Zoom Lenses or Prime Lenses?

Photographers vary in their opinions on just about everything, including favorite lenses.

Several people have asked me about zoom vs. prime lenses.

“Which is better?” is a common question for someone beginning in photography.

A zoom lens (perhaps an 18-55mm lens your DSLR came with?) can change focal length giving you, as the photographer, flexibility.

A prime lens is a “fixed” focal length.

For instance, because they’re very affordable, a lot of people have 50mm (CanonNikon) prime lenses.

If you want a different look from your prime lens photos –

You have to actually move your body.

(Such a commitment!)

In photography folklore, prime lenses are sharper and take better images than zoom lenses.

However, that isn’t necessarily true because lens manufacturers are turning out some really great zoom lenses these days.

So what’s a person to do?

If you’re just starting off with photography, I would suggest getting a multi-purpose zoom lens.

(Remember, there are a lot of good quality used lenses available.  It isn’t necessary to buy everything NEW!)

A lot of people begin with a 24-70mm (CanonNikon) or a 24-105mm lens.

It’s a great “walking around” multi-purpose zoom lenses.

As you learn more, you might consider borrowing or renting a prime lens for a few days to see whether or not you like it.

Some people have very strong feelings one way or the other – !!

(As a warning, it does take a little getting used to when you first make the switch from zoom to prime.)

There are advantages to both zoom and prime lenses.  Part of your lens purchasing decision will be based on what type of photography you pursue.

Personally, I have gradually acquired both types of lenses.  (You can see most of the lenses I have on my Gear page.)

I choose my lens based on my subject, the light, and the “look” I want for a particular image.

For landscape/seascape shots, I use my 24mm wide angle prime and my 14mm extra wide angle prime lenses the most.

For flowers, I most often use my 100mm macro prime lens.

(A 70-200mm lens can also make beautiful flower images.)

If I’m taking outdoor portrait photos, I most often use my 70-200mm (CanonNikon) zoom lens.

If you just got your first DSLR, and it came with a “kit” lens – just use that.

If you can afford to buy a “body only” DSLR and a high quality lens at the same time, go for it.

As you learn, and if your passion for photography grows, you can add lenses gradually.

It really isn’t necessary to buy everything just to get started.

(Thank goodness!)

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