Ad
Ad
Ad
Pages: [1] 2 3 4 »   Bottom of Page
Print
Author Topic: Zooms or primes  (Read 10701 times)
ErikKaffehr
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 7917


WWW
« on: April 01, 2013, 06:58:20 AM »
ReplyReply

Hi,

This is intended as food for thought...

It used to be assumed that primes are better than zooms. Personally I prefer zooms and had found little advantage in primes.

But let's do a small figure game using LW/PH values from the http://www.photozone.de site:

1) Take a well known telephoto lens of high quality like the Canon 135/2 and compare to the Canon 70-200/2.8


CenterBorderCorner
135/2 at f5.6 348833083306
70-200/2.8L at 135/5.6349033103263

In this case the zoom lens would be very similar in sharpness to the well known 135/2 L

2) Or a par of Sony lenses
CenterBorderCorner
Zeiss Distagon 24/2 at f/8343432153101
Zeiss 24-70/2.8 ZA at 24/8342430972500

Here the Zeiss zoom is significantly weaker in the corners than the prime lens but the zoom and the prime are quite close at center and border.

So, my take is that if you shoot medium aperture, as I often do, the primes are of little advantage. It is often suggested to zoom using your feet, but moving around changes perspective. There is only one point in space giving you a certain perspective. So you can move around and shoot something else.

Also, moving around is not always an option, see below.

Best regards
Erik
« Last Edit: April 01, 2013, 07:19:22 AM by ErikKaffehr » Logged

Petrus
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 539


« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2013, 08:01:22 AM »
ReplyReply

It is true that the best zooms are as good as older primes, but then again the best modern primes have again pulled ahead. In most real life situations there is no difference, zooms are often more convenient especially in fast paced situations. Most press photographers use only zooms (like me) like 24-70 and 70-200 on assignments, but also have a couple of primes (faster for shallow DOF, or for that extra sharpness or focus control) for special situations. In my case they are 35 f/1.4, 85 f/1.8 and 135 f/2. I could do 98% of my work with those 2 zooms only and nobody would complain.
Logged
FranciscoDisilvestro
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 558


WWW
« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2013, 08:06:49 AM »
ReplyReply

Another example is with Nikon wides,
Again, using data from www.photozone.de, the relatively old Nikon 17-35 f2.8 AF-S at 21/5.6 is above almost any other lens. Here is a comparison with the Nikon 14-24/2.8 and the Zeiss 21mm /2.8 ZF (which is one of the best primes at that focal lenght)

LensCenterBorderCornerDistortion
Nikon 17-35/2.8 at 21/5.64035336232341.03% Barrel
Nikon 14-24/2.8 at 21/5.63878323532150.5% Barrel
Zeiss 21/2.8 at 5.63902320729861.7% Barrel
                                 
                     
Other primes like the Nikon 20mm f 2.8 D or the Sigma 20mm f1.8 EX DG perform even lower.

If we change the conditions to wide open, then the Zeiss 21/2.8 outperforms them all with almost the same sharpness than at 5.6.

Regards
Logged

ErikKaffehr
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 7917


WWW
« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2013, 08:09:02 AM »
ReplyReply

Hi,

Just to remark, the 135/2L used to be considered one of the best lenses Canon makes and the ZA Distagon 24/2 has been released 2012 I think, so these were not older primes.

I am absolutely with you that if large apertures are needed the fixed focals are in their prime, but many of us shoot medium apertures mostly.

Best regards
Erik


It is true that the best zooms are as good as older primes, but then again the best modern primes have again pulled ahead. In most real life situations there is no difference, zooms are often more convenient especially in fast paced situations. Most press photographers use only zooms (like me) like 24-70 and 70-200 on assignments, but also have a couple of primes (faster for shallow DOF, or for that extra sharpness or focus control) for special situations. In my case they are 35 f/1.4, 85 f/1.8 and 135 f/2. I could do 98% of my work with those 2 zooms only and nobody would complain.
Logged

BartvanderWolf
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 3877


« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2013, 08:11:06 AM »
ReplyReply

So, my take is that if you shoot medium aperture, as I often do, the primes are of little advantage. It is often suggested to zoom using your feet, but moving around changes perspective. There is only one point in space giving you a certain perspective. So you can move around and shoot something else.

