What will primes do for me?

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by M4/3, May 27, 2012.

  1. M4/3

    M4/3 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 24, 2011
    I'm a relative novice landscape shooter and don't own any primes. I keep wondering what noticable image quality advantage primes may offer landscape shooters in good light at base ISO?

    I shoot with an E-PL1 with its 14-42mm kit lens. See example below shot at 14mm. Would I really notice any more detail in that already sharp and detailed image if I used a Pany 14mm 2.5 prime on the E-PL1?
  2. Qwerty

    Qwerty Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 15, 2012
    Primes will teach you the art of composition - in my view the key to photography.
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  3. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    The primes tend to be faster so you can shoot in lower light. That can be a big plus. You did say "in good light" and lens speed isn't an issue in good light but good light can quickly change to bad light in a hurry at times so don't automatically discount the speed.

    Wider apertures also give you more flexibility with depth of field if you're trying to isolate your subject from the background and that is an advantage that a faster prime has in good light.

    Many of the primes are physically smaller and lighter than the zooms. If that makes the difference between having the camera with you, because you can throw it in your bag or brief case, or not having it with you because you can't do that, then that can also be the difference between getting some great shots and missing them entirely because you don't have a camera with you.

    Depending on the prime and zoom you want to compare, you may see a difference in image quality but the prime need not be the sharper lens. Some of the zoom available for M43 are optically sharper than the Olympus 17mm, for example though my view is that the 17mm still produces acceptably sharp shots and I continue to use mine because it makes the difference between fitting the camera in my bag easily or not fitting it in.

    Would you see an advantage with the 14mm over the shot in your post? I think you certainly could PROVIDED you were comparing large prints or viewing both on a large, high resolution screen. Bear in mind that if you're only looking at your shots on your computer screen you aren't seeing the full resolution unless you "pixel peep" at 100% and then you're only going to be able to see a part of the shot because you don't have a 4032 x 3024 screen. Even displaying my shots on my high def plasma screen I have to downscale to around 1.5 MP if I'm going to see the whole image and that downscaling is going to mean that differences in sharpness and detail are much less visible than they would be at full resolution.

    In summary, sharpness isn't the only advantage and depending on how you view your photos you may not even be able to see sharpness differences which are there. So it's not just about sharpness and people can choose primes over zooms for other quite valid reasons which may also have some relevance for you.
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  4. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    X2 ... And judging from the sample above, there is a lot of opportunity for improvement
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  5. mister_roboto

    mister_roboto Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 14, 2011
    Seattle, WA, USA
    Real Name:
    As the old saying goes "I zoom with my feet."
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  6. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    Composition has nothing to do with the quality or type of lens used.

    Above a certain threshold, the image quality of a lens has very little to do with whether a photo is good or not. Your current lens is above this threshold.

    Ignoring supercilious snobs will not reduce the quality of your photgraphs in the least.

    At this point, taking photos and studying the photos made by recognized photographers will probably yield more benefits for you than buying more equipment.
    • Like Like x 5
  7. jmw

    jmw Mu-43 Regular

    May 20, 2012
    San Francisco, CA
    Primes won't teach composition - that's up to the photographer. But it will completely remove zooming from the equation, and forces one to think, "this is the perspective I will have, this is the framing I will get, how do I make it work?"
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  8. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    "Snobs" is rapidly becoming quite the popular word around here....
  9. dylandingo

    dylandingo Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 12, 2011
    La Crosse, WI
    Hit the nail right on the head there. Primes won't equal better compositions but when they force you to move you start to look at things at different perspectives and create better compositions instead of just zooming in and filling the frame or whatnot. You could keep your zoom lens at 14mm and force yourself not to hit the zoom ring and have the same effect.

    That being said, the primes that are talked about a lot of these forums(12,14,20,25,45, etc.) are all great lenses and allow you to shoot in lower light and may be a sharper to some degree. They're also mostly smaller that makes for easier travel which can be a plus for many photographers on the go.
    • Like Like x 2
  10. M4/3

    M4/3 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 24, 2011
    The thing is when I go to lens review sites to view samples of landscapes taken with primes (e.g the PL 25mm f1.4) I don't see hardly any dicernable extra detail and sharpness as compared to samples taken with the Oly 14-42 kit lens (or Pany 14-45 kit lens), hence I am questioning whether or not I would be "wowed" by detail and sharpness a pricey prime like the PL 25mm f1.4 could produce?

