It’s often been the popular wisdom that beginner or hobbyist DSLR photographers should shoot with zoom lenses instead of prime (or single focus length) lenses, so they have a variety of focal lengths in one lens. It’s the intention of this article to shatter that myth, and for the following reasons.
- Primes Are Fast Lenses – Most prime lenses have very wide apertures – f/1.2, f/1.4, f/1.8 or f/2.0 – which are a great benefit when shooting in low light situations. You can use a faster shutter speed and not be required to increase ISO which would otherwise produce a grainer image. Often, flash is not allowed or is intrusive, and people will react to the flash, spoiling an opportunity to capture spontaneous poses.
- Shallower Depth of Field – Those fast apertures also contribute to more creative use of depth of field. Subjects are better separated from backgrounds, adding three-dimensional to your images, and prime lenses also create very pleasing bokeh (The effect of a pleasing or aesthetic quality of out-of-focus blurred background).
- Optimized for Performance – Although the optics of zoom lenses have improved significantly, they are often a compromise. Versatility is traded for image quality and a slow and usually a variable maximum aperture. The optics of prime lenses are optimized and highly refined for specific single focal lengths. You achieve a higher level of performance for sharper images, a fast maximum aperture and typically have a more robust and reliable construction.
- Matches Specific Kinds of Photography Better – Prime lenses will allow you to capture better landscapes, architecture, street photography, portraits, night skies and other subject matter.
- Be an Artist, Not a Snapper – Using a prime lens forces you to think more like an artist instead of a snapshot shooter. It only has one field, or angle, of view, so you must pause to picture your composition in your head before shooting. This compels you to move your body or crouch low or elevate your camera in search of the best and most interesting points of view.