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Author Topic: Prime or zoom?  (Read 20951 times)
rgs
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« Reply #40 on: July 20, 2008, 02:58:36 PM »
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For landscape photography most people have used a lens in the range of 24-35mm with film. With a 1.5 crop camera that would mean a 18/20/24mm primes. Of these the 18 and 20mm are no better than a modern zoom lens. The old thinking regarding primes was true when zoom lenses were designed with a slide rule. With the dawn of computers to design optics zooms have gotten dramatically better.
Please forgive me if this seems picky, but I do not find the wide angle right for most landscapes. In particular, it decreases the grandeur of many mountainous shots because distant mountains look far too small. I prefer normal to short tele for many landscape subjects and like the compressed sense of depth they provide. I even like the look of my 400mm for landscapes sometimes. Much of my work with the Pentax 67 is done with a 105mm (35mm equivalent of about 55-60mm) and then slightly cropped.

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Going back to the forbidden ground of the Luddite, one of my current methods of photographing life is the reverse of most: I put on a lens, usually 24mm on D200, and it never comes off until I get home. I was going to remark about my dust experience but have decided not to tempt Fate! There is something freeing about not having to change focal length...
When I was first learning wedding photography, I found changing lenses to be a huge distraction so I learned to shoot weddings with one lens on my 6x7 (my 105). I rarely needed anything wider and really got to know how the lens looked. Now that I use a zoom, that training has more than paid off.

I also studied with a man who refused to carry a meter. He insisted that almost all wedding venues were lit about the same and he had it all memorized so he could move faster and concentrate more on the photograph than equipment. Perhaps a little extreme, but he was right. More training that has paid off.

RGS
« Last Edit: July 20, 2008, 03:05:09 PM by rgs » Logged

Pete Ferling
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« Reply #41 on: July 21, 2008, 09:25:47 AM »
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Please forgive me if this seems picky, ...

I also studied with a man who refused to carry a meter. He insisted that almost all wedding venues were lit about the same and he had it all memorized so he could move faster and concentrate more on the photograph than equipment. Perhaps a little extreme, but he was right. More training that has paid off.

RGS
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You've hit the nail on the head.  Too many beginners get over-whelmed with technology.   It's just best to find a good prime lens and start shooting.  My first camera was a canon T50 with a simple 50mm lens.  I was in the Navy then and having no access to addtional lens' I learned to make that lens work.  I just focused on composition and the end result was pleasing pictures.

Today I still use a 50mm, the 1.4 on my 40D and 1Ds.  Shoot two or three pans and stitch them together.  I get sharp, wide and without the typical distortion as found with wide angle lens.
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Goodlistener
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« Reply #42 on: August 07, 2008, 11:02:08 PM »
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Griff, please, please save yourself some trouble, it makes me cringe to think of it:  BUY GENERAL PURPOSE EQUIPMENT FIRST.

What is general purpose equipment? Both Nikon and Canon ship 28-55 zoom lenses with Prosumer level DSLRs.  That's a good general purpose focal length. I happen to like Tamron 18-75 better but the thing to notice here is that its a general purpose lens good for a wide variety of situations.

A OEM kit lens purchased with the camera will always be a lot less expensive.  Hope  you find this useful.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2008, 11:41:49 AM by Goodlistener » Logged
OldRoy
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« Reply #43 on: August 12, 2008, 12:00:26 PM »
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Hmm. I wonder how confused the original poster is by this stage, interesting though it is to read the intelligent responses which have followed. I am no great photographer and certainly not a professional. Although the original question is about lens choices the discussion has rapidly broadened. My own experience may be illustrative.

About 10 years go I found myself deciding to buy a decent SLR having only used P&S's for about 20 years (prior to that I had been using an old Zenith with a 50mm lens - a real people's camera: that's what I call discipline...) Fatigue caused by working with computers and associated technology caused me to react by buying a totally manual camera - a Nikon FM2n: on balance a mistake, although I'm still fond of the camera. To accompany it I bought (second hand and not at that time yet particularly cheaply!) a 20mm Nikkor, a 28-70 Tamron zoom and an 80-200 F4 Nikkor.  However the limitations of the totally manual system became apparent pretty quickly, because quick it wasn't - which was often a significant limitation. However, having read up on basic photographic principles this system forced me to learn a lot, even though my results were generally underwhelming, even to me.

