Prime Lenses - an Introduction

Prime Lenses – an Introduction

Canon-Ef-50Mm-Lens-1Should I buy a Prime Lens?

In an age when zoom lenses are all the range – I’ve been surprised to be getting more and more questions about prime lenses of late.

Perhaps there’s a return to a more ‘pure’ or ‘back to basics’ form of photography going on?

A Definition of Prime Lenses

For those of you unfamiliar with the term ‘prime lens’ – lets start with a simple definition. A prime lens is one that has just one focal length only (in contrast to a zoom lens that covers a wider range of lengths).

Prime lenses come in a wide range of focal lengths from wide angles through to the very longest of tele-photo lenses used by many sports photographers and paparazzi.

While zoom lenses are ever popular and come as the standard kit lens with most DSLRs sold – prime lenses remain the favorite of many.

The main two reasons given by prime lens lovers are:

Maximum Aperture – one of the biggest arguments used by prime lens lovers is the speed that prime lenses are able to offer. For example, in the Canon range the fastest lenses available are all prime lenses (down to f/1.2) where as in the zoom range f/2.8 is as fast as you’ll get.

Quality – traditionally prime lenses are known for their advanced optics and quality. They generally have less moving parts and so manufacturers are able to concentrate their efforts on adding quality glass and menanisms.

Keep in mind however that just because it’s a prime lens doesn’t mean that it is going to be of the highest standards. Manufacturers make a range of lenses at different price point (zoom and prime) and some are always going to be better than others.

Price – in general prime lenses are simpler in terms of construction and as a result they can be cheaper to buy. Of course it’s not as simple as this and quality is determined by many factors and as a result price varies a lot even in the prime lens range of most manufacturers.

Weight – once again, a simple lens with less moving parts can mean that in many cases prime lenses are smaller and lighter than zooms.

Prime Lenses Combat Lazy Photographer Syndrome – when you have a zoom lens attached to your camera the temptation is to let your zoom do all the work and to leave your feet attached to the same piece of turf. This is what is attractive about zooms – however it can also lead to laziness and I’ve heard a few prime lens users argue that when they have a prime lens attached that it makes them more creative with their framing as they are forced to look more actively for the best shot.

There’s a lot to like about Prime Lenses and most serious photographers will own at least one or two. However there are of course those who argue against them with some of the following arguments:

Weight and Price – while the arguments above on price and weight are fairly convincing – it’s also worth considering that you might need to buy two or three prime lenses to cover the same focal range as you could achieve the same spread as could be achieved with a zoom lens. This means the price can add up and that you might end up hauling around more weight in your camera bag than you would with just the one lens.

Flexibility – perhaps the most convincing argument against prime lenses is that they can limit the possibilities of the photographer. I still remember the time that I had a 100mm prime lens attached at a party when the speeches started and where I was separated from my camera bag. I was just too close to the people giving speeches to get anything other than tightly cropped shots of their facial features. Had I had my trusty 24-105mm lens attached I’d have been able to get those tightly cropped shots as well as some full body shots.

There is rarely a ‘best’ in photography when it comes to either technique or equipment and those considering the purchase of a prime lens will want to think seriously about their own needs and circumstances.

Some questions to ask might include:

  • What will I use the lens for (what style of photography)? – If you’re into macro you’ll probably want a purpose built macro prime lens, if you’re into photographing kids then the flexibility of a zoom might be handy)
  • Do I need fast aperture? – if you shoot a lot in low light and f/2.8 is not enough – a prime lens will be your best bet
  • Do I want to be changing lenses all the time? – three prime lenses means a lot of swapping over of lenses which opens your camera up to the risk of dust.
  • How many lenses do I want to carry? – is weight an issue?
  • How much is my budget? – the cost of either option can be prohibitive depending upon the quality and number of lenses that you’re after.

My personal Favorites

I’m a Canon user and have three prime lenses that I’ve used and love:

  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II – my first prime and a superb little lens that is light, cheap yet produces great results considering it’s price tag. The perfect lens to test out what it’s like to have a prime lens.
  • Canon EF 50mm f1.4 – exceptional quality and really great in low light.
  • Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro – this lens opens up all kinds of possibilities for macro work and is brilliant in that field. It’s also not bad as a portrait lens strangely enough!
  • What prime lenses do you own? (I’m particularly interested in the recommendations of non Canon users to help balance the recommendations)
  • Do you use them?
  • What do you see as their advantages and disadvantages?

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • Glynn February 2, 2013 06:34 am

    I do a lot of Product phtography and use the Canon 100mm Macro 2.8 on my Canon 5D. This is my prime lens. It works quite well.

