What is the use of a prime ?


johnha

Link Posted 12/04/2012 - 01:25
I feel shorter focal lengths benefit primes more than longer, short focal length zooms are usually quite bulky, longer lengths are not much more so than a prime. As you go longer, the ability to 'pull-back' a bit can be really useful, especially where you're shooting things that move closer to/further away from the camera quite a bit (football rather than cricket for example).

As many have said, primes make you think a bit harder/differently. My favourite being the M 40/2.8 pancake on film for it's tiny dimensions and being an excellent focal length (although I still often carried a 50/1.7 as well).

The other advantage is that primes are really basic, zooms today can be very good but the technology of primes peaked in the '50s, it wasn't until the '80s when zooms became 'decent'.

Technically a lens is only a zoom if the focus doesn't shift during 'zooming', and most are really varifocal lenses.
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Last Edited by johnha on 12/04/2012 - 01:27

Smeggypants

Link Posted 12/04/2012 - 02:07
I don't agree with the idea that primes make you think more about composition. If anything making something less easy is to discourage it.

In fact taking a shot with a wider lens, thus allowing for some leeway in the Post Pro stage actually gives you more room to to think about the composition and crop accordingly. but anyway if people want to self flagellate and feel that helps them then I'm not going to dissuade them.

That aside I love primes, I have several. Apart from the IQ superiority, Primes are generally available in delicious wide apertures like F/1.2, 1.4 and 1.7. this means lovely pics with depth and nice Bokeh. My two favourite lenses are my A50/1.2 and Sigma 30/1.4
[i]Bodies: 1x K-5IIs, 2x K-5, Sony TX-5, Nokia 808
Lenses: Pentax DA 10-17mm ED(IF) Fish Eye, Pentax DA 14mm f/2.8, Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8, Pentax-A 28mm f/2.8, Sigma 30mm F1.4 EX DC, Pentax-A 50mm f/1.2, Pentax-A 50mm f/1.4, Pentax-FA 50mm f/1.4, Pentax-A 50mm f/1.7, Pentax DA* 50-135mm f/2.8, Sigma 135-400mm APO DG, and more ..
Flash: AF-540FGZ, Vivitar 283

PaulEvans

Link Posted 12/04/2012 - 08:20
Both have their place. I love my primes for landscape and general work. But for my climbing photography I'm often hanging from a rope at considerable height working with a subject who's moving fast - zooms are essential. Horses for courses. My primes beat my zooms hands down for optical quality.

Paul
K3ii, K5, DA16-85, DA35mm Limited, FA77mm Limited, 55mm f1.8 K, 135mm f3.5 M, DA300, DA 1.4 HD TC,
DA16-45, FA24-90, Sigma 15mm f2.8. Cosina 100mm f3.5 macro

simonkit

Link Posted 12/04/2012 - 09:24
Smeggypants wrote:
In fact taking a shot with a wider lens, thus allowing for some leeway in the Post Pro stage actually gives you more room to to think about the composition and crop accordingly. but anyway if people want to self flagellate and feel that helps them then I'm not going to dissuade them.


Think I'll head for cover


.
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pianoman

Link Posted 12/04/2012 - 12:31
Its all been said but as a keen amateur I love prime lens for picture quality and they make me work to get the shot make me think ,Think of composition and everything associtated with trying to get the shot
With a prime you have to physically move rather that just zoom and for me it makes for the basics for becoming a better photographer and gives much better understanding of lens a much better learning curve with superior images as a result but I am very much an apprentice
All the best

David
Last Edited by pianoman on 12/04/2012 - 12:32

RayB

Link Posted 12/04/2012 - 13:25
I've had the Pentax 35mm f/2.8 macro on hire over easter. It has been a long time since I've used a prime and at first found it very restrictive, but, as has been said, it forced me to change habits and look at subjects differently.

As to the IQ of this lens - just WOW! I've been going through some images this morning and cannot help but be amazed.

I love my 15-50mm DA* and this is usually attached to the K5 by default, but the 35mm is now on the list of things to buy.

timd

Link Posted 12/04/2012 - 19:53
If you have the luxury of time you can either "zoom with your feet" or else change lenses. If the action is quick, zooms are better able to capture the shot. Is it better to capture the shot (albeit not perfect IQ) or miss it totally? I think of the Tiananmen Square shot of the man with shopping bags in front of the Chinese army: taken with a long lens on iso 100 film, push processed to be a grainy image - not ideal IQ, but he got the money shot.

There is a place for both.

JAK

Link Posted 12/04/2012 - 20:15
I agree. If you have a subject moving towards you it is possible to get several shots in with a zoom at various distances. But if the subject is stationary and time isn't an issue, take it with a prime for the better quality.

John
John K

MartynUK

Link Posted 13/04/2012 - 10:53
One thing that hasn't been mentioned with zooms is that we tend to forget about the effect on perspective that different focal length lenses have -

I think people generally (me included!) tend to use a zoom to frame compose the shot they want from where they're standing - rather than think about whether they should zoom out and move closer or zoom in and move further away. I've got a very old Kodak book that shows some great examples of the effect of different focal lengths and it does make quite a difference.

