Prime vs Zoom Lenses - Which are Best?

Prime vs Zoom Lenses – Which are Best?

“I’m doing some research into lenses for my DSLR and have come across lenses being referred to as Prime lenses. What is a Prime Lens and why would I consider them instead of a Zoom lens?”

Canon-Ef-50Mm-Lens-1Canon-Ef-24-105Mm-Lens-1Thanks for the question, you’re not alone in asking it. As DSLRs come down in price I’m finding more and more readers are doing the upgrade and are asking questions about what type of lenses are best. Let me start by pointing you to introduction to DSLR Lenses post which will give you some definitions of different types of lenses. To recap from that post:

What is a Prime Lens?

A prime lens is a lens that has one focal length only. They come in all focal lengths ranging from wide angle ones through to the longer telephoto ones.

What is a Zoom Lens?

A zoom lens is a lens that has a range of focal lengths available to the photographer in the one lens. These have become increasingly popular over the past few years as they are obviously a very convenient lens to have on your camera as they mean you can shoot at both wide and longer focal lengths without having to switch lenses mid shoot.

As you surf around different camera forums you’ll find people who argue strongly for both prime and zoom lenses. Each have their own fans and each will pull different arguments out about them. Let’s look at some of the pros and cons Zoom and Prime lenses:

Arguments for Prime Lenses

Canon-Ef-50Mm-Lens-1Let’s explore some of the common arguments for Prime lenses. Keep in mind that there are many prime lenses out there and that what follows are unashamedly generalizations.

1. Quality – while zoom lenses are improving considerably in the quality that they offer their users, prime lenses are known for being high quality and having the ability to produce clean, crisp and precise shots. This is an argument that often comes out in the prime vs zoom lens debate but it’s worth remembering that in every manufacturers range that there are some lenses (both zoom and prime) that are known for being exceptionally sharp and there are some that are known as being a little muddy. While it might be true that in general prime lenses are pretty high quality it shouldn’t be an assumption you make of every prime lens.

2. Price – prime lenses are generally simpler lenses in terms of construction. By the fact that they don’t need to zoom they generally have less moving parts and as a result they are generally cheaper to buy. Once again – there are many factors that determine the price of a lens (including quality) so not all prime lenses are ‘cheap’ (in fact some can be incredibly expensive at the Pro end of the spectrum) but do some searching around and you’ll find some that are definitely value for money. Renowned as usually being the cheapest lenses (but still not bad in quality) are ‘nifty 50’ lenses – or 50mm prime lenses, particularly from Nikon or Canon.

3. Weight – because of their simple construction you often find that prime lenses are smaller and particularly lighter lenses than zoom lenses in similar focal lengths. My two lightest lenses are my two 50mm lenses (I have the f1.8(pictured right) and the f1.4 – I’m still trying to work out which one to keep). They are great for heading out to locations where it is just not practical to haul lots of gear around with me.

4. Speed – in general prime lenses are faster (in terms of aperture) than zoom lenses. This is slowly changing as zoom lens improvements continue to be made by manufacturers but in the Canon range if you want extra fast lenses you’ll start with prime lenses (for example the 85mm and 50mm lenses for example). This allows you to shoot in lower light without the need for a flash.

5. Technique – one argument that gets pulled out against zoom lenses is that they make the photographer lazy. Instead of having to move around to find the best angle for the focal length they allow the photographer to stay in the one place and just zoom in and out. Some believe this sucks the creativity out of the process. I’m not sure about this one – while I do enjoy the challenge of using a prime lens (it definitely does mean you have to work harder and think about your shots a little more) you can still be a creative and hard working photographer with a zoom lens on your camera if you are aware of the temptation just to shoot from the one position all the time.

Arguments for Zoom Lenses

Canon-Ef-24-105Mm-Lens-11. Portability (another perspective) – when prime lens proponents pull out the ‘weight/portability’ argument zoom lens lovers often argue that a point in favor of the zoom is that you only need to carry one lens instead of a range of lenses to have the same focal length range. Instead of carrying around a 14mm, 50mm and 85mm lens you could carry one lens that covers the full (or close to) range of focal lengths. You’ll also never have to change your lens and risk getting dust on your image sensor.

2. Price (another perspective) – similarly – while zoom lenses might be more expensive than prime lenses the cost of one lens in comparison to multiple lenses can often be comparable.

3. Flexibility – perhaps the biggest argument for Zoom lenses is the flexibility that the offer a photographer. They allow someone wanting to shoot at a variety of focal lengths the ability to quickly change perspective and add variety into their shots within a second (or a fraction of one if you’re a quick zoomer). This is ideal for many types of photography including weddings or sports where you have to constantly be looking for random shots and may not have the time (or ability) to physically move closer or further away from you subject.

So are Prime or Zoom lenses best?

Obviously there is a range of factors to consider and ultimately the decision will come down to a number of factors including the type and style of photography that you do, your budget, the need for portability, how often you’re willing to change lenses, the quality you’re after and the shooting conditions you’ll be shooting in.

My own approach with lenses is to go with both.

My Prime and Zoom Lenses

I’m lucky enough to have a budget that allows me this opportunity. I shoot with a Canon EOS 5D so these are all canon lenses – but I have a couple of 50mm lenses (see above) which are great for low light situations and those times when weight is a consideration as well as a 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens which is obviously for macro shooting but is also quite good for portraits (an added bonus).

I also have a few zoom lenses a 17-40mm, a 24-105mm (pictured above) and a 70-200mm which cover the full range of focal lengths that I generally shoot in.

As I mention above – there is generally a lot of variation between lenses (both prime and zoom). I find that there is especially a lot of variation in the zoom range of Canon (and I presume for other manufacturers too). Most DSLRs come with the option for a kit zoom lens which are generally of a much lower quality than a professional grade lens (in Canon Pro lenses are designated as being ‘L’ series lenses).

My advice to those shopping for a lens is that it’s well worth investing in quality lenses. The camera body definitely has an impact on the quality of your shots but lens quality is where you can really take your photography to the next level. Do some careful research before buying a lens and buy the best one you can afford (without re-mortgaging the house).

What do You Use?

What kind of lenses do you use and do you find best – prime lenses vs zoom lenses (or a combination of both).

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

  • mary selfridge July 2, 2013 08:39 am

    Hello: I am a realtor and need a basic camera to take photos of my new listings both inside and outside still shots and also action shots of the grandkids. I had an old olympus which worked well for years and just died so I need to purchase a new one and want the best deal plus it must be easy to use. I do not want anything really fancy just basic stuff.
    What would you recommend? thanks

  • M V Bhaktha May 31, 2013 11:02 am

    I am an amateur photographer, mostly into clicking Birds/Butterflies, I have purchased a prime lens 400mm f5.6L USM (without IS) for my Canon 500D. Can anyone tell me how to get the best out of this Super Telephoto lens. Which are the best settings that work well with it (it doesnt work well under low light conditions).....?? How to click birds at a distant since it has mo zoom......? I have seen some images on the net clicked using this lens by some others...the image is immaculate crisp sharp giving almost every detail of the Subject (Birds in this case)

  • Karen Botting May 14, 2013 11:07 pm

    Thankyou for posting this; I found this to be very helpful. I am wondering, with regards to portraiture, am I correct in assuming from this article that a prime lens is best? Also, what is the most common portraiture lens?

  • ccting March 11, 2013 01:02 am

    if you have the constraint of USD1250, what photography equipment will you buy?

  • Gavin January 4, 2013 03:53 am

    I have a Tokina 11-16 Nikkor 24-70 2.8, Nikkor 70-200 2.8 VR and a Sigma 120-300 on a Nikon D300 I got rid of my D7000 with focus issues! And bought a Canon 1DX 24-70 Tamron 2.8, canon 70-200 2.8 is Usm II plus 2x converter III I shoot dogs in action and horse shows. The Canon 1DX is a superb camera and suites my work well. I shot a wedding Video the results were exceptional on the 1DX, mostly in low light the client was over the moon.

  • George Slusher December 7, 2012 08:14 pm

    @larry miller: Are you actually USING those fast lenses wide open? That will give you a shallower depth of field, which may or may not be what you want in landscapes. If your'e not using f1.4-f2, but really using f4, say, then there's no advantage to the faster prime unless it's actually a "better" lens, which it may--or may not--be. If you're using Canon lenses, for example, the 24mm f2.8 (which I have)is an inferior lens (it's an old technology) to the best zooms, like the 24-70mm f2.8L, 24-105mm f4L, and even the 15-85mm f3.5-5.6 IS and 17-55mm f2.8 IS. (I have the 24mm f2.8 and both of the non-L zooms.) If you're concerned about weight, the 15-85mm lens is considerably lighter (20 oz) than the 24mm, 50mm and 85mm combined (35 oz) and you don't have to keep changing lenses and you get a much wider angle. (The 24mm lens on an APS-C camera is equivalent to 38mm full-frame, which is barely wide-angle. 15mm is equivalent to 24mm, a real wide-angle.)

  • Larry Miller December 7, 2012 01:56 am

    For landscape photography I prefer my primes (24 F2.8, 50 F1.4, 85 F1.8 & sometimes the 28 F2). Love fast lenses and always will for handheld shots. I have a couple of zooms. Until they start making 1.4 or 1.8 zooms, I'll stick with the primes. Probably won't ever see that and the weight would tear my arm off.

  • M V Bhaktha September 28, 2012 07:01 pm

    I own a Canon EOS 500D T1i and I need to upgrade from my 55-250 kit lens. I have short listed a prime lens "Canon EF 300mm F/4L IS USM" budget is a constarint for me at present. Recently I am into "Bird Watching" and need to upgrademy 55-250 which I find is too short for Bird Photography. I am from India. Need your expert advise....Thank you

  • Bailey September 27, 2012 08:06 am

    I like using a zoom lens to avoid the dust that always finds its way in, and on to the sensor, during lens swaps.

  • adrian sensible May 22, 2012 01:14 am

    As a poor photographer (financially), but one who looks for fine detail and quality of image, I got fed up with the quality of the standard zoom lenses. I bought a Yashica prime 28mm lens, and this gives the chance to do panoramas by stitching photos together. However, I bought a 2nd hand Carl Zeiss 28mm f2.8, with a yashica to Canon Eos adaptor. It is a lot crisper fine detail than the Yashica, and has very little Chromatic abberation, so less colour fringing in your photos. I would recommend buying one. It cost £190 plus postage, but is well worth the money - the latest version is about identical in quality, and costs about £1400 - a big 7x difference - I am well pleased, and the colour of the items is accurate, and clearer somehow. I can use it wide open and still get crispy pix for things at the same distance away - I recommend to try that - It's specially good to me

  • Casey May 21, 2012 12:27 pm

    This article and especially the comments have been very helpful. I will be purchasing my first DSRL camera, a Canon T3i. I have a much better idea what lenses I will want in a few years, but for now I have to think of my teeny budget and photographing needs. I am trying to stay close to $1,000. I mostly take pictures of my family indoor and outdoors. We are currently living in New Zealand and my friend will be bringing my camera and lenses with her when she comes for our South Island vacation. NZ prices are nearly double the US prices.
    I was thinking of getting the basic kit lens (18-55 mm) really just for learning purposes. I also think I should get the 50 mm f1.8. I am stuck on what zoom lens to get, mainly the 18-135 mm vs 55-250 mm vs 70-300 mm. Based on George's comment, I think the 70 - 300 mm should no longer be considered. But what about the other two? We will be touring the South Island for 10 days, so lots of beaches, gorges, glaciers, mountains, lakes, fjords, etc. Another possibility would be to get a 18-200 mm f/3.5-5.6 IS and body only. Down the line, I could add other lenses. Thank you in advance for any opinions.

  • Adrian McTiernan March 30, 2012 09:30 am

    for me, I like scenic shots, and stitching lots of shots to make panoramics, so I use a Yashica 28mm lens at f8, and a carl zeiss 50mm lens (both manual film lenses, but nice and sharp) set at f8, and find that I can give the quality for a 40inch wide print without a problem, and it's got nice fine sharpness. I have a Canon 400d, so I am using the middle of the lens, and the viewfinder is too small to rely on visual crisp focus, so depend on the stated distance on the focussing indicator, as it is more reliable than my eyesight

    I also have an 18-55mm cheapo zoom which came with the camera, and it is fine for fairly detailed shots in bright light, plus I use a 55-250 zoom which gives some very nice crisp focus images, both of which have antishake. The long zoom is really excellent for portraits - I wouldn't want to use anything else, and it is one of the best lenses I have had. I never could afford the L lenses, but this is about as good, and much less than the L lenses for price.

    I must admit that as I am 64 next month, that I could use autofocus all the time by choice, but the Carl Zeiss new lenses are manual focus, so I am sunk there, but I will probably update my camera to 35mm size sensor - the viewfinders are way bigger and better, so I could perhaps see to focus by eye. I go for the image results, not necessarily zoom vs prime, but all lenses should be image stabilised in my opinion

  • george slusher November 10, 2011 12:12 pm


    Bryan Carnathan has very good reviews of lenses for Canon cameras. The Canon 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM lens is not very good. Bryan found that the images it produces are very soft (fuzzy)--really terrible. I expect that you would be very disappointed with that lens. It seems to be a $200 paperweight.

    The Canon 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens, on the other hand, seems to be considerably better. (It should be, as it's 2.5x the cost.) Read Bryan's review for more information. (I've not used either lens.)

    If you're after image quality, the non-IS version of the Canon 70-200mm f/4L lens is exceptional. it costs a bit more than the 70-300mm lens and does not have image stabilization, but the image quality is far beyond the cheaper lens. It's also a stop faster at the top end than the 70-300mm and can use the Canon 1.4x and 2x converters. I use the 70-200mm f/4 L IS lens for outdoor horse shows and get superb results. (I originally got the non-IS version and upgraded later.)

    Sigma makes a 70-300mm lens for Canon cameras with similar basic specs to the Canon 70-300mm, including optical stabilization, that is cheaper than the Canon lens. Bryan doesn't have a review of that lens but you should be able to find reviews online with a search.

  • D3xTRoS November 8, 2011 04:27 am

    hi guys i have a Canon 600D with 18-55 mm lense but i wish to take the photos of long distance and the price ranges also not very high as 70-200mm its very expensive , so can anyone suggest me which to take

    i just thinking to buy 55-250mm or 70-300mm or 75-300 mm lense , among these which lense have good pretty image taking ability to take long distance pictures ....if you can suggest me anyother it can help me look around the lense and may see it

  • george slusher August 6, 2011 05:22 am

    @alex tuballes:

    Those are two great choices. Your next step could be on either end of that range. For example, the Canon 70-200 f4L, especially the IS version, is one of the best zooms in that range, period (as long as you don't need the extra stop the f2.8 lenses offer). It's also pretty lightweight and easy to handle. There are lots of other zooms in the 70-300mm range, but that's one of the best. (The non-IS version is also Canon's cheapest "L" lens.) It can also be used with Canon's 1.4x exttender. (The 2x extender works, but the quality drops off and you'd lose autofocus unless you have a 1D camera.)

    If you want to do nature photography, you might consider the Canon 100-400mm L lens, Sigma 120-400mm, etc. Both of those can be used with 1.4x extenders (Canon and Sigma, respectively), but, unless you're using a 1D or 1Ds, you'd lose autofocus with the extender.

  • Alex Tuballes July 30, 2011 05:26 pm

    Two pieces of of this babies is enough for me as newbie.
    EF 50 f/1.4
    EF-S 15-85 f/3.5-5.6

  • Michelle July 7, 2011 12:18 pm

    Ok all...I have the canon 7D. 50mm f1.4 is my favorite lens. I just bought the 17-40 f4 L and I gotta say...I'm not amazingly impressed. Any thoughts on the 17-40?? I'm thinking about going all prime. Was told (and also read in the previous comments) that 135 f2 is an amazing prime lens to get. Any recommendations on a sweeeeet wide angle prime? I shoot weddings, portraits, etc... Just want to make the best choices on lenses...

  • miguev May 14, 2011 03:49 pm

    I love wide-angle, so my opinion is clearly biased ;)
    My personal favorite for travel (on a 1.5x crop sensor) was the Tokina 12-24mm f/4 but I've read many times that the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 was even better, although harder to find in stock.

