Prime Lenses

Lenses that do not zoom in and out and use only a fixed focal length are known as prime lens. These lenses generally have fewer lens elements and are therefore usually smaller than zoom lens. While it may seem needless to buy a prime lens considering the focal length rigidity, prime lenses have several advantages;

  • Faster aperture, better image quality

If you compare a zoom lens and a prime lens covering the same focal length, you will notice a significant difference on the behavior of the respective aperture at specific focal lengths. How wide the respective aperture can open at specific focal length (lowest f-stop) is the main difference.

A prime lens has a wider maximum aperture, which enables quicker shutter speeds, allowing more light to hit the image sensor thus enabling the photographer to shoot without a flash in low light environment. On matters bokeh (shallow depth of field), a prime lens will easily give this flexibility, ultimately achieving a higher quality photo.

Due to its in build, less glass is used in the manufacture of a prime lens compared to a zoom lens. As a result a prime lens can achieve a sharper image compared to a zoom lens of equal rating.

  • Size & weight & cost

Most prime lenses are more compact compared to the zoom lenses due to fewer moving parts. As a result they are much smaller and lighter, which can be very useful for particular users such as mobile users.

16-35mm zoom lens
35mm prime lens
Despite the two Canon cameras having the same maximum length of 35mm, the zoom lenses is clearly bigger than its prime lens counterpart

  • Beginner Lenses?

The choice between prime and zoom lens depends on the experience of the photographer and the subject to be photographed. A beginner, for example, would prefer a zoom lens as it offers a range of focal lengths to experiment with before settling on the most convenient. However, prime lens offer beginners a chance to acquire skills and become better photographers as opposed to the zoom lens that does all the work on their behalf.

Standard/Normal Lens
A standard lens has an angle of view close to 45°, which replicates the perspective seen by human eyes. It therefore reproduces almost what the human eyes sees in terms of perspective (relationship of imaged objects in a photograph) and angle of view (how much of the world the camera can see). It has a fixed focal length of 50mm, which is considered standard focal length (as though there is no magnification or distortion). Beginner photographers will therefore find this lenses very appropriate since it is easy to visualize what images will look like before you even put the viewfinder up to your eye. Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G Lens with Auto Focus.

Nikon Standard Lens