  • Fred October 20, 2012 06:16 am

    I have a number of prime lenses in multiple brands. First I shoot Canon primes including the 50mm 1.4, 85mm 1.2, 100mm 2.8 macro. Next Nikon film camera (Fuji S2 digital) 50mm 1.8, 85mm 1.8, 24mm 2.8. From many years ago I still shoot my Pentax K1000 28mm 3.5, 50mm 1.4, 135mm 3.5. Funny thing they all get used. With a couple of adapters the Nikon and Pentax lenses are used on my Panasonic G1 (manual focus) .

  • Matthew May 19, 2012 11:20 pm

    AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8g - real value for the money.

  • Ginger May 11, 2012 08:28 am

    I bought a Sigma EX 70mm 2.8 for around $100 at 80% off when Ritz was closing up. I've played around with it a little on the macro end and use it a lot for stock shots of bokeh. I stumbled on this forum when I was looking into tips for really getting the most out of it and now I have to take it and nothing else out (no temptations :) and get to know it a little better (okay a lot better).

    I'll let you know how it goes!

  • bart naessens February 25, 2012 10:47 am

    i used a nikon fm3a, with only prime lenses. ten or so.
    now i use a nikon d700, right-angle viewer and heavy tripod.
    lenses (all MF): 15mm/3.5, 28mm/3.5, 50mm/1.8, 135mm/2.8 and 300mm/4.5.
    most of the time i do landscape these days.
    see my site!
    have fun shootin'!

  • Adrian February 25, 2012 08:26 am

    I love my Nikon primes and I will often just set out with two primes and work within their constraints as it forces me to be a lot more creative.

    10.5mm Fisheye
    20mm f/2.8
    35mm f/1.8
    50mm f/1.4
    50mm f/1.8
    85mm f/1.8
    105mm f/2.8 VR Micro

  • Tomas Haran February 13, 2012 11:05 am

    Dana - That's awesome that you are enjoying your 50mm 1.4. Amazing prime lens. Now its 2012, have you picked up any more prime lenses?
    I currently have the 105mm 2.8 micro Nikon lens, but am thinking of upgrading to the new 105mm 2.8 VR lens as it has nano crystal coating and doesn't zoom in and out when focusing. Its supposed to be extremely sharp and the vr can help as well.
    I also have the 35mm 1.8.

    Short list of amazing prime lenses for NIkon
    85mm 1.8/1.4
    50mm 1.8/1.4
    200mm prime
    60mm 2.8 micro is very good and a great portrait lens

    Great post!

  • dana September 10, 2011 02:45 am

    I will add that going from my kit lens over to my Sigma 50mm 1.4 EX has absolutely surprised me. I thought I knew how it would go -- but I had no idea what "fast" really was.

    The fastest I was able to get moving subjects was around ss of 1/125 - maybe 1/250 on great lighting conditions. Now, in full sun, I'm bumping the ss WAY up to 1/3000 and finding anything slower when my aperture is wide open is just blowing things way out. Finally really understanding the relationship between the aperture and the shutter.

    If you go prime & fast - give yourself a couple of days "test shooting" to get used to your new settings. It's definitely different!

  • Pomtree May 25, 2011 03:55 am

    you nailed it for me: 50mm 1.8 and 100mm 2.8 macro baby!

  • Gangadin Aniel May 13, 2011 09:52 pm

    I use a Tokina 35mm f2.8 ATX-Pro as a prime lens. Actually it's a macro lens, but it's exceptionally sharp, if not razor sharp edge to edge. It is quite good as a macro also, so having both in one lens. It's attached to my D90 most of the time.
    I am now looking out for the Tokina 116 ATX pro, also to use as a prime, because this small focal length is actually useless as a zoom.

    I have tried the old 85mm f1.4 Nikkor, MF. It's heavy and takes nice pictures. Felt very confident.
    Performs well. Maybe in the future..........who knows.


    Aniel (Suriname)

  • Jason TEPOORTEN November 18, 2010 06:58 am


    I bought my first prime lens for my Nikon D3000 two weeks back.

    My lens is a NIKKOR AF 50mm f/1.8D, and I just love using it! Although, I am restricted to manually focussing, because the Nikon D3000 doesn't support auto focus on the NIKKOR AF 50mm f/1.8D lense, I can get some really great looking portraits!

    I would like to look at getting a longer focal length prime lens and a wide-angle prime lens for my kit.

