It’s an age old question and one that every photographer must ask themselves at some point in time, sometimes more than once.  Do I go out and buy the prime lens or the zoom lens?

But firstly, what is the difference?

A zoom lens is generally more versatile.  Being able to zoom in on your subject without moving is definitely an advantage.  Most DSLR cameras come with a kit lens that is somewhere in the range of 28-80 mm, 24-50mm, or even 17-70mm.  These lenses are made to be a general all round lens, covering everything from wide angle landscapes, through to portraits and close ups.

The largest aperture on zoom lenses is usually a little bit smaller than on a prime lens and can change depending on what the focal length is.  An example would be a lens like the 28-80 mm f3.3-5.6, the smallest f-stop (largest aperture) changes between 3.3 and 5.6 depending on what focal length you are shooting at.

A prime lens on the other hand has a fixed focal length.  Popular ones include 20 mm, 35 mm, 50 mm, and 80 mm.  If you want your subject to be bigger in the frame with one of these lenses you have to physically move closer rather than just zooming in.

The largest aperture on a prime lens is generally larger than on a zoom lens and doesn’t change as you can’t zoom.  An example is the 50 mm f1.4, the aperture can be set at 1.4 anytime.

What you want in a lens is totally up to you or the situation you need it for.  If you find you want the versatility of a zoom then by all means go out and buy one.  On the other hand if you think you would rather the crisper image quality of a prime lens or better low light performance then go out and get yourself a prime lens.

It’s totally up to you.

Happy Shooting!

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