    Since primes retain their value so well I guess I should just get one and see for myself (though the PL 25mm f1.4 seems to be about as hard to find in stock as an OM-D!)
  11. Redridge

    Redridge Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 17, 2012
    To answer your question, No... you will not see any more sharpness or details from primes in good light or base ISO vs your 14-42mm. The advantages of prime is shooting in low light and shallow DOF. As for composition, zoom or primes... its the knucklehead behind the camera is what matters.
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  12. Livnius

    Livnius Super Moderator

    Jul 7, 2011
    Melbourne. Australia
    Real Name:
    I think a great lens will help no doubt....and certainly any kit lens !
    But as I'm sure you know, a great lens is only part of the recipe.
    'Instructing' the camera with the right exposure information is perhaps the key ingredient, composition and framing of subject is critical too....frame your image to actually show something, to draw the viewers attention to something....use hills, trees, fences, roads whatever you can find to help create a 'scene'.

    One final thing, I found that perhaps more so than with any other type of shooting I do, a tripod is really great for some landscape shots, even though the differences may not be critical in most circumstances depending on what your objectives are. I just found that when using a tripod for a landscape shot finer details such as those in grass and leaves come out just that wee bit crisper.

    Is shooting with a top prime like a PL25 or an O12 the magic bullet for great landscape shots ? Nope......but it can help, as will all the above things.

    Mind you, I'm still learning too so don't take my word for Gospel, simply sharing what few things I've picked up along the way.

    PS. One of the best things you can do is read as much as you can and learn from some of the guys on this forum....pay enough attention and you'll find there are people here who do some seriously excellent landscape stuff....best part is, most are really generous and happy to share :)
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  13. dylandingo

    dylandingo Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 12, 2011
    La Crosse, WI
    And it doesn't cost a dime!
  14. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    See my earlier response. You're looking at scaled down images that will conceal a lot of any sharpness differences. That's not a problem if you only look at your photos on screen but if you are printing, comparing prints from a kit zoom and a good prime may give you a very different result.

    The other areas where primes have an advantage may be more important to you. It's not all about sharpness, even in good light.
  15. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    I'll throw in my two cents:

    Primes give either smaller size, faster shutter speeds, more shallow DOF, better image quality, or some combination of the above.

    Primes don't give you better compositions, but some people find them instructive. Certainly not everyone needs them for this purpose. It's like any other case in life where limitations are instructive. For example, one person may already be good at saying things concisely. Another person may find the use of Twitter, where one is restricted to 144 characters, to be instructive in this regard.

    I use primes for all of the above reasons.

    For a deep DOF composition at 14mm, I don't think a Panasonic 14mm lens is going to give you much better image quality than your kit zoom. If you want it for the compositional inspiration, a cheaper alternative is to leave your zoom at 14mm :smile:.
    • Like Like x 1
  16. wlewisiii

    wlewisiii Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 16, 2011
    Hayward, WI
    Real Name:
    William Barnett-Lewis
    This above all. You have to keep moving to find the right image - keep using the two foot zoom, back & forth, left & right. A zoom makes it all to easy to think you have the right view of something and you'll never have to move that foot left and three feet back that changes an ordinary image into the best thing you ever shot.

    I am a somewhat old fashioned fart in that I fully believe that the best photographic discipline is shooting for a year or two with only a normal prime. As fast as you can afford, but otherwise that one focal length. It forces you to see differently and that will remain even if you later add a zoom back into your bag.
    • Like Like x 3
  17. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Real Name:
    If you're shooting in good light, at medium apertures, and you're not examining your images above 50% magnification, then probably not, no.

    I don't dislike primes (I own half a dozen and am quite happy with them) but I think they receive rather more attention in these parts than is strictly warranted. They are handy for certain things, but they are hardly essential, either to learning photography, or to making good photographs.

    I strongly disagree on the first point. Composition is learned by experimentation and by examining others' photographs to see what works and what doesn't. Primes get in the way - either by forcing you to shoehorn scenes into frames that don't really fit, or by leaving one constantly swapping lenses to find the most suitable framing for a situation. Neither in my view is optimal.

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  18. spatulaboy

    spatulaboy I'm not really here

    Jul 13, 2011
    North Carolina
    Real Name:
    Short answer: No you don't need primes to shoot landscapes. Then again you probably don't need an EM-5 to shoot landscapes either.

    I'm just curious to why you are only interested in shooting landscapes?
  19. jyc860923

    jyc860923 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 28, 2012
    Shenyang, China
    Real Name:
    I think the "primes" are a little overated that whether to use them or not should differ by people, they are capable of better IQ though.

    And honestly I don't find my P14 2.5 any good most of the time, heavy distortion, lifeless colour rendering don't do any help with compositing, it's only lightweight.
  20. NettieNZ

    NettieNZ Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 18, 2012
    I'm a complete novice myself, but one of the best pointers I've ever been given for composition is to use the 'thirds' grid on your LCD or viewfinder while shooting. Has helped me tremendously!
    I'm looking at getting a prime myself, but for different reasons - first for low light and secondly so I can get some nice shallow DOF shots. Strikes me that for good light conditions the 14mm lens isn't going to give you really any better than the kit lens :)