What Are Prime Lenses?
Prime lenses have fixed focal lengths. So whereas with a zoom as you can twist the zoom to get closer to the subject, a fixed focal length is as it suggests is fixed. Popular options include 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, but there are more options.
But why would you use one? Surely it would be better to have a ‘one lens fits all requirements ‘option? Here are 3 reasons why I love prime lenses, with some photographs that I have taken using them.
1. Depth of Field
On my photography courses I show participants the creative force of aperture. The ability to make a subject stand out with a shallow depth of field, i.e. the subject is sharp and the background is blurred. Here are two examples above. For both (and the one below) you can see that you can bring the aperture down to as much as f1.8, I have used this option to blur the background of these portraits.
Often on a kit lens (unless you’ve paid a lot of money and usually on a full frame camera) there is a limitation of how far you can control the aperture, so you don’t get as much depth of field.
2. They’re Light
Prime lenses have less complicated mechanisms as they’re not zooms. Therefore they lighter, easier to carry around and in turn make your camera operation much smaller.
This is good for travel photography, when you want to carry light. This can also help with portraits as a massive lens can psychologically unsettle a nervous subject, plus the quality of the portraits is stunning, but more of that in the next point.
3. They’re Sharp
I love the quality from prime lenses. It can in fact blow you away. You can achieve incredible sharpness, lovely colours and beautiful bokeh, which is the description of the blur in the out of focus backgrounds. As mentioned this is especially effective for portraits.
Where to Start?
Probably the final point is that they are relatively inexpensive. My advice is to try a 50mm first, and then practice, practice, practice! It will take some getting used to as you don’t have luxury of zooming. It will however force you to be more creative about your compositions and also if you’re shooting down at f1.8 or thereabouts then you will need to focus very carefully.
Once you suss it you won’t look back and whilst there is still a good place for your trusty zoom, this does give you some great options, especially for portraits and street photography.
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Paul Saunders is a Wedding Photographer, Family Portrait Photographer & Commercial Photographer, he also hosts Photography Training Courses. Based in Loch Lomond he works throughout Scotland. For more information please contact Paul on 01360 661029.
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