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Old Mar 24, 2008, 3:55 PM   #1
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At one time it was clear that fixed focal length lenses offered better sharpness (and other IQ characteristics) than zooms (wide-zooms or tele-zooms). Now, many zooms offer comparable IQ. Is there any reason why any of you would still buy a fixed focal lens like a 50 or 85 f/1.8 or f/1.4? Especially if you are planning to buy a zoom that offers those forcal lengths (e..g. 70-200 or 17-55).
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Old Mar 24, 2008, 4:10 PM   #2
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DarkDTSHD wrote:
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At one time it was clear that fixed focal length lenses offered better sharpness (and other IQ characteristics) than zooms (wide-zooms or tele-zooms).
What makes you think that's changed?

Yes, zooms are improving in quality. But, compared to better primes, they're not quite there yet, from a sharpness, contrast, and bokeh perspective, using the same focal lengths and apertures.

Also, you can get brighter primes compared to zooms. For example, show me a zoom that tests as good as my Minolta 100mm f/2 AF Lens at 100mm and f/2:

http://old.photodo.com/nav/prodindex.html

You can't. Zoom lenses in most camera mounts don't go that bright.

Or, take a lens like the Canon 200mm f/1.8L. You can't get zooms that bright, and you can't get any lens that's sharper at 200mm (most lenses are not even close).

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Old Mar 24, 2008, 5:16 PM   #3
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JimC wrote:
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DarkDTSHD wrote:
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At one time it was clear that fixed focal length lenses offered better sharpness (and other IQ characteristics) than zooms (wide-zooms or tele-zooms).
What makes you think that's changed?

Yes, zooms are improving in quality. But, compared to better primes, they're not quite there yet, from a sharpness, contrast, and bokeh perspective, using the same focal lengths and apertures.

Also, you can get brighter primes compared to zooms. For example, show me a zoom that tests as good as my Minolta 100mm f/2 AF Lens at 100mm and f/2:

http://old.photodo.com/nav/prodindex.html

You can't. Zoom lenses in most camera mounts don't go that bright.

Or, take a lens like the Canon 200mm f/1.8L. You can't get zooms that bright, and you can't get any lens that's sharper at 200mm (most lenses are not even close).

What makes me think it's changed? Countless articles and lens reviews.

Not to discount your opinion but maybe this comes down to who you talk to. Perhaps some would say zooms can now offer comparable IQ than good primes. As far as brightness...agreed. No argument there.

Love to hear frommore forum memberson this. So please feel free to chime in. Do you all agree with Jim?

I was reading some comments from a photographer on Kingston's (memory card manufurer) "Icons of Photography" website. Who recommended a 50mm for "intimate" portrait shots. Which was partly why I posted this thread.

Would you guys recommend a 50mm or an 85mm for good intimate looking candid portrait shots? And would you also recommend going with the 1.4 over the 1.8 versions? Why?

I'm willing to consider third-party lenses like Sigma or Tokina. But would prefer to stick with Nikon.

Thanks.

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Old Mar 24, 2008, 6:58 PM   #4
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DarkDTSHD wrote:
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What makes me think it's changed? Countless articles and lens reviews.

Not to discount your opinion but maybe this comes down to who you talk to. Perhaps some would say zooms can now offer comparable IQ than good primes. As far as brightness...agreed. No argument there.

Love to hear frommore forum memberson this. So please feel free to chime in. Do you all agree with Jim?

I was reading some comments from a photographer on Kingston's (memory card manufurer) "Icons of Photography" website. Who recommended a 50mm for "intimate" portrait shots. Which was partly why I posted this thread.

Would you guys recommend a 50mm or an 85mm for good intimate looking candid portrait shots? And would you also recommend going with the 1.4 over the 1.8 versions? Why?

I'm willing to consider third-party lenses like Sigma or Tokina. But would prefer to stick with Nikon.

Thanks.
If you buy a good quality zoom, the only reason you'll need a prime is if you need a faster optic.

Back when I had my Canon outfit I used two lenses, for the most part, exclusively...the 17-40 f4L and the 100-400 f4.5-5.6L. Because it was so cheap, I bought the 50mm f1.8 andlater purchased an 85mm f1.8 to go with the 17-40 f4, just in case I wanted to go lighter. Well...

The reality in use after buying all that was, I continued using the 17-40 and 100-400, for the most part, 100% of the time. The 50mm NEVER left the house. Cheap it was...a good investment, it wasn't.The 85mm lens was just flat a waste of money...but not because it wasn't a good lens. It's an excellent lens...if you use it. I didn't.

Today I'm using an Olympus E510 anduse two lenses that make up my main outfit, the 14-54 f2.8-3.5 and the new 70-300 f4-5.6 Digital Zuikos. People complain because of the limited number of primes in the Olympus lineup but thesituation in my case is, if they existed, I wouldn't buy one.

With ISO 1600 performance being as good as it is today, a moderately fast f2.8-3.5 lens like I'm using in my primary set of focal lengths (35mm equivalent of 28-108mm), is good enough, and much more flexible than a prime.

Will you use a fast prime if you buy one? I dunno. Don't just buy one because you read about how good they are. I know today what I will and won't use. Are you at that point yet? If so, there's your answer.
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Old Mar 24, 2008, 7:00 PM   #5
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If your strictly pixel peeping, yes primes are better than zooms optically. Zooms continue to improve, but because of design limitations, will probably never equal the quality of primes. However, in practical terms, at normal print sizes, you'll likely never notice.