Hi Erik,

Modern zoom lenses can be very good indeed. In resolution, they can be close enough to some fixed focal length lenses, although the corners may be slightly less.

However, there are more image quality determining factors to consider, e.g. Bokeh and Glare resistance.

Cheers,
Bart
Logged
ErikKaffehr
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 7917


WWW
« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2013, 08:45:16 AM »
ReplyReply

Hi Bart,

Thanks for pointing that out. I wanted to add a notice about that but simply forgot. There are a few other factors, too...

- Distortion
- Bokeh
- Color bokeh, but that seems to be a major problems with large aperture primes
- Zooms are often weak in one or both ends

Would Sony make a 24/2.8 TS I would buy directly, not because it's a prime but because of the TS. I am also in progress of using a old Macro Planar 120/4 as a tilt lens.

Best regards
Erik


quote author=BartvanderWolf link=topic=76924.msg615700#msg615700 date=1364821866]
Hi Erik,

Modern zoom lenses can be very good indeed. In resolution, they can be close enough to some fixed focal length lenses, although the corners may be slightly less.

However, there are more image quality determining factors to consider, e.g. Bokeh and Glare resistance.

Cheers,
Bart
[/quote]
Logged

Ken R
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 537


WWW
« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2013, 08:58:10 AM »
ReplyReply

The photozone.de lens tests are great as a starting point but at which focusing distance do they test the lens? I find that some lenses do not perform equally well at all focus distances. Its something to consider.
Logged
ErikKaffehr
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 7917


WWW
« Reply #7 on: April 01, 2013, 09:26:31 AM »
ReplyReply

Hi,

Many modern lenses have floating groups which compensate for focusing distance, so they are probably less subject to focusing distance than older designs.

I don't know about subject distance in the Photozone tests, something like 50 times focal length used to be recommended. MTF curves are normally calculated at infinity.

Best regards
Erik

The photozone.de lens tests are great as a starting point but at which focusing distance do they test the lens? I find that some lenses do not perform equally well at all focus distances. Its something to consider.
Logged

stever
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 1073


« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2013, 11:36:39 AM »
ReplyReply

I have both the 70-200 f4 is and the 200 f2.8 - have tested with Imatest (a couple copies of each before I bought them) and found individual lenses to have consistent performance with little difference between the zoom and the prime.  rarely use the 200.
- but medium zooms are much less challenging to design and manufacture than wide zooms or wide to short tele lenses.  my experience with the 17-40 and 24-105 is consistent with test results - performance varies with focal length and lens-lens performance varies substantially - particularly symmetrically (which also varies with focal length)

although the 24-105 is certainly not as good 3 or 4 primes, that doesn't keep me from using it - it's good enough for most purposes.

Roger's tests at lensrentals.com are very informative (and unique) in evaluating lens-lens variation of several to many samples.  single lens tests are informative, but i'm not too sure how reliable they are - photozone has tested a few bad sample (and probably some better than average as well) in the past. 
Logged
EgillBjarki
Full Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 152



WWW
« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2013, 01:41:39 AM »
ReplyReply

I have been asking my self the very same question!

Over the years, I have been through Nikon, Canon and even ventured into a H2 and a P30+.

Currently I shoot Canon, use 24-70mm L II and 70-200mm L II. Both of these lenses are stellar! For video, I use the Tamron 24-70mm. That lens is the only none-camera maker lens I have ever bought. Very good lens, but the Canon is for sure sharper.

At one point, my kit only contained prime lenses. In general, I found my self often stopping them down to f/2.8, if I did not, I was not happy with the quality. The exception was the above discussed Canon 135mm, very sharp wide open.

For me, shooting with prime lenses is very different to zoom. I think that my time with prime lenses elevated my work ethics. It is like photographing with film, personally, I tend to take more time for composition. You do not have the usual 1.999 card you can delete from, you only have the film.

I am sure that many people have a completely opposite path, going from zoom's into primes. What it all comes down to, a lens is just a tool. What you are comfortable and confident with, you can and will get good results with.