  • bart naessens October 1, 2010 09:00 am

    hi there,
    three reasons for me to only use prime lenses:
    -old mf lenses are sold for a song
    -their resolutions and apertures are very good
    -they trigger my creativity.
    my backpack is 7kilogram, and my tripod is 3 kilogram,
    easy to transport on my bike.
    often, when by foot, i'll only take 1, 2 or 3 lenses with me.
    i use a nikon fm3a manual film body with these lenses:
    20mm/4.0, 35mm/2.0, 50mm/1.8, 55mm/2.8 macro, 85mm/2.0,
    135mm/2.8, 200mm/4.0, 300mm/4.5.
    18mm/4.0 (no 52mm filters) and 500/8.0 (awful bokeh) are lying in a drawer.
    i enjoy to shoot sunrise in the landscape.
    happy shootin',
    greetz from rainy amsterdam,
    for reverse film i mostly use a warming filter (81a),
    for b/w i use contrast filters like yellow, orange red and green.[eimg link='' title='10.07.25 img940' url='']

  • miko May 4, 2010 09:09 am

    Years ago when I was just getting into the video production field, I was gifted with a very pristine Olympus OM1 that was basically an antique when it was given to me. It came with a 24mm prime, a 50mm prime, and a 75mm-150mm zoom. I was brand new at photography but had a strong interest and desire to learn. I shot with the thing for the next fourteen years and really developed as a still photographer.

    Fast forward to today and I'm waiting for my new Pro HD Video Camera that shoots on memory cards and allows the use of 35mm prime lenses to arrive. I can't wait to get the thing in my hands, dump the standard zoom, and get started creating images like a real film photographer again! Anyone know a good place to buy a set of 35mm primes at a great pice?

  • Eric March 8, 2010 04:34 pm

    I'm using 20mm f1.7 (panasonic) lumix pancake prime-lens, micro four third mount on GF1 body. The lens is better than the olympus zuiko digital equivalent (17mm f2.8) and much faster, suitable for casual low light shoot. I feel the view range (40mm on 35mm film equi.) is just perfect for a lot of situations.

  • Nikhil Rawal February 14, 2010 07:27 pm

    I have a Nikon D80 and a D90 and I use a Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4 and a Tamron 90 mm f/2.8

  • Nikhil February 11, 2010 03:23 am

    Sony Prime lenses are a waste. Sony tries to compete with Nikon & Canon but they are actually selling only the name of Sony.
    I just got my first prime lens( 105mm) which tunrs out to be a real massacre. Funny enough, my small coolpix of Nikon will give practically the same pictures and clarity as my prime lens for my sony alpha 700
    i would advise, as a sony and a nikon( d90) user,
    never BUY SONY as a DSLR.
    this is going to be the descision you will regret

  • Pat Migliaccio December 26, 2009 03:10 pm

    Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 is possibly the greatest lens I have ever purchased.
    Primes just handle what needs to be taken care of. The quality is beautiful and as you said in your post, it makes you feel as if you are able to get the perfect angle and it makes you work.

  • Stuart Meyer, Greenwood, IN November 20, 2009 04:56 am

    This is a reply to Kurt Jensen's comment (above). I understand your liking of Nikon because I used to shoot Nikon and switched to Canon. I like much of Nikon's glass too, but I don't believe any system is completely superior to the other. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. A camera and lenses are just tools, and one learns to compensate for any shortcomings of the system being used. Most professional wedding photographers I work with in Indianapolis, Indiana use Canon, and I suspect this is the case with most professionals elsewhere. But, I do know professionals who have migrated back to Nikon due to it's excellent lineup of new camera bodies such as the D3 and D700.

  • Stuart Meyer, Greenwood, IN November 20, 2009 04:28 am

    I've become addicted to prime lenses for one reason that trumps all others - quality. Sure, they're expensive, but they're tack sharp, have creamy smooth bokeh for selective focus, superior color contrast, and let in lots of light. My favorite is the Canon 85/1.2, which is sharp even near wide open, followed by the 35/1.4 and 24/1.4. I haven't used a zoom for a while and recently put the 24-70 f/2.8 on the 5DII, completely forgetting to zoom in and out and using my feet instead. I hadn't realized how much I had become accustomed to moving around to get the best shot.

  • Suffolk Wedding Photographer October 30, 2009 09:46 pm

    As I mentioned in my other comment - I'm thinking about moving back to primes.

    I'm starting to feel like I should move my feet more and look for composition, rather than zoom in and out all day.

    One day, possibly next season when I have an assistant, I'll give shooting an entire wedding on one prime a shot. Possibly the 35 1.4L

    The more I think about it, the more the idea of using primes appeals to me.

  • David G Foster October 2, 2009 07:31 pm

    I haverecently bought my first "prime" lens, a Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM and it's brilliant. I totally agree that a prime lens makes you compose a picture with much more thought from different perspectives. It is good also for portrait. However, the next lens I buy (soon) will be a Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L USM and a EF 1.4 extender which I think will last me a lifetime along with my EF-S 15-85mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM.

