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Differences Between Prime and Zoom Lenses -

If you're new to photography, then you may be wondering about the differences between prime and zoom lenses. You may be indecisive as to which lens you should choose. But rest assured, it's really not that difficult.

Defining these Lenses

One of the most important differences between prime and zoom lenses is that prime lenses are fixed, which means you will have to physically move towards your subject if you want to be closer to it. Zoom lenses grant you the ability to zoom in without having to physically move closer to your subject (thus, the name).

Image IQ

The image quality of prime lenses is usually seen as better than that of their counterparts, the zoom lenses. Generally, prime lenses are thought to be sharper (crisper) when the photo is viewed at its full size. However, there are some zoom lenses that are just as nice as their prime cousins; so the rule about prime lenses being better than zooms quality wise does not always apply.


Prime lenses are oftentimes thought of as being much more expensive than zoom lenses as well; however, the pricing is really about the same. Mostly it comes down to a few different factors such as branding, the speed of the lens; etc.

Take the Canon 50mm 1.8 prime lens. It's one of the cheapest prime lenses you can find at around ninety dollars, and the image quality is very good for the price. Unfortunately, the body is made of a cheap plastic; this means that if you drop this lens, then you can kiss it goodbye due to the poor construction. Fortunately, there are better options. But they will cost you.

A better version of the 1.8 lens is the EF 50mm 1.4 for around three hundred fifty dollars. It's still technically not a professional lens, but the build quality is of a higher grade. The price is around three hundred fifty dollars, and it is also a little faster than the 50mm 1.8. Also, the optics are better.

And then there is the professional 50mm 1.2 L prime lens. The cost for this lens is around sixteen hundred dollars. So the main reason for the price increase is due to the quality of the lens, the better optics, and the faster speed. Weatherproofed lenses will also cost you a little more. These lenses will come in handy if you enjoy shooting wildlife or landscapes because you will not have to worry about your lens being ruined if it starts to rain. It also helps to keep out dust. Just remember that the lens is weatherproof, not necessarily the camera itself.

So what about a zoom lens?

A zoom lens, depending on the type, will cost more or less depending on the same factors as a prime lens. With one exception. The range of the zoom lens will more than likely affect the price to some degree. So if one zoom lens has a range of 12x and another is 3x, then the 12x zoom is probably going to cost more. But branding, optics, and the build quality of the lens will oftentimes play a bigger factor.

Prime and zoom lenses each have advantages and disadvantages to each other. No one lens is perfect for any photographer. In the end, it simply comes down to what you prefer. ©JR All Rights Reserved

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