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Author Topic: Primes vs. zooms  (Read 13196 times)
jani
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« Reply #20 on: May 27, 2005, 05:59:38 AM »
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Canon hasn't had much reason to update their 200mm range lineup because the 70-200/2.8L IS is so good. When CA is practically zero at all apertures and focal lengths, and sharpness is very good-to-excellent, and the convenience of a zoom to boot, the only compelling reason to reach for a prime is for a faster aperture. I have the very-highly-regarded 135/2L, and while it is excellent optically, the only time I consistently use it is really low-light concerts. The 70-200/2.8L IS is simply good enough that going to a prime doesn't improve quality that much, and the convenience of the zoom and IS make it kinda hard to pull it off the 1Ds. At least for me.
Well, there is this frequently touted weight advantage that people place on the 70-200/4L. A 200/2.8L IS would have a similar weight advantage.

And of course, a DO version with IS would be even lighter, but I'm not sure if they can make one with a large enough aperture to make it attractive.

I don't mind the weight of the 70-200/2.8L IS as long as I'm not backpacking, though.
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Jan
BJL
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« Reply #21 on: May 30, 2005, 01:32:19 PM »
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Well, the 17-40L was the first "digital" lens from Canon, wasn't it? It was announced at a time when Canon didn't have EF-S, and as such couldn't exactly limit it to the reduced frame cameras only.
They certainly could have limited it to the the reduced frame cameras they already had, the D30, D60 and 10D; they could have done something like what Nikon, Pentax, Konica-Minolta, Sigma, Tamron and Tokina are all doing: design a 17-something lens for the "APS-C" image circle, compatable with their existing EF mount. That less extrem wide angle design would have allowed some combination of lower cost, lower weight, and less restricted zoom range, and would have been of great benefit to owners of their early 1.6x DSLR models.

In fact I have still seen no good explanation of why the shorter back focus of EF-S designs is useful, apart from some mild cost savings mostly relevant to lower level lenses

Another intermediate option might have been making it cover up to 1.3x, with a bit more zoom range like 17-50 possible due to the less extreme wide angle design, to give 1D owners a more useful wide angle option.
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BobMcCarthy
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« Reply #22 on: June 21, 2005, 12:06:16 PM »
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I did a hike this past weekend. To go light I went with my D2x and the 18-70 kit and a 70-300ED. Both of these lenses work VERY well on my D70 but the D2x took them apart. These high density sensors definately require the best in lenses. I'm back to primes in the wide realm which is where this discussion started. I think I'm going to buy the 20mm 2.8 this afternoon.

bob
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lester_wareham
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« Reply #23 on: July 27, 2005, 07:54:30 AM »
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However, as Canon has not yet provided MTF graphs for the 17-85 or 10-22 EF-S lenses, I suppose it is not quite sure that they do have that expected better MTF performance.
You can find the MTF plots for new lenses at Canaon Japanese Web (Lenses)

NB that Canon MTF plots are computer simulation not measurement.

Comparing MTF with independent tests I note that zooms (even L) seem to loose more than to primes although there is little hard evidence so go on. This might be due to more degrees of freedom in the assembly of zooms and thus tollerence variation.

However, I use the MTF data as an important guide to lens selection.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #24 on: May 19, 2005, 01:43:05 PM »
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There's good quality options in the prime and zoom department. The salient question is if you can tolerate the weight of a single zoom that can replace several primes, or would you prefer to cherry-pick the focal lengths you use and put up with the hassle of changing lenses while shooting and increased dust ingress, as well as the limitation of available focal lengths.

For general-purpose shooting, I use a 1D-MkII with a 24-70/2.8L which gives me a very high quality 31-91mm f/2.8 equivalent. It covers most situations quite handily without having to drag along additional lenses. I don't know what the Nikon equivalent would be, but you might want to consider it.
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BobMcCarthy
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« Reply #25 on: May 20, 2005, 02:14:17 PM »
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From my limited testing, the lens makers pull out all the stops with the "super" zooms, and do budget cutting in the lower priced lines.

My guess is the primes match up as superior to the basic low cost zooms.

I have a 18-70ED kit that I bought with the D70. I'll test it tomorrow afternoon. The L's you mention are a cut above, and probably the equal of the faster zoom L's.

Leica could rise from near death with a M camera with the Nikon chip utilizing a lens line that were the equivalent field of view of the folm 35mm 50mm and 90mm, in my opinion.

I'd be first in line.