    I will use the above on my EOS 50D 15.1 megapixels body and enjoy creating wonderful pictires for the rest of my life. What do you think?

    Best Regards,


  • jhelfer September 17, 2009 05:42 am

    My prime lenses are the Canon 50MM 1.8 and the Canon 135MM 2.8 w/soft focus. I really love the 135 for portrait work but it is a bit long for my studio.

  • Kurt Jensen September 4, 2009 01:31 pm

    I'm very happy about the digital photography school, and I read it with joy most of the time.
    But there is some that irritates me about it. To me it looks as you are sponsered by Canon or smething like that, because almost all articles about gear is about Canon.
    I use Nikon myself, because I think it gives better Coulors and sharper images and had since my early ears in photo been the number one brend for me. Nikon is in my opinion still ahead towards Canon, Sony, Pentax and other brands that are for nonpros like myself, when it comes to DSLR, and especially compered to the value for money princip.
    I would like you to be more into all the brands and not only about Canon, almost every article I read so far on this side, about pro-gear, is about Canon, but when I look what most of the pros. are using it, often is Nikon that is prefered.
    I hope in future to read more abou other brands and not only about Canon.
    Sorry about my bad writing in English, but I'm not to much use to corespond in this.

  • Elizabeth Halford September 1, 2009 07:02 pm

    Hi Darren! Great post. I also use Canon and, surprisingly to some, I only have a 450 and a 500. I decided to spend it all on lenses and use a more basic camera. I usually travel with both cameras. One always has a wide angle (24mm 2.8) and the other either has a 50mm 1.4 or 85mm 1.4. I've also got an 18-200mm zoom which I rarely use. I've actually gotten more exercise since switching to prime because when I shoot (mostly children) I am running around, laying on the ground, climbing up a ladder, running closer, backing up...I hurt at the end of a shoot like a day at the gym! Great post - thanks!

  • Nod August 28, 2009 07:24 am

    I just purchased a used Minolta 50mmf1.7 for my Sony a100 and I love it! It is crisp, lightweight, perfect. I got it for $100 on ebay and it is in great condition for an old lens. I'm looking for a 100mm next.

  • tvnewsbadge August 16, 2009 12:39 pm

    I too have the Nikon 35mm f2d and of course everyone has the 50mm f1.8D, which I rotate with the 35mm (unless I being lazy).
    I also have the Nikon 24mm f2.8D, which sees occasional use and the 180 2.8 which I love and use ALOT.

    It's ironic because I've found that even when I have a good zoom on the camera, I only use the widest setting and the most "tele" setting, so there's a lot of wasted real estate and I'm giving up that extra stop or so for nothing.

    Of course, switching lenses is a royal pain, but I think the handling/speed advantage of a prime more than makes up for that;.

  • Deborah August 5, 2009 05:40 am

    I bought the Nikon 35mm f2D about 2 months ago, and it quickly became my default lens. The more I use it the more I love Primes! This lens has taken the place in my bag the 50mm f1.8D used to have.

    I just returned from a quick trip to San Diego with this lens as well as the 18-200mmVR. I never used the 18-200mmVR. Which I confess surprised me a great deal as I really like that lens. I love the low light capabilities of the primes as well as the speed, color rendition, and sharpness. It beats my 18-200mmVR any day.

    I would like to add a longer focal length prime lens to compliment my 70-300mmVR lens. The 135mm f2, or 180mm f2 is what I'm thinking. I shoot a lot of outdoor landscapes, wildlife, flowers, and the odd portrait. Any thoughts or advice I'd love to hear them.


  • David Morehead April 17, 2009 06:55 am

    I have the Canon 35 2.0. I love it. It is very light weight and it has a sharp F2.0. Some of my best shots were taken with this lens. I have two L lenses (17-40 and 70-200) that get used a lot less. Once you have the option to use a 2.0 aperture it is hard to go back to lenses that only have 4.0. I would love to get its big brother, the 35 F1.4 but that is a little out of my price range at this time. In the mean time, I really enjoy shooting with the 35 F 2.0. It was the best $250 bucks I have ever spent.

  • bobbyv February 7, 2009 12:46 pm

    as a Nikon user with a DX-type camera (1.5x crop factor), I have the following primes:
    * 35mm f/2 AF-D
    * 50mm f/1.4 AFS
    * 85mm f/1.8 AF-D

    I bought these as investments as they will have longer useful lifespans than my DSLR. As well, since my camera has a 1.5x crop factor, I effectively get 52mm, 75mm and 127mm performance, respectively from these lenses, which cover many of my target photographs, from candids to portraits. I am especially quite satisfied with the 35mm lens.

