The Versatility of Prime Lenses

As everyone knows, zoom lenses are very convenient. As everyone knows, most people started their photography with an 18-55 kit lens. It didn’t seem to be a good match for my style. The Nikon 105mm VR macro prime lens was my first. It is a fantastic lens. Macro photography was something I had never tried before. I can say with no exaggeration that the 105mm macro opened up new worlds for my photography. Its sharpness was amazing. I was able to see the magic world of prime lenses.

Today, I am shooting with only three lenses: the Nikon 24mm F/1.4G, Sigma 50mm F/1.4 Art and the Nikon105mm VR f/2.8G VR. I mostly photograph macro scenes and landscapes. I find this trio of lenses to be great for what I need. Many people say that zooms are more versatile than prime lenses. In some ways, this is true. A prime lens may be more versatile than you might think.

Amiens Cathedral

A prime lens will be superior optically, have a larger maximum aperture, and weigh less than a zoom with the same manufacturer and price. These prime lenses are often similar to zooms in these categories (e.g., the Nikon 105mm VR macro lens or the Nikon 24mm f/3.5 PCE lens). They usually have some unique feature that makes them worth it (macro- or tilt-shift capabilities in this instance).

Prime lenses are almost always better than zoom lenses. This advantage is often sacrificed for less versatility. Or do you?

Fox

I’ve noticed many situations that may seem unsuitable for prime lenses, but are actually no problem since I switched to prime-only photography.

As I mentioned, I mainly focus on macro photography, landscapes and cityscapes. Because there are not many macro lenses that can zoom, macro photography is not as important. It is easy to zoom in at macro distances by simply moving forward and backwards. A few inches can change the size of objects within the frame.

However, landscapes and cityscapes can be very different. Many people will consider zoom lenses to help them. These lenses are possible with some lenses such as the Nikon 14-24mm F/2.8G. Even so, prime lenses may have an optical or weight advantage that could be beneficial to your style.

Dragonfly

Prime lenses are often thought to be incompatible with wider or narrower fields of view. This is a big myth. It isn’t true. You can crop to zoom in (assuming that you don’t crop too far), or create a panorama to make the field wider. Both of these options may prove to be more practical than you might think.

The Nikon D800 allows me to crop images up to 1.5x. This effectively makes the 36 megapixels look like 16 with my D7000. Although this is not ideal, it doesn’t make the image worse if you have good shot discipline. From the D7000, a 16×24 inch print is easily within my comfort zone. Many photos can be printed up to 24×36 inches. This converts my 24-mm lens to a 24-35mm zoom by cropping it on a D800. This doesn’t account for moving your camera closer to your subject. It is possible in some scenes.

Half Dome Panorama

I compensate for the image quality I lose by zooming in with a prime lens. With a tripod and a slow-moving scene, I find it easy for me to create a three-photo panorama with vertical images. There is about a 35% overlap. This gives me an 81-megapixel image in Photoshop in the standard 2×3 aspect ratio. 16mm is the equivalent field of view.

I can convert a 24-35mm prime lens f/1.4G into a 16-35mm zoom lens f/1.4 by cropping and creating panoramas. Although the quality beyond 28mm isn’t as great as a zoom lens, it’s definitely better than the quality between 16mm and 24mm. The Nikon 24mm F/1.4G is flare-resistant and can easily take filters, which are two additional advantages over a zoom like 14-24mm F/2.8G.

Greeter Falls

This method makes my 50mm lens a 35-75mm zoom. My 105mm macro becomes a 70-150mm zoom. This means that I can cover the entire range of 16-150mm without having to leave any spot.

However, this method has its faults. It doesn’t work well for fast-moving scenes like sports games or weddings. You might not like cropping if you are allergic to it. Panorama stitching can cause problems with close subjects. In these cases, panoramic heads may be necessary.

Even though I don’t like to crop photos and can’t make a panorama with them, prime lenses are still very useful. My photos aren’t cropped very much, and only a few of them are panoramas. It is easy to compose with any focal length, so I don’t worry too much about what I might be missing. It doesn’t matter how long I have, I know that there isn’t any focal length I am missing from the 16-150mm range.

Alleyway

This method is almost perfect for landscape and cityscape photographers who focus mostly on still shots and rarely move. Is it more time-consuming? Panorama photos can be more time-consuming than regular photos, so it might. However, if I had to focus with a zoom lens, it would take me longer to find the right focal length and I would likely spend more time composing my images.

Paris Telephoto

This method may not be for you if you aren’t a fan of editing photos for long periods of time. Lightroom is a great tool for editing images. I enjoy spending extra time after processing my photos with this method. This method is great for perfectionists like me. I spent 15 minutes trying to decide whether to rotate one my images by 0.1 degrees.

This is in addition to the obvious reasons why prime lenses are so popular. They force you to think more about composition and make it easier for you to visualize your results. There are many arguments and controversies surrounding this topic. It is my personal opinion that composition is easier when the focal length variable is removed. I am sure that others will disagree with me, which is understandable.

Airport

This all depends on what your personal style is, as I mentioned above. A zoom lens is a great tool for sports photographers who are often unable to move but still need to capture quick shots from various perspectives. A zoom lens is faster and easier than a prime if you are shooting handheld scenics.

If you are a landscape or cityscape photographer and you use a tripod to take photos, prime lenses may be the best option. While zoom lenses may still work well for your photography, prime lenses have a greater range of focal lengths than what you might initially believe. They also offer all the optical and weight benefits that come with a lens that does not zoom. These advantages are obvious to me and add up quickly. Vielleicht you feel the same.

Eiffel Tower
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