  • Faith May 13, 2011 03:27 pm

    You are all great with the discussions! My hubby just bought canon 60D (some 6months past with not much practice). We are still in arguments on what lense to buy aside from what came with the kit 18-135mm. We travel a lot so we would like to explore the possibilities we can discover with the 60D. What is best thenfor travel photos?

  • george slusher March 29, 2011 08:41 am


    I agree with your recommendation to Bob.

    My major concern wasn't with f1.4, as I usually use it at f2, but autofocus speed. The 50mm f1.4 has an Ultrasonic Motor (USM); the 50mm f1.8 does not. The difference is very noticeable when trying to shoot galloping horses, especially as they can be moving toward/away from the camera. There's also some difference in image quality, but probably not $300+ worth! (I bought the 50mm f1.4 including hood for $335 on eBay.)

    FWIW, the "Nifty 50" is now $120-135.

  • miguev March 29, 2011 07:32 am

    When you're tight with light, indeed f/1.4 will save you a bit of noise (sometimes, the crucial bit) but I own both and ever since I got the f/1.8 over a year ago I seldom pull out the f/1.4 --only when I really need it. I was a lucky bloke, I got the f/1.4 some 12 years ago and loved it instantly, but I reckon I would have been nearly as happy with the f/1.8, that's why I tend to vouch for "f/1.8 unless you have good reasons for f/1.4 which costs 3 times more". Both lenses are great, and f/1.4 is definitely (okay, maybe only "mostly" for some people :P) a better option if you can afford it. I just though @bob might be a bit tight on budget after buying the 105mm.

  • george slusher March 29, 2011 06:41 am


    "Seriously, no matter what lenses you have, the 50mm is a *must* *have* for it’s amazing value for just $100."

    Or, one should have an even better 50mm lens, like the Canon 50mm f1.4. I use it at indoor horse shows, mounted on a Canon 30D. I also have a 50D with a Canon 70-200mm f2.8L. Often, there are two "lines" for the games (e.g., pole bending). As I shoot from the stands, one line is a lot closer than the other--too close for the 70-200mm lens. If the light is good enough, I'll use my Canon 17-55 f2.8 IS on the 30D, but the camera is about 1 stop slower for similar quality than the 50D, so I will often put on the 50mm f1.4 and set it at f2. (Before I got the 50D, I was switching between the 50mm f1.4 and an 85mm f1.8 or 100mm f2.)

    I bought the 50mm f1.8 first, of course. I now need to pass it on to another aspiring photographer who needs a good, cheap, fast lens.

  • miguev March 28, 2011 06:19 pm

    @bob: given the already mentioned lack of context, I dare say the 105mm is usually a great lens (unless you paid little for it) and there's plenty of fun to be had with it. The 50mm 1:1.8 is about $100 (Canon & Nikon) which is a lot less than what I'd expect to pay for a 105mm, so... it'll be easier(*) now for you to put together another $100 and buy the 50mm and you'll have both!

    Seriously, no matter what lenses you have, the 50mm is a *must* *have* for it's amazing value for just $100.

    (*) at least. easier than buying a more expensive lens (105mm) after having bought the cheap one :P

  • george slusher March 28, 2011 05:25 pm


    Since you haven't posted here before, there's no context to your situation. Which 105mm and which 50mm, for what camera, are you talking about, for example? What sort of photos do you want to take?

  • Bob March 26, 2011 12:57 pm

    Guys, I purchased a 105mm over the 50mm, all my friends told me to get the 50mm, but I went with the 105mm, now I am regretting it, should I be? or should I be happy with the 105? any opinions guys?

  • Mr.S March 14, 2011 03:05 am

    Great read.

    I use both... As mentioned in the article, the prime makes you work a little harder in terms of composition. I typically shoot with a 24-70, but as of lately I've been going for my 50mm prime because the images are considerably sharper. 5D / 24-70mm 2.8 / 50mm 1.4

  • Farren February 17, 2011 10:57 am I now have the 50mm 1.4, the 85mm 1.8, and the 24-70 2.8L....and I think they're all great. However I've never shot a wedding before so I guess I will find out if I should have gone with something wider......

  • Farren February 16, 2011 04:55 am

    hmmm....well I am certainly considering it.....I like the wide angle....and it seems to make for an interesting picture.

  • miguev February 16, 2011 04:32 am

    Sounds good to me. I don't know Canon lenses, but I was very happy with a 12-24mm f/4 + 50mm f/1.4 + 85mm f/1.8 on DX format :)

  • Farren February 16, 2011 03:41 am


  • Farren February 16, 2011 03:19 am

    OOOOORRRR.....should I just get one more.....wide angle prime??

  • Farren February 16, 2011 03:16 am

    Thank you for taking the time to respond to my questions....this is very helpful.
    Yes, I had seen that sight before.....I have literallly invested about 150 hours of research in the past couple of months in finding what lenses/lens combination would be best for my needs. My boyfriend says I'm He's not totally wrong, and I'm aware that I am picky beyond my experience. I still have a lot to learn about the 50d itself (settings), as well as lighting....though I've come long way in the past 6 months since I bought my camera. The only lens I've ever used is the 28-135mm and although there is no doubt that it's a decent lense for the money...I want something better.
    I have now purchased the 50mm 1.4, the 85mm 1.5, and the 24-70mm L. I haven't recieved any of them yet however. The 50mm should come today. After this discussion, I'm really considering just keeping the two prime lenses and returning the 24-70L, as it seems that because of my 50d....the cost is too much cosidering the probable usage over my the primes and improvement in quality. I may just keep my 28-135 for the time being to use along with the primes and use the extra cash to get a nice flash (was thinking the 430 EX II....good or?)
    For now I mostly shoot portraits and family sessions but I have some events coming up. Do you think the 28-135, 50mm 1.4, and the 85mm 1.8 will be able to get me by or do I really need a higher quality zoom?

  • george slusher February 16, 2011 01:55 am


    I haven't seen that. However, do consider several points:

    - Do you know the conditions under which the sample photos were shot? Were there direct, side-by-side comparisons with the 24-70 in the SAME conditions? For example, was the same ISO used?

    - What cameras were used? If the 24-70 shots were with a 1DS Mk IV and the 17-55 with the cheapest Rebel, one might expect some differences.

    - Did you click on the link I provided? That goes to a review by Bryan Carnathan. Here's what Bryan says in that review:

    "At all overlapping focal lengths and apertures, the 17-55 is sharper than my Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens. "

    Sharper, not softer. Bryan's review includes a link to direct resolution comparisons.

    Bryan also has several pages of recommendations for particular uses, including General Purpose and Weddings. The 17-55mm is at the top of the General Purpose list, and is in the top list for Weddings. The 24-70mm is the top on the Wedding list, followed by the 24-105mm f4L IS and the 17-55mm.

    FWIW, if you want to shoot weddings regularly, you might consider sometime replacing the 50D with a 5D. That would probably make more difference than between the 17-55mm and 24-70mm lenses on the 50D. Of course, you couldn't use the 17-55mm on the 5D, so, if you might move up to the 5D, the 24-70mm might be a better choice, though you can sell a used 17-55mm lens for 85+% of the retail price.

  • Farren February 15, 2011 10:12 pm

    The only thing that really stopped me from getting the 17-55 was that I had heard that although image quality was was not as good as the 24-70L. I looked at a lot of sample photos and although with post processing being used its hard to tell the real difference, most pics from the 17-55 seemed to have a yellow tone to them and looked rather soft. What's your take on this George? I bought from B+H so I would have the option of returning/swapping if I choose to.
    As for the 50mm 1.4 and the 85mm 1.8, I've read nothing but good reviews for them and I do a lot of portrait work so I figured my 50d deserved them. I want a zoom lense for versatility so I don't have to switch lenses as much at events and weddings but picking one is a really hard decision. I've thought about just going with one more prime, a wide angle one to add to the bunch or just keeping my 28-135mm. However, I want the best lenses for my needs without completely breaking my bank account. I figure it will pay off in the long run.

  • miguev February 15, 2011 07:16 pm

    Ah, I didn't know DX was NIKON only, thanks for clarifying :)

    The 85mm was enjoyable on DX as well on FX (I use Nikon) and also an old 135mm f/2.8 was (on 35mm film) my favorite portrait lens when I had no budget for the 85mm, so even though it's in the far (long) end I find it good for outdoors portraits.

  • george slusher February 15, 2011 06:46 pm


    "I would say 24-70 isn’t wide enough on DX forma,"

    DX refers to Nikon cameras, not Canon. it has a FOVCF of 1.5 rather than the 1.6 of Canon's EF-S format.

    The 24-70 is the standard for wedding photographers using full-frame cameras (e.g., 5D, 1Ds). The 17-55mm f2.8 IS (which I have) is equivalent to 27-88mm on full-frame, so it's sort of close. It does have the advantage of a good IS system, which could be useful for weddings. Optically, it's an exceptional lens, "L" quality, though the barrel of the lens is plastic, rather than metal. It's currently my "everyday" lens, though I hope to get a 15-85mm f3.5-5.6 IS to use outdoors with my 70-200mm f4L IS.

    The 85mm may be a bit long for portraits on an EF-S camera, as it's equivalent to 136mm on full-frame, the upper-end of traditional portrait focal lengths, but it depends a lot upon the situation.

  • miguev February 15, 2011 06:04 pm

    I would say 24-70 isn't wide enough on DX forma, even 17 feels a bit not wide enough for me, but I reckon I'm a wide-angle lover :)

    The 85mm f/1.8 is one of the best portrait lenses I know of and definitely the best affordable one, go for it!

  • Farren February 15, 2011 11:14 am

    Thanks...yah I knew I wanted one of canons nifty fifty's but I wanted a zoom also...for versitility during events and weddings. I almost ordered the 17-55...but ordered the 24-70L instead. Not sure I made the best decision for my 50d, but I guess I will find out. Really debating on getting an 85mm 1.8 also...for a little extra reach and also for portraits. Anyone have any input? I'm selling my 28-135.

  • miguev February 14, 2011 07:02 am

    You already ordered about the best ;)
    I have a few friends in live with their prime 50mm on Canon DSLRs.
    As for an affordable midrange zoom, I found Sigma 17-70mm good enough for covering a friend's wedding.

  • Farren February 13, 2011 03:59 am

    I love reading all of these comments. I have been trying to decide for months what my next lense purchase should be so reading what other people have to say about them is very helpful. However, it would be more helpful if they would always include what kind of camera they use in reference to the lenses as it makes such a big difference.
    I purchased a Canon 50d about 6 months ago...first SLR (D) that I've ever owned and I love it. However, I purchased it with the 28-135mm kit lense....currently the only lense I have. I have produced some great shots with this lense ...however they require a lot of post processing to really make them "pop" like I like....and of course works better outside in more light due to the 3.5 aperture.
    I mostly shoot portraits, or family pictures, but have recently been asked to shoot weddings and events. I really don't think my 28-135 id up to this and am about a click away from ordering the 17-55mm 2.8 IS. The only thing stopping me is the reviews about build quality and how this lens seems to be a dust magnet. Since it will end up being my walk-around lens, I really can't have this.
    After much research I finally ordered the 50mm 1.4 for portraits shots, although I haven't recieved it yet. I'm still searching researching zoom lenses....but just can't decide. Any recommendations for a good walk- around/ event lense for the canon 50D? I will be selling my 28-135 when I upgrade.
    YOu can check out some of my pics on my business facebook page here:!/pages/FLS-Photography-Videography/165569510121241

  • Martin Pounds November 10, 2010 09:05 pm

    I am fortunate to have 3 Nikon D5000 bodies. I like to keep a lens on each one so I can quickly change focal lengths while on location. I have a Nikorr 10-24, a Nikorr 85 micro, a Nikorr 55-300 and a Nikorr 10.5 fisheye which I use now and again.

  • John Wilder October 18, 2010 06:38 am

    I am surprised with your Canon 5D mark II that you have not invested in Canon's 135 f2 prime lense. Read the reviews. It provides very high speed for low light shooting conditions, razor sharp images and fantasitc bokeh. They place it near the new Cannon new 200 mm f2 lense for thousands less. It is also lighter for all day events and is not nearly so imposing for subjects as the 200 or the 70-200 lense.

    Best wishes
    John Wilder

  • Rob September 22, 2010 11:29 am

    @Elizabeth..You'll need a much faster lense and probably the best bet expense wise would be a 50 1.8. Also suggest you up the iso to 800 or 1600. There will be digital noise in the images but unless you are printing larger than 6x4 this should be ok.
    Just try iso 1600 wth your present lenses and see what shutter speed you can get. You may even be able to go to higher iso e.g. 3200 to get the S/S you need. Sometimes it's better to get even a noisey shot than get no shot. Experiment but if you are doing alot of indoor work a 50 1.8 or 1.4 if you can afford it are ideal....Good luck. ;-)

  • Elizabeth Wilkerson September 22, 2010 05:59 am

    I own an entry level DSLR - a Canon Rebel XTI and would like to take photos of grandchildren at indoor cheerleading events. The auditorium is dark and the athletes are on a brightly lit stage and they are moving FAST. We are usually allowed near the front stage area for photos. The kit lens (18-55mm f3.5) and the 75-300mm f4 that I own do not allow me to take unblurred shots at these events.

    Any suggestions for a reasonably priced lens that might work for this purpose?

  • Norman September 7, 2010 07:31 am

    I found the 24-105mm Zoom lens to be my "work horse" and very much appreciate the investment in a L lens.

  • Cape Toewn Wedding Photographer September 7, 2010 05:11 am

    Always used zoom lenses, until I started with my 50mm F1.4 and I love that lens - would shoot with only that if I could!

  • Megan September 7, 2010 04:24 am

    I have a sony a350

    for that I have a
    Sony 50mm f/1.8
    Opteka 85mm f/1.4
    Sony 18-70 f/3.5
    Sony 75-300 f/4.5

    My personal favorite is my 85mm then my next is either my 50 mm or my 75-300, my least is my 18-70. It just really depends on what I am shooting. I have gotten great shots with my 75-300 especially people but I love my 85mm lens I just don't use it as often as I should because it is a fully manual lens and I do a lot of child photography and quickly focusing and changing settings can be difficult when you are chasing after little ones.

  • David September 6, 2010 10:10 pm

    I use mostly zoom as I find the ability to frame in camera one of the main reasons why I use SLR's or digicams with adjustable focal lengths.

    My primes (35, 50 and 100mm) are better quality, though only the 50mm is awesomely better and when used on my Nikon DSLR its long length of 75mm is often too telephoto to make it really useful stayed in the camera bag for 5 weeks on my last long trip.

    As training exercises primes are good but zoms are more practicable for me as I tend to be a travel photographer. Around the house I often use the 100mm for general stuff and the 35 for food pictures especially what's in the fridge shots!

  • Aji September 6, 2010 03:54 pm

    I use Zoom which is most of the time mounted into my Pentax.

    Second Preference is 15mm Prime cos I love shooting wide.

    I Rarely Use my Kit 18-55

  • lindsb234 September 6, 2010 02:13 pm

    I love my Tamron 18-270mm. It's heavy but I'm okay with that. I also love my Tamron 60mm f/2 Macro.

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  • Antony Pratap August 5, 2010 04:15 pm

    The prime is much better to use as it does not allow you to zoom and change your perspective/framing. You have to move around yourself to get the right angle/frame.

    I love the 50mm f 1.4.

  • Betty Feng June 21, 2010 01:21 am

    Once I started using prime lenses, I hardly use zoom lenses any more except Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L for wide angel. Canon 135mm f/2.0L is my favorite prime lens for portrait and travel. The bokeh created by 135mm is incredible and the image in low light environment is just amazing. I vote for prime lens for its sharpness, fast speed and light weight.

  • Denver Photographer June 17, 2010 07:09 am

    I love my 85mm 1.4, I love the great bokeh of prime lenses, and they just handle so much nicer than a big heavy zoom.

  • George Slusher February 2, 2010 05:41 pm


    You didn't say what system you're using--Canon, Nikon, etc. If you're using Canon, both the 300mm f/2.8L and 400mm f/2.8L have tripod-sensing IS (image stabilization), so you can leave the IS on with the lens on a tripod or monopod. (The IS will help take out small vibrations, mirror slap, etc.)

