Prime Lenses Vs Zoom Lenses – Which Is Best?

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So, you're thinking of getting a new lens, but you're not quite sure whether to get a prime lens or a zoom lens. Both types of lenses have their benefits and drawbacks, and you want to make sure you make the right decision and buy the lens which best fits your photography needs.

In case you weren't already aware, the main difference between a zoom lens and prime lens is that a zoom lens enables you to adjust your focal length within a certain range (for example 18-50mm), whereas a prime lens has a static focal length.

So you might be wondering what the point is of using a prime lens. Surely if you have the choice between a lens with flexibility and one without flexibility, then surely the flexible one is the best one, isn't it? Well, it's not really as simple as that, because prime lenses do have some advantages. To start with, they are lighter than zoom lenses because they have less moving parts. Mechanically speaking, they are simpler.

Furthermore, prime lenses often have wider apertures. The aperture of a lens determines how much light the lens lets in at any one time. Aperture ratings are in ratios, for example 1:3.5 or 1:2.8, but usually when buying a lens you will see it stated without the 1 in front of it, for example 3.5. Lenses with lower aperture numbers are more expensive, as a lower number means a wider aperture. Having a wide aperture produces a shallow depth of field, meaning that only a small distance range is in focus. A narrow depth of field (a wide aperture) would be ideal for close-ups of nature where you want the background blurred, whereas a large depth-of-field (a small aperture) would be great for landscape photos.

Okay, so what about the zoom lens?

Well, a zoom lens will give you a bigger range of distances to compose your photo. This means that you don't need to move closer or further away from your subject to get the picture you want. It can also be great for taking shots of wildlife, because you can zoom in without having to change your position, so you will be less likely to scare the animal off.

The best way to decide which kind of lens is right for you is to ask yourself what type of photography you are going to be doing. If you are going to be photographing a scene which remains still, such as a landscape scene, then a prime lens could be a good choice. If on the other hand you want to photograph things that are moving, such as animals, people, or sports photography, then a zoom lens is a must.

It's never easy trying to make this kind of decision, but whatever you decide, a Canon EF 85mm Lens or a Nikon Zoom Lens are good examples of the type of lenses that will always be useful to have as part of your photography kit. 

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