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All You Need To Know About Prime Vs Zoom Lenses

If you’ve ever been in the market for a new lens then you have probably noticed that lenses are either branded as prime or zoom lenses. If you are new to the camera world these might seem like meaningless distinctions, but each type of lens is built for a certain use case.

Prime Lenses

Prime lenses, such as the 50mm, are lenses that are only one focal length. This fixed focal length means that there are less pieces of glass, less complexity, and higher quality glass per dollar. Prime lenses have two distinct advantages over zoom lenses due to the lower complexity, those being speed and quality.

When I say speed I actually mean the aperture, commonly called f-stop, and the maximum aperture. For example a 50mm f/1.8 first party lens is only about $125, but you cannot get a similar aperture without spending upwards of $800 on a zoom lens. You can read more about why a fast f-stop would benefit you in this article.

Prime lenses are also unmatched when it comes to quality per dollar. Imagine a series of sheets of glass lined up. Now imagine that one of the sheets of glass has a smudge or is misaligned slightly. The more pairs of glasses that you have to look through the more distortion and chances for errors. The fewer pieces of glass the more forgiving and the more clarity the image will have.

My recommendation for filmmakers is to buy a set of cine lenses, like the five lens kit from Rokinon, so that they have a wide range of focal lengths, but still reap the benefits of having fixed length lenses.

Zoom Lenses

On the other hand zoom lenses are much more convenient because they cover a large range of focal lengths. If you subscribe to a run and gun or guerilla style of filmmaking and photography the obvious choice is to pick up one or two versatile zoom lens.

With Lumix and Micro Four Thirds you have two choices, get three lenses that cover a very wide focal range, or get the 14mm- 140mm (equivalent to 28mm- 280mm). The former setup would require a combination of the 7mm- 14mm, 14mm- 42mm, and 45mm- 200mm.

If I were to use a combination of zoom lenses I would most likely side with the 14mm- 140mm since the main benefit to zoom lenses is the versatility and not having to change lenses for every shot.


If you have any questions about prime vs zoom lenses ask away in the comment section, or tweet at me @Peter_VanLoo or @PA2Pro.

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Peter VanLoo
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Peter VanLoo

Writer at PA To Pro
I am a bit of a gear geek. I shoot a variety of videos, but mostly movie reviews on my YouTube channel. If you want my opinion on movies, TV shows, and comic books head over to brollbanter.com
Peter VanLoo
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