    Yes, you do need a tripod or monopod! The 300mm f/2.8L IS is 5.6 lbs; the 400mm f/2.8L IS is more than TWICE that, at 11.8 lbs, vs 3.4 lbs for the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS. You're not going to handhold either very long unless you're built like a young Arnold Schwarzenegger. They are also very expensive. Even renting one will be steep. The 300mm lens rents for about $200 for a week, including shipping; the 400mm is about $300 for a week. (I am still considering renting a 500mm f/4L IS for wildlife if I get to take a trip to the wilds of Oregon this summer. It would be $420-470 + shipping for 2 weeks. I have the Canon 1.4x & 2x extenders, so it could be 700mm f/5.6--which should still autofocus or even 1000mm f/8.)

    If you are using a tripod or monopod (a necessity with those lenses!), you can get by with whatever shutter speed stops the action. That does change a bit with focal length. If the object moves, say, 3 inches during the exposure, that movement will look larger at 300mm than at 200mm, as the image is larger.

    As for "set up," you can let the lens and camera take care of that--set the camera to Av (aperture priority) and the best ISO you can use and it will give you the fastest shutter speed it can. You should get about the same shutter speed with the 70-200mm, 300mm, and 400mm lenses. (I said "about" because it's possible to have a dark subject on a light background, for example. When you use a longer FL, you include less background, so the exposure would increase, if it's based upon an average.)

  • Ruska February 2, 2010 12:06 pm


    I am trying to figure out how to set up 70-200mm f/2.8 and lets say 300 or 400mm f/2.8 for indoor swimming photos. I rented the first one last year when my kids were going to the State Championship, and I got some nice shots from the top of the spectators area, with f/2.8 between 1/160 and 1/60. I am thinking of renting 300mm f/2.8 this year, so I was wondering what set up should I use? Does larger focal length requires faster setting, like 1/250 or higher? Thanks.

  • themisfit January 9, 2010 02:56 am

    A good combination of both works for me.

  • tim November 11, 2009 05:41 am

    i own a tamron 17-50, nikkor 50mm, nikkor 80-200 and i do mostly events. i recently put my lenses on trade with a 20mm, 35mm 2 50 1.4, and a 85 mm 1.8.

    is this a fair trade?

    i want to go all primes but im afraid of changing my setup as i am a semi professional with repeat clients

  • George Slusher August 26, 2009 08:11 pm

    Arrgh! I left out the .jpg extension in the URLs. Here are the correct links, except for #1, which was correct.

    this ultra-wide shot

    2. Apples

    3. Oats

    4. Weeds

  • George Slusher August 26, 2009 08:06 pm


    17mm is not simply a "wide angle" lens on a full-frame camera; it's a "super-wide angle." It's so wide that it can be very nearly useless for many people. Lord knows how many truly awful "super-wide angle" photos I've seen that were panoramic landscapes with the main subject really, really tiny and lots of foreground and sky like <this ultra-wide shot. (Otto's photos are much better because of the elevated vantage point.)

    Second, the Canon 10-22mm EF-S lens provides pretty much the same capability for 1.6x FOVCF cameras as the 17-40mm does for full-frame cameras (actually 16-35mm). The 10-22mm lens apparently has LESS barrel distortion at the short end than the 17-40mm or the more expensive 16-35mm f/2.8L. If you haven't used the 10-22mm lens, don't count it out.

    I've found SWA lenses more useful in getting "up close and personal" with the subject--that's "close," not "macro"--very different ideas. The long depth of field with a short focal length helps, as well. It is especially useful when the close-up subject can be shown against a more distant background.

    Click on these links to see some examples of what I mean by "up close and personal." They were all taken at 10mm with a Sigma 10-20mm lens on a Canon 30D. (The Sigma lens isn't as good as the Canon, but it's a lot cheaper. In cases like these, where there are no obvious vertical lines, the greater barrel distortion of the Sigma lens isn't a real factor.) (I hope that the links work!)

    1. Apples from ground level I was literally only inches away from the Apple. The Sigma's closest focus is at 9.4", measured from the sensor plane, so it's only about 4" in front of the lens.

    2. Apples

    3. Oats This was aken near a stable--the oats grow from spilled feed.

    4. Weeds Even the great depth of field isn't enough, plus the wind was blowing the weeds around, so focusing was difficult.

  • Otto August 26, 2009 11:16 am

    The problem is that if you want to have a nice affordable wide angle lens, you need a full frame camera. At least in case of canon. I have a Canon 5D and a 17 40 L. Look at my wide angle pictures at Cheaper than the 17 40 are all crap.

  • Beria Charles May 26, 2009 02:55 pm

    THANKS AGAIN GEORGE! I think I definitely will be going with the 24-70mm lens! Let's see if my "sponsor-hubby" approves the idea of going a little over-budget! lol

    Also, awesome that you gave me the links to read the revisions. Very nice! Thanks so much.

    I am trying to put my shots together on Flickr so I can refer to it when talking about my photo style and get some advice from people like you.

    May God Bless!

  • george slusher May 26, 2009 01:28 pm

    For beria charles:

    1. On a full-frame camera like the 5D or 1Ds, the 24-70mm lens is considered a general-purpose, fast, super-quality lens for weddings, etc. On a Rebel or 50D, it is equivalent to a 38-112mm lens on a full-frame camera. (The Rebel and xxD series all have a 1.6x "field of view crop factor." A 50mm lens on the Rebel gives the same field of view (framing) as an 80mm lens on a full-frame camera.) Thus, the 24-70mm lens is not very wide-angle on the Rebel. (It will be the SAME on the 50D.)

    2. The photographer's advice you got on the Commons was OK *if* you're only taking photos outdoors at a fair distance. Also, the 70-200mm f/2.8L lens is even more expensive than the 24-70mm f/2.8L, especially if you get the IS version.

    3. Yes, the camera + lens + flash would be very good indoors, especially the 24-70mm. I use a flash and the 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens indoors. (I don't have the 24-70mm lens.)

    4. From your standpoint, there probably wouldn't be much advantage to the 50D over the newest Rebel, but the price would be a lot more. See Bryan Carnathan's reviews of the 450D/Rebel XSi and the 50D for a comparison. There are differences, but I don't see that they would make much impact for you. (E.g., the 50D can shoot more frames per second, has slightly less shutter lag, etc, features that a sports photographer would benefit from, but 3.5 frames per second is probably fast enough for your purposes.

    I got a 30D (and would like to upgrade to the 40D, but not the 50D--way too expensive), rather than a Digital Rebel xx0D primarily because of the physical size of the camera. I have large hands--size 11 gloves--and have difficulty holding the Rebels. Even with the 30D, I need the BG-E2 battery grip to make it comfortable to hold. Otherwise, my little finger would be under the camera--and the third finger would just barely be on the camera. The only times I take the grip off are when weight is important, like using a small, tabletop tripod for low-angle shots or on my Jobu Jr 2 gimbal head--the grip makes it difficult to balance the camera + lens. It's odd, but it's easier for me to hold my Canon S3 IS super-zoom point-and-shoot than a Digital Rebel--there's more "finger space" between the grip and the lens.

    Have a great time in Brazil!

    Oh, yeah: I know what Boston winters are like. I made it through 6 of 'em from 1965-1971 while I was at MIT. (BS, MS, Engineer degrees in mechanical engineering) They weren't as bad as my next 4, though, in Dayton, Ohio, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. I'm now considerably north of Boston-44 deg 3 min N at Eugene, OR, versus 42 deg 21 min N for Boston. We're just about 15 miles south (in latitude) of Montpelier, VT. Yet, our winters are pretty mild. It usually snows once or twice a year--average about 8 inches of snow, total.

  • Beria Charles May 26, 2009 08:11 am

    THANKS SO MUCH GEORGE for your feedback! I wish I had more money to invest and get all the best equipment upfront! This past week was crazy for me as I have to make a decision on what to buy and do it fast. I am traveling to Brazil to a workshop with one of the best photographers I know... Anderson Miranda ( and I gotta have the camera and at least a reasonable lens to take with me. Altought I wont be doing weddings in the beggining, I love his style and use of natural light, and was him who told me about the 24-70mm f/2.8L.

    The funny thing is that today I was at the Boston Common taking my pics and I ended up meeting this guy who is also an awesome photographer (he showed me some pics) and he recommended the 70-200mm f2.8 and the 85mm 1.8 to start. Now I really got crazy!... lol

    As for the Flash, I'll be getting the Canon 580EX. Would the whole package we are talking about (camera + lenses + flash) be good for indoors too? Like kids parties and when the natural light is there but outside is way too cold (I live in Boston, the winter is loooooooooong!) lol

    Also, you said that the "Rebel series, it’s not all that wide", so do you thing it would be a big mistake getting it ? I know that the Canon 50D would be waaaaaay better, but is over my budget and I think it has so much power that a novice professional like me would misuse it! Don't you think?

    Thanks for all your patience! I'm so glad the websites like this one exists!

  • george slusher May 24, 2009 06:41 pm

    beria charles (or is it charles beria?):

    If you will be shooting in reasonably good light outdoors, you might consider the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS. It's a bit cheaper ($1099 vs $1190 with the current rebates), but the main advantages over the 24-70mm f/4L would be:

    1. Longer focal length range, especially if this will be your main or only lens.
    2. VERY good image stabilization. In terms of handholding, the IS will more than make up for it being one stop slower than the 24-70mm lens.
    3. It is a bit smaller (4.2" long vs 4.9" long) and lighter (23.6 oz vs 33.6 oz).
    4. It is very versatile. In fact, Bryan Carnathan of says in his review, If I had only one lens, this would be the one.

    It supposedly has very good image quality and build quality, much like the heftier 24-70mm lens. (Read Bryan's review.)

    The major advantages of the 24-70mm f/2.8L lens would be:

    1. One stop faster, so it would be better for moving subjects.
    2. Wider maximum aperture = thinner depth of field, when you want that, to blur backgrounds.

    Bryan, in his review , says, "The 24-70 L is the bread and butter wedding lens for many professional photographers."

    Do be aware that, on the Rebel series, it's not all that wide--the equivalent of a 38-168mm lens on a full-frame camera. There may be situations where you'll need the 18-55mm kit lens, though it's not very fast and doesn't have the excellent image quality of the "L" lenses.

    As for a flash, yes, you should have one. The Canon 580EX II is the best, but not cheap. You may be able to get the previous model, 580EX, for considerably less on eBay. I have the 580EX and a Sigma 500 DG Super. (Don't get the "ST" flash from Sigma.) Both work well, with the 580EX being a bit more versatile.

    Direct flash is usually harsh and can cast deep shadows, so many photographers might also consider getting--or making!--something like the Better Bounce Card by Peter Gregg. Watch the videos on his site for instructions and tips--plus he does sell the devices. His "Ultimate Bounce Card" is quite good. There's a similar device, the Lite-Scoop, which the maker says has advantages. (I haven't gotten one, yet, but I will soon.) The "Even Better Bounce Card" is similar to the Lite-Scoop, but you'll have to make it yourself.

    Lumiquest also makes a range of flash modifiers, though they're a bit more expensive and heavier and can be awkward to mount. If you'll be working outdoors, forget the Gary Fong Lightsphere, the Sto-Fen cup, etc., as those work best in an enclosed room. (In some sense, so does the Better Bounce Card, but, you can smush it--or "flap," as Gregg says, to get it to send more light forward.

  • Beria Charles May 24, 2009 04:31 pm

    Hi Everybody! So much great information that I'm actually getting a little - OPS, A LOT! - confused!
    I am also new in the professional side of photography and now that I'm going to purchase equipment with my $2000 budget, I'd love to hear from you experts what should I be investing to start. I want to do weddings in the future but for now what I'll keep going is pregnancy and kids pictures and I usually like to do outside shoots using natural llight...
    I was thinking on this one... The new EOS Rebel T1i that comes with the EF-S 18-55mm lenses and cost $900. What other lenses should I get? My friend praises the 24-70 but it is $1200... Worthy or not? Should I be buyng a flash too or wait and buy it later after some jobs?
    Sorry my lack of expertise. I hope someone wont mind answering me! :)

  • Mandy May 22, 2009 07:05 pm

    Thanks John, Oh and I got the 50mm lens (yhey) by the way I'm going to try it out right now!

  • johnp May 21, 2009 08:06 am

    Happy Birthday Mandy! Have a good one.

  • Mandy May 20, 2009 09:17 pm

    Ahh, After looking at the comments above, I can see that as with most decisions with Photography it comes down to personal taste. I love that about photography it makes it so individual and unique!

    Anyway, I've recently moved up from a point and shoot to a Canon 450D with the 18-55mm kit lens. I know it's not a great lens but after using a point and shoot it really impressed me!

    From my experiences so far with DSLR's a mixture of both prime and zoom lens would suit me best. And I mean that from a beginners point of view where I need to try primes out before I can make a decision! I would like to upgrade my kit lens eventually to a 24-105mm lens as I like the flexibility of zooms and I've heard good things about this lens.

    But first on the agenda is a prime lens. It's my birthday tomorrow and I'm hoping a Canon 50mm f1.8 sized parcel is going to be waiting for me in the morning. I think it's a great choice for a prime starter lens and I can't wait to try it out, I know it will be so different to my kit zoom lens...only one more day

  • Seann Alexander May 16, 2009 06:37 pm

    An advantage of really getting to know a prime lens is that after a while, you learn to see as if through the lens without even raising the camera to your eye.

    Read more: "Prime vs Zoom Lenses - Which are Best?" -

    It's so true.

    You see the world completely different after using prime lenses so much.

  • scott May 13, 2009 11:51 pm

    Ann, there is more than one scenario in which your images might be blurry or lack sharp focus. Here's a couple.

    1. You're shooting in low light which causes your camera to choose a low shutter speed to let in more light. In this scenario either your hand or the subject has moved during the time the shutter was open, causing camera shake or motion blur. To get around this shoot in more light, or shoot in S or M mode where you can dictate the shutter speed yourself. 1/60th for still subjects or 1/800th or more for subjects in motion such as athletes should work.

    2. Your camera is focusing on something other than the subject. The most common scenario here is that your camera is focusing on something behind your subject. What I do do combat this is to make sure my camera's focus point is locked at the center of the frame, then I put that center square on the subject (in the case of portraits, the eyes) and then push the shutter halfway down before recomposing and pushing it down the rest of the way.

  • ann May 13, 2009 01:46 pm

    hi. i am a newbie to photography. of late, i have been going through your site and i am learning a lot.i have a question regarding my own camera and lens. i bought canon xti recently and along with that a 50mm f1.8.but why does my photo come out blur?? i keep in 200 iso(depends if it is night then higher), and mainly in auto focus. not even one single photo that i ahve taken so far is sharp in quality. like when i zoom in,i see the images to be either shakey or mostly blur. is something wrong with my lense??

  • KBeat May 13, 2009 02:22 am

    I have three lenses which I keep in my bag at all times:

    EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
    EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM
    EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM

    To that collection I add a 2x EF Extender II teleconverter which lets me get to 400mm with my 5DmkII and 640mm with my 30D. Although I'd like to have a super fast 50 or 85mm prime, I find the three lenses and extender cover me in almost every situation.

  • scott May 9, 2009 04:25 am

    Very true. You can tell I don't own any stabilized lenses :)

  • george slusher May 9, 2009 04:21 am

    Scott has great points/. However, "Remember you have to shoot at a shutter speed faster than your focal length. That is, if you're racked out to 200mm, you should be shooting at 1/200th of a second or faster. If you don't do this you'll likely suffer camera shake and blurry images."

    That's why i suggested a lens with good IS for those shots. That can drop the required shutter speed down quite a bit. The 1/focal length is a guideline, but only that. Depending upon the photographer, even without IS, one might be able to use a slower shutter speed--or some may require a faster speed. (Technique is important, as is physical condition.) With IS, one should be able to get good results at 2-4 stops slower, depending upon the lens. (E.g., the Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS is better than that in the 70-200 f/2.8L IS.) One can increase the likelihood of keepers by simply taking multiple shots (that's what the "continuous drive" is for) and using the best. The 350D (or Rebel XT) can do up to 2.8 frames/sec--not particularly fast (my 30D is almost double that at 5 fps), but still useful. Don't try that with flash, of course--you need to wait until the flash cycles (another reason for changing the flash batteries often, even before they "wear out").

