Posted on April 29th, 2015

Prime Time – Why Shoot Prime Lens/Lenses

What is a Prime lens?

Unlike a Zoom lens, prime lens are fixed at a focal length so do not zoom. It’s really as simple as that!

So why use a prime lens?


I truly believe that prime lenses force photographers to be more creative. The problem with a Zoom lens is that is allows the photographer to be lazy and learn little about focal length and perspective. Remember photography is an art! Shortcuts just stop us exploring our creativity and learning new skills.  A fixed focal length means you actually have to move your camera to frame your subject and because of this it also encourages the photographer to look at the world from new angles. This along with aperture (that I talk about in a minute) encourages and photographer to introduce the idea of depth into an image.

Bang for your buck

Due to having no zoom, prime lenses have far fewer lens elements and moving parts, this makes prime lenses relatively cheap. Here is where I have to mention aperture/speed if you don’t know. A lenses speed has nothing to do with how fast they focus (this trips up mostamateurs) but is actually talking about maximum aperture diameter, or minimum f-number. A fast lens has a large maximum aperture diameter, that allows for more depth of field and better performance in low light, as more light can be captured. This along with glass quality is what you tend to pay for in the professional lenses. So back to prime lenses. Because of the simplistic nature of fixed focal length lenses, prime lenses tend to be fast and often have an aperture as wide as F/1.8 or F/1.4 and some even go as wide as F/1.2.

Let’s put this into perspective

A cheap, standard 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens at 50mm has an aperture of about f/5.0 and costs around £150.

A more professional lens for example a Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 can cost around £1000.

In contrast I got my first professional prime lens, the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 for just £95.

What I think

Don’t think that the contrast in price makes the prime lenses anything less on a good professional choice. Prime lenses are an amazing option for anyone looking to produce better professional work. I believe professional, affordable, fast lenses like this are a vital part of my kit. I would recommend to everyone with a DSLR to invest in a prime lens.
Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II Lens
Nikon AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D Lens


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