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09-21-2008, 07:20 PM   #1
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Transitioning from zooms to primes

Has anybody out there started out with using mostly zooms and has made a successful transition to using mostly primes? If so, I'm curious to find out about your experience in doing so.


09-21-2008, 07:37 PM   #2
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yep, I shoot mostly primes right now. I started out with one - a 55mm f1.8 than got a 28mm f2.8 and a 135 f2.8, and a 90mm f2.5. I think I take better photos with primes, I concentrate more on the composition and have sharper photos because of the faster aperatures at low light.
09-21-2008, 08:43 PM   #3
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I'm in the middle. I've got the 50mm f/1.4 and 35mm f/2, but also the 18-250mm. I have to whip out the 50mm and 35mm in low light, and the only major downside is that I can't easily switch from say a group shot to a portrait shot if I don't have room to move around.
09-21-2008, 10:09 PM   #4
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i shoot only primes and it's fun. i get the impression i can take better photos because i don't fidget with the zoom to get the composition right. and the faster speed is very welcome as well.

but you have to be a bit smarter to avoid constant lens changes. like maybe do one round with a wider lens and one round with a longer lens to pick out details. but the good thing about the prime is that it forces you to look for specific photo opportunities that you may have missed because of zooming around.

see some of my discussion here on prime only usage here

09-21-2008, 10:59 PM   #5
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I started out using Zooms, however I mostly shoot primes now.
With the exception of with model shoots, and events.

I'm thinking of switching over for most model shoots as well.
09-22-2008, 03:28 AM   #6
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I guess a lot will depend on what you are taking pictures of, and why

My K10 is mostly used for with the 35mm Macro limited when I want to think about the pictures I am taking and focus on composition. Always keep my 58mm f1.4 Nokton handy if I want to be a bit further from the action, need more bokeh or the light begins to fade. Mostly I shoot people, gardens and up to 1:3 macro bugs and stuff. For the same lens outlay I could have a 16-50DA* but these two primes are more 'fun'. Holding out for an SLII Voigtlander 125mm Macro as my next prime purchase . . .

Right now the 18-55 MkII kit lens comes out for pics of the kids or at parties where my concern is grabbing the shot and the two ends of the zoom quickly offer different framing options- I dont really think of it as a zoom more a 18 or 55. In my Olympus OM kit I have a 70-210 Series One Vivitar that seems to be used pretty much the same way - so maybe it is just me

I am happy that the lens at least partially dictates the images I can take as it makes me think a bit more (which is good as digital seems to allow things to dumb down too much) but my current digital kit is a bit light on lens choice at the wide end. This is where I struggle a bit more to choose between prime and zoom - for landscapes etc being able to frame what I want is a great asset, bokeh is usually less important but do I get a 12-24 or hold out for a DA15. If I am honest with my self the zoom probably makes more sense for my digital photographic needs but then the only wide angle in my OM kit is a 19mm and I absolutely love it !

so, in summary of my ramble, no one right answer (not even for me)
09-22-2008, 03:47 AM   #7
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I'll only take one lens, or if I take two then I take two cameras. During the day I teach myself to see with whatever lens it is I have with me, to manouver for the shot (rather than zooming for it).

I do shoot with zooms, but mostly I use primes.
09-22-2008, 07:09 AM   #8
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I started out with zooms up to 135mm, but wasn't really satisfied with them (have been thru 4). Then I picked up the f*300mm and without realizing it, went to mostly primes. They offer more control and better (imo) sharpness. I find myself moving around a lot more to compose the shot, but i like the results i'm getting. The sigma 10-20mm will be replaced with the tokina 11-16mm (if its released for pentax) and the kit 18-55mm will remain also (it supplements the 10-20mm for realestate shoots). I keep eyeing the da 200mm, but that sigma 100-300mm keeps getting in the way.

Last edited by ivoire; 09-22-2008 at 07:43 AM.
09-22-2008, 07:38 AM   #9
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If you are jumping from "consumer" zooms to "pro" primes like Limiteds, *'s and Macros, then you'll notice a TREMENDOUS difference in sharpness, color and contrast. Boiled down, you'll see images that look more crisp.

I'm a freak and own both primes and zooms from super wide up through 600mm (all in the so-called "pro" category). I reach for zooms when I want quick compositions or when I do that (rare for me) shot of a person in action. I reach for primes when I have the time to compose correctly for that lens.

If lots of your shooting is "grab shots" then you'll miss the zooms. If you are attempting to ramp up to more thoughtful imaging, then you'll be pushed forward by the primes. I've found that with zooms I tend to be lazy regarding perspective and simply zoom to the framing I want. With primes I tend to move more--not just forward and back, but up and down and side to side as well. I tend to look through the viewfinder and move for composition rather than just zooming for composition. With zooms I tend to set the tripod and compose with the zoom. With primes I tend to walk around and look more before setting the tripod. Nope, I don't ever shoot hand held, but I also don't ever shoot street scenes or people--two situations that encourage hand held shooting.