  • scott May 9, 2009 12:37 am

    Many excellent comments have been written already, so I'll just reiterate these brief points:

    1. Get a fast lens. f/2.8 or faster.

    2. You'll probably get the most mileage out of an 18-50mm zoom, but the ceremony itself will probably dictate using something longer: 70-200 if you can afford it, but even an 85mm f/1.8 prime might suffice.

    3. Use an shoe-mount flash for everything except the ceremony.

    4. Do not point the flash at your subject. Get a diffuser for it and always try to bounce off low, light-colored ceilings if available.

    5. Tip for receptions: A slow shutter speed--1/60th or so--coupled with a flash will result in a sharp subject and enough ambient light coming in so that the room behind them won't be completely black.

    6. Bring two of everything if you can. Camera, lenses, flashes, memory cards etc.

    7. If taking posed shots outside, put your subjects in the shade so they don't squint. Try using the flash here, too.

    8. Check to make sure nobody is blinking in the posed shots. Try having everyone close their eyes and open them on your command. Take the picture right after they open.

    9. To shoot a wedding ceremony without flash, you often need to open your lens up wide (f/2.8 at least), and drop your shutter speed as low as you dare. (Remember you have to shoot at a shutter speed faster than your focal length. That is, if you're racked out to 200mm, you should be shooting at 1/200th of a second or faster. If you don't do this you'll likely suffer camera shake and blurry images.) Under these shutter and aperture constraints you'll have to crank your ISO pretty high. How high? As high as it takes.

    10. Bring at least two camera batteries, and bring a boatload of AAs for your flash units. Figure you may have to change the flash batteries at least 3 times.

    11. Remember to let the couple have fun. The last thing they want is a moody photographer mucking up their day.

  • Jim May 9, 2009 12:17 am

    Thanks George, brilliant stuff

  • george slusher May 8, 2009 06:34 pm

    Sorry about the screwed-up boldface. At least the links came out OK.

  • george slusher May 8, 2009 06:32 pm

    Part II:

    A lens isn't enough, of course. You'll almost surely need a good E-TTL II flash--the built-in flash is pretty useless. The best is the Canon 580EX II. (You can also get the previous version, 580EX, on eBay. The two have nearly identical flash performance; the differences are minor for most of us.) However, directly flash is usually terrible, so you should learn about using bounced flash. (It won't work well in rooms with very high ceilings.) The 580EX and 580EX II are very good for bouncing, as the heads swivel 180 deg in both directions. (Bouncing will also prevent red-eye.) A good gadget to have (and learn to use!) is the Ultimate Bounce Card by Peter Gregg. Watch his videos to get an idea of how a bounce card is used. For the basic "forward" use (as opposed to directional bouncing), the Lumiquest products are fairly popular, though more of a hassle to use. I recently read about the Lite-Scoop, which seems intriguing. Check the video on their site for ideas on how it's used.

    Some wedding photographers swear by Gary Fong's devices, while others seem to swear at them. The Lightsphere is good for general lighting, but can't provide directional lighting, as with the Sto-Fen diffusers.

    The key will be to learn as much as you can before you shoot the wedding. (That's not the place nor time to check out new equipment.) It's not just about focusing, exposure, etc. For example, which shots should you take? You'll be pressed for time, so you should plan ahead. Google "wedding photography tips" and read up on the subject. Check out the tips and lessons here, too.

    I've only shot one plus weddings. The "plus" was actually first--I didn't shoot the entire wedding, as it was my sister's and I was in the party. A pro photographer friend of hers shot the wedding as a gift--and handed my father the film. However, it was my photos that my sister and our parents had blown up and framed. That was in 1980. In 1985, I was the "official" photographer for the wedding of the eldest daughter of a good friend, rather like your situation. It was outdoors in the evening. The officiant would not allow any photos during the ceremony, but we re-enacted the ceremony immediately afterwards, then took the obligatory bride-groom-parents-siblings-bridesmaids-ushers-etc photos. I used a Minolta 35mm autoexposure (but manual focus) camera and lenses, plus a flash on a bracket/grip. I was fortunate to be a good customer at a photo shop which did hand-processed enlargements and whose owner was a pro wedding photographer. He gave me a lot of tips. (He knew he wasn't going to get that job and that I wasn't going into that field, plus I gave him all the business making the prints, enlargements and albums). You might find a local pro who'll talk with you and may even let you be his/her "assistant" at a wedding.

  • george slusher May 8, 2009 06:32 pm

    Here's the larger answer I tried to write--at least part I. Bryan's recommendations for wedding lenses are, with prices from B&H. (Bryan's site mentioned earlier has links to his reviews of the lenses.)

    1. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L $1270
    2. Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS $1100
    3. Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS $1030 (for Rebels and 20-50D only)
    4. Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS $1799

    You can also use prime lenses, of course. They can be faster & lighter but are a lot less convenient. The inexpensive primes may not have as good image quality and may not focus as quickly as the "L" zooms, however, and none have image stabilization.


    1. The 24-70mm is probably the pros' standard for weddings (and a lot more). It's fast, very high quality, and has a reasonable range of focal lengths on a full-frame body like the Canon 5D or 1Ds. On the Rebel and other 1.6x bodies, it's equivalent to 38-112, which is not all that wide. It probably wouldn't be wide enough for group shots, unless you can get far enough away. You need something more like the equivalent of 28mm (or shorter!), which would be a 17-18mm lens.

    2. The 24-105mm is not as fast as the others, but it has a wide range of focal lengths--probably all you'd need on a full-frame body. It also has very good image stabilization (IS), which will be very helpful. Since weddings are usually not full of fast-action, it would probably be fast enough. (In fact, you might be able to use a slower shutter speed with the 24-105mm than the 24-70mm.

    3. For your Rebel, the 17-55mm f/2.8 IS would be a good first choice. It's not only as fast as the 24-70, but also has the same very good image stabilization as the 24-105mm. It would be excellent for situations where you cannot use flash (see below) and need the wider angle. (It's equivalent to 27-88mm on a full-frame camera--wide, but not really wide.)

    4. The 70-200mm f/2.8L IS is a longer telephoto (equivalent to 112-320mm on a full-frame camera), quite fast and has decent IS (not as good as the 24-105mm or 17-55mm). It would be good for situations where you can't get close to the subject and, like the 17-55mm, for situations where you cannot use flash. This might work well for the ceremony, for example. (Be sure to talk to the couple and the officiant about taking photos during the ceremony. Do not use flash and stay out of the way so that you don't interfere with anyone's view.

    All of these are useful for many other purposes, as well. The 24-70 & 70-200 are standards for sports, for example (often along with a longer lens, like 300mm f/2.8L IS or 400mm f/2.8L IS--you do not want to know the prices of those babies). The 24-105mm is an excellent general-purpose lens for full-frame cameras, but is not very wide on a Rebel. (The rough equivalent in focal length range for a Rebel would be the EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS--equivalent to 27-136mm on a full-frame body. The 17-85mm, however, is slower and has greater distortion than those listed above, though it's also a lot cheaper at $515.)

    Other possibilities would include the basic EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS ($170 normally, but $155 with a rebate now), equivalent to 29-88mm. While it's not as fast nor as high quality as the first three, it is a workman lens and a lot cheaper. The low light performance will be lacking, but it has decent IS. That would be combined with another, longer zoom, like 70-200mm.

    Instead of the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS, you could get the non-IS version ($1250), though it wouldn't be as good in low-light situations. Another option would be the 70-200mm f/4L IS ($1100)--but not the non-IS version. The 70-200mm f/4L IS is actually sharper than the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS and has much better IS, as well as being much lighter and cheaper. Some reviewers have found that they can get good results handholding at slower shutter speeds with the f/4L IS than the f/2.8L IS because of the better IS on the f/4L IS. The biggest drawback of the f/4L IS is that it isn't as good at stopping action as the f/2.8L IS. The 70-200mm f/4L IS is, indeed, one of the best zoom lenses made.

    Finally, if your budget is tight, you might consider the Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS. It's pretty slow, but it has a great range, decent quality, and a good IS. It's a good travel lens, for example.

    If you can, check out the venues with your camera and lens(es) in hand to see what will work.

    Continued ...

  • george slusher May 8, 2009 10:05 am

    I tried to enter a reply, but it disappeared. I'll have to get back to it later. Meanwhile, check Bryan Carnathan's recommendations.

  • Jim May 8, 2009 05:14 am

    What lens would you recomend for wedding photos. I have a 350d Canon and I am a 66yr old novice.the wedding is my partners son so I better get it right, als would you use a tripod for the group shots or would a Is lens do, please help

  • george slusher May 7, 2009 03:41 am


    The Canon S3 and S5, like the S2, do not have interchangeable lenses. The only way you can expand the range of focal lengths the cameras have is to get an auxiliary lens that goes in front of the camera's zoom lens. This requires an adapter tube that replaces the trim ring around the lens. The auxiliary lens screws into the adapter tube. (You can also use filters in the same way.) For a good explanation of this and to buy a better adapter tube than the one from Canon, check the Lensmate website. I have an S3 IS and a Lensmate adapter tube, plus wide-angle, telephoto and macro auxiliary lenses.

    Do note that the S3 and S5 also are no longer made, though you may be able to find a used camera. They have been replaced by the Canon SX10 IS and SX1 IS. These do not have the capability to add auxiliary lenses, as far as I can tell, but both have 20x zooms, from a 35mm equivalent of 28mm to 560mm. Except for very wide angles, that would cover the range most people use with DSLRs. Here are links to very good reviews of the SX10 IS and the SX1 IS.

  • Pradnya May 6, 2009 04:13 pm

    this is pradnya i read your blog regularly...your post are really useful. i'm trying to learn photography and have a query i would be happy if you give me your valuable inputs on the same. i have digital camera canon powershot S2 IS which is no longer available in market but there higher versions of the same one available which are canon S3 and S5 i want to buy an extra lens for the same so which is going fit the one and do i buy a zoom lens or a telephoto

  • Victor Augusteo May 2, 2009 04:10 am

    oh... ever since i got my 35mm f2, i've been using it quite extensive. maybe its because of the fact that 35mm with crop factor 1.6 makes it almost like 50mm on full frame :) i love it even more day by day.

  • george slusher May 1, 2009 08:08 pm

    @Andrew Wurster:

    The 50mm 1.8 Nikkor is probably a nice lens--I have a similar Canon lens and it is good for low light situations. However, "if you want to zoom, step closer ..." is not correct, though it's a common misconception/myth. That is NOT the same as zooming because you will change the perspective. (See some of the other comments here.)

    Perspective is determined by the relative position of the subject and the viewer/camera. If you want to fill the frame with, say, a person's head and shoulders, with a 50mm lens, you'll have to be only half as far away as with a 100mm lens. That can drastically change the perspective. (If you don't believe this, take a photo with the 50mm lens from about as close as you can, then back off to twice the distance. Crop the second image by 1/2 in each dimension, which simulates the field of view of a 100mm lens, then scale the first (closer) image by 1/2 so that they're about the same size. Now, look at the perspective, including the background. There will be less background in the further image and the perspective will look different.

    The only way to control both perspective and framing (what's in the photo) is to use a zoom lens or a selection of primes. Get the perspective you want by choosing the relative position, then use the zoom to control framing ("in-camera cropping," as another poster called it). Also, if you want to reduce the background included in the image, get back, then either zoom or crop later. All too often, I've seen people try to eliminate distracting background by coming closer to the subject. Yes, that will eliminate background, but it changes the appearance of the subject, especially people. That's why a lot of experts recommend a telephoto lens for portraits. The old standard was 85-100mm, but that was, in large part, because lens manufacturers could make high-quality, reasonably fast 85-100mm lenses that were affordable, but longer lenses were slower and more expensive and often lower quality. (That's still true, today.)

  • george slusher May 1, 2009 07:46 pm

    @Hagen: Good advice! A 10-22mm or equivalent (I have the Sigma 10-20mm) is necessary if you want real "super wide angle" on a Canon 1.6x body. If you go to a xD, it's not hard to sell a 10-22mm for a good price.

    I don't use my 10-20mm very often for wide landscapes. For one thing, there's seldom enough interesting stuff to fill that wide field (107--Canon's number, 109--it's pretty wide!). Then, there's the "parking lot" effect. A wide angle lens isn't just wide horizontally--it's also wide vertically. It will show a lot of foreground. (Thus the name--take a photo of a building and you get a lot of the parking lot in front.) That can be interesting, but not always.

    Instead, I use my 10-20mm to get REALLY close to smallish objects. That lens, like Canon's, focuses down to about 9.5". This isn't "macro" photography, as the magnification is low--1:7 or so. However, by getting very close AND having a wide angle, you can get interesting perspective.

    Perspective does NOT depend upon the focal length! It depends only upon the relative position of the subject and the viewer/camera. What the focal length determines is framing--what's in the picture, not only the main subject but especially the background. A 10mm lens at 1 ft will give the same subject framing as a 100mm lens at 10 ft, but the 100mm lens will show less background because of the narrower FOV. (That's one of the advantages of longer macro lenses--they show less distracting background. I agree with Hagen about the 100mm macro!) Getting very close makes objects look rounder because their depth is a greater fraction of the distance. Again, take the 10mm vs 100mm: if the object is 2" deep, that's 1/6 of the distance for the 10mm lens but 1/60 of the 100mm lens. Thus, the object will look flatter in the 100mm lens image. Again, that is NOT because "telephoto lenses flatten," but because they force us to get further away. (I had this beaten into my head in a Nikon course I took many years ago--about 1978!)

    For some examples, go to my iDisk (or, if you're using a Mac, in the Finder choose Go ->iDisk ->Other User's Public Folder and put in my username, gslusher). Look for the folder "SWA Examples" and download the folder or the images inside. (Double-clicking probably won't work. I'll get a Flickr page or something for these and other photos.) There is a Read Me text file that explains the photos. (You're welcome to check out the high dynamic range (HDR) examples in "Clouds" and "Sunset," if you're interested in HDR.)

  • Andrew Wurster May 1, 2009 10:01 am

    I have my kit lense which I never use, a longer zoom 300mm and my favourite is certainly my 50mm 1.8 nikkor.
    if you want to zoom, step closer and its great for low light situations.

  • Hagen May 1, 2009 06:33 am

    So if you do that, and have Canon cameras, get EF lenses as opposed to EF-S. That way if you ever go to the xD line, you can till use them.

    xxD and xxxD can use both EF-S and EF lenses.

    Mind you there are some sweet EF-S lenses like the Canon 10-22.

  • Hagen May 1, 2009 06:28 am

    Regardless of lens you chose, I'd recommend getting the best you can afford. Buying a lens is investing, more so than buying the camera body, in my mind. You can easily upgrade camera bodies and still use the same lenses. Thus a lens will likely be in your kit longer than the camera. As such, buying the best one you can makes financial sense. Lenses also tend to hold the value more than bodies do for several reasons: they get upgrades about 5+ years on average where camera bodies get upgraded to the next "thing" every 12-18 months.

    That is unless you change manufacturers.

    50D Canon: 50mm 1.8, 24-105 F4 L IS, 70-200 F2.8 L IS, canon 2x extender
    on the wish list to get: 10mm macro, 10-22 for landscape (gotta lvoe that 109 degree FOV)

  • Clint Acklin May 1, 2009 02:02 am

    I have a Sony alpha A300 DSLR with a 18-70mm lens and a 55-200 lens. I am looking for a all around Prime lens. I was hoping that someone here might have an idea of what to look at or for? Thanks for your help.

  • Jack Roberts April 28, 2009 03:10 pm

    canon 24-70mm f2.8 II Lwith Macro fitted 5DMII
    canon 16-36mm f2.8 L fitted 40D
    canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS L fitted 5DMII
    canon 200mm f1.8 IS L Fitted 1DS Mk III
    canon 20mm f2.8
    canon 50mm f1.4 & f1.2 L
    canon 100mm f2.0
    canon 300mm f4 IS L
    canon 135mm f2.0 L
    canon 200mm f2.8 L

    Wedding and Wildlife stuff, looking for 400mm f2.8 IS soon, but wife says, make more money, ha ha ha

    Great zoom is good, Prime will not break your wrist and fingers laughing.

