Zoom Lens VS Prime Lens – which one is the best? Cover

Zoom Lens VS Prime Lens – which one is the best?

In recent years, zoom lenses have won the hearts of many working professional photographers as the most obvious and versatile choice. It has the latest image sensor producing great image quality even if the ISO is extremely high. This makes the sense why people have been leaning toward the convenience of a zoom lens. Some of the pro-grade lenses offer image quality that matches and even beat prime lens at the same focal length. Some of the manufacturers like Nikon and Canon are rapidly updating their lens variety with new and better choices. Most of the third-party like Sigma has also participated in manufacturing of zoom lenses.


What is Prime Lens?

A lens with a fixed focal length means the angle that has a fixed angle of view which cannot be changed. You cannot make the image larger or smaller with-in the frame unless you move. The only way of enlarging the subject and making it fill more of the frame is by physically getting closer to it.

Prime lenses have specified focal length like 50mm. They come in all kind of sizes and focal lengths from fisheye to super telephoto lens. Example canon 800mm f/5.6l, Sigma 35mm f/1.4

What is Zoom lens?

A lens that has a variable focal length by turning the zoom ring, you move the optical elements inside the lens to get the different angle of view. This means you can make the object larger by turning the zoom ring in one direction or fit more objects in the frame by turning it in the reverse direction.

The zoom lens has two specifications which show the two extremes of the zoom range, for example, 24-70mm. This lens can act as a 24mm focal length, a 70mm focal length and everything in between. Zoom lenses can have variable aperture ranges. On every zoom lens, you will often see something like f/3.5-5.6 which represents the maximum aperture of the lens at different focal lengths. For example, a lens Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G will have the maximum aperture of f/3.5 at the smallest focal length of 18mm while the maximum range 105mm its aperture will be limited to f/5.6.

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Some advantages of Prime Lens:


Modern prime lenses are significantly cheaper than the zoom lenses. For example, 24mm f/2.8 lens will cost you around $400 while a 24-70mm f/2.8 will be around $1400 to $1500. Photographers with the good budget have the chance to experience high-class optics at a fraction of a cost of those costly variable focal length lenses, so it is not wise to compromise with cheap, lower quality zoom lenses all the time.

Size and Weight:

Most of the beginners often desire to have the biggest lens with image stabilization. No doubt, these lenses are sharp, have very fast auto-focus motor.  However, there are more noticeable due their big size and their heavy weight can cause neck pain and even long-term injuries.


Some advantages of Zoom lens:

No one would use zoom lenses if everything was in favor of prime lenses. Although their weight and cost, they are very popular and can be very convenient to use. There are different areas where even best fixed focal length cannot beat the good zoom.


The most observable reason for buying zoom lens is their flexibility. The zoom lens is great when a photographer is sure that he can easily handle a variety of situations like if you are shooting at wide angle you can quickly turn the zoom ring to move to telephoto without moving physically. Zoom lens are really valuable for landscape and wildlife photographers, for example, they are limited to particular are so being able to zoom to an area of interest can be invaluable for properly framing the shot.

Image Stabilization:

Modern zoom lenses offer 3-4 stops image stabilization system. Be it canon’s Image Stabilization, Nikon’s Vibration Reduction and Sigma’s Optical Stabilization and Tamron’s Vibration Compensation. You will still get a sharp image if you have the f/4 lens and shooting a non-moving subject in dark environments. Image stabilization technology will make some of its internal optical elements move and shift to counter camera shake which allows you to use slow shutter speed.

Image stabilization is not limited to just zoom lens some of the latest fixed focal length lenses also have the image stabilization technology. Do keep in your mind image stabilization can be presented on lenses or camera bodies.


Beginner photographers are often confused with a choice between buying a fixed focal length lens or a zoom lens. As you can see from this article, both have some advantages and disadvantages, so it's a bit challenging to choose between these two and can be difficult indeed.  It takes the time to judge which gear suits your style of shooting. Some people end up with a single superzoom lens, while others justify by their prime lenses and deny to ever touch a zoom lens. As you learn how to use your gear over time and start ironing out your photography skills, it really does not matter what you pick, as long as it does not stop your creativity.

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