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02-27-2011, 05:25 AM   #1
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Zoom vs Prime

I'm just curious as to if the IQ of zoom lenses are up there now with prime lenses. With today's modern technology, have they moved up into the same IQ as primes? I'm sure they are probably on par with my older Takumar primes, but comparing modern day primes to zooms, how does everything work out?

02-27-2011, 05:41 AM   #2
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IMO, yeah - I think primes are more nostalgic than about the last word in IQ. One quick case in point... I sold my DA15 immediately upon seeing the exact same shot taken with the DA16-45 (which btw sells for about half the price of a DA15).
02-27-2011, 05:58 AM   #3
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IQ can be pretty close, depending on which zoom & which prime. There are some certain prime lenses that just are not matched by any zoom though. We're just talking IQ too. Primes have other advantages too, like max aperture and physical size of the lens. These advantages are far from "nostalgic".
02-27-2011, 06:16 AM   #4
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The IQ of zooms have improved, but so has the IQ of primes...

Primes are also smaller, can be faster and make you shoot differently.

02-27-2011, 07:20 AM   #5
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If my experience means anything, I have found my 3 Canon zooms beat or equal my own set of Pentax primes on even sharpness (not just centre), bokeh & CA. My primes score on metal bodies & 3D rendering (if you believe such thing).

Last edited by wlachan; 02-27-2011 at 07:29 AM.
02-27-2011, 07:31 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by bdery Quote
The IQ of zooms have improved, but so has the IQ of primes...

Primes are also smaller, can be faster and make you shoot differently.
Agree. On the other hand, the IQ of good zooms has increased so much that it seems to me that almost all the lenses are capable of IQ that is as good as I need. Pentax primes are usually smaller and are often faster, though. I still prefer them.
02-27-2011, 07:37 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Matt Miller Quote
Primes have other advantages too, like max aperture and physical size of the lens. These advantages are far from "nostalgic".
But they come at the cost off having only one focal length. The fact is you can't always zoom in (or out) with your feet and if you can, buy then you may have lost the shot. And unless we're talking about pancake primes, the size difference hardly matters. So whatever perceived advantages one may have with prime lenses, they are out weighed by their limitations / disadvantages.
02-27-2011, 09:11 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by JHD Quote
But they come at the cost off having only one focal length. The fact is you can't always zoom in (or out) with your feet and if you can, buy then you may have lost the shot. And unless we're talking about pancake primes, the size difference hardly matters. So whatever perceived advantages one may have with prime lenses, they are out weighed by their limitations / disadvantages.
We each have our preferences, and we are talking about preferences, not absolutes. To me the advantages of primes outweigh the disadvantages about as often as not, perhaps a bit more often. It really depends upon the exact result and the experience you are after.

02-27-2011, 09:26 AM   #9
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Yeah the image quality in zoom lens can be on par with that of the primes. However, some things you have to consider for that the lens with good zooms are significantly more $$$. The sweet spot may not be throughout the entire focal range. Many or many not be as fast/ max aperture. One good example of this is the standard zoom 18-55 lens compare it to the dal35mm prime which is similar in price. At 35mm the dal is by far better than the 18-55. I believe the wr edition and the kit version of this lens is similar or the same in construction. Need some confirmation on this fact but if they are the same in iq then the 35 prime does far better in sharpness. Sacrificing focal range though. For me the 35mm is my main shooter now and the kit is tucked away until needed for the range. Comparably the 18-50 tamron 2.8 which is also a zoom has the speed and iq but the costs is nearly 2x the price of the dal35.
02-27-2011, 09:37 AM   #10
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From photozone.de

DA 15 F4:
Barrel distortion: 1.5%
Vignetting @ F4: 1.3 EV - 0.33
MTF @ F4: 2308 - 1580
MTF @ F5.6: 2352 - 1716
Chromatic Aberrations: 0.69 - 0.8

DA 16-45mm @ 16mm:
Barrel distortion: 2.5%
Vignetting @ F4: 1.17 EV - 0.59
MTF @ F4: 2281 - 1741
MTF @ F5.6: 2321 - 1863
Chromatic Aberrations: 2.3 - 0.52

The zoom lens does have really strong resolution figures, but falls to the prime in barrel distortion and CA. For all intensive purposes they would produce similar images, except for the gigantic amount of CA the zoom might render.
02-27-2011, 09:48 AM   #11
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Great information from everyone. Thanks for the input.
02-27-2011, 09:54 AM   #12
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If you want your dollar to go the furthest I don't think you can beat a zoom like the 16-45, or the tamron 17-50 if you need the speed.

You can always supplement a slower zoom with a cheap 50mm when you want low DOF.
02-27-2011, 10:31 AM   #13
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It's worth considering what your main subjects are - if like me you mainly do landscapes then you'll pretty much always be using lenses stopped down & the difference between a zoom and prime will probably be minimal - if you shoot wide open a lot though the difference may well be more significant.

I own the DA12-24 which is well know for its sharpness, reviews mention it outperforms Pentax primes (14mm, 15mm). The other comments have already been mentioned - size/weight



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02-27-2011, 10:48 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by JHD Quote
But they come at the cost off having only one focal length. The fact is you can't always zoom in (or out) with your feet and if you can, buy then you may have lost the shot. And unless we're talking about pancake primes, the size difference hardly matters. So whatever perceived advantages one may have with prime lenses, they are out weighed by their limitations / disadvantages.
The single focal length point is quite a bias statement. I, like many other here, actually prefer primes over zooms because it only has one focal length. Speaking for myself, prime lenses are more focus, you know it'll be sharp and you'll need to know your surrounding and frame to compose a great image. I am actually on the other camp, I bought a 16-45mm and sold it to get a 15mm. The zoom is a great lens and the IQ is very good, but the 15mm just felt right for me. The size, the color rendering, the flare capabilities and having only a single focal length.
02-27-2011, 10:56 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by bdery Quote
Primes are also smaller, can be faster and make you shoot differently.
The last point mentioned here, is often underetimated, I guess.
As stupid as it may sound: By limiting your possibilities on purpose, you approach things differently!
With a large zoom your eye sometimes 'looks' for any interesting motive (at different distances/scales).
But with a prime on your camera your eyes adapt to the frame of this lens and you start to hunt much more for suitable motives.... this really gives different results and a very different feel!

So in principle you could have taken a similar shot (with similar/same IQ) but in practive you might not even have seen and considered the respective image.
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