  • Bruce Lim April 23, 2009 10:41 am

    I also use a 40D. My "main" lens is the 17 - 85 IS USM. I also own a 70 - 200 f/2.8 L IS USM.

    But as far as value for money goes, my 50mm f/1.8 cannot be beaten, even though it has no IS or USM.

    It is very light, very sharp, and picture quality is fantastic straight out of the camera (I shoot RAW). But the kicker is the price, I paid just $170NZD (about $85 USD) for this lens. I state again, as far as value for money goes, this lens cannot be beaten.

    On the 40D it has an effective focal length of about 70mm so is a fantastic lens for portraits. And a lot lighter than my 70 - 200 f/2.8!!!

  • Antoine Lovell April 23, 2009 04:37 am

    Nikkor 18 - 55mm 3.5-5.6 GII (Kit Lens)
    Nikkor 55 - 200mm 1.4-5.6 G (Kit Lens)
    Nikkor 50mm 1.8 D

    Also have an Opteka Fish eye lens and an Opteka 500mm Macro lens
    But I'm becoming a Nikkonian.

    Happy Shooting!

  • Kenny E. April 23, 2009 02:57 am

    It's all about personal preference. The post by Macro Photography on 4/19 brought up another good point when they said "I like to take most candid shots when people don’t know I am shooting pictures". It's hard to be anonymous with a honking huge telephoto lens on your camera.

    I tend towards medium and long telephotos because I like to shoot sports but also like my prime lens for landscapes and portraiture. What I currently desire are some prime wide and super wide angle lenses. I shoot on a Canon 30D and my lenses include:

    Canon EF 50mm f/1.4
    Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 Mark I

    Canon EFS 10-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
    Canon EF 28-235mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM
    Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG
    Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L USM

  • Robin Ryan April 20, 2009 03:22 am

    I have become a huge fan of primes with time... I find they inspire me to get nice and close to my subject, as well as to consider how slight changes in angle affect lighting and the view of the subject. Especially for candids they are nice because they are small and can still have a great reach.

    Here are two that I love...

    The 85mm f/1.8 is a small, study (Ive smacked it into more than one brick wall and its fine), very sharp and very fast lens...

    The 35mm f/1.4L is expensive and a bit bigger, but the image quality is jaw-droppingly sharp. This will be the next lens I buy - it focuses nice and close and manual-focusing with it is a dream

    I know that a lot of people rave about the 50mm 1.8, but to me it feels cheap and the manual focusing is horrid. I strongly suggesting dropping the extra cash for the 1.4, which has a build very similar to the 85mm 1.8.

    Alternatively, I have a 10-22mm that I love to use for landscapes. I don't use it as often for serious people-shots since the distortion makes my subjects look a bit chubby :(

  • arj April 20, 2009 12:09 am

    for my canon 40D, i have

    i. EFS17-85mm
    ii. Ef50 mm
    ii. Ef 70-200mm 2.8L is

    In my wish list:
    i.EF 100mm macro
    ii. A wide angle zoom
    iii. Ef 85mm

  • Rolling Stone April 19, 2009 12:42 pm

    Most times my 18-200 is on my D90. But my nifty fifty 1.4 is ALWAYS within reach.
    18-200 = versatility
    50mm = creativity
    I think these two will be all I need for some time. All though the new Nikkor wide lens seems to be sending me sublime messages! Lord, give me strength! ; )

  • Macro Photography April 19, 2009 08:29 am

    I personally think zoom is the best. I like to take most candid shots when people don't know I am shooting pictures.

  • Jack Chamberlin April 18, 2009 10:13 pm

    I own:
    Canon 70-200 IS 2.8L Zoom
    Canon 24-105 IS 4.0L Zoom
    Canon 300 IS 4.0L
    Canon 50 1.4
    Canon 16-35 2.8L
    Tamron 90 2.8 macro
    Sigma 8mm 3.5 Fisheye

    I recently purchased the new Canon 5D Mark II, and this camera with the Canon 70-200 zoom absolutely blows me away with the clarity and sharpness of the images that I'm capturing. Although I went through my "prime lens" period some years ago, I would challenge anyone to better the images for clarity or sharpness I'm now capturing with either the Canon 16-35 or the 70-200 zoom lenses and the Mark II.

  • Tom Goetz April 18, 2009 10:00 am

    You mentioned prime's speed and that it can help with low light. To me the bigger advantage is the extremely shallow depth of field.

  • George Slusher April 18, 2009 04:47 am

    Marcus wrote: "My next purchase is going to be the Canon 100mm F/2.8 Macro lens. I like the versatility of the zoom lens when out and about, but like the option of the fast 50mm for low light. I found this lens very useful when my daughter was born as i did not want to use flash."

    That's a sensible attitude. (I agree about the 100mm Macro lens: one reviewer said that it has the most "fun per buck" of any lens. It can be a nice, fast telephoto AND get those close-ups of flowers, insects, etc.)

    More on "creativity." My parents had an interesting painting/drawing by a teenaged artist that was done entirely with brown Magic Marker. It's common for artists to do exercises using only one color (or, in oils, one color plus white to make tints)--the pencil or charcoal drawing is a good example. However, I've not known many good artists who have made a virtue of this: "I'm a real artist because I use only one color and anyone who does otherwise is lazy." Instead, it's a way to learn and improve their skills. Some artists come to concentrate on a single medium or other "limitation" as being part of their style, but that is quite different from restricting oneself to prime lenses. It would be more like shooting only in "monochrome." (We used to call it "black & white." :-)) There were--and probably still are--photographers who use only B&W because they enjoy wringing the most they can out of the "limitations." (In the "old"--i.e., film--days, B&W also had several "advantages"--wider dynamic range (by several stops), tighter grain, more flexibility and control in developing and printing (including home developing/printing), and lower cost. Shooting monochrome in digital photography has none of those advantages, as you're converting a color image into monochrome.)

    If you want to learn by restricting yourself technically--which can be useful, you might try some of these exercises:

    - Use only one focal length (can be a zoom, just don't change the focal length)--a super wide angle (10-12mm on a DSLR) would be an interesting choice, especially if you want to learn about perspective, as it would allow you to get very close to the subject
    - Shoot only in monochrome
    - Shoot at one distance--not at 10 ft, but more like 1-2 ft--set your camera to manual focus and leave the lens' focus ring at one setting, then move back and forth to achieve focus (with a single focal length, that's also keeping the magnification constant)
    - Shoot only at high ISO to learn about noise
    - Shoot from 1 ft above the ground

    and so on; the variations are endless. If you reduce the number of variables you can adjust, you might learn better what those variables really do. By holding focal length constant, for example, you can see the compromises between perspective and framing. If you shoot at only one distance, you can see the effect of depth of field pretty clearly. In monochrome, you might learn about shadows and highlights and textures.

    Also, have fun! Do something wacky that's going to bring a smile to your face (and, maybe, to others who see your images). Turn the camera at an odd angle. Take a "portrait" from about 1-2 ft (.3-.5 m), which accentuates roundness (e.g., makes noses look really big). Set the lens to a fixed distance (manual focus) with a fairly narrow aperture on aperture priority and snap away--another way to learn about depth of field. (I have read that it's also a good trick for urban photography, though I don't do that, myself.) Shoot outdoor scenes with the white balance set to tungsten (or set that in postprocessing if you use RAW)--an interesting effect, especially with sunsets. (They become purple.) Shoot outdoors at midnight, using very long exposures. Get a cheap infrared filter. (Focus is tricky, as the lens doesn't focus IR at the same point as visible light. Some lenses used to and some may still have a red IR mark for focusing.) Deliberately use distortion--e.g., smear vaseline on a CHEAP UV filter. (You'll never be able to completely clean the filter.) (The Holga cameras are supposed to be fun or one can get a Lensbaby for a SLR.)

    Unlike the "old" (not so golden!) days of film, it's easy to experiment and try stuff. (Back in the late 1970s, I took over 3,000 photos--100+ rolls of 24 or 36 exposures--in one year. What I spent in film, processing, and enlarging could have bought a camera and nice lens.)

  • 0rovert April 18, 2009 04:36 am

    Lens discussion always evokes plenty of debate and although I certainly didn't have time to read all of the comments posteed here I thought I would interject another arguement against zooms. The quality of a prime lens is consistent, while when using the widest or tightest ends of a zoom lens the quality drops off. I'm not sure if this point has been mentioned yet, but i thought it worthwhile to bring up.

  • Scott April 18, 2009 04:22 am

    First time posting, new to this forum but thought I would jump in. These are on my D80:

    Tokina 20-35mm - super sharp lens
    Nikkor 35-80mm - never really happy with it, will be replaced by my new acquisition
    Tamron 70-300mm - love the bokeh

    Nikkor 16-85mm VR - just ordered, anxiously awaiting arrival

    I debated on my latest purchase, prime for the speed, or zoom for the versitility. I went for the zoom, hoping that the VR will give me a little more range in low-light conditions. Wish me luck!

  • Marcus April 18, 2009 02:50 am

    My gear is as follows:

    Zooms -
    Sigma 10-20 mm f/4-5.6
    Canon 28-135 f/3.5-5.6 IS (Kit lens which I plan on replacing with a 24-105 f/4L IS or 24-70 f/2.8L)
    Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS

    Primes -
    Canon 50 f/1.8 (I plan to upgrade to the f/1.4 eventually)
    Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro

    I have been looking at picking up a few L primes (135 mm f/2L and 200 mm f/2.8L eventually) and the 85 mm f1/.8 in the future. My main focus is getting my short range zoom upgraded to L glass before too long. I also wouldn't mind getting a fisheye at some point but that's a long way off in the plans.

  • Dikar April 18, 2009 02:34 am

    As I am 2 weeks "old" amateur with D700 I was "forced" to buy 24-70 and 70-200 VR 2.8G Nikkor zooms to cover my incompetence and laziness. Now considering 105 2.8 macro and 85 1.4 primes for portraits and macro shots.

    In reality there is no such choice as "zooms only or primes only?" for Nikon: there are just 5-6 perfect lenses. Half of them primes and another half - zooms (50/1.4, 85/1.4, 105, 14-24, 24-70, 70-200/2.8)

  • Eric Mesa April 18, 2009 02:16 am

    I decide based on the type of shoot I'm going on. If I'm going to be mostly taking photos indoors or in close quarters I'll take my 17-55mm. If I am taking photos of animals, I take my 55-200mm. If I am on a general purpose shot and want the best quality (of the lenses I own) I take my 28-105mm. And, if I don't care if I might miss something from being too close or too far, I take my 50mm Macro. (I also use that if I plan to take macro shots, naturally) In the end, the lens you decide to throw on limits what you can photograph. If you throw on an 17-55 because you are going to photograph a protest, you will miss that shot of a bird you saw on your way there. If you took your prime lens out because you intended to photography subject A and then you need to photograph things that are closer or farther away - you are SOL.

    So, if I'm on a shoot where anything can happen and I want to to be sure I'll get the shot, I go with a zoom. If I prefer sharper images and a faster fstop over getting every single shot, I'll put on a prime. To say to never use a zoom or never use a prime is just being dumb and (I hate to use this word because it was tossed around so flippantly during the US elections) elitist. There is nothing wrong with using zooms or primes. Both are perfectly capable of getting awesome shots.

  • Diyan April 18, 2009 01:38 am

    I’m not sure this is worth debating, but for me personally i like zoom, zoom and zoom lens, because I can beat the distance.

  • A. Lesser April 18, 2009 01:09 am

    Mr. Rowsw
    Several weeks ago, you published an article having to do with "blown-out" shots which have much redeeming value. My class in photography has always scorned white areas that were over-exposed but your comments gave me hope that some value exists.

    I cannot find this article...could you please let me know when it appeared and how I could see it again?
    Thanks for your help.

    A. Lesser

  • scott April 18, 2009 12:14 am

    I'm definitely a "both" guy. Up until recently my bag always included 50mm and 85mm primes, and 18-50mm and 50-150mm zooms. I recently let go of the 50, but that was mainly because it was doing the same job as the 85, only with a less useful focal length.

    I do most of my shooting with the 18-50 zoom because I shoot events. That range suits the work well, and the zoom ability is necessary for rapidly changing subjects.

    In my heart of hearts, however, the 85 is the lens I enjoy the most.

  • Woodsy April 17, 2009 11:28 pm

    I was happy with the lenses that came with my Sony Alpha 200 until I bought a used Minolta 50mm f/1.7. Now, I have fallen competely in love with that lens!

  • Andrionni April 17, 2009 10:50 pm

    Using a prime helped me understand the importance of perspective and thinking prior to composing much more than my kit lens did in the past. I've applied what I learned to my zooms afterwards.

    My 50mm f/1.4, 24mm f/2.8, and my 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM are my weapons of choice.

  • Mark April 17, 2009 10:45 pm

    I love my primes and my zooms. I'll restrict my self to 2 of each.

    Zoom - my favorite walk around zoom and event lens is the Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS. Gives me a good range and "L" performance. Second choice would be the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L non-IS, if gives me the reach I need in theatres and auditoriums as well as being a great portrait lens.

    Primes - I love to walk around with my Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens on my 40D. Great lens. But my favorite lens of any type has to be the Canon 135mm f/2L lens. Absolutely stunning color reproduction and sharpness. I sell more photos from this lens than any other.

    I try to use primes as much as I can but sometimes you just need a zoom!

  • Jon Rayner April 17, 2009 10:32 pm

    I have a mixture, my lenses are:
    Canon 50mm 1.8
    Canon 17-85mm IS
    Canon 70-200mm F.4 L

    My next purchase is going to be the Canon 100mm F/2.8 Macro lens. I like the versatility of the zoom lens when out and about, but like the option of the fast 50mm for low light. I found this lens very useful when my daughter was born as i did not want to use flash.

  • Elec April 17, 2009 09:44 pm

    After reading all the comments and "debate" it seems that critiques fall into one of several categories.

    For me it's result based. By results I don't mean by that the technical critique of the result I achieve with a lens.

    I mean my satisfaction with the results based on what I want/need.

    The fact my standards may not be that of a professional (yet) doesn't in any way lesson the validity of my experience with a lens many of the pros wouldn't touch with a ten foot monopod.

    That's always been one of my favorite things about this site and it's forums. The diversity and breadth of voices not only allowed but encouraged without the looming resonance of the person who "knows better" shouting down a newb (like myself) and their experience and joy of discovery.

    Further I think my experience with so called lesser lenses and that learning curve is what gives me a more critical eye and better understanding as I upgrade to each different and new piece of equipment.

    To imply that someone's experience is any less because a lens isn't the absolute highest quality it can be is faulty if not arrogant to my way of thinking. A preference is just that, what works for a particular person based on their opinions, goals, and desired results. This isn't empirical.

    I'm very appreciative of the tolerance and encouragement typically so well represented by the persons always willing to offer their opinions here.

    Weren't we all excited by a result achieved with less than perfect equipment at some point? My daughter and her FisherPrice camera give me some of my favorite perspectives on any event we go to because of what the shots show me about what they "see".

    There's a great photo show I saw once that only allowed photos taken with equipment purchased for less than 25 bucks. Disposables things like that. The creativity forced was amazing and the results truly inspiring. Photographers cracking the case to let in bizarre light streams, smearing the lens, fantastic creativity?

    The idea you can only get a picture of worth from the most expensive collection of gear (be that by single purchase of expensive single lens or a plethora of situationally specific lenses) seems fairly lazy to me too.

    If you look at a photo you took and you're happy nothing else matters.

  • Calvin Foo April 17, 2009 09:16 pm

    also, Zoom lens and prime lens, or anything else than camera in comparison, things co-exist for reasons as definitely each has pros and cons. Each are built for specific piority.

    You can't have a sports car that built for speed and at the same time can fit 7 people in there; and you can't have a 7 seaters MPV that built with the speed of a Ferrari. It is just not logically feasible.

