A lot of us fall into two camps when it comes to photography. Nope, I’m not talking about Nikon versus Canon or any such silliness. I’m talking about whether you’re predominantly a zoom lens shooter or a prime lens aficionado. Personally, I love a good prime lens. I don’t know if it’s because I shoot video or because I love to photograph people, but my camera kit seems to be full of mostly prime lenses.
There are many advantages to shooting with prime lenses, yes, even for landscape or travel photography. In this video, photographer James Popsys takes us for a walk in the beautiful Welsh countryside and tells us what he loves best about shooting with primes.
So what’s so great about prime lenses, then? Well, the easy and obvious answers are general sharpness tends to be greater for prime lenses, wider apertures, and cost. Generally, a good prime lens will cost less than a good zoom lens. That’s because prime lenses are much simpler in terms of both optics and technology, such as the autofocus mechanisms. Three good prime lenses across a range of focal lengths, for example, between 24mm and 85mm, could still cost less than one zoom lens covering the full range.
But what else is good about primes? James says in the video that his favourite aspect of shooting with prime lenses is that it forces you to be less lazy. “You’re forced to zoom with your feet,” he says. What does that mean exactly? Well, it means that if you want something to appear closer in your image, you have to physically move closer to the subject.
I don’t think that this is a significant concern for experienced photographers. However, it’s an excellent constraint for anyone wanting to improve their composition because it forces you to slow down and really look at what you’re doing. James says that he feels as though you notice a lot more when shooting with prime lenses than he typically does with zooms.
Of course, there will be moments when shooting with primes can be incredibly frustrating. For instance, when you can’t physically move closer to your subject. Or my other favourite scenario is when you seem to constantly have the wrong focal length lens on your camera for what you want to shoot. If you’re out and about shooting with prime lenses, you need to develop a slight air of “deal with it”, or you’ll constantly be changing lenses and getting more and more frustrated.
What do you prefer? Zooms or primes?