I fell into a similar trap a year ago when I bought a D200, heavily influenced by its capacity to use my existing AIS lenses. However comparing their performance to the two modest new A/F lenses that I bought at the same time I can honestly say that I can see little difference in real-world performance. My 50mm 1.8 AIS gives nice results, although I hardly use it. On balance I have learned vastly more about getting decent results since buying DSLR.

BTW I'd say that the comments about lens changing and dusty sensors as a factor to consider, are spot on!

Recently some friends who are financially challenged asked me about learning photography (always ask an expert...) and I initially advised taking the same approach as I had (which is what I believe most photographic college courses require). Paradoxically, this is a good route - but primarily for those who can afford to waste a lot of money on stock and processing. In the final analysis you need to take a lot of photographs to advance your skills, irrespective of the medium used. And film really weighs heavily against this, particularly since for many people the viewing and distribution medium for their snaps always entails computer/email/web to some degree. The idea that "discipline" is the key value associated with using prime lenses and/or film and/or manual equipment is totally at odds with the requirement to get a lot of practise. I discount darkroom skills because I can't imagine too many people without an already overwhelming committment to photography would ever bother to learn them. There is definitely an ascetic as much as an aesthetic component to this position!

Assuming a useable computer is available I'd advise buying a Nikon D40 (resolution limitations notwithstanding) with its kit lens (there may be many good second hand alternatives too) and then adding whatever primes or venerable zooms are available second-hand at bargain prices, as and when.

But what do I know?
« Last Edit: August 12, 2008, 12:02:24 PM by OldRoy » Logged
gdanmitchell
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« Reply #44 on: August 16, 2008, 08:02:30 PM »
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You've hit the nail on the head.  Too many beginners get over-whelmed with technology.   It's just best to find a good prime lens and start shooting...

Today it is better to find a decent ZOOM lens and start shooting. "Back in the day" the only realistic option (mostly due to cost, but also quality) for beginners was to get a prime, but those days are long gone. Today quite decent zooms are available at very reasonable cost and the only thing significant that the beginner gives up is a stop or two at the large aperture end. ("In the day" the typical starter lens was probably a 50mm f/2, though sometimes f/2.8. Today a "starter zoom" is probably around f/4 or a bit smaller, but higher ISO somewhat compensates.)

Except for the larger aperture, there is nothing that the beginner can't do as well with the zoom. If he/she wants the "discipline" of shooting at a particular focal length it is an easy matter to not change the focal length. If he/she wants to learn about the effects of focal length on composition (e.g. DOF and relative sizes of subjects in the frame) that is now possible in one lens.

And let's not forget that shooting with a zoom is probably more fun for a beginner - and fun is an absolutely critical aspect of starting out in photography. :-)

Dan
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G Dan Mitchell
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Mike Guilbault
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« Reply #45 on: August 17, 2008, 08:34:22 PM »
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I've used both and much prefer the zooms.  Well, back when I was shooting Canon I did have the 85mm 1.2 L series and that was one sweet lens.  I didn't have zooms for my Hasselblads either, but that was mainly a cost factor and limited selection.. and added weight of the zooms that were available.

But since 'going' digital with Nikon, I went right away to the AF-S 2.8 zooms and haven't regretted it. My only prime is the 85mm PC and that's just for special jobs.  My favourite zooms are the 12-24 (even though it's an f:4) and the 70-200mm.

I find the quality of these zooms just as good as the primes.  At least, not of significant difference that I nor my clients can see.  The versatility of the zooms is so much better than primes.  I think the main advantage is that I can crop easier in camera without moving the camera.  If I was using a prime, I may be tempted to go ahead and 'shoot it' and crop later in post.  I'd rather get as much on camera as possible in the first place.
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Pete Ferling
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« Reply #46 on: August 17, 2008, 09:43:09 PM »
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I can certaily understand price being factor years ago, and yes the quality wasn't as great.  However, due to habit, I still have a 50mm 1.4 that lives on my camera.
For extra reach, I also have the 135mm 2L in the bag.  

After using those primes for so long, I began to see and compose shots almost subconciously.  That is, I quit worrying about composition a long time ago as it just comes naturally.

I was considering a 24-70mm 2.8L, and a friend of mine loaned me one of his to try out.  However, I was constantly shooting with it around 50mm, and when I wanted to reach, the 70mm was too short.  So, here I was using a zoom as a prime!  So maybe a better option to fit my habit would be a 24-105mm 4L, but I would miss those extra stops, (I think what I really need is something out there like a 400mm).

I think the real answer to this thread is to get a good sharp lens (prime or zoom), and get good at using it.
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