    If it is possible, there would no reason to co-exist, the earlier would become obsolete, and replaced by the latter.

    The arguement is not which one better, it is just a matter of piority. If you want versatile, you have to sacrifice the optical quality; if you want optical quality, you have to bare with the inflexibility. Simple as that.

  • Marcin April 17, 2009 08:01 pm

    I have some range of lenses for my Canon 400D:
    - Canon 50mm f/1.8 - i love it, it's extremely fast and photos are very crisp
    - Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 - the best zoom lens ever!
    - Canon 17-40mm f/4 - just bought it and waiting for delivery :)
    - Tamron 11-18mm f/3.5-5.6 - nice and cheap very wide angle
    - Tamron 90mm f/2.8 - macro lens I want to sell and buy Canon 100mm.

  • DavidN April 17, 2009 07:43 pm

    George - and Matt - thanks for your comments here. I wonder what I do mean ... probably that primes suit me at the current time, with my experience to date (which does, by the way, include 'basic art classes').

    Fortunately, I find myself appreciating the challenge of some of the things you both have said. Well this is the digital photography SCHOOL; if I'm not prepared to learn I have no business being here!

    But in general, I feel most 'consumers' want zooms for the laziness reason. What you've done is challenge that as an excuse to think less of them (the zoom lenses) and to consider what they ADD to the toolkit available.

  • peter k April 17, 2009 07:37 pm

    I've got a Sony A350 (built-in IS) and I'm realy happy with it. The walkaround lens is the Sony DT 16-105 (wich, according to, is a fine lens). Maybe is not as crisp and sharp as the Carl Zeiss 16-80, but also delivers fine quality photos and has a bit more zoom range. For indoors photography or other low light situations I have a Minolta 50mm f1.7, wich, at ~$130 is an extraordinar bang for the buck (half of the 50mm f1.4, for a difference of 1/2 Ev). In the end, I have from my old film Minolta a 28-100mm macro lens. The lens quality is arguable, but it has macro capability, so I use it from time to time. About the future...I dream about the Sony 70-400mmG (~$1,500) and I think I'll buy the Minolta 100-400mm (~$500).
    I'll be glad to hear from others also !

  • torsten April 17, 2009 06:06 pm

    I prefer prime for best quality. That's pretty simple ;-)

  • Michel April 17, 2009 05:58 pm

    I have 3 lenses for my EOS 450D (crop factor 1.6): one 50 mm, f/1.8 lens which I use very much, mainly for low light/indoor/portrait situations, an 18-55 mm/f3.5-f5.6 IS which is the kit lens and good for outdoors and a 55-250mm, f/4-f6.5 IS for a lot of zoom capabilities, especially good for vacation.

    I really like IS lenses but the 50 mm lens is really great for low light. In the future I possibly will get another f/2.8 lens with zoom but I just have my camera and lenses for 3 months so I first want to experiment more with it.

  • Juha Ylitalo April 17, 2009 05:56 pm

    As a rule of thumb, I generally prefer zoom on wide angle and primes on tele end, because I generally use wide angles for landscapes at f/8 and so and with tele you want something like f/4 to keep shutter speed above 1/(focal length).
    With this in mind, I generally use 17-40/4 + 100/2.8 Macro in hiking trips and 12-24/4 + 50/1.8 in urban environment.
    Then there are expectations ... like in safari, where you need versatile lens like 100-400/4.5-5.6 ...

  • George Slusher April 17, 2009 05:49 pm

    Put these two comments together:

    "If I'm taking a camera out to simply 'document the fact that I've been somewhere', I'll use zooms. but if I'm going out to 'take photographs' I'll use primes. I think I prefer primes since they seem to fit with the (my) notion of taking care over exposure, DoF, composition, etc, etc."

    and, from Matt Needham:

    "If cropping in-camera is important, as it usually is with small format, then prime lenses encourage composing based on angle of view. Zoom lenses allow for composing by perspective, as it it done in most of the other visual arts, and then the focal length can be adjusted for efficient in-camera cropping. When ever I hear someone say prime lenses are more creative i know they didn’t take many basic art classes."

    First, for DavidN: How does a prime "fit" with that notion better than a zoom? Those factors are exactly the same with any lens. As I wrote above, if you want to have a "fixed focal length" lens, just leave the zoom set to one focal length. For example, my 70-200mm zooms could be a 70mm lens today, a 135mm lens tomorrow, an 100mm the next day, and maybe even a 162.3mm lens some day.

    Matt's post then answers DavidN's, blowing the lid off the "psuedo-creative" attitude, e.g., "I'm too good for zooms," or "Only losers use zooms," that dates back perhaps before many of you were born. (I got my first SLR in 1966--a Kodak Retina Reflex, where you exchanged only the front element of the lens. It had a leaf shutter and three "lenses"--wide, normal and telephoto--I can't recall the focal lengths. Since then, I've had Nikon, Minolta, and Canon 35mm cameras and lenses and now a Canon 30D DSLR plus Canon G9, S3 IS, A570IS, and an "ancient" G2. I started with manual focus, "match-the-needle" exposure, and prime lenses only.)

    As Matt said (and you don't need a beginning art class for this--it's in many good general photography books, the ones that concentrate on WHAT you're shooting rather than WITH what you're shooting), composition, in general (not just in photography) involves two major interacting factors: perspective and framing. Perspective is about how the various elements of the image relate to each other and is determined ONLY by the position of the observer (camera) relative to the scene--the lens has nothing to do with perspective. Framing is about what the image includes (and excludes)--"cropping," as Matt put it. There are only two ways in photography to achieve both the perspective and the framing you want: use a zoom lens. In both, you position the camera for the perspective you want. WIth a zoom lens, you then use the focal length to control framing--"in-camera cropping" is a good way to put it. The other method, which you would use with a prime lens, would be to crop the resulting image later, assuming that your lens is wide enough to include what you want. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages, but "in-camera cropping" will give the better quality, as it preserves the most information. Then, too, you can set the zoom to give more coverage than you think you'll want and crop later, just like a prime.

    All too many people seem to think that "composition" means only framing, ignoring perspective, not realizing, perhaps, that perspective also affects framing, as it determines what beyond the main subject is included--the background. Here's an example: if you have a subject 10' away and the background (e.g., a wall) is another 10' away, any lens will show 2x as much of the background (width) as the foreground/subject. Let's say that the subject is 6' wide (or tall); a width/height of 12' at the background will have the same size on the image. Now double the focal length of the lens. To get the same framing of the foreground subject, you'll have to back up to 20'. Now, the background is at 30' and you'll see less of that background. (Again if the subject is 6', that will be the same size on the image as 9' in the background.)

    More later...

    In photography, we have an additional factor--depth of field. (Artists use this, as well--some brilliantly, to draw attention to the main subject by "blurring" parts of the image. I read an article about an artist, whose name I cannot recall now, but I think he was in the Impressionist period. The author described how, from a "normal" viewing distance, it looked like there were tiny pictures of people on a bridge in the painting. However, when he got close, he realized that the pictures of people were merely blobs of color.) DOF is a function mainly of the aperture, the distance to the subject, and the magnification factor (or the lens focal length, though, for macro photography, you need the magnification factor, as the lens' focal length actually changes with the focus distance when you're up close. If you want to calculate DOF, check DOFMaster, which can be used online or you can get software for Windows, Palm OS, or the iPhone/iPod touch.)

  • Kamera gue April 17, 2009 04:31 pm

    Typo : Argument for prime lens number 3 : weight..... Why the font is so small?

  • Bozo Tic April 17, 2009 04:06 pm

    My lens:

    Nikon 50 f1.4
    Nikon 60 f2.8 Micro (macro)
    Nikon 18-135 f3.5-5.6 (trying to sell this one since I got me 18-200)
    Nikon 18-200 f3.5-5.6 VR
    Vivitar Series 1 70-210 f3.5

    Waiting for a delivery on Nikon 14-24 f2.8 (alnog with my new D700).
    As for prime lens, I can say they are better optically, so if I had a knowledge I'd need a very good photos for prints, I'd go with prime lens for sure. But the versatility zoom gives there is no way I could deal without them on any of my trips. There is just so much you can do with zoom lens (wide-vise and tele-vise) considering the composition.
    So as most of you, I like both.

  • Trevor Sowers April 17, 2009 02:44 pm

    EF 17-85
    EF 200 f2.8L
    EF 50 f1.8

    The Primepipe (200 2.8) is without doubt my favourite lens!

  • pef April 17, 2009 02:03 pm

    I most use my prime lenses because of their speed. Excellent zoom lenses are too expensive for me.

    50mm f1.4
    85mm f1.4

  • johnp April 17, 2009 01:28 pm

    I agree with Michael. I recently bought a Pentax 50mm 1.4 and previously had only used a Tamron 18-250 and been very happy with it. On a recent trip away I left the 18-250 at home by mistake. After the intial panic I settled down to only use the 50mm which in the end turned out to be a good exercise.
    I ended up working a lot harder but getting a lot more interesting shots. It was a good way to learn the capabilities of that lens. I'll still take both lenses next time and use the 50mm for low light conditions which was the original intention when buying it but I'd recommend limiting yourself to one lens from time to time.

  • michael mckee April 17, 2009 01:00 pm

    I think a more interesting question is how having a prime or zoom lens on your camera changes how you approach a shot. My walk around lens is a Pentax 18-250, which is amazingly versatile. It's almost too easy to get exactly the right frame for an image. A quick twist and I'm just the right distance. I notice that when I do that I get lazy. When I use that lens exclusively my images get less interesting, though it's still my main lens. The lens isn't quite as sharp as my primes but good, noticeably better than the kit lens that came with my K20D.

    When I switch to the Pentax 50mm 1.4, I have to look at the world differently. I've heard for years that 50mm is a "normal" lens, but find that the 1.5 crop factor actually gives me photos that look more like what I see. With the fixed length, I have to think more and sometimes think differently. Keeping it on my camera for a week now and then forces me to be more systematic about my shot selection and that slows me down. Thinking is good. Sometimes. It's also my inside lens. I keep thinking that I should get a wider lens but like this one too much.

    Recently, I put on my 100mm 2.8 macro and spent a couple of days walking around taking city photos. Previously, I used it mostly for garden and bugs. But as the only lens it gave me lots of crop shots of people and bits of buildings, trees and so on. My whole approach to shooting shifted as did the types of images I took. It's a discipline that I'll take again.

  • Calvin Foo April 17, 2009 12:39 pm

    From time to time, I have bought and sold new and used lenses, and leaving me only the pedigree lenses.

    I have two zoom lenses:
    Nikkor 17-55mm IF AFS F/2.8
    Nikkor 70-200mm IF AFS F/2.8 VR

    and two prime lenses:
    Nikkor 105mm IF AFS F/2.8 VR Macro
    Nikkor 50mm F/1.8D

    No doubt it is clearly the 50mm F/1.8 superior in optics, but often I keeping it in the bag as my 17-55mm offer better versatile with zoom, and speed. of course, the 50mm F/1.8 is a slow and noisy lens made many years ago. the newer 50mm F/1.4G perhaps another story.

  • Pio danilo P. Cuadra April 17, 2009 11:09 am

    In the 1980s when you buy a camera it is always a 50mm be it 1.70 or 1.20, that accompanies with the SLR kit. And in those times lenses feel tough & durable. Nowadays if you buy a DSLR kit, it is standard to have an entry zoom lens with that plastic feel. I believe however in our personal arsenal of zoom lenses we must always have at least a 50mm. Occassionally use my film primes, and the fact that they are still usable is a testament how they withstood the times.

  • Karl April 17, 2009 11:05 am

    I think I'm sitting square on the prime end of the scale...

    Currently, I have (Canon):

    20-35mm f/2.8 L
    50mm f/1.4
    Sigma 30mm f/1.4

    The wish list contains the 85mm 1.2L, 100mm 2.8 macro, 135mm 2.0L, 200mm 2.8L ..... stupid expensive wishlist...

  • claude pilon April 17, 2009 10:56 am

    On a sony A200,

    It's an APS-C sensor so it's a 1.5x the focal length, example 50mm becomes a 75mm.

    50mm f1.7 -- indoor and available light portraits
    28 or 35mm prime to get and equivalent of 50mm environmental protrait, and photo from accross the table ;)
    carl-zeiss 16-80mm super sharp zoom lens for a walkaround lens
    tamron 70-210mm f2.8 for sport
    75-300mm zoom portability when going out in the nature

  • Matt Needham April 17, 2009 10:33 am

    If cropping in-camera is important, as it usually is with small format, then prime lenses encourage composing based on angle of view. Zoom lenses allow for composing by perspective, as it it done in most of the other visual arts, and then the focal length can be adjusted for efficient in-camera cropping. When ever I hear someone say prime lenses are more creative i know they didn't take many basic art classes.

  • Rob April 17, 2009 09:56 am

    I've tried lots of lenses on my Sony Alpha A100 but having viewed a Tamron 18-250 on a friends Pentax I knew I just had to have one. I bought the Sony version which is the same as the Tamron but Sony tout it has some minor improvements. I belong to a Camera Club and the members (even the film faithful) are gobsmacked I am getting the images I do with a lense with this range. It just beggers belief at almost any length and I am so pleased I sold all my older lenses to get it. I also have a Tamron SP90 2.5 but the 18-250 is the one tha stays on the camera. Do yourself a favour and go try one of these things. It won't disapopint you. It's not a pro lense but bang for buck it is way up there. Cheers..R

  • George Slusher April 17, 2009 06:00 am

    Here are the lenses I have and use with my Canon 30D. (I have a few others that I need to sell, mainly because I upgraded, e.g., to an "IS" version or a faster lens.)

    35mm f/2
    50mm f/1.8
    85mm f/1.8
    100mm f/2
    100mm f/2.8 Macro

    Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6
    Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 IS
    Canon 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS (mostly replaced by the one above)
    Canon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 (kit lens)
    Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS
    Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS (Yes, I have and use both)
    Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS

    Why that collection? (I'd like to add the 24-70mm f/2.8, but that's a way off.) They're used for different things. For example, as I mentioned in another post, I take photos of my students at horse shows. Outdoors, the 70-200mm f/4L IS is usually just the thing (a LOT lighter than the f/2.8 version), but, indoors, it's a bit too slow, thus the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS. (One stop can make a big difference in stopping the motion.) In some situations (e.g., barrel racing and pole bending, where the horses are galloping), I'll use the fast primes, depending upon the distance--again, even one stop can make a big difference. I literally could not take decent shots at those indoor shows with a cheap f/3.5-6.3 zoom. (I actually bought a Canon 200mm f/2.8L lens and used it for a while before getting the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS. The prime is better quality, but not as convenient, as the distance changes often.)

    When I'm shooting nature (birds, etc.), I'll usually carry the 100-400mm, 17-85mm (not as good as the 17-55mm, but that one would leave a big gap in focal length), and perhaps the 100mm Macro and/or 10-20mm--it depends upon what I'm doing. (I don't use the 10-20mm for wide panoramas, but for getting very, very, very close to the subject, which gives an unusual perspective. Perspective does NOT depend upon the lens, at all, only upon the relative location of the subject and viewer--ask an artist. A super wide-angle lens allows you to get much closer--inches away--without the subject getting too large in the frame. It also gives a long depth of focus.)

    For landscapes, the 70-200mm f/4L IS is better--higher quality, lighter, better IS, etc. For flowers up close, the 17-55mm f/2.8 IS has great bokeh and can get fairly close. (The 100mm Macro would be along, as well, though the lack of IS makes it harder to use.)

    Indoors, for people, especially groups, I used to use the 35mm f/2 (equivalent to 52mm on a full-frame camera) or 50mm f/1.8, but now mostly use the 17-55mm. For still or slow-moving subjects, the IS more than makes up for the one-stop slower lens.

    Specialists will use their own setups. Sports photographers usually use a combination of primes and fast zooms. Those who shoot field sports (soccer, football, etc) may use a 400mm f/2.8L IS (you do not want to know the price!) on one body and a 70-200mm f/2.8L IS on another. Those doing closer sports will probably go with the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS and a 24-70mm f/2.8L. Birders love the 500mm f/4L IS (plus teleconverters--those feathered beasties are usually pretty small) and may carry the 70-200mm f/4L IS for closer shots.