Film was simple. My M2 is set on 1/125 @ f 11 with high res film Chrome 64 or Vel 50. It was zone focused (hyperfocal) and I carried a Luna Pro. I do an incident reading to check HLights and if needed a reflected reading for the shadows. The work was in my head and a camera CPU isn't required to set exposure and focus.

One camera - one lens, simplicity itself. This is for the fun side of my life.

Bob
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pobrien3
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« Reply #26 on: May 22, 2005, 10:13:23 PM »
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I recently compared the Canon 24-70mm/f2.8L through the focal range to primes.  When stopped down the zoom at 50mm came very close to the 50mm/f1.4 at f8, but in most other areas the prime was noticeably sharper.  The test was empirical and subjective, but on the whole I thought the 24-70 held up very, very well indeed.  It seems to me though that you have to choose top quality zooms for this to be true: my 'amatuer' 28-105 doesn't even come close to the primes.
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jani
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« Reply #27 on: May 23, 2005, 03:06:26 PM »
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Clearly IS is useful for you and many other people, but not much for my style. A monopod or tripod when needed is enough for me, and I can leave that extra weight behind when not needed, whereas the extra weight of IS (and f/2.Cool is always there.
I imagine I'd feel the same way, if I didn't have the narrower FOV that the 20D gives me. That is, I certainly can take sharp images with a tripod at 200mm, but the number of keepers are lower, because any miniscule movement shows extremely easily. I also like to be able to take a hand-held shot of something in those cases where I don't have the time to whip out my tripod. It is a heavy load, and if I'd been backpacking like didger, I would think twice about bringing it along. I might even buy an f/4L as a backpacking option.

I also do some indoor photography, mainly of pool billiards, and that's something I simply must have IS for. Even at ISO 1600 and as open as f/5.6, I'm at between 1/15 and 1/40 second. (I'd really want f/11 or so for better DOF, but the lighting just doesn't allow for that.) Tripods are rarely possible to use in a non-interfering manner.

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And since you are using a 20D, why is EF-S vs EF an issue, apart from the likelihood that a competently designed lens optimized for the format and sensor type in use is likely to perform better than a lens designed for some other format, and maybe for a different sensor type (film)?
For me, this isn't an issue in itself, except that I can't put it on my 650, which I hardly use anyway, and that I can't put it on a 1D series camera, should I ever upgrade to one.

It could be an issue when considering selling the lens, but I don't think so; the vast majority of Canon DSLR owners will most likely have an EF-S compatible camera.

But the EF-S lenses do restrict your choice of camera more than a regular EF lens.

I know you're aware of this, but it looks like it didn't come across that I might be thinking about it, sorry.
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Jan
Ray
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« Reply #28 on: May 24, 2005, 09:11:07 AM »
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However, as Canon has not yet provided MTF graphs for the 17-85 or 10-22 EF-S lenses, I suppose it is not quite sure that they do have that expected better MTF performance.
I get the impression my EF-S 10-22 is not as sharp as my Sigma 15-30mm at the focal lengths they have in common, but I haven't done any rigorous tests yet.

What I have found is that in low light when I'm struggling to get a fast enough shutter speed for a hand-held shot at ISO 1600 and full aperture, the IS of the Canon 28-135 allows me to get a sharper shot at 30mm than the Sigma 15-30 which doesn't have IS.

I can't help wondering if the usefulness of IS at really short focal lengths, like 10mm, would still apply for stationary subjects. Applying the rule-of-thumb 1/FL35mm, the EF-S 10-22 can be used at a hand-held shutter speed of 1/16 sec at 10mm. Is it likely that IS could give a 2 stop advantage, allowing a hand-held shutter speed of just 1/4 sec for the same degree of sharpness  Huh
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jani
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« Reply #29 on: May 24, 2005, 09:27:08 AM »
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I get the impression my EF-S 10-22 is not as sharp as my Sigma 15-30mm at the focal lengths they have in common, but I haven't done any rigorous tests yet.
That isn't too much of a surprise, although as far as I can recall, I had no complaints about the sharpness of my 10-22 before I sold it.

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I can't help wondering if the usefulness of IS at really short focal lengths, like 10mm, would still apply for stationary subjects. Applying the rule-of-thumb 1/FL35mm, the EF-S 10-22 can be used at a hand-held shutter speed of 1/16 sec at 10mm. Is it likely that IS could give a 2 stop advantage, allowing a hand-held shutter speed of just 1/4 sec for the same degree of sharpness  Huh
Well, you could test that with a EF-S 17-85mm, 1/27s (i.e. 1/30s) w/o IS and 1/7s (i.e. 1/8s) with IS enabled.

