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07-30-2012, 06:27 PM   #1
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Prime Use? Share your thoughts please....

As I study photography more and more I am gathering lots and lots of useful information.

I am trying to develop my own style for photography....but I am wondering if some of you wouldn't mind sharing how you do things. Preferrably I want to hear from people who prefer to use Prime Lenses over zoom lenses.

1. Why do you like prime lenses (in general). Please note I am not asking about a specific lens...
2. Describe your 'style' of how you use prime lenses? Are you primarily doing studio shots or staged pre-organized shots or whatever?

Really I am wonder 'how' you use your lenses...

Let me explain a little... I am finding that I am predisposed to use zooms for most of my shooting. Why? Because I find myself being outside taking shots and as a result I need to be ready for anything--- zooms offer quality with diversity and the ability to adapt quickly. I can have two or three lenses and cover the gamut...for airline travel this seems light, easy,and highly diverse.

I can understand the use of long prime lenses (300mm, 400mm, 500mm etc)....so really I am wondering about the use of shorter primes...

Are you constantly swapping lenses or what? I am trying to see how 'other people do it' and what they prefer so maybe I can learn something.

Why primes? What's your opinion? What's your style to make use of primes? Do you just walk around with a bag of lenses? Are you changing out lenses often?

Please share...not only how, but why you prefer primes???

By the way I have several primes that I carry in my bag... (usually) a 28mm prime...(don't like it that much)... a few 50mm primes...best one is f1.4...like it because it allows creative diversity...and an 85mm prime f1.4...exceptionally sharp that one...

I guess some primes might offer a bit more diversity in way of creativity per each shot???

I am just wondering if I should start saving for the FA or DA Limited... out of the two which ones are better?? Are those lenses way way sharper? What's the deal???


Last edited by alamo5000; 07-30-2012 at 06:36 PM.
07-30-2012, 06:56 PM   #2
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I have a DA 35 F2.4 and a Sigma 50 F1.4. Seems a bit close in focal length, but it's what I have now. I also have a Sigma 17-70 F2.8-4

I used to take the 17-70 with me all the time, and it was a really good lens. It was pretty enjoyable to use, and it's focal range was great for walking around. About a month ago, I decided I wanted to go get the k-30, and that would mean I would give my k-x to my girlfriend. I thought, I don't really have any lenses easy for her to use, but the 17-70 would come closest. So I decided to not use my 17-70 anymore and just keep using the 35mm and the 50mm.

Every day that I go out, I take either the 35 or the 50 with me, and I just use it. It ends up being pretty simple to use primes, even after being used to zoom. The DA 35 and the Sigma 50 are really amazing lenses, sharp wide open, and ridiculously sharp stopped down 1 stop. Both lenses AF pretty quick, so I am never left hanging while trying to catch a moment. They are smaller and easier to use than my 17-70, I am forced to actually use my feet instead of the zoom (which ends up quite fun), people don't notice the camera as much, and they perform better.

So all in all, I am in love with my primes now because of the self imposed exile. I realize that they render better, they are sharper, they are smaller, and they make me spend extra effort to get the shot I want.

As far as the Limiteds go - they generally perform a lot better than the normal lenses. They also have very good build quality, so they are a joy to hold and use.
07-30-2012, 07:12 PM   #3
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@JinDesu--


So your style is to take 'one lens' and then use that lens... you don't go swapping around and all that. Whatever you have on the camera at any given time---that's what you're gonna use...

Does that hinder your composition to some degree? Do you ever miss shots because of you have one singular focal length on the camera???

It seems to me primes are best suited for portraits or studio type things...but I could be wrong...
07-30-2012, 07:14 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by alamo5000 Quote
1. Why do you like prime lenses (in general). Please note I am not asking about a specific lens...
2. Describe your 'style' of how you use prime lenses? Are you primarily doing studio shots or staged pre-organized shots or whatever?
1. Why I like primes: bokeh quality, typically less distortion, fewer glass elements so f-stop is much more representative of how much light is actually going through the lens (i.e. closer to the actual t-stop value), prime hoods are more optimal (hoods on a zoom lens will only at best be good for the shortest focal length and insufficient for all others), primes often have better close focus ability than zooms.

2. I shoot primes when: I'm looking for any of the advantages listed above, best low-light performance or selective focus (there are no f/1.2 zooms), and/or the kind of spontaneous creativity that comes from imposing a constraint on the process. I don't have a studio, and don't always stage shots. I always take at least one prime with me when I go shooting, more depending on my mood or what I think I'll use.

