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Prime or Zoom

Posted 04/10/2023 - 15:52 Link
This question has probably been asked many times before, but here go's. I'm looking at trying street and abstract photography. Before I do I need to know what would be the ideal lens. I have read recommendations for street to use a prime lens of around 24mm to 50mm, but no recommentations for abstract. I don't have any primes, only zooms. Now my take on it ( and I may get shot down for this ) if you have a zoom lens that covers the focal range of a prime lens why use one. I intend to get either so your thoughts will be most appreciated.
Edited by Ratcatcher: 04/10/2023 - 15:57
Posted 04/10/2023 - 16:04 Link

The reason....

It'll make you get more creative in framing the shot. Also think outside the box. Even if it means sprottling all over the floor to get THAT ANGLE!

The vast majority of eveything I shoot, is shot with a prime or a fixed focal length lens.
The Legendary Terry Pratchett once said:
At the beginning there was nothing... which exploded
Edited by Spad: 04/10/2023 - 16:08
Posted 04/10/2023 - 16:32 Link
I always advocate using what you have before investing in equipment. If you find that feel limited take the time to see why and what will fix it. For abstract photography a zoom offers far more ways to make that image.
Posted 04/10/2023 - 16:39 Link
denverclassic wrote:
For abstract photography a zoom offers far more ways to make that image.

I would MASSIVELY disagree with that!!
The Legendary Terry Pratchett once said:
At the beginning there was nothing... which exploded
Posted 04/10/2023 - 16:57 Link
Street tends to push you towards a fairly narrow range of subject distance and focal length which then determines the best type of lens to use. Others can advise, I don't do street, but I would expect small and unobtrusive to be a consideration.

Abstract, however, can be at any scale from the microscopic to hugely huge so pretty well any lens can be used provided it is appropriate for the subject. I've done abstract ultra-macro, which pretty well demands a prime lens, and big-scale abstract which can be done with a zoom. One of my recent favourite abstracts is the bonnet of a car link. It was taken with a 500mm mirror lens simply because that was the lens on the camera when I spotted the opportunity. Another favourite is the surface of dried paint link. That was taken with a 70mm macro lens. With abstract, it can be useful to have the possibility of using narrow depth of field to isolate part of a picture. That pushes for a fast (wide aperture) prime. However, superb abstracts can also be taken with narrow aperture and edge-to-edge sharpness. You need to match your lens to your vision and style. Or vice-versa - get a lens then find the abstracts which suit it. Or even try taking abstracts with your existing lenses and see where it takes you .

Posted 04/10/2023 - 17:09 Link
I think zooms make us lazy, and less inclined to fanny about, but I am not saying they're without there uses. When I was working, a zoom was the way to go or I wudda been screwed.

For me a prime or fixed focal length makes you think a lot more about framing and composition. Because it makes you engage more with the subject, and also can get you up close and personal with it. Makes you think about different angles, different approaches, as well as depth of field. Using a zoom full in will lose you that option pretty much straight away (depending on focal length and subject distance... larger the focal length, less DOF).

But I do agree Steve about the mirror lens. It is a wonderfully subjective lens. I have taken some great street images using one. Especially using it in a stand off position. You can get really good natural images of people because they do not know you are taking their photo. You can pick up mirror lenses relatively cheap to!


Ooohhh... a magical lens worth thinking about is a fisheye!
The Legendary Terry Pratchett once said:
At the beginning there was nothing... which exploded
Edited by Spad: 04/10/2023 - 17:28
Posted 04/10/2023 - 23:35 Link
You get what you need for the job you want to do. Sometime, a prime is better, but, for certain subject like "birding", nothing can touch a zoom. Idem for some sports. However, for street photography or portrait, prime lenses are generally better suited. So, think seriously about what you want to do with your next lens. It will drive your choice.
Yves (another one of those crazy Canucks)
Posted 05/10/2023 - 09:56 Link
pentaxian450 wrote:
for certain subject like "birding", nothing can touch a zoom

Disagree with this....if you want to isolate a bird from the background a prime is better as it is normally a 'brighter' ie faster lens. Zoom lenses don't always best performance at the widest aperture so you have to close down 1-2 stops. Zooms may be better to 'acquire' the bird if they are flying and then zoom in but I have got shot after shot where there is far too much discernible detail behind the bird.

I'd say for street anything between 31 and 43 are the sweet spot to get the image the way your eye sees it. fortunately in Pentax world we have plenty of options in that range (31, 35, 43) the primes are more compact...
Z-1p, K-1, P50
F50 1.7. SMC-FAs 24, 35, 50 1.4, 85, 135. HD-FA15-30, DFA24-70, D-FA*70-200. The SMC-FA Limited Trinity.
Metz 45 CL-4, AF500FTZ. AF540FGZ.
Some Mamiya and some Nikon
Posted 05/10/2023 - 10:35 Link
Primes are smaller (if comparable focal length), faster (usually), sharper (almost always but some uber-expensive modern zooms are just as good) and generally make you think more about composition. This last point I think is especially relevant for abstract photography, which by it's nature can use any type of lens - abstract is a way of seeing more than anything else and a prime will encourage that.
Pentax hybrid user - Digital K3, film 645 and 35mm SLR and Pentax (&other) lenses adapted to Fuji X and Panasonic L digital
Fan of DA limited and old manual lenses
Posted 05/10/2023 - 11:16 Link
Jonathan-Mac wrote:
abstract is a way of seeing more than anything else

Agree 200%. If you don't see it, no lens is going to help you.

Posted 05/10/2023 - 19:01 Link
As someone who does a large amount of street photography. I feel I have to offer my two peneth here. There has already been some fantastic advice given. Don't try new lenses before trying what you have. Is the correct thing to do.. Try before you buy kind of thing. So firstly, I certainly think that for "Street" togging. You can primarily use any lense length you like. Even a mobile phone will work well. But if you break it down into what you want to shoot. If thats people in there day, Are you going to pose them ? Then this can make a false image as they tend to change attitude and pose. So a longer lens may help to keep the subject unaware. I find in smaller towns many folks dont like having their pic taken. I usually find in the city when shooying buildings you cant always get far enough away to capture with a medium length lens. Faster lenses will help your images not look too busy and will isolate the subject. I would recommend using just one lens per outing as it can be a pain keep changing lenses from wide to long to get the right image. So "Zooms" are my first choice. As modern day zooms produce just as good an image as primes. And you can lose a shot with primes while moving to get the right composition. My usual choice is K1 with DFA 24 70 f2.8, It's also a good idea to learn the technique of shooting from the hip.. Good luck with your ventures.
K-1Gripped K-1 ungripped K-5ii K7 Various lenses


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