For the record, I've managed usable shots close to that with the 28-135mm IS, though I tried sticking to 1/15s and quicker.
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Jan
boku
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« Reply #30 on: May 25, 2005, 07:31:21 AM »
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Well, you could test that with a EF-S 17-85mm, 1/27s (i.e. 1/30s) w/o IS and 1/7s (i.e. 1/8s) with IS enabled.
I don't have this lens. I wasn't even aware it has IS. Can anyone confirm that sharp hand-held shots at 1/7th sec are possible?
I have this lens.

I never tried handheld at those speeds, but I would not even think of trying that because that is the sweet spot for mirror vibration. Why ask for trouble?

Overall, the lens has been found to be as sharp as my 17-40L, but there is some CA present. I now use it without hesitation, remembering to remove the CA in Photoshop when needed.

It has less CA than my 28-135 IS which I am about to sell. Much better built lens, IMHO.
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Bob Kulon

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BJL
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« Reply #31 on: May 26, 2005, 01:41:14 PM »
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For the kind of stuff I do, zooms have always been good enough ... However, I just yesterday bought a Nikor PC Micro 85mm F2.8
That about sums it up for me except for telephoto primes maybe.

Almost all of the time, zooms win with me for the advantages of less lens swapping and/or less of the cropping needed when the best available prime is significanlty shorter than ideal for the composition.

But that goes out the window when subjects are close and framing can be adjusted adequately by adjusting subject distance: macro lenses are a prime example of that situation. A prime lens also makes sense when a large chunk of your photography fits with a single focal length, like portraits. A short telephoto macro can handle both of these tasks (except for bokeh purists) and is definitely the first prime on my shopping list.

One other case for primes is at extremes of telephoto such as for wildlife photography. The tendency then is that, prime or zoom, you are going to take a lot of shots at the maximum available focal length wth no flexibility to get perfect framing, so that ther wil often be significant cropping. Then what counts is having the longest, sharpest lens. For that a prime is likely the best choice, and can also save some weight.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #32 on: May 27, 2005, 04:52:48 AM »
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Canon hasn't had much reason to update their 200mm range lineup because the 70-200/2.8L IS is so good. When CA is practically zero at all apertures and focal lengths, and sharpness is very good-to-excellent, and the convenience of a zoom to boot, the only compelling reason to reach for a prime is for a faster aperture. I have the very-highly-regarded 135/2L, and while it is excellent optically, the only time I consistently use it is really low-light concerts. The 70-200/2.8L IS is simply good enough that going to a prime doesn't improve quality that much, and the convenience of the zoom and IS make it kinda hard to pull it off the 1Ds. At least for me.
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jani
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« Reply #33 on: May 29, 2005, 07:17:54 AM »
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I was just about to mention that; Canon has quietly modified some of its telephoto lenses to reduce this problem: changing the rear elements a bit and adding anti-flare coatings I believe.
Do you know which lenses that may be?

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The 17-40L, and lack of corresponding "EF-S L" lenses, is somewhat noticable as evidence of their reluctance to make high quality lenses for smaller formats only. Its focal lengths seem "1.6x friendly", but they instead made it cover 35mm format as well, gaining ultra-wide coverage when used with 35mm format, but substantially impairing its cost/weight/speed trade-offs when used in 1.6x, compared to what would have been possible with a smaller image circle design. (Compare to the Pentax 16-40 f/4, Olympus 14-54 f/2.8-3.5 or Nikon 18-70 f/3.5-4.5.)
Well, the 17-40L was the first "digital" lens from Canon, wasn't it? It was announced at a time when Canon didn't have EF-S, and as such couldn't exactly limit it to the reduced frame cameras only. Maybe Canon should have waited, but in some ways, they did just that with the EF-S 10-22.
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Jan
ddtuttle
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« Reply #34 on: June 23, 2005, 04:44:39 PM »
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Primaries will ALWAYS be sharper than zooms.
Lens design is not perfect; you can't even make a perfect lens for single focal point and aperture.  The whole thing is a series of comprosmises.

Zooms have to do much more than primaries, and hence have more elements and more complex mechanics.  As the technolgoy gets better, zooms will get better, but so will primaries.  

If you live for sharpness, then a primary will be better.  But make sure your camera can resolve the difference.
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lester_wareham
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« Reply #35 on: July 27, 2005, 08:08:18 AM »
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Sure, there's that chunk of L glass, but there's no IS! I'd really like a 200mm prime with IS. But maybe everybody who wants that just buys the 300mm f/4L IS instead.
I have the 200mm f2.8L.