07-30-2012, 07:15 PM   #5
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As a novice photographer I have started moving towards primes for a few reasons:

1: The fixed length forces me to be aware of the image, the subject, and my position in relation to them.

2: I personally find the optical quality to be better (granted, that’s comparing a Pentax-A 50mmF2 to a Sigma 18-50mmF3.5-4)

3: Primes seem to have wider apertures than zooms, this means faster shutter speeds which make it easier for my shakey hands.


edit:
I tend to use the primes more for walking around taking photos (down the street, in the garden, etc)
I still use the 70-210mm for motorsport etc. (I really dislike my Sigma 18-50, it just sits on a shelf)
07-30-2012, 07:15 PM   #6
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I have certainly missed some shots, but I didn't get every shot I wanted with a zoom anyways. The prime lenses made me move around a lot more than the zoom, and actually forced me to learn how to quickly move into position for a shot and take it.
07-30-2012, 07:25 PM   #7
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Although I shoot with both primes and zooms (maybe 70 to 30, primes to zooms), I prefer primes. They tend to be better lenses than zooms, with better microcontrast and color rendition. They also force you to slow down and really think what you're doing. The fact that you're trapped at a single focal length forces you to see things you might not notice with a zoom.

My primes tend to be speciality lenses. I have a 300mm for wildlife, a 100mm for macro, portraits, pets and a 50/1.2 for narrow DOF work. Then I have a 15/4, a 20/4, a 28/3.5 and a 35/3.5 for landscapes. I use the zooms almost exclusively when I need focal range diversity in landscape photography, which occurs mainly when I am in unfamiliar locales or shooting at telephoto focal ranges. It's primes for just about everything else.
07-30-2012, 07:25 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by nater Quote
1. Why I like primes: bokeh quality, typically less distortion, fewer glass elements so f-stop is much more representative of how much light is actually going through the lens (i.e. closer to the actual t-stop value), prime hoods are more optimal (hoods on a zoom lens will only at best be good for the shortest focal length and insufficient for all others), primes often have better close focus ability than zooms.

2. I shoot primes when: I'm looking for any of the advantages listed above, best low-light performance or selective focus (there are no f/1.2 zooms), and/or the kind of spontaneous creativity that comes from imposing a constraint on the process. I don't have a studio, and don't always stage shots. I always take at least one prime with me when I go shooting, more depending on my mood or what I think I'll use.
Interesting.

I never heard the term "T-stop" before. What does that mean 'officially'... f stop is the aperture... t-stop would be the 'real value of light travelling through the lens'??? Is this correct? How do you measure t-stop? So would I be correct in stating that while I might have f2.0 on a lens, in poor lighting conditions my real t-stop value might be_____...

That is an interesting topic in and of itself. What is the unit of measure? Do you use a light meter? how do you figure that out?

Your post was pretty eloquent in my opinion...so basically I can assume that zooms offer a larger variety of framing and general composition, but primes (good ones that is) offer an edge on creativity of any select shot and more elements of composition such as greater or less DOF, bokeh, and so forth....while at least in theory being sharper...(of course this depends on the lens)

07-30-2012, 07:31 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by northcoastgreg Quote
Although I shoot with both primes and zooms (maybe 70 to 30, primes to zooms), I prefer primes. They tend to be better lenses than zooms, with better microcontrast and color rendition. They also force you to slow down and really think what you're doing. The fact that you're trapped at a single focal length forces you to see things you might not notice with a zoom.
Yes I see that part about forcing you to use what you got....

Microcontrast... define that more for me please if you would.

So to you primes offer better color rendition of the recorded image and better color contrast and so forth (which of course is an element of composition) --- (the books I am reading talk a lot about composing with color--which I think is awesome)
07-30-2012, 07:37 PM   #10
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Primes: I think the big advantage is that because you are restricted, you have to think before you shoot. This can result in better shots. With zooms you have so much leeway that you may take more pictures in a shorter period of time.

