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Zoom VS fixed focal length

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Wlodek, Feb 27, 2011.

  1. Wlodek

    Wlodek Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 19, 2011
    BC, Canada
    When I got my first camera, zoom lenses were exotic objects known only to a few in the movie industry. I certainly have never herd of a zoom or seen one. In fact the first time I used a zoom lens was when I bought a digital compact camera. Since then I owned a number of zoom lenses and was again and again disappointed with the quality of the results, often surprised that such a poor lens can be offered for sale. Besides, I discovered I do not like to zoom. Moving around the subject with a fixed focal lens gives me a better opportunity to compose and frame the picture. And in just about every situation I am prepared with the appropriate lens: I have my wide angle lens when planning to photograph interiors, medium telephoto when shooting a portrait, etc.
    Another disadvantage of most zooms is the small f stop - limiting the speed or the ISO and not allowing adequate isolation (by out of focus) of the background .
    What is your experience with zooms and preference in lenses? Am I the only zoom-fun spoiler here?
  2. phigmov

    phigmov Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Apr 4, 2010
    I'm a fan of prime lenses too - having said that -

    * most of my negative zoom lens experiences have been with film which seems to be very unforgiving of not hitting focus perfectly (something my tired eyes are finding harder and harder to do)

    * using legacy zooms on my E-P1 works well but without a focus-confirm or a view-finder it can still make for slightly blurry shots - I shudder to think what they'd look like without the IBIS !

    * I'm still impressed by the 14-42 kit zoom on my E-P1 - using the M-AF and live-view makes for a much more pleasant UX (user-experience)
  3. greyelm

    greyelm Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 28, 2010
    I think the biggest drawback to the zoom is the speed which can be a problem in low light conditions. I have an original pana 14-45 and get excellent results in most situations. The ability to frame in camera is a bonus when out and about. However I love the speed and IQ of the 20mm f1.7 so this has become my favoured lens.
  4. photoSmart42

    photoSmart42 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 12, 2010
    San Diego, CA
    There are some advantages of zoom, namely flexibility for composition on the go. Most zoom are indeed slower than primes, and quite a bit larger, but there are some very good and decently fast zooms out there - the Olympus 'pro' zooms come to mind, as well as some of the 2.8 Nikons that can be used on these cameras as well. I actually find the 14-140 to be quite good on my GH1 as a day time walk-about lens. Not a stunner in terms of sharpness, but very versatile.
  5. addieleman

    addieleman Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 5, 2010
    The Netherlands
    To zoom or not to zoom?

    In my film days I used primes. My bag was loaded with a camera and a combination of a few primes and, sometimes, a Nikkor 80-200/4 zoom lens.

    Nowadays I use my zooms a lot on the Panasonic G1 and GH2. With the wide-angle and standard zoom lens I hardly ever zoom: I preset them at the focal length I want and then treat my camera as if it were loaded with a prime. My 7-14mm is almost always set at 10mm, sometimes 9mm, and the 14-45mm standard zoom is set at 14, 20, 28 or 45mm. It's a pity this lens doesn't go to 50mm because I like that better. However, the 45-200mm is mostly used as a zoom lens because I often use it for subjects where I can't get close enough to, so I mostly zoom to frame the image, just as I did in my film days with the 80-200mm.

    So do like me if you don't like to zoom and treat your zoom as a handy combination of single focal-length lenses. The only disadvantage left of a zoom is its slower speed; don't worry about IQ, the 14-45mm is very good as is the 7-14mm and the 45-200mm is quite acceptable. I'd avoid the 14-140mm for stills, I don't find it sharp enough.
  6. I don't see modern zooms (the better ones anyway) as having significantly worse IQ, certainly not enough that I would care to notice about. The biggest restriction I see with them is lens speed and bulk. They may be lighter than a set of two or three equivalent primes but on the camera they are heavier. I used to use only zooms when I started photography but since getting an E-P1 I hardly use zooms anymore. I think I just prefer working within the restriction of a fixed focal length.
  7. Wlodek

    Wlodek Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 19, 2011
    BC, Canada
    So finally I decided to take a picture with the 14-42 Olympus zoom on a E-P2. I think that the colour and contrast are good, but I am still not fully converted....

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/matra46/5484893814/" title="Pepers by Laineferous, on Flickr"> View attachment 158454 "1024" height="768" alt="Pepers" /></a>
  8. shoturtle

    shoturtle &nbsp;

    Oct 15, 2010
    Zooms are very good with the correction factor with micro 4/3 camera. The 14-42 is not a great lens optically, but with the in body correction. It produce excellent photos. I am a big prime shooter with my canon system. And there are times carrying around 4-5 primes gets old fast. The zoom has also evolved allot as some come very close to the sharpness of a prime optically. But those are big dollar zooms.
  9. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Wlodek - that's a great image! I love it.

    I think zooms are great and primes are great. They all do different things, so I just select whichever is best suited to the particular task at hand. None are perfect, each have drawbacks to accompany their advantages. Just apply them as they are suitable and it's ALL good!

    As for the Panny zooms, I find the 7-14, 14-45, and 14-140 to all be quite sharp and yield wonderful results. The OIS in the 14-140 gives stunningly crisp hand-held images with full telephoto extension down to 1/15th sec.

    My only native prime is the 20, which is, of course, razor sharp and fast. Fast legacy primes are fantastic too, giving wonderfully shallow DOF with the m4/3 sensor and great bokeh.

    I guess I just love them all!
  10. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    I think it depends what kind of photography you do. Most of mine is travel, and there is simply not time or space to necessarily "zoom with your feet" so a zoom lens becomes very handy.

    I agree about the brightness/aperture issue - hopefully, Panasonic will come out with the bright zoom sooner than the (currently delayed) end of the year.
  11. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    I agree, tc, if you want to travel lightly, it makes a lot more sense to stick mostly with zooms.
  12. Boyzo

    Boyzo Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 3, 2010
    Zooms are very advanced optically today and Panasonic lenses have OIS
    while Olympus have in body stabilization, this makes F stop less of a problem
    in fact most people (myself included) use Zoom lenses
    I do use Primes a 45mm PL macro and the 50mm Zuiko macro lenses

    Some are using legacy primes canon minolta where they want minimum DOF filed which is fine you want that.
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