Primes other advantage is speed/wide aperature. This advantage has also been lessened a bit by improved high iso performance. Also if you use flash alot, the advantage is lessened even more. Now if you're into natural light shots, there is no substitution for bright primes.

Beyond those advantages, I just find primes so inconvenient to use. I'm down to two...a 105 micro for macro work and a longer portrait length, and a 50 f1.8. I use the 105 quite a bit, and rarely use the 50. Sure I guess they're nice to have, but if you're never going to use them, then what's the point. I can't see myself ever using primes all that much in the future. You're mileage may vary.


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Old Mar 24, 2008, 7:19 PM   #6
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I suppose I'll hold off on primes for now. Since I'm far from being at the point where I know exactly which lenses I really "need". I already have a useful 17-55 f/2.8. But I do need a long lens. Will probably end up picking up a Nikkor VR 70-200 f/2.8. I know those two will be used for sure. Would consider the Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 but they don't yet offer a OS version. Then there's the Nikkor VF 70-300...great bang for the buck.

And quite possibly Tokina's new 11-16 f/2.8 super-wide (http://www.tokinalens.com/products/t...16prodx-a.html).

I was just curious to find out what you guys thought about how primes compared with todays better zooms @ the same focal length.

Fast lenses...I'm guessing 2.8 will do for now. And yes I do prefer natural light over flash. Only time will tell me what other lenses I'll truly need. Great point Greg! Something I think many of us overlook. No matter our experience.

Macro photography? Shrug. Not at the moment.

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Old Mar 25, 2008, 4:57 AM   #7
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Yes, zooms are getting pretty good, and yes, they're more convenient, and yes, they still aren't as fast as primes, but there's another reason to select a prime over a zoom. Zoom lenses have more moving parts than primes, so, over time, zoom lenses are more likely to wear, and therefore are more likely to produce less good images as they get older and receive more use.
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Old Mar 25, 2008, 5:21 AM   #8
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I currently have 2 prime lenses, the Canon 50mm f1.8 and the Canon 85mm f1.8. These come out in either of 2 situations which are low light wedding work (the 50mm on my 5D and the 85mm on my 1D mkIII) and for indoor sports. At a wedding the 85 is sometimes left on for some creative shots but the 50 is replaced with the 24-105mm f4 L.

Unless you are finding the 17-55 f2.8 not fast enough, not sharp enough or not allowing you to reduce the dof enough then I would not add a 50mm prime. When I'm buying a lens I always try to buy because I'm filling a need, so my latest purchase was a 70-200mm f2.8 IS. The need here was better AF and resolution than my Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 and also that IS was helpful for in wedding work. Apart from the wedding, low light, non flash environment I would not have spent the extra on IS as I just leave it turned off.

Yes, my primes are sharper, especially the 85 which is a lovely lens, but the quality I get with my zoom lenses is high enough to make me not worry about using primes for anything apart from the stated.

There is one prime that I'm hoping to get soon and that is the Canon 400mm f2.8, but then there is nothing in the zoom market to compare (well I can't afford the Sigma 200-500mm f2.8 and no one knows how good it will be).
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Old Mar 25, 2008, 10:54 AM   #9
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Thanks TCav and Mark 1616.

For me. Being that I'll likely be picking up the Nikkor VR 70-200 (or possibly the VR 70-300 to use temporarily till Nikon updates the 70-200) I doubt I'll need the added sharpness in a 85mm prime. Plus I'm just a hobbyist so the improvement in IQ won't matter for my needs. I'm sure I'll be happy with the results from either. I'm happy with the IQ from my 17-55.

The only reason I would buy a 85mm now would be for the IQ, if I wanted to take candid portraitsand if I wanted to go light. Or didn't require the flexibility (focal range) of a zoom. 3.2 pounds for the 70-200 Nikkor versus .83 pounds. That and it's cheap. So who knows. While I won't absolutely need a prime like the 85mm I might still pick one up one day for the heck of it. Or not.

On to other topics...
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Old Mar 25, 2008, 2:38 PM   #10
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It's always difficult to answer general question like this, but one can be specific and look at a couple of examples which may illustrate both side of the argument:

EXAMPLE #1
Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 D
f/1.8 f/2.8 f/4 f/5.6 f/8
Center 2023 2165 2250 2189 2123
Border 1247 1614 1852 1964 2046

Tokina 16-50mm f/2.8 @ 50mm
f/1.8 f/2.8 f/4 f/5.6 f/8
Center N/A 1954 2096 2178 2161
Border N/A 1545 1834 2104 2063

http://www.photozone.de/Reviews/46-n...report?start=1
http://www.photozone.de/Reviews/46-n...review?start=1
-> The prime is indeed brighter and slightly sharper... In this case the prime has no ultrasonic AF while the 17-55 f/2.8 does albeit a little less sharp than the Tokina still, but then you're trading the slight sharpness decrease for the AF-S



EXAMPLE #2
Canon EF-300 f/4L USM
f/4 f/5.6 f/8
Center 1887 1952 1812
Border 1785 1861 1782

Sigma 100-300 f/4EX @ 300mm
f/4 f/5.6 f/8
Center 1919 1951 1827
Border 1715 1792 1777

http://www.photozone.de/Reviews/Cano...review?start=1
http://www.photozone.de/Reviews/Cano...review?start=1
-> In this case the zoom may better than a prime as this Sigma also has the ultrasonic AF, but this lens is slighly sharper than the prime especially @ wide open (f/4) but you gain the convenience of a zoom
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