That being said, I use primes less often now...Go figure! Zooms are just too convenient. Currently I use the tamron 17-50 and Pentax DA* 50-135. However I dont change lenses. I just carry a K2000 which is quite small and the K5. 2 bodies. It can still get heavy. But it covers a huge range and both lenses have great IQ. Of the primes, I use the DA 15mm the most.
07-30-2012, 07:37 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by alamo5000 Quote
I never heard the term "T-stop" before. What does that mean 'officially'... f stop is the aperture... t-stop would be the 'real value of light travelling through the lens'??? Is this correct?
Basically, yes. Zoom lenses tend to have more glass elements in them than primes. The more glass light has to go through, the less light will make it to the sensor. There is also more opportunities for flare, resulting in loss of contrast. There's also a tendency for lens coatings to block the light spectrum (i.e., the various degrees of color) a bit unevenly, so that, perhaps, more of the red or green part of the spectrum will get through than, say, the blue spectrum. The DA 18-55 blocks almost 20% of the blue part of the spectrum, for instance. This effects how the lens renders color. So primes may not only give you more resolution, but improved microcontrast and better, more vivid, distinctive color rendition, which can have a significant effect on image quality.
07-30-2012, 07:44 PM   #12
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On a side note I usually carry a 50mm f1.4 and an 85mm f1.4 with me... but to be honest I rarely find myself using these lenses. Both are manual.

I carry them with me precisely because I think I might see something unique where I can be artistic...maybe my eye is just not trained to look for those kinds of shots...I think part of that is related to my usual theater of shooting...

I carry them none the less... but I was also thinking about getting a few AF primes that offer those features...

All of this being said and my forking out all this money for lenses still leaves me being an amateur. I need to practice practice practice. Not just shoot for shooting.

Perfect practice makes perfect. Just pushing that button is easy. This is why I am studying so much about composition and artistic value of images and what makes some images better than others...That is the 'know how stuff' you can't buy right there and to be honest a lot of the reason I got into photography.

I do not see myself as a super creative artsy person, but I want to learn more about that and develop my eye for those kinds of things.
07-30-2012, 07:47 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by northcoastgreg Quote
Basically, yes. Zoom lenses tend to have more glass elements in them than primes. The more glass light has to go through, the less light will make it to the sensor. There is also more opportunities for flare, resulting in loss of contrast. There's also a tendency for lens coatings to block the light spectrum (i.e., the various degrees of color) a bit unevenly, so that, perhaps, more of the red or green part of the spectrum will get through than, say, the blue spectrum. The DA 18-55 blocks almost 20% of the blue part of the spectrum, for instance. This effects how the lens renders color. So primes may not only give you more resolution, but improved microcontrast and better, more vivid, distinctive color rendition, which can have a significant effect on image quality.

Wow. Excellent explaination. Thank you.

There is a lot of meat, wisdom, and experience in that comment you made.

That gives me a lot to think about right there alone.
07-30-2012, 07:50 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by alamo5000 Quote
Microcontrast... define that more for me please if you would.
Microcontrast gives you that crisp image while enabling you to retain detail in shadows and hi-lights. While it's true that software nowadays has greatly improved at preserving and even increasing microcontrast (or a very good approximation thereof), it's generally preferably to get it right in the camera, if that is at all possible.
07-30-2012, 07:54 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by psychdoc Quote
Primes: I think the big advantage is that because you are restricted, you have to think before you shoot. This can result in better shots. With zooms you have so much leeway that you may take more pictures in a shorter period of time.

That being said, I use primes less often now...Go figure! Zooms are just too convenient. Currently I use the tamron 17-50 and Pentax DA* 50-135. However I dont change lenses. I just carry a K2000 which is quite small and the K5. 2 bodies. It can still get heavy. But it covers a huge range and both lenses have great IQ. Of the primes, I use the DA 15mm the most.
I have been thinking about getting a second body...but for now I am relegated to switching lenses.

What I have noticed is taking pictures is easy. Creating art is not so easy. If your trigger finger works you can snap anything. Worthless as it may be, ugly, out of focus or whatever... its the ease of convienience that makes people trigger happy.

I am intentionally trying to slow down and frame and compose my pictures now. When i see things I try to slow down and visualize what I want, how I will frame it, compose it, and so on and so forth...its the 'skill side of things'...

Anyone with a credit card can buy lenses... but not everyone takes time to put together an image shot with good intent and varieties of composition of light, color, shapes, objects, and so forth...

Those artistic values and skills are where I am putting 90% of my effort now. Learning them and how to use them properly. But I am still doing it most of the time with a zoom because it gives me more options on framing and so forth.
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