    When I finally can justify to myself buying a full-frame DSLR (i.e. 1.0 crop factor), I will be able to use these lenses at their true focal lengths. So having 2 different cameras of different crop factors will expand the usefulness of these lenses.

    In the meantime, I am using them for low-light photography and non-intrusive candids (i.e., no flash).

    I agree that it requires more effort to properly compose pictures compared with zooms, but this is "character-building". Just remember Henri Cartier-Bresson and his classic photographs.

  • lisa September 27, 2008 03:18 am

    Hi.. I'm a real noob and about to purchase my first prime lens but I have a really basic question .. I understand the fixed focal length .. does that mean I can shoot at a maximum distance of 50mm (for the nifty fifty lens) .. but I can shoot closer as well? so from 0 - 50mm? I've seen shots online of close up portraits done with the 50mm and landscape shots as well. so what is the focal range of a fixed length prime lens?

  • Lexy0138 August 7, 2008 11:54 pm

    I keep hearing the term *bokeh" I am a newbee & would like to know what it means
    Thanks (IM) (e-mail)

  • Lexy0138 August 7, 2008 03:01 am

    I have the Nikon 50/1.8 & love it to bits.I just got it & is very well priced @ about $100.00. As well I have verious zooms 18-55 kit 55-200 kit a real sharp manuel focus 35-135
    a 18-135 & a Quantary tel extender 2.0 dx I find the extender works very well with the 50 & does not seem to efect the quality of the photo. I use a Nikon D40x with the "50" on it most of the time & if not the Nikon 18-135
    I also have a Cannon dig rebel (like it alot) with the kit 18-55,sigma 18-50,& a Kodak Z740 (a sort of backup camera & my first digital)

  • Keitha July 6, 2008 11:29 pm

    I bought into the Pentax system because of how well their prime lenses were so highly regarded. I now have primes ranging from 21mm to 200mm. Through a bit of luck, I ended up with two f/2.8 zooms as well - 16-50 and 50-135. My biggest problem with those is that I keep forgetting they zoom :)

    Seriously, the Pentax 31/1.8 is incredible, and the 43/1.9 is what I call my "magic" lens. There's just something indelibly awesome about going all-prime...

  • Camera-news December 7, 2007 01:28 pm

    Prime lenses are visibly more sharper and tend to be better choices when you want to shoot with open apertures. Zoom lenses get expensive even at f/2.8, while you can still get primes with 1.8 and 1.4 for quite a bargain.

  • rehena September 5, 2007 10:19 pm

    i was using the 18-55 f3.5-5.6 on my eos 300d for more than a year and i wanted to see how its like working with a prime.
    Got the 50mm f1.8 mII about six months ago and i never used the kit lens ever again.- i have to admit that there are some issues with this lens ,poor bokeh and slight backfocus at wide apertures (i heard that's not uncommon with this lens) but the image quality is SUPERB for the price tag (you might wanna consider getting the hood as well cause this lens is prone to flare, the loss of contrast is huge when the sun hits the front element under certain angles). get a decent prime and you'll be amazed what you're camera is capable of :)

  • ben September 4, 2007 09:20 pm

    Have a Pentax K10D and am just getting into photography.
    Started out with the kit zoom lens, and it was fine but pictures often looked similar to my point and shoot.
    Then I bought the FA50mm f1.4 and love it to death, the low aperture makes it a joy to shoot indoors and at night time. Now I am wanting to get a bit wider on my people shots.
    So I just ordered the Sigma 20mm f1.8. hope it makes me happy!

  • Codrut Bratosin July 31, 2007 01:12 am

    canon 50mm f/1.8, looking forward to upgrade to f/1.2
    canon 300mm f/4 L IS (awesome lens with good value for money)

    one thing though that I haven't seen anyone mention is that ideally you should pursue a logarithmic coverage of the focal lenghts. Example: 0..2..5..10..20..50..100.. and so on. If you check the field of view in each of these focal lengths, you will find that you get evenly spread field of view increments.

    However, this does not apply at wide angles, since even the slightest difference in focal length produces a dramatic effect in field of view. This is why I'm saving for the Canon 16-35mm for wide-angle, followed by the above-mentioned upgrade.

    Above 50 mm I own an 80-200 and the 300L. I haven't found the need to cover outside these focals (well, I wouldn't decline a 400mm, mind u).

    Bottom line: zooms are necessary only at wide angles should covering the entire focal range be your only goal.

    Situations where you can't move a lot can prove challenging if not even impossible to deal with, but I prefer having high quality primes for a good price rather than compromise quality for those few rare occasions where zooming is imperative.

