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This post was most recently updated on August 7th, 2022

In the photography world, there are zoom lenses and prime lenses. There are many debates as to which one is better and why. At the end of the day, the main difference will be in the focal length.

A prime lens has a fixed focal length for each lens and tends to be smaller, lighter, and perform much better in low light than zoom lenses. While a Zoom lens will have a wider and variable focal length.

As a general rule, a prime lens is deemed better than a zoom lens, this is because a prime lens is sharper this is because there is less glass inside the lens, unlike the zoom which has the extra glass in order to zoom in and out.

But, what are prime lenses exactly and how many would you need for different jobs? In this article, we aim to find out, starting with uncovering what makes a prime lens.

What Are Prime Lenses And Zoom Lenses?

In short, a prime lens has a fixed focal length which does not allow you to zoom in and out. Because you cannot zoom in or zoom out, you will need to physically move closer to your subject in order to get a clear shot of them.

So, what is a focal length? This is essentially the distance between the point of convergence within the lens and the sensor in the camera. Certain lenses will have either very short or very long focal points, which have different effects on the image.

Prime lenses also have larger apertures, which is the size of the hole when the lens opens within the camera. This means you can get effects like blurring the background depending on what you set your aperture to be. Prime lenses do not have too many moving parts, which means there are fewer issues that will arise.

A zoom lens has a variable focal length, this means that you can zoom in or out of a shot by twisting a ring on the lens. This will change the focal point without you having to change lenses like you would with a prime lens.

So if you wanted to you could go from 12 mm focal length to 40 mm focal length by just turning the wheel, while with a prime lens you would have to physically attach a different lens.

You would think that this makes a zoom lens better, but that is not the case. Because of all the extra pieces of glass and moving parts, there is more chance for abortions and optical imperfections in the image.

In short, a zoom lens is a jack of all trades, master of none. While a prime lens works perfectly, doing the one job it was made for.

So, what are the pros and cons of having a prime lens or a zoom lens?

Prime Lens

Pros

  • Light Weight
  • Better Image Quality
  • Sharper Images

Cons

  • Less Versatile and Flexible
  • Fixed Focal Point for Each lens

Zoom Lens

Pros

  • Flexible Focal Length
  • Compact, You do Not Have to Carry Many lenses Around

Cons

  • Image is Now as Sharp

The next question you might have is, which lenses are out there and what do they do? In the next section, we will have a look at just that.

Types Of Prime Lenses

Types Of Prime Lenses

It is important to understand that each prime lens is geared toward taking a different kind of picture, some might be really compressed and tight while others offer wider shots, so you can photograph a scene in its entirety. So, let’s take a look at that:

  • Wide Angle – This lens will have a focal length between 24mm and 45mm, this lens is the one that is most similar to human vision. So, if you want natural results and want to take portraits or landscapes, these lenses are a great fit for you.
  • Standard Lens – This is what is known as a ‘normal’ lens, they usually have a focal length between 45mm and 60mm, this is very close to the field of vision we have as humans. A standard lens is great for everyday photographs, is a great and diverse lens most photographers will have in their kit.
  • Telephoto Lens – These lenses have a narrower field of vision, they tend to have a focal length between 70mm and 135mm. This lens is typically used in cases where you cannot or don’t want to get too close to your target. This makes it a great lens if you want to take photos of wildlife and do not want to scare off your lovely subjects.
  • Macro Lens – This kind of lens is typically used for close-up and extreme close-up shots, while other lenses cannot focus on a tiny ladybug, this lens can do it with ease. So, if you want to take pictures of the tiny things around you, this is a great lens to give them a larger-than-life feeling.

What Prime Lenses Do You Need?

So, the final question is, which lenses would you need to complete a variety of different jobs? There are certainly a lot of lenses, but they can be expensive, so, which ones are most needed for the busy life of a photographer or videographer.

  • Prime Wide Angle Lens – This lens is versatile and perfect for taking snaps of landscapes or large groups of people. So, if you are on vacation, this lens will be great to use if you want to take pictures or videos of the landscape or street photography. It will allow you to get plenty of those gorgeous wide shots.
  • Standard Lens – This lens will allow you to take a great variety of shots, from portraits to environmental pictures. The standard lens is great and highlights both the subject and the background, allowing you to really showcase both if that is important.
  • Telephoto Lens – If you love taking portraits, or it is simply the way you make the bulk of your money, this lens will be great for you. It blurs the background enough that your subject stands out more. Depending on if you want a full-body portrait or headshots, you will need to decide between the 85mm, which is better for full body shots, and the 135mm which takes better close-up headshots.
  • Macro Lens – This lens will allow you to take beautifully detailed shots that are extremely close up. So if you are doing nature or food photography, this camera will definitely take some beautiful shots.

With these four lenses in your arsenal, you should be able to take a great variety of photos that cover most of the bases. From portraits to landscapes to extreme close-ups, there are a great many areas you can cover with just these 4 lenses.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion to the question, there are at least 4 lenses you will need to cover the bases but the larger your kit, obviously the more variety of shots you will be able to take.

Especially using prime lenses, you will be limited in the focal lengths in each lens, meaning you will have to change your lens for each different shot.

Because of this, it is best to get a range of lenses you can use, like the four that were mentioned above.

That is it for this article, there is a lot to understand and learn about the science behind lens and photography. But once you get a grasp of what you need, there is a wonderful world you can uncover and be a part of.

So, learning what you have about prime lenses and which ones you might need, go out there and live the dream.