Your right it could do with IS but it is handholdable in good light on an APS-C camera and is fairly sharp.

I wanted a f2.8 200mm but did not want the size and weight of the 70-200mm f2.8 options. Also I have a 100mm f2.8 macro so the wider end of the zoom is of limited help. The 100mm is my most used lens.

On my old FD system I started of with a zoom but switched to primes. Mostly because of the weight of the zoom but also because I find zooms distracting to my style.

On the other hand there are a few occasions where a zoom would be very useful.

You can't have everything can you. Of even if you can (and your wife lests you get it) you can't carry it!

Cheers!
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didger
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« Reply #36 on: May 19, 2005, 03:19:03 PM »
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I've recently switched from mainly primes to mainly zooms in the process of switching from 1ds to D2X and reducing my backpacking weight by about 8 lbs.  My widest zoom (12-24 Nikon) is not as good at 12mm as my widest Zeiss distagon (18mm prime) at f8 or f11, but quite close.  My  zooms at all other focal lengths and f8 or f11 are absolutely as good as my best primes at f8 or f11.  The big caveat, however, is for anyone that ever has to shoot hand held or event photography etc., where you have to use large apertures frequently.  Wide or midrange zooms at large apertures all suck, as far as I know, and I mean suck big time, compared to primes.  In my case, since I only ever shoot landscapes and virtually always with a tripod, poor quality wide open is no problem, especially since the D2X is so fantastically good at up to 800 ISO, so I hardly ever really have to shoot wide open even handheld.  I do have a Nikon 35mm prime for the few such occasions, however.  The difference between this $100 (used ebay) Nikkor f2 lens at f2 and my Tamrom 28-35 at f2.8 is unblievable.  However, at f8 there's absolutely no difference.

You have to choose what compromises work best for you.  There's no options with no compromises at all unless you have infinite financial resources and a crew of porters to haul your stuff around for you.
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BJL
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« Reply #37 on: May 20, 2005, 04:54:18 PM »
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From my limited testing, the lens makers pull out all the stops with the "super" zooms, and do budget cutting in the lower priced lines.

... The L's you mention are a cut above, and probably the equal of the faster zoom L's.
That was then, this is now.

With film, a lot of high quality work had to be done with relatively low speed film, and so people who wanted high quality zooms usually wanted them to be fast: hence the traditional dominance of constant f/2.8 in high quality zooms.

With digital SLRs, there is a lot more room for high quality photography to be done at higher ISO, and thus for using more often the increased DOF and reduced abberations of higher f-stops. That seems to have created a market for high quality zooms slower than f/2.8.

I mentioned the f/4 L zooms, but other possble examples are
- the Nikon 12-24 f/4
- Canon 17-85 f/4-5.6 and 10-22 3.5-4.5 EF-S lenses (probably not absolutely top quality, but apparently far better than one traditionally expects of such "slow" lenses), and
- most of the Olympus Four Thirds format zoom lenses so far.
Also, the Canon 400/4 DO is arguably another example of backing off on lens speed but not quality.
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RRPrescott
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« Reply #38 on: May 22, 2005, 08:23:35 PM »
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I have been using Canon for almost 20 years. I switched to digital 2 years ago with a Canon 10 D. I purchased a Canon 20 D at the end of January 2005 (my impression is that it is a much improved camera over the 10 D).

When I bought the 10 D, I purchased a 24-70 /2.8. I have found that to be an excellent lens (it is the one that resides on the camera most of the time). I bought 70-200 /2.8 IS about a 1 1/2 years ago. I find it to be an excellent lens that produces tack sharp pictures. My final purchase has been the 16-35 /2.8. Again I am impressed with the quality of the lens.

I still have a 70-200 /4.0 that I bought nearly 20 years ago (it also works on the digital equipment). I carry it on occasion but I generally use the above 3 lenses when I am shooting. I have a Tamrac Velecity 9 bag that allows me to carry the three zooms when I am traveling or in the field..

Most likely primes will take better pictures than zooms, however for me I like the flexibility that the zooms give me when I'm shooting.

RRP
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RRPrescott
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« Reply #39 on: May 23, 2005, 11:31:03 AM »
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I have to agree with Jonathan Wienke's latest comments. The zooms that I am using help to give me a lot of flexibility in framing and the composition of the picture. From my point of view that is important as many of the other issues we have to consider when shooting.

RRP
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