    On another note, primes also offer superior sealing and ruggedness. For adequate protection against dust and impurities on a zoom lens, you may find yourself paying a hefty price.

  • BrianK June 24, 2007 02:39 am

    It should be mentioned that in old-school photography, on a 35 mm camera a 50 mm lens was called 'normal', because the field of image approximates that of a of person with normal peripheral vision. It sounds like the 50 mm lens mentioned here is really a portrait lens, and that a 'normal' lens for a digital camera would be something less than 50 mm. So your collection of 'favorites' doesn't include a normal lens? BTW, when I choose to employ my old Canon A1, I use a fast normal lens to combat lazy photographer syndrome: no telephoto tricks allowed (or digital ones, either, for that matter).

  • eden May 10, 2007 05:04 am

    Hi Brian, just to answer your question about the 50 mm :

    it's for portrait and narrow areas; you can get two people in the shot, but beware the bokeh effect in wide aperture (you don't want one of the subjects to be out of focus). It's not large enough to get group shots in good conditions. You'll have to walk back ten steps to shoot lol!

    Good shooting!



  • Brian April 18, 2007 03:00 am

    I have the 100mm f/2.8 macro and absolutely love it! It's on my camera more than any other lens right now. I have just purchased the 50mm f/1.8 and have heard good things about it. Would I be able to use this for groups shots at a wedding?

  • Damian April 13, 2007 11:35 pm

    I use a Canon 400D, and because I have the opportunity to take a fair few pictures of theatres and gigs I'm a big fan of prime lenses. Currently have EF 50mm f/1.8 II and EF 100mm f/2, and hopefully getting the EF 28mm f/1.8 soon for wider angle shots. Wouldn't mind the 100mm macro either, but that'll have to wait.

    Limited resources means my zooms are all of aperture f/3.5 or f/4 to f/5.6 when at full reach. They're great the outdoors, but as soon as I'm inside I find zoom a lot less useful than the low light capabilities. The other month I was in a really dim room and cracked ISO up to 1600 and my 50mm wide open. Sure the shots were a little noisy, but the guy next to me couldn't believe I was getting enough light for anything.

    And oh, they're so much sharper than my zooms.

  • Allen April 11, 2007 01:26 am

    As a new Photographer (Canon) I find myself a little confused with all of the options out there. I have 2 daughters that play several indoor and outdoor sports. We go to the lake a lot (wake-boarding). I'm a stickler about photo quality. I'm thinking about a 50mm 1.8 Prime for portraits, 85mm 1.8 or 2.8 for some of the middle of the road stuff and a 70-200 2.8 for indoor and outdoor sports. I aslo read very good reviews on the 24-70 2.8 many options so little experience. any suggestions?

  • Sebastian April 10, 2007 05:07 pm

    Nikkor 50mm AF f1.8
    Nikkor 105mm Micro AF f2.8
    Nikkor 180mm AF f2.8

    These lenses are oldtimers. All from '90.
    I also have the Nikkor 18-70 AF-S. My wife prefers the zoom lens but I prefer primes.

  • Stuart April 7, 2007 12:22 pm

    I bought this the Canon 50mm f/1.8 back in january and I love it. For the budding, budget conscious photographer, you just can't go wrong. The auto focus motor is pretty cheap, so I focus manually 100% of the time, but the optics are sharp as can be...

    Of course the 1.5 is much nicer, but weather it's worth the extra money depends on your budget and need for clean auto focus.

  • Richard April 7, 2007 05:00 am

    I also have the Pentax 50 1.4 and it is a stunner. It's always on now, my 16-45 has become a backup.

  • Zibri April 7, 2007 01:48 am

    I bought a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II a few months ago.
    The quality/price ratio is very high and I find myself doing the most of the photos with this lens; why? Because you have to move to get your perfect framing and I have much less lazy pictures with this lens. Speed is also very important as I shoot a lot of portraits during night or in apartments. I recommend this lens for every novice/intermediate and even experts (who might want to have a look at F1.4 50mm)

  • Colin April 6, 2007 11:37 pm

    Yes. I don't have a prime lens for the four thirds, but I have the Sigma 30 mm 1.4 on my wish list:
    Anyone use this lens? Anyone use the four thirds mount version of it?

  • ethermac April 6, 2007 11:23 am

    I have the Nifty-fifty plus the Canon f2 100 and JUST got the F1.8 85(with my Digital Rebel XT). I shoot a lot of my daughter's volleyball and basketball matches. Nothing like them in low light situations for freezing action. And ALMOST ALL gyms are a "low-light situation".