    By the way, item "5. Technique" in the article is bogus. If you want to practice using a fixed-focal length lens, set your zoom to that length and don't change it! (Some may recognize that as one of Ken Rockwell's "controversial" statements.) Then, if you happen upon a situation where you could get a great shot with a different focal length, you can take it.

  • George Slusher April 17, 2009 05:32 am

    cascadebush wrote: "Once again I see the myth of prime lenses being available cheaper than zooms. I have looked and looked and never see prime lenses for anything less than about 3 times the price of zoom lenses with similar focal lengths.

    I simply don’t understand why
    a) there don’t seem to be any reasonably priced prime lenses available, they all seem to be premium models and very expensive.
    b) why this myth prevails."

    If you're satisfied with f/3.5-6.3 zooms with middling-to-mediocre quality, you have a point. (The first zoom besides the kit lens that I got for my Canon 30D was a Sigma 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3, which cost $235--and was "worth" every penny.) It's not just the focal length that you should be comparing, but the speed and quality. For many people, those slower lenses will work OK---for a while. Then, they'll run into a situation where f/4.5 or f/6.3 just isn't fast enough. (Anecdote: a friend was taking photos of his daughter at a horse show in an indoor arena. He had his Nikon set on automatic--whatever that's called with Nikons, using a fairly slow zoom lens. He was shocked when the images on his camera's LCD were all blurred. He was getting shutter speeds around 1/25-1/60, not fast enough to stop a moving horse. I got decent shots with my 35mm f/2 & 100mm f/2, which were probably 3+ stops faster than his lens, so I was getting speeds like 1/200-1/250 at the same ISO--BIG difference.)

    Here are some examples of Canon lenses with prices from B&H. (You can usually get these for a bit less on eBay, as I have done--the italics are prices I paid, including shipping.

    24mm f/2.8 $305 $204
    28mm f/2.8 $180
    35mm f/2 $240 $212
    50mm f/1.8 $90 $70
    85mm f/1.8 $355 $295
    100mm f/2 $410 $330

    Notice that all of those are f/2.8 or faster.

    Now, for the FAST zooms. The cheap, slow zooms are not comparable.

    16-35mm f/2.8L $1450
    17-55mm f/2.8 IS $1030 $800
    24-70mm f/2.8L $1190
    70-200mm f/2.8L $1190 (I paid $1325 for the IS version, which sells for $1699 new)

    Too much? Drop down to f/4 lenses:

    17-40mm f/4L $700
    24-105mm f/4L IS $1040
    70-200mm f/4L $600 (a real bargain!) $563

    Good quality Canon zooms (the "L" zooms plus a few others like the 17-55mm f/2.8 IS) hold their value pretty well, as they are in high demand.

    More later.

  • maureen April 17, 2009 04:45 am

    50 1.4
    for me i use my 50 prime most. it is light weight, sharp...sweet.
    next is my low zoom, which i love getting quick close and far expecially for family shoots.
    ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh lens!!!

  • Mark Green April 17, 2009 03:28 am

    2 Canon 5D 2's and 1 Canon 1D3

    Best lenses

    Canon F1.2 85mm
    Canon F2.8 300mm
    Canon F2.8 70-200mm
    Canon F4.5 100-400mm
    Sigma F2.8 300mm
    Sigma F2.8 28-70 mm,
    Sigma 50mm F1.4 Prime
    Sigma 150-500mm...

    Tend to use the small telephotos convenient to get into sports events.

    Sigma 50mm is great lense for Studio Stuff.

    Love the 300mm Canon but it is so big, heavy and obvious.!

  • Kristin April 17, 2009 02:36 am

    Has anyone used the Tamron 18-270 DiII-VC for Nikon with D40...I am contemplaiting purchasing but so many options unsure what to buy for a versitile lens.

  • mike April 17, 2009 02:34 am

    I love my Canon 50mm 1.8 prime. Inexpensive, but a great lense!!! I also use a Tamron 28-75 1.8 and a Canon 70-200 2.8. I do a lot of weddings so I need the zoom for convenience, but I if didn't shoot wedding where I need the flexibility of the zoom, I would definitely shoot prime all the time.

  • Emon April 17, 2009 02:09 am

    Recently bought a Canon 5D Mark II. On it I'm primarily using:

    -50 mm f/1.8
    -24-70 mm f/2.8 L

    On my Canon XTi I was using, besides the nifty fifty:

    - Tamron Zoom Super Wide 18-200 mm f/3.5-6.3

  • DavidN April 17, 2009 01:46 am

    If I'm taking a camera out to simply 'document the fact that I've been somewhere', I'll use zooms. but if I'm going out to 'take photographs' I'll use primes. I think I prefer primes since they seem to fit with the (my) notion of taking care over exposure, DoF, composition, etc, etc.

  • Elec April 17, 2009 01:23 am

    I recently received the AF18-270mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC (Vibration Compensation) LD Aspherical (IF) Macro

    I'm universes from being a pro. The reviews of this lens are all over so but here is what I think. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this lens. It's truly (for someone like me with limited budget) a fantastic "do it all". I have chronic pain and shake quite badly and have been surprised continuously at how well it compensates. There is lens creep and at time lens "sudden drop" but only in extreme angles with no hand on it. That's dealt with. Also there is a small point of resistance in the full range of lens movement.

    But, for the price, I'm amazed by this thing. I also have uninformed an inexperienced tastes.

  • DT April 16, 2009 03:23 pm

    My favourite is the 17-55 EFS IS f2.8 canon lense. Coupled with my 40D it produces crisp clear images and is a stunner for low light photography. The only problem with this lense is that since i have bought this i have been spoilt with the image stabalizer. Don't know if i could be without one on my next lense. Yes i forked out a few Wads for this fella but truly worth every penny spent.

  • themisfit April 16, 2009 08:21 am

    A combo of both works best for my wife and I. 2 primes and 3 zoom.

  • miguev March 12, 2009 10:11 pm

    I'd recommend as much wide-angle as you can get, I took 501 photos in Rome and used my Tokina 12-24mm f/4 (on a Nikon D80) and the lovely AF Nikkor 20mm 1:2.8D (on a Nkon FM-2n) for most of them.

  • RJ March 12, 2009 04:51 pm

    I need more info on the sigma 17-70 2.8-4.5 HSM vs sigma 18-50 3.5-5.6 HSM. For a trip to Rome, which of the two lenses should i opt for?

  • Sree February 4, 2009 10:18 am

    So glad to have come across this blog.

  • Marcus January 27, 2009 02:18 pm

    Hey there guys, my first post ever here at DPS. Absolutely love the forum, and I'm in awe to see so many good photographers, just willing to lend a helping hand with wonderful advice and tips. Just great to see such a good sense of community and talent. Well here's my set up of lenses:
    camera: Canon 50d
    EF-S 10-22 3.5-5.6
    EF 50mm 1.4
    EF 24-105mm F4L
    and saving up for EF 85mm L 1.2 and 70-200mm 2.8 L IS

    Love shooting with both zooms and primes... even though you have to work way harder with primes : )

  • John October 22, 2008 05:52 am

    My setup:

    Nikon D700
    NIkon 17-35mm f2.8
    Nikon 50mm f1.4
    Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR

    Sometime I use my 28mm f2.8 manual focus lens too!

  • CascadeHush October 19, 2008 07:29 pm

    A lot of people will say 70mm is good for portraits. You get a bit further away from the subject, it compresses their features a bit which tends to be flattering, and also you get better control of DOF.

    The guy on the Shutters Inc podcast who's a professional wedding photographer used to rave about his 85mm f1.8.

    I just bought a 105mm f2.8 Macro and the first shot I took was just a snapshot of my neighbours and it's absolutely gorgeous, with a very nice blurred background and pin-sharp facial detail, even though it was handheld, with anti-shake turned off, and in late evening shadow. I never was interested in portraiture, but with this lens I may have to re-consider.

    This is my first proper prime lens, and I think I'm in love :)

  • lyn October 19, 2008 03:28 pm

    i would like to know which is the best lens for portraits so they dont distort the features

  • Mark September 9, 2008 10:11 am

    i have more lenses than i really need. It's the joys of collecting lenses. in the collection pile are all manual focus, manual aperture primes. and i do enjoy shooting with them

    Pentax M 50mm F2
    Pentax Takumar Bayonet 135mm F2.5
    Seimar Donnex 135mm F2.8
    Tamron Adaptall II 24mm F2.5 <-- newest (bought last week, they were making this up till 03)

    Fun to shoot, but if i'm going out to an event as a photographer, this is what i carry

    Pentax DA 10-17 Fisheye
    Tamron 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DI II
    Tamron 70-300mm F4-5.6 DI LD Macro 1:2
    Tamron 17-50mm F2.8 DI II
    Pentax FA 50mm F1.4

    I'm a zoom shooter. i like my zooms. primes are good, but i tend to gravitate towards zooms.

  • miguev August 18, 2008 04:16 am

    I have only one zoom lens, the old Nikkor 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5D, and I only used it three times: when I got it (a gift from my parent because he got a better one), when doing a wedding and when preparing for the wedding. I found it very handy in a wedding because nobody would wait for me, no time to change lenses. Even though that, I still shot an entire roll on my 85mm f/1.8 and some shots more, and no surprise these were the most loved shots!

    For everything else I have Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D, 28mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.8D and an old Hanimex 135mm f/2.8

    The only zooms I consider are in the extremes of focal length: a Tokina 12-24mm f/4 for wideangle and 75-300mm VR for telephoto, and I'm only buying the first one.

    However, whenever you need to cover social events you surely need a general purpose zoom, nobody waits for you!

  • Ben August 9, 2008 03:35 am

    I have both, but consistently find myself leaning towards the prime lens. For equal price, my prime lenses have a far wider aperture which gives me a better depth of focus. If I was in the market for a more pricey lens, this might change. It's funny that my favorite lens is also my cheapest (Nikon 50mm f/18 for ~$100).

  • Robin August 9, 2008 12:13 am

    Rohit, there are never dumb questions asked here. The beauty of forums is they create communities of people willing to share information and advice. DPS is a great place to learn about photography.

    Prime lenses provide a constant maximum aperture which is larger than what a zoom lens is capable of (i.e. f/1.2, 1.4 or 1.8), which means when you set your aperture to 1.8 in aperture priority mode it stays there. You can let in the maximum amount of light in low light settings, and have the ability to isolate your subject by blurring the background. Some zooms have variable maximum apertures (i.e. 3.5 - 4.5, or a max of f/2.8), so when you set a zoom (let's say a 10 - 20 mm) that's variable in aperture priority mode to f/3.5 at 10 mm it will change to f/4.5 when you zoom in to 22 mm.

    BTW, in the past, primes were by far sharper, but now zooms are closing the gap in image quality. Many pro zooms are (almost) as good as primes, and prosumer and consumer lenses have really improved.

    I hope this helps.

  • Larry August 8, 2008 10:55 pm

    I have to say that my 24-70 2.8 gets the most time on camera and out of my bag . but I do use ALL my lenses. here is the list. All Canon .

    50 1.4
    60 2.8 ef-s Macro
    85 1.8
    Coming Soon- Sigma 10mm 2.8 Fish Eye
    17-40 f/4L
    24-70 2.8 L
    70-200 2.8 L

  • David August 8, 2008 09:26 pm

    I use Leica M lenses with an M-4 and an M-6. I like the research that Leica puts in their lenses and the resulting quality. Having shot with canon lenses the better part of 10 years, it is VERY true that the Pro lens series is much sharper than the standard consumer series. I used a 200mm F2.8 L for many wildlife shots that were very crisp and a regular 28mm 2.8 that was very fuzzy at the edges. I think one common mistake made when starting out is wanting one of every lens. I use a 24mm, 35mm, 50mm and 90mm for all of my shots. Quite honestly, I use the 24mm and 35mm more than any others. I would recommend buying fewer lenses and the best that you can buy.

  • Rob August 8, 2008 05:05 pm

    I've got a Sony Alpha A100 with the kit 18-70 lense which for a kit lense is a very good performer. It surprised me. On the Sony is becomes 27-105mm. Also have an old Tamron 75-300 which on the Sony becomes 105-450mm and again is surprisingly sharp but suffers a little purple fringing on high contrast areas. I can live with that because it owes me $100. Generally the more you pay the better you'll get but there are exceptions in every brand e.g Minolta Beercan 70-210. I use alot to assess Minolta/Sony lenses and find it invaluable. There must be similiar sites for the other camera lenses. Mediocre lenses=mediocre results and no amount of PS will make a silk purse from a sows ear.

  • Paulo Jordao Photography August 8, 2008 03:35 pm

    I have always shot with Zoom lenses, and the one that I leave most of the time on my camera is the Canon 17-55mm.
    Recently, I bought the 50mm 1.4. It is a great lens, but probably because of my years working with zoom lenses, I felt extremely hard to have a practical usage for my 50mm. I even tried to use it in a Bar Mitzvah last month, and I was feeling that I was working a lot harder, and not getting the shots that I normally like to have.
    Maybe if you are going to shoot in a studio, or a photo session that gives you time to organize yourself and change lenses, the 50mm would be a very good choice.
    Paulo Jordao

  • marci August 8, 2008 09:37 am

    I use my new 105mm VR Micro - Macro lens most often. For what I shoot most (faces and flowers) it is PERFECT!

    I also have


    I WANT:

    50mm 1.4, but am hesitant as it does not auto focus on my NIKON (just had to slip NIKON in there ;) ) D40x and I don't trust my eyes or focusing speed, but I might have to stretch myself. I hear that manual focus comes easier with practice.

    Thanks for the great stuff you always have here!!!

  • John P August 8, 2008 09:27 am

    Even though I love the quality and joy of using prime lenses (I've been unable to throw out a beautiful set of Norita medium format lenses even though the camera has long died!)I feel the subject (image) is ultimately more important than either the lens or the camera.
    For travel photos at least a zoom, as well as being more practical, adds another dimension in composition in that, apart from looking at different angles and vantage points, you can also look at different crops, depth of field, compression of image and you have the ability to be more discrete and therefore more opportunity in capturing images of persons.

  • airbrushjohn August 8, 2008 08:28 am

    i have a 40d and i use a 50mm 1.8 for the price this thing is awesome, i have been using it for sports individual and team, and it is amazingly sharp! for action sports and candid portraits i use 70-200 2.8. you do have to work more with the 50 but i have learned so much more! how to compose a shot, lighting, angles, just a whole different way of shooting. niether is the best the are just different, and helps a person learn more about photography! great article!! thank you! john

  • Lisa of Beyond Megpaixels August 8, 2008 03:26 am

    Zooms are convenient and depending on your specialty, often necessary. I use both. But I really, REALLY love my primes. If you can't afford the professional grade zooms, it's hard to beat primes in terms of image quality.

  • Pete Langlois August 8, 2008 01:30 am

    I'm using a Nikon D50 with the following lenses

    Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D
    Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D
    Nikkor 18-55mm DX II (Kit Lens)
    Nikkor 70-300mm VR

    Next on the list is a Tokina 12-24mm f/4 and I'd love to get my hands on the Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8

  • Robin Ryan August 8, 2008 01:14 am

    a few with my 85mm 1.8, a terrific lens:

    primes really are the way to go.

  • Brian Mauter August 8, 2008 12:29 am

    Sorry this is sort of off-topic, but...

    I love the ad that was delivered right above the comments. It's for It's titled Nikon SLR Lenses and the lens in the picture is a Canon 18-55 kit lens.

    I saved the image if you want to see it:

    On topic: I have the 50 F1.8, the 18-55 3.5-5.6 (junk), the 17-40 F4 L, the 28-135 IS and the 70-200 F2.8 IS L. Of these, I have favorites based on what I'm doing. The 50 is my favorite portrait lens, although with my 9 month old, I'm liking the 17-40 because it allows me to be closer to her when I shoot. The 28-135 is a great all-purpose lens. I don't use the 70-200 much at all.