For me primes are more fun.
09-22-2008, 09:23 AM   #10
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My reasoning for giving this any consideration is twofold--to kick up my photographic skill a notch and because quality zooms are heavy. I have tendonitis in my right hand that flares up every once in a while, so weight matters.

What got me to thinking about this is that I'm looking to add a second body to the bag, most likely a K2000 when it comes out. If I've got primes attached to both bodies, then neither weight or lack of flexibility will be a big concern. Since the K2000 does come with a kit lens, I would most likely hang on to it for the times I need a wideish zoom. I would also keep my 55-300, as it's a great lens for those times where I need more than 100mm (my longest prime at this time). If I do go this route, then I would simply start adding DA ltds, so that my collection would look like this: 15 (when it comes out), 21, 35 (I already have), and 70. I would sell the 12-24 and 50; I'm not sure about the 28-75 yet.

For those of you who are wondering, I do plan on keeping my LBA challenge commitment. I'll just keep using my lenses I have, making note of which focal lengths I use the most and see where that leads me.

Thanks for all the help!
09-22-2008, 09:32 AM   #11
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I'm by no means an excellent photographer, but here are my experiences, and they echo the advice that what/how you shoot will probably determine what you want. I progressed from kits (18-55 and 50-200) to the 16-45, to the 28-75, to a setup of 12-24/35/70 for my last trip, two weeks to the US Atlantic Coast. When traveling, for me, primes were a PITA as there are so many photo opportunities on any city walk (NYC, Boston, DC, etc.). My wife was forced to wait for me everytime I changed lenses. Even on our hikes in Acadia and Shenandoah NPs, there was too much stopping and waiting while I composed shots and changed lenses for different opportunities. Two zooms would have been ideal, which is why I sold the DA 70 when I got home and bought the Tam 28-75 (again).

However, for preset shots (sunrise/sunsets/landscapes/cityscapes at specific predetermined locations, which are my favorites and really why I switched to DSLR) I found the primes to be great. Basically, when travelling, if someone is waiting on you or you don't know what you'll encounter, I'd recommend zooms. If you're going to landscape shoot, or set up shots, primes are great. I think I'm close to finding my zen when it comes to this with a mix of primes and zooms. Actually, for walkaround city shots/street photography, inspired by classic rangefinders, I ordered a Panasonic LX3 and it arrives Wednesday. For everything else, my K10D, the DA 12-24 (although a DA 15/21 combo is tempting), DA 35, Tam 28-75, and a telezoom to be named later are my picks.

Obviously, I've left out family/portrait/event shooting, which I don't do very often.

09-22-2008, 10:42 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by hwblanks Quote
My reasoning for giving this any consideration is twofold--to kick up my photographic skill a notch and because quality zooms are heavy.
In that case, my experience (as related in the parallel thread on the "other" forum) is probably especially relevant, as weight is also one of the big motivators for me preferring primes for the most part. The 18-55 and 50-200 are small and light enough that I don't mind them for the situations where they are good enough, but I am also pretty aware of the situations where primes will clearly results that are enough better to deal with the relative inconvenience compared to zooms. Used to be primes were *only* for low light in my book, but now I tend to go with them any time I feel I can lvie with just a few focal lengths to choose from.
09-22-2008, 12:37 PM   #13
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Your kit looks pretty good as is. If the physical problem is driving the decision and you are happy with your current lens(es) performance, maybe a monopod would be an option?
09-22-2008, 12:51 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by hwblanks Quote
Has anybody out there started out with using mostly zooms and has made a successful transition to using mostly primes? If so, I'm curious to find out about your experience in doing so.
My 1st decade of involving in this hobby was mostly zooms, then switched to all primes after owning a 2.8 zoom which was a big disappointment. I had enough and have been all primes for almost a decade. During that period I have found myself thought harder, searched for better angles, able to determine which focal length to use in what situations. Even though I start to use some zooms again, I still found that knowledge valueable. The downside of using primes is that you have to accept the fact that there are moments you have to let go because you cannot zoom, and switching lenses take time. But what you didn't shoot, you will forget and not regret. Even today, I still enjoy using primes more than zooms. It is a more creative and satisfying process because it forces me to be less lazy.
09-22-2008, 01:16 PM   #15
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I learnt my trade back in the “old days”, when primes were the only way to go because zooms then were just truly atrocious.

Even today and most everyday I still use mainly four fast primes, (both for film and digital) they are 50mm f1:1.2, 85mm f1:1.4, 135mm f1:1.8 and my most recently acquired little gem, a 200mm f1:2.8.

These are all Pentax A star series lenses, which I consider to have superb optical quality and produce the results that I need. I guess the modern day equivalents would be the Pentax Limited’s.

These lenses are just a joy to use, the way they handle, their construction and the sheer quality of the image they record.

Without getting into huge debates about primes v zooms, it’s each to their own and the way you work, for me it can only ever be about primes, but hey that’s just me.

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