    Most of the other parents also shoot these matches but they do not get past their kit lens so my shots(while in my opinion sucking a lot) are sooo much better than theirs.

  • Lars Rosenberg April 6, 2007 09:06 am

    Nikon D200 + 50mm 1.8D - my cheapest and lightest lens ever, and one of the best regarding sharpness and color rendition - walking on sunshine!!!

  • Kyle April 5, 2007 12:53 pm

    As a pentax owner I have the 50mm 1.4 and it is awesome. I highly recommend the 50mm lens for any company of cameras. I PROMISE you wont be disappointed.

  • Phil April 4, 2007 11:06 pm

    I'm in the market for a prime lens (Minolta/Sony). Does anybody have any experience with the Sony 50mm f/1.4?

  • Amy April 4, 2007 08:22 pm

    I have a Minolta 50mm 1.7 - love it and it was really inexpensive at $60 for a very good used on ebay.

  • Mike Lao April 4, 2007 01:16 pm

    I'm a canon user and my favorite prime lens is the 85mm f1.8! I love it. When traveling, I still use my 17-40f4L a lot, but because of my 85mm, I like to capture a lot of portrait and tight shots more now...

  • Bori April 4, 2007 06:42 am

    Pentax 50mm A f1.7
    Pentax 70mm f2.4 limited
    Pentax 21mm f3.2 limited
    Pentax 40mm f2.8 limited

    Zooms are probably convenient but agree that primes are fun to use. The Pentax limiteds listed above are also known as "pancake lenses" because of their unbelievably small size. The drawback being that they have to sacrifice some aperture "speed". However, the build and performance are excellent. I can travel with one on the camera body and the other two in my pockets with ease.

    BTW, the 50 A 1.7 is a classically good performer and my low light lens of choice.

  • Aphex April 4, 2007 04:18 am

    Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 - very good for portraits. But not too flexible in conditions where you can't ger far enough.

  • Desmond Gunatilaka April 4, 2007 03:48 am

    I have Sigma 30mm f/1.4 and getting a Canon 85mm f/1.8. I love my sigma and it gets the most use. Also have a Sigma 17-70 and a Canon 75-300(not good).

  • Bo April 4, 2007 02:52 am

    I'm a Canon guy and have the EF 50mm F1.4 and love it. My favorite, though, is my Sigma 20mm F1.8 DG EX.

  • Niklas April 4, 2007 01:55 am

    I´m very happy with my EF 100mm f/2,8 Macro on my EOS 300D, but I can´t live without my Sigma 18-50 2,8 EX ether...

  • ryan97ou April 4, 2007 01:34 am

    i have the canon 50mm f/1.8 and love it. I recently bought the 100mm macro lens and man, what a great lens. and it is even really sharp outside of the macro territory. really loving it.

  • Tarek April 4, 2007 01:03 am

    Any body here uses Olympus dSLR's or any other four thirds systems?

  • Nadia April 3, 2007 10:24 pm

    My primes are:
    Nikkor 50 1.8
    Nikkor 85 1.8
    Sigma 105 2.8 MACRO
    Nikkor Fisheye 10.5 2.8(?)

    I also have a Nikkor 18-200 VR (love it)

  • Shutter Asia April 3, 2007 08:54 pm

    Prime lenses go down to f/1 actually if you count Noctilux and the old Nikkor f/1

    I have the Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 prime for Macro, the Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D for portrait and the 50mm f/1.4D for street and low light.

    I think the Pentax 50mm f/1.4 is the best 50mm you can get!

    I also want the Nikkor 35mm f/2 or something like the Sigma 30mm f/1.4!

    I used to have the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8, amazingly sharp lens for the money, but quite horrible bokeh.

  • Paul April 3, 2007 06:08 pm

    - Sigma 30mm f1.4 EX DC
    - Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX Makro

    I currently only use those two. I found them to be perfect for me.

  • Norby April 3, 2007 05:01 pm

    So far I have my hands on the following: 24/2.8, 30/1.4 (Sigma), 50/1.4, and lately a 135/2L. Now when I go shooting, it's pretty much always the 30/1.4 on one body, and the 135/2L on the other. If I'm going to have plenty of light, I enjoy the flexibility of the 17-85 IS and the 70-200, but the aperture just can't compare.


  • Anita April 3, 2007 04:10 pm

    Nikkor 50mm f/1.4
    Sigma 105mm f/2.8 Macro

    I changed from the Nikkor f/1.8 to the f/1.4 .. haven't tested it enough until now but I already loved the 1.8 thats why I decided to upgrade. So far I have used the Sigma only as macro but hence there are so many supporters for primary lens here I might give it a try :)

  • Taavi April 3, 2007 03:39 pm

    Yes, Yes, I too have the Nikkor 50mm f1.8. Use it only for DoF. The aperture (low-light shooting) is compensated usually by the VR in my zoom lens.

