
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.
 
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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.
 

Jeffcs

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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.
 

oldracer

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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.
IOW Stockholm syndrome.
 

Ludwig T

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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
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.
 

SLOtographer

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Stan
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.
 

alex66

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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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