Of course, I agree that for some subjects you don't have time to move and any shot is a good one!!

Martyn
Martyn

http://www.flickr.com/photos/northamptonshirecouk/

petrochemist

Link Posted 13/04/2012 - 12:39
MartynUK wrote:
One thing that hasn't been mentioned with zooms is that we tend to forget about the effect on perspective that different focal length lenses have -

I think people generally (me included!) tend to use a zoom to frame compose the shot they want from where they're standing - rather than think about whether they should zoom out and move closer or zoom in and move further away. I've got a very old Kodak book that shows some great examples of the effect of different focal lengths and it does make quite a difference.

Of course, I agree that for some subjects you don't have time to move and any shot is a good one!!

Martyn

There is NO difference is perspective from the focal length of the lens. The change in perspective is from the position of the camera. Changing focal length will encorage a change in position.

If you crop the view from a wide angle to match the FOV of a telephoto taken from the same spot you'll see the perspective is identcal.
Mike
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Pentax:K5ii, K7, K100D, DA18-55, DA10-17, DA55-300, DA50-200, F100-300, F50, DA35 AL, 4* M50, 2* M135, Helicoid extension, Tak 300 f4 (& 6 film bodies)
3rd Party: Bigmos (Sigma 150-500mm OS HSM),2* 28mm, 100mm macro, 28-200 zoom, 35-80 zoom, 80-200 zoom, 80-210 zoom, 300mm M42, 600 mirror, 1000-4000 scope, 50mm M42, enlarger lenses, Sony & micro 4/3 cameras with various PK mounts, Zenit E...
Far to many tele-converters, adapters, project parts & extension tubes etc.

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stevesphotos

Link Posted 13/04/2012 - 17:32
As a general rule ... guideline ... thing I usually do, but sometimes don't.... Primes are for me when I go out 'doing photography' (because I enjoy using them more), zooms are for when I'm with other non-photographic people (because they're more convenient).
All my photos are with 8 year old cameras ...
645D, 35mm, SDM 55mm, FA75mm, FA150mm f/2.8 and K-5, Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8, DA* 50-135mm, Samyang 8mm, other miscellaneous stuff...

Smeggypants

Link Posted 13/04/2012 - 21:36
pianoman wrote:
Its all been said but as a keen amateur I love prime lens for picture quality and they make me work to get the shot make me think ,Think of composition and everything associtated with trying to get the shot
With a prime you have to physically move rather that just zoom and for me it makes for the basics for becoming a better photographer and gives much better understanding of lens a much better learning curve with superior images as a result but I am very much an apprentice

Not for me to challenge what works for others, but I see no logic in the claim that walking instead of turning a zoom ring makes for a better photographer. if you've got the eye for a good composition and you can see the current composition is bad when looking through the viewfinder then whether you adjust to the better composition by walking or turning the zoom ring shouldn't make any difference. eitehr way you had to go through the same thought process.

In fact with my reasoning, as it's easier to turn the zoom ring than walking then that would surely encourage people to try more composition variations.
[i]Bodies: 1x K-5IIs, 2x K-5, Sony TX-5, Nokia 808
Lenses: Pentax DA 10-17mm ED(IF) Fish Eye, Pentax DA 14mm f/2.8, Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8, Pentax-A 28mm f/2.8, Sigma 30mm F1.4 EX DC, Pentax-A 50mm f/1.2, Pentax-A 50mm f/1.4, Pentax-FA 50mm f/1.4, Pentax-A 50mm f/1.7, Pentax DA* 50-135mm f/2.8, Sigma 135-400mm APO DG, and more ..
Flash: AF-540FGZ, Vivitar 283

DanceOfLight

Link Posted 13/04/2012 - 23:44
I tend to use primes for multi-row Pano as there is no fear of zoom creep, Less/predictable field (of) curvature than zooms and each of em fit nicely in my pockets without making me look funny. I find that generally primes are more resistant to flare when compared to zoom as well.

johnriley

Link Posted 13/04/2012 - 23:47
You may well change the composition by zooming, but don't forget that it is only by moving position that you can explore the changes in perspective. Zooms can lead to lazier photography, but nonetheless they are the right choice for many photographers.
Best regards, John

Smeggypants

Link Posted 13/04/2012 - 23:56
johnriley wrote:
You may well change the composition by zooming, but don't forget that it is only by moving position that you can explore the changes in perspective. Zooms can lead to lazier photography, but nonetheless they are the right choice for many photographers.

Of course, but that applies to both primes and Zooms equally.
[i]Bodies: 1x K-5IIs, 2x K-5, Sony TX-5, Nokia 808
Lenses: Pentax DA 10-17mm ED(IF) Fish Eye, Pentax DA 14mm f/2.8, Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8, Pentax-A 28mm f/2.8, Sigma 30mm F1.4 EX DC, Pentax-A 50mm f/1.2, Pentax-A 50mm f/1.4, Pentax-FA 50mm f/1.4, Pentax-A 50mm f/1.7, Pentax DA* 50-135mm f/2.8, Sigma 135-400mm APO DG, and more ..
Flash: AF-540FGZ, Vivitar 283
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