  • Dr. Tan April 3, 2007 01:57 pm

    Using a EF 50mm f/1.8 II and I swear by it. Beginning to use it so much so that I've quite put aside my EF-S 18-55 USM kit lens.

  • Brandon April 3, 2007 01:55 pm

    I have been wondering about this a great deal lately? Are most "casual" portraits (for instance when the photographer shoots in a person's home)...usually done with a prime lens?

  • Elber April 3, 2007 01:03 pm

    I have my nifty-fifty (along with a WA and the kit lens) in the bag, but when shooting weddings, I get to use my partner's lenses - a 24-70mm f/2.8L, plus three primes:
    35mm f/1.4L, 85mm f/1.2L and 135mm f/2.0L

    At the ceremony, I take my establishing shots with the WA, get a bit closer with either the 24-70 and the 35, then start shooting close-ups and detail shots with one of the longer lenses, usually the 135.

    At the reception, I start with either the 24-70 and 35 to get group shots, then start shooting candid photos with the longer lenses again.

    I could choose to get something like a 24-105, but I think I get better shots by moving around rather than zooming. I walk around more to find the shots I like, but I don't mind.

    What I do have a problem with is when some people ask to have their picture taken while I'm using the 135 - I just have to pretend I'm getting them all in the frame sometimes.

  • Jeremy April 3, 2007 12:45 pm

    Canon 50 f/1.4

    This is my only prime to date. I have sided with the zooms for flexibility thus far (24-105L, 70-200L f/2.8 and Sigma 50-500m). My next purchase will be on the wide side, and I may choose to go prime on that.

  • Brian Auer April 3, 2007 12:03 pm

    Sigma 105mm f/2.8 Macro

    I'm a Minolta user and I'm less than impressed with the way Sony re-released some of the KM lenses (they feel cheap), so I went with Sigma. It's not super-fast, but it's better than my zooms.

    It's the only prime I have -- the other two are zooms. Haven't had any experience with a non-macro prime lens. It's a good overall lens that I can use in most situations, but there have been occasions when I kicked myself for not having my 18-200mm on -- mostly wildlife encounters. I probably use it more for macro work than not, though. My default lens is my 18-200mm, and I'll throw on the 10-20mm or the 105mm macro when the occasion arises.

    My next lens will also probably be a zoom -- maybe a super telephoto. I'm kind of hooked on the whole zoom thing. To me, the convenience is worth the extra effort required to obtain super-sharp images with a zoom (tripod, mirror lock-up, sweet spots, etc).

  • Wes April 3, 2007 10:55 am

    I bought myself a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 and absolutely love it. Wonderfully shallow DoF shots along with a focal length that just seems to work for me...where do I sign up? Granted it is on the pricey side, but I do believe it was worth every penny.

  • Saralonde April 3, 2007 10:54 am

    I'm a Canon user and have (or had in the case of the 50mm f/1.8) all three of these primes as well as the 85 f/1.8. All are great lenses; I'm in total agreement with you!

  • wingerz April 3, 2007 10:19 am

    I'll echo the support for the 50mm f/1.8, especially for beginning Canon photographers on a budget (like me), and I really enjoy using it indoors. Two weekends ago I was at a wedding, where I shot with that lens exclusively.

  • Puplet April 3, 2007 10:03 am

    Nikkor 50mm f1.4
    Nikkor 105mm f2.5

    You might mistake me for a Nikon camera user but, actually, I've got the above mounted on my Olympus E-1 by means of a cheap £10 adapter off eBay. Fantastic - I even get aperture priority...

    The size of the 105mm (210mm equivalent on Olympus cameras) is fantastic - and people I photograph have no idea how close I'm actually getting...

    Favourite digital lens is the Olympus Zuiko Digital 50mm macro...

  • wycombiensian April 3, 2007 08:59 am

    I just got the nifty fifty - the Canon 50mm f/1.8 II - and I'm loving it already. I agree about the having to think more creatively about the shot, and for portraits of my daughter indoors and in shade it's been great.

  • ty April 3, 2007 08:49 am

    Wow just today I ordered my first prime lens. Funny to see this posted on here shortly after I ordered it! Its the Canon 35mm f/2 to go on my 350d. Cant wait!

  • Aaron April 3, 2007 05:50 am

    I'm a Nikon user and basically have the same prime lenses.

    Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 - You can't go wrong for an awesome lens at only $100.

    Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 Macro - This is my primary lens, and I absolutely love it. As you mention, it's also great for portraits as you're not right up on the person.