Best regards,
Logged

Jim Pascoe
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 864


WWW
« Reply #10 on: April 02, 2013, 06:25:52 AM »
ReplyReply

Yes, I've gone from zooms to primes.  It's true that with my 24-70 and 70-200 f2.8 zooms I could do almost anything I wanted and the quality was fine (these are not the latest versions of the Canon lenses but bought around 2003).  However I got bored, particularly with the 24-70.  The 70-200 is a gem I have to admit.  Now most of my work is with 35, 50 and 85mm primes and I think the better for it.  Yes the quality is a bit better, but it makes me think more which just seems to work for me.

Jim
Logged
LawrenceBraunstein
Jr. Member
**
Offline Offline

Posts: 54


WWW
« Reply #11 on: April 02, 2013, 06:29:33 AM »
ReplyReply

It is often suggested to zoom using your feet, but moving around changes perspective.

Point well taken, Eric! Changing the camera-to-subject distance also changes perspective which effects the image more profoundly than a change in focal length (which merely effects the crop of the image). In my own photography I have often found it better to first determine the strongest perspective (when possible) and then use a zoom to best make use of what sensor real estate I have. However, if faced with the choice of either changing perspective to best fill the frame or staying at the better perspective and cropping (within reason), Id rather stick with the more propitious perspective and crop in post.

Best regards,

Larry
Logged

theguywitha645d
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 970


« Reply #12 on: April 02, 2013, 09:24:00 AM »
ReplyReply

There is one other factor, a personal one--I don't like using zooms. I chose a lens for its apparent perspective and I learn to see how it sees. With a zoom, I cannot visualize the intermediate focal lengths and so just use it at one end or the other.

And maximum aperture is important to me. While I might take most of my images stopped down, I do not take all of my images stopped down. I also prefer a brighter viewfinder image with a shallower DoF for focusing.

As far as the "wrong lens on the camera" argument. The lens is never wrong, the photographer's solution is wrong. There is no such thing as the right focal length.

But none of this has anything to do with whether someone else prefers a zoom.

As far as optical quality, a zoom may be equal to a prime focal length at that focal length, but if it is not good at all focal lengths, then you are back to having a mix of primes. Personally, having shot medium- and large-format cameras for most of my career, the choice of lenses has always been limited. Fortunately, the lenses tend to be consistently good. I see small-format photographers constantly complain about their optics and it really puts me off going to those formats. Folks complain that the RX-1 is "stuck" with only one lens, but that is kind of like being in a marriage and "stuck" with one girl, Audrey Hepburn.
Logged
Fine_Art
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 1154


« Reply #13 on: April 02, 2013, 11:30:05 AM »
ReplyReply

In the recent series of articles 'lenses for the D800', DxO claims primes are consistently better than zooms. A lens is a lot more than resolution.

Personally I find Minolta/Sony primes to have more perfect bokeh than the signature nikon bokeh. The nikon bokeh is an attractive style. It does not smoothly vanish like the Minolta bokeh. I think maybe Nikons are designed more for the resolution of edges (hence the top DxO scores) and minolta is designed more for smooth rendering.
Logged
NancyP
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 1055


« Reply #14 on: April 02, 2013, 12:25:27 PM »
ReplyReply

I started shooting 35mm film in 1968, so had primes only, initially a 55mm f/1.4 Mamiya Sekor for a year, then gradually adding other Vivitar and Tokina lenses (Vivitar 20mm and 200mm, Tokina 135mm). Foot zoom worked fine most of the time.

After a very long hiatus, I started shooting digital in 2010, with APS-C format and 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS EF-S Canon lens. That is still my walk-about workhorse lens. I then added a Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS L, a Canon 400mm f/5.6L (birding), and a Canon 60mm f/2.8 macro EF-S lens. Very recently I added a Sigma 35mm f/1.4 (FF) for a genuinely fast normal prime, and a manual-everything bargain Samyang 14mm f/2.8. I am fooling around with wide field astrophotography with the Sigma and Samyang - astonishingly good wide open, particularly when used with stacking programs (Lynkeos). Eventually I will add a basic FF body, likely the 6D, and at that time I would look for a counterpart to the APS-C-only 15-85mm.

I am not a pro, and I don't need greater than 11x17" prints. The two zooms are very capable, and are usable wide open, though I usually stop down the 15-85 one stop if possible. The 15-85mm gets used at 15mm a lot.
Logged
Ray
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 8939


« Reply #15 on: April 02, 2013, 10:54:55 PM »
ReplyReply

Everything is a trade-off and a compromise in some respect, without exception I believe. The ideal lens would be a relatively lightweight, image-stabilized, F2.8 superzoom with the performance of the best prime lenses at each focal length and F stop. Such a lens does not exist.