  • Smitty (SanteePhotog08) August 8, 2008 12:23 am

    I use use zoom lenses primarily in that they provide me a greater range of abilities to crop my picture before I take it, thus allowing my to take a picture with more workable pixels. I feel that with the current programs such as Photo Shop. and Corel Paint Shop Pro X2, sharpness is not as much of an issue as it used to be. In fact, I believe that in a blind test the average person would not be able to tell the difference in most cases between a Prime and Zoom Lens. In fact, unless you are one who wants to pick apart a picture (How much pincusion etc) the difference is miniscule. As a point in fact, I had a person who is a Prime Person due to sharpness and so on go crazy over the sharpness of a picture I took with an inexpensive zoom I use.

    To summarize, I think the Prime lenses are definately faster, and the zoom more versatile.

  • Pedro August 8, 2008 12:01 am

    I use the following with my Canon 350D

    EF 20-35 f2.8 L (discontinued model/2nd hand)
    EF 50 1.8
    EF 85 1.8
    EF 200 2.8 L

    I'm so happy with this selection this covers all my needs. I don't buy EF-S lenses just in case I go for that 2nd hand 5D I've got my eye on.

  • Matthew Miller August 7, 2008 10:16 pm

    An advantage of really getting to know a prime lens is that after a while, you learn to see as if through the lens without even raising the camera to your eye.

  • Markus Jais August 7, 2008 05:21 pm

    I currently use the following zoom lenses (all Canon):
    EF-S 10-22
    EF 4/17-40L
    EF 4/70-200L IS

    I love zoom lenses. They are much more versatile and you get many shoots you would miss with prime lenses.

    I also have 4 primes:
    EF 2.8/100 Macro
    EF 3.5/180L Macro
    EF 4/300L IS
    EF 4/500L IS

    for macro work, I don't need a zoom. for very close distances, I use a focussing rail which also allows me to adjust the composition similar to a zoom.

    although I really love my 4/500L, I would prefer a 4/200-500L IS zoom from Canon. But Canon does not offer such a lens, although many, many wildlife and sport photographers would love such a lens.
    In wildlife photography, a zoom would be great as very often, you can't change your position without scaring the subject.
    Nikon has an awesome 4/200-400VR.

    when choosing a zoom lens, I think it's important to get really high quality lenses. Check them in the store on your camera if you are in doubt.
    Many of the kit lenses for the entry level DSLRs are not good enought for the quality of the sensor. For example, to get the most out of the EOS 450D sensor, you should have a 4/17-40L instead of the kit lens. Good zoom lenses are normally expensive.
    When using a full frame camera, watch the edges for vignetting. especially wide-angle zooms have problems here.

  • Natalie Norton August 7, 2008 05:03 pm

    OK. . . my 50mm 1.2 = my favorite lens of all time. HOWEVER I also really love my 70-200mm 2.8 IS. . . they're just so different and both so wonderful.

    I'm fond overall of prime lenses. I like being involved in the scene. . .however I also think you often need to have the ability to be discreet and still get the shot. . . thus the telephoto love kicks into gear.

    Gol. I'm a mess. I love it all.

  • Matt August 7, 2008 04:51 pm

    I have a question for everyone. I have a 17-55mm f/2.8 lens and was wondering if I would get better IQ with a prime such as a 50mm f/1.8 (if compared at the same settings, ie 50mm f/2.8)? Would the only advantage of adding a 50mm f/1.8 to my set up be using it at f/1.8? Thanks to everyone in advance.

  • primelens August 7, 2008 04:20 pm

    Both are important to me though I tend to use the prime lens more often due to the large aperture.

    Once my budget allows for it (please, dear...), I will go for one of the G zoom lens.

  • Leproda August 7, 2008 04:15 pm

    I use primes, if I've less light available
    and zoom, if I want to carry less heavy stuff...

    * AF Nikkor 50mm f1.4 (My most loved lens)
    * Sigma 20mm f1.8 EX DG
    * AF Nikkor 180mm f2.8 ED (very good one)
    * Lensbaby 2.0 (Fun lens)

    * AF Nikkor 28-105mm f3.5-4.5 (My first one, used currently for simply carrying, but will be replaced)
    * AF Nikkor 18-35mm f3.5-4.5 ED

    Coming next days:
    * Sigma 24-70mm F2,8 EX DG Asp. Makro (replacing 28-105mm)
    * AF-S VR Zoom-NIKKOR 70-200 mm 1:2,8G IF-ED (replacing 28-105mm)

  • Darren August 7, 2008 03:30 pm

    Rohit - when the aperture is mentioned in the name of a lens it signifies the fastest aperture that the lens can do.

    So a 50mm f/1.8 lens means that it's biggest aperture is f/1.8 as opposed to a f/1.4 lens which is faster.

  • Saju Joseph August 7, 2008 02:32 pm

    Thanks ... The explanation is very helpful ...

  • Daniel August 7, 2008 01:36 pm

    I hate this question in general. It's just like saying "What car is best?".

    What one person finds great another person might find annoying.

    My only disagreement with the article is the bit in "Technique" where it states zoom lenses make photographers lazy. I totally disagree with this because when I have my prime lens on it's impracticle to constantly walk backwards and forwards for every scene you shoot. As such I become lazy with primes and take less photos (thus missing opportunities).

  • CascadeHush August 7, 2008 12:15 pm

    Once again I see the myth of prime lenses being available cheaper than zooms. I have looked and looked and never see prime lenses for anything less than about 3 times the price of zoom lenses with similar focal lengths.

    I simply don't understand why
    a) there don't seem to be any reasonably priced prime lenses available, they all seem to be premium models and very expensive.
    b) why this myth prevails.

    I presume that the popularity of zoom lenses simply makes them sell in higher volumes and thus are significantly cheaper. Either that or the lens manufacturers have cottoned-on to the fact that we know primes give crisper images and have jacked up the prices accordingly.

    Either way, it'll be a long time before I can afford a prime lens.

  • digital cameras for sale August 7, 2008 11:38 am

    well this post cleared things up for me... in fact, this is one of my new favorite blogs for cameras.

  • John P August 7, 2008 10:26 am

    As I mainly take travel photos I use a Tamron 18-250 on my Pentax K10D. Even though this is a realitively slower lens this has never really been a problem. I select mainly a fast progam mode. I like it because it's versatile, compact, good quality images and by only using the one lens you really get to know its capabilities and limits. You don't miss the fleeting expression or once only opportunity by fiddling around in a camera bag changing lenses especially if you may be in somewhere like the middle of a busy market place in India for example.

  • Lilia August 7, 2008 09:31 am

    I have the same two up there, 55mm 1.8 which is amazing for it's speed and low light shooting, and 24-105 which I mount on an xti which makes it more like a 35mm - 135 (or so I've read) Which is perfect for outdoor occasions and because it has is deals with lower light conditions indoor.

  • benjamin August 7, 2008 09:23 am

    They both have their strengths. However for the investment, a 50mm prime is probably the best value for a lens you can get. They are easy to find used for under $100 and the joy of using a (really!) fast lens for the first time was great!

  • Charity August 7, 2008 08:21 am

    One's not better than the other, but they have their own unique uses. I love the super huge aperture on the 50mm prime lens, but sometimes I just need the 18-70mm so I can zoom out for more of a wide angle shot.

  • Megapixelicious August 7, 2008 08:09 am

    Here is my take on this subject from a few days ago:

    The perspective control is the most important argument for zooms for me and the wide aperture is the big plus of primes.

  • eric August 7, 2008 07:08 am

    PRIME, PRIME, PRIME. Until a zoom comes out that opens up to 1.2 I'll always primarily shoot with primes.

    EOS 5D
    50mm 1.2
    24mm 1.4
    85mm 1.2
    24mm 3.5 TS-E
    70-200mm 2.8 (my least favorite!)

  • Rohit August 7, 2008 06:33 am

    Sorry dump question,
    but what does f/2.8 or f/1.4 has to do with lenses? I thought that's your Aperture Priority.

  • Paul August 7, 2008 05:47 am

    I have a 40mm prime (pentax 40mm f/2.8 ltd) and the kit lens (18-55mm) and I prefer my prime.

    I agree with the argument that it makes you 'think' about your shot more because you can't just stand still and use the zoom, you have to move (which for me, at least, makes me find more angles/perspectives than with my zoom lens).

    Overall I can understand the appeal of a 18-100/moderate zoom lens because you put one on the camera and it'll do 99% of your shots. Personally i'm going to build a series of 3 primes - a wide-angle, my 40mm and ideally a portrait lens somwhere round 100mm.

    I don't think there's a definitive answer but certainly I have been converted to prime.

  • Everett August 7, 2008 04:04 am

    I love my Canon 50mm f/1.4 as that's my most used lens- indoors. I love my Canon 28-135mm f/3.5 and this one allows me to shoot action. Different focal lengths are allowed which is really nice, but my 50mm is great for portraits!

  • Robin August 7, 2008 02:52 am

    I use both prime and zoom lenses and also use Canon.

    Tokina 11 - 16/2.8
    EF 17 - 40/4
    EF 50/1.8
    EF 85/1.8
    EF 70 -200/2.8

    I love primes for the sharpness, using in low light, and the shallow depth of field. This makes them outstanding for portraits and indoor school sports. I like zooms for field sports, architecture and landscapes to name a few.

    I learned photography with three primes (35, 50 and 100mm). I never thought twice about zoom lenses. Sometimes f/2.8 on a zoom is just not fast enough. Especially, when you like to stop down a bit to get the sweet spot (although I can shoot wide open with the 70-200). I have to stop down with my 17-40, which makes me consider getting a prime in that range (28 or 35mm).

    The IQ of "L" glass zooms are close to that of primes, but none are faster than f/2.8, and you really pay for it. Primes are great for those who don't have the budget for "L" glass, and you can always crop a bit if you can't physically get closer.

  • Mike August 7, 2008 02:19 am

    I use a Canon 5D with Canon 85mm L-series prime and 17-40mm L-series zoom. The 85 is the best portrait lens I have ever used especially when matched with the 5D. When I use it for non-portrait shots, creatively it shines giving off a somewhat 3d effect almost as if you are looking through a viewmaster. I do find myself on the ground a lot, but what self respecting photographer doesn't? The 17-40mm is a great landscape lens that really opens up the range. It actually is a great portrait lens when you want to add a story to your shots.
    I do find the 85mm on my body more than any other lens just has that something special.

  • Taneli August 7, 2008 02:11 am

    I have one zoom with my EOS 5D. "24-105mm F4 L IS" is expensive, but very good glass. I use it when I need to be fast. When I do photography with no hurry I allways use primes. Now here is the main reason:


    Speed and quality are off course good things, but Bokeh is the main thing.

    I still think allso that "5. Technique" argument is valid. I learned photographing hard way. With zoom lenses. Why is that more hard? Because people are lazy. Atleast I am. Now when I have used primes I am allso better zoom-lens photographer.

  • Jamie August 7, 2008 01:50 am

    I'm using mostly primes right now for budgetary reasons. I had been using my school paper's kit lens, but then I graduated. Right now I've got a D300, D700, 24mm f/2.8, 45mm f/2.8P, 50mm f/1.8 and 80-200mm f/2.8. I'm probably going to sell the 24 and get either the 14-24 or 24-70 in the near future.

  • Jordan O August 7, 2008 01:06 am

    I use all zoom lenses, and cheap ones at that because I'm on a budget.

    Konica Minolta 18-70 3.5-5.6 D
    Sigma 28-80 3.5-5.6 Macro
    Sigma 70-300 3.5-5.6 Macro II

    I have no problems with my "cheap" lenses what so ever, they work for me!

  • Brian August 7, 2008 01:05 am

    I use both. It all depends on the situation I am in weddings and fluid situations I use my 28-75 f2.8 lens and in like a portrait session I use two cameras with my 50mm 1.8 and my 85mm 1.8. I have the following lenses. Very good article.

    Canon EF lens : 50mm f1.8, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.5, 75-300mm f/4.5-5, 85mm f/1.8
    Tamron Lens: 28-75mm F/2.8 XR Di LD Aspherical (IF)

  • Marcello August 7, 2008 01:03 am

    I own:

    - nikon 50mm F/1.8
    - nikon 28-105mm
    - nikon 18-70mm
    - nikon 18-200mm vr
    - nikon 12-24mm F/4

    I usually have the 18-200mm on camera and the 12-24mm in the back, for the rare moments when the 18mm is not wide enough.

    I used to love shooting the 50mm lens when i used my old film camera (and i still do, when i shoot film) but with the Digital crop factor i find it a awkward focal length, it feels a little unwieldy.

    Nikon's kit lens for the D70 (the 18-70mm) and the new 18-55mm for the D40X aren't bad at all. The 18-70 was a respectable 450$ lens and the new 18-55mm is a nice little gem.

    I totally agree with investing money in good lenses, but you can find great deal in the used market and often newer cheap lenses aren't that bad.


  • mr mobius August 7, 2008 12:59 am

    Good analysis - fits in with what I do:

    Nikon 50mm 1.4 - excellent prime portrait - great quality
    Sigma 10-20mm - ultra wide angle and crazy distorted pics
    Nikon 18-200mm - great versatility and acceptable compromise - used day to day most of the time when I'm out

  • Homburg Pokes August 7, 2008 12:55 am

    I'm not sure this is worth debating, but I do think it is a valuable conversation. Whether you are on one side or the other, you have to recognize the potential in both types of lenses.

    I don't think I am specialized enough to use strictly prime lenses. I do find that I typically shoot at the same focal lengths, but I don't want to remove the option to zoom. Yesterday while in a National Park I was photographing a waterfall and some folks were at the top of the falls. Ideally, they would have moved, but a simple increase in my zoom (though changing the composition) cropped those folks out. I would not have had that option with a fixed-focal length lens. If I had all day to photograph something, I would gladly use a prime lens, but often I don't.

  • Felix August 7, 2008 12:54 am

    Another argument in favour of zoom lenses is dust. If you use several primes, you will have to change the lenses more frequently than with zooms. Every time you exchange the lense there is the risk of dust entering into the body and onto the sensors.

    I am however still looking into buying a prime for the lower f/stop.

  • Richard August 7, 2008 12:47 am

    I use a Sigma 17-70 as my always on lens. It starts at F2.8 so it is reasonably fast. For wide angle I have a Sigma 10-20. I also have Canon's Coke can (50mm F1.8) prime and it started me to get into primes. This lens is really great to try out primes since it is cheap and still produces great results. I recently bought a Sigma 30mm F1.4 to have a normal focal range on my cropped 400d. I really like this lens. It's sharp and fast and has USM. It could well be that this will become my always on lens in the future.

  • Ben Jamieson August 7, 2008 12:40 am

    For my 40D, I have:

    Canon 24-105 f/4 L IS - Great for general purpose stuff.
    Canon 50mm f/1.4 - I keep coming back to this - my all time favourite
    Canon 70-200 f/4 L IS - not had a huge amount of time to use this, but love it when I do.

    For much of the time, general walkabout stuff, family stuff, etc, I keep the 24-105 mounted and it serves me well, but if I'm trying to get creative (trying being the operative word here!) or shooting anytime round sunset or later, then my 50mm is my lens of choice - its just stunning (and the 1.8 I had before it was almost as good for less than $100)

    I'd recommend anyone starting out to get a decent zoom, and a cheap 50mm primes (Nikon does a cheap f/1.8 also) - play with both and take it from there.

  • Sybren August 7, 2008 12:37 am

    I use a mixture too, all Canon lenses:

    - EF-S 60mm F/2.8 Macro USM
    - EF-S 17-55mm F/2.8 IS USM
    - EF-S 10-22mm F/3.5-4.5 USM
    - EF 70-300mm F/4-5.6 IS USM

    If Canon were to make a 10mm prime lens, I'd buy it in a heartbeat. I love the zoom lenses, but somehow the quality (not only in sharpness but also in distortion) of the prime lenses is really alluring.

  • Fredrik August 7, 2008 12:14 am

    I use a 50mm, a sigma 28/1.8 and a tamron 70-300. I've been meaning to get some zoom lenses, but since the prices here in Sweden are about 40% higher than in the US, I'll wait to buy until I go there. I'll probably just get a 70-200 since that focal range is too big to cover with several primes. They 28 and 50 works good enough for me, and I'd rather spend money on an ultrawide zoom than replacing those two with one.