Each of us has to determine which of the trade-offs are the more significant in relation to our style of shooting. My own experience is that it's sometimes easy to get seduced by glowing reports of the sharpness, and nice bokeh, of a particular prime lens, buy it, then find over time that one doesn't use it much because its fixed focal length is too restrictive.

Getting the shot and capturing the moment most of the time, albeit without the sharpest resolution and the nicest bokeh available, is perhaps more important than frequently missing the shot whilst trying to get to the right distance with one's feet, or missing that critical moment because one needed to change lenses.

Whilst it's often possible to stitch images taken with a prime lens to simulate a wider focal length, and get better resolution in the process, it's not possible to get the resolution of a longer focal length by cropping. The best 100mm prime lens ever made will not match the resolution of a moderately good zoom used at 150mm, for example, and perhaps not even at 120mm in the case of the better zooms.
Logged
Fine_Art
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 1154


« Reply #16 on: April 02, 2013, 11:07:05 PM »
ReplyReply

That's why I always carry a 300 f4 with 2x tele. If I'm going to do wildlife I pack a 1200 f4.7 in the car. Shocked
Logged
ErikKaffehr
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 7917


WWW
« Reply #17 on: April 02, 2013, 11:29:25 PM »
ReplyReply

Hi,

This is an image from Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton NP.



I wanted the trees on the left reflected in the river, also wanted the mountains in the background reflected. To the left there were a couple of trees and branches I wanted to keep out. In front there was a lot of vegetation I wanted to minimize. Optimal placement of the tripod was say within 15 cm. Yes I moved it to the right about 15 cm to get rid of some branches, moving more would give new branches sticking into the frame from right.

This image was taken with a 100 mm lens, so I could as well use my 100/2.8 macro, 135 wouldn't work and 85 mm would have needed cropping, neither could help with the smog from over twenty wildfires.

A few days ago I saw a BC movie from Yellowstone, they had a lot of footage shot from the exactly same spot I have chosen, fun!

Best regards
Erik
Logged

ErikKaffehr
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 7917


WWW
« Reply #18 on: April 02, 2013, 11:38:09 PM »
ReplyReply

Hi,

I carry a 70-400 zoom and 1.4X and 2X extenders and a APS-C camera in addition. The 70-400/4-5.6 replaced the 80-200/2.8 zoom and 400/5.6 prime I used to carry. The APS-C has a crop factor of 1.5 and 24 MP, so it also helps.

The main reason for the 70-400 was that my shorter zooms were a bit soft on the long end with the 24 MP APS-C. It was also about weight I need to get most of my packing below 10 kg, because weight limitations for checked luggage here in Europe.

I tested the 70-400/4-5.6 against mine 400/4.5 and they were quite similar in image quality.

The 2X extender is not really useful, except for video. In video the camera discards 2/3 of the resolution.

Best regards
Erik

That's why I always carry a 300 f4 with 2x tele. If I'm going to do wildlife I pack a 1200 f4.7 in the car. Shocked
Logged

foveonconvert
Newbie
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 7


« Reply #19 on: April 03, 2013, 03:30:03 AM »
ReplyReply

Hi,

Just to remark, the 135/2L used to be considered one of the best lenses Canon makes and the ZA Distagon 24/2 has been released 2012 I think, so these were not older primes.

I am absolutely with you that if large apertures are needed the fixed focals are in their prime, but many of us shoot medium apertures mostly.

Best regards
Erik



Just because you shoot medium apertures doesn't mean everybody else has to.  Different paint brushes for different paintings.  I prefer primes for photography as I know the perspective before even putting the viewfinder to my eye, so I can visualize what I'm going to shoot and how to execute the vision.  Primes for lowlight too.  99% of what I shoot I have the luxury of time to compose and frame my shot properly.  The larger aperture also helps to isolate subjects should I want to.  Much more versatile than a zoom for me.

With that said, on an African safari, I'd wait for the 200-400/4 w1.4x to come out and bring that.

Not much of a use comparing different tools to achieve different visions.
Logged
Pages: [1] 2 3 4 »   Top of Page
Print
Jump to:  

Ad
Ad
Ad