Prime Or Zoom Lens For Video

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In that location are many recurring debates in the world of photography. In that location’south the discussion over brand preference, image formats (RAW vs. JPEG), and even camera sensors (full frame vs. crop sensor). And when information technology comes to lens selection, one of the biggest debates is whether prime lenses are better than zoom lenses.

In this article, nosotros’ll ascertain both types of lenses, their differences, also as their advantages and disadvantages. Subsequently explaining what each of them is designed for, nosotros’ll also recommend a few of the best and most popular prime and zoom lenses on the market today.

Photograph by Denisse Leon on Unsplash

It’s pretty easy to tell prime number lenses and zoom lenses apart, fifty-fifty just past looking at them. Merely here’s the full general breakup of prime vs zoom lens:

What is a prime lens?

A prime lens is a lens with a fixed focal length, typically with a maximum aperture of f/1.2-f/2.eight. They’re fantastic for filmmakers and photographers who want the all-time optical quality and prefer a shallower depth of field in their images and footage. Popular prime number lens focal lengths are 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm. Professionals tend to prefer a flat aperture of f/1.two-1.8, which provides incredible low low-cal performance and maximum shallow depth of field.

Because prime number lenses have a fixed focal length, they don’t have a zoom ring and tin can’t provide optically magnified views of a scene like a zoom lens does. Although they are oftentimes compared by people who’re but starting out in photography, professional photographers commonly accept both types of lenses as part of their main gear or in their camera numberless, depending on the demands of a specific photoshoot session.

What is a zoom lens?

A zoom lens is a lens with a variable focal length, allowing the user to adapt their focal length in its specified zoom range. This allows for greater versatility and flexibility when shooting. Popular zoom lenses include xvi-35mm, 24-70mm, and 70-200mm, with a flat aperture of f/ii.8 preferred by professionals, due to the better low lite operation.

There’s a wide range of prime and zoom lenses bachelor for each brand of lens, then even if you already know which 1 is right for you and your photography fashion, it can be pretty overwhelming to choose just one. Merely to help take most of the guesswork out of lens selection, we’ll help differentiate the two by explaining their advantages and disadvantages beneath.

Prime number and Zoom Lenses: Pros and Cons

collection of lenses and other camera accessories on a wooden table
Image via Shutterstock

Focal Length

As previously mentioned, the primary difference between prime number and zoom lenses is in their focal length.

The focal length of prime lenses can be anywhere between 12mm and 5200mm, and it will always remain the same. Zoom lenses, on the other hand, have zoom rings that allow you to utilize a range of lengths. This gives the latter a definite reward as it eliminates the need to change lenses or zoom in and out with your feet, as you would with a prime lens.

Another advantage of having the choice to use different focal lengths is that information technology allows y’all to easily and quickly add multifariousness to your shots and adjust your framing so you lot don’t have to waste precious seconds and risk losing those separate-second, picture-perfect moments.


While prime lenses charge per unit depression in versatility and flexibility compared to zoom lenses, they make information technology up past being able to offer much wider apertures (or smaller f-numbers).

With fast primes that have maximum apertures similar f/i.4 or even f/2.8, you are able to let more than light into the photographic camera sensor. This helps burnish low-light scenes and allows for the utilize of faster shutter speeds. Prime number lenses as well offer more control over the depth of field and tin produce very attractive bokeh through the utilize of very shallow depths of field.

Some brands manufacture zoom lenses with wide apertures, but they tend to cost a whole lot more. Near entry-level zoom lenses (like the kit lens that came with your camera) take a maximum aperture of f/3.5, which is not bad except information technology gets smaller and volition typically finish up at f/5.half-dozen as you movement towards the cease of the lens.


Both prime lenses and zoom lenses come in unlike sizes. It’south not true that prime lenses are e’er smaller and shorter than zoom lenses, since there are much longer prime number telephoto zoom lenses. Nonetheless, the about useful prime lenses are more compact, given that near photography styles don’t require focal lengths past 200mm and the focal lengths don’t change. Zoom lenses, on the other mitt, can exist pocket-size at the widest focal length merely it extends when you zoom towards the long end of your lens.

The utilise of bigger zoom lenses may look more “professional,” but it tin greatly affect your supposedly professional-looking output if the weight is going to affect the handling. With smaller lenses, it can be much easier to pack your gear, travel, and shoot discreetly in public areas.


Some other stark difference between prime number and zoom lenses is their weight. Although there are “lightweight” zoom lenses, a zoom lens generally contains more than drinking glass elements than a prime lens. And when you have several zoom lenses, the combined actress weight could make it difficult to shoot and travel with.

You tin can argue that prime lenses only offer one focal length, but you’ll detect that having ii prime lenses with unlike focal lengths tin can be much lighter than a unmarried zoom lens that offers
focal lengths. But if you lot’re shooting in a single location (like a dwelling studio) and with a stable tripod, weight becomes less of an result.


Unsurprisingly, prime lenses
cost much less as they contain much less glass compared to zoom lenses so the manufacturing cost tends to be lower—but that might not e’er be the instance. You’ll find that some of today’south zoom lenses are pretty affordable. It greatly depends on other factors that could increment their value (like wider apertures for zoom lenses and improved prototype quality for prime lenses) so when it comes to the price, it’s a necktie between the two.

Sharpness and Quality

Today’s zoom lenses are capable of capturing some of the best quality images. However, prime lenses have been around as long as photography itself, and this has immune camera brands to improve on it earlier and maintain its slight edge when it comes to image quality.

The reason why prime lenses are the more than popular choice when it comes to capturing accurate and tack sharp images is considering zoom lenses volition e’er tend to be more prone to baloney and chromatic aberration, especially towards the wider and tighter ends of the lens. There’s evidence proving this disadvantage, but information technology may non e’er be obvious to the untrained centre or crucial for low-resolution prints.

Prime number vs Zoom Lens: The Bottom Line

female photographer using a camera with a mounted prime lens
Epitome via Shutterstock

When it comes to the age-former prime lens vs zoom lens statement, we’d say none of them is really better than the other.

For many getting started in filmmaking or photography, the question of “prime vs zoom lens” is of import. When should yous use one vs the other and which type of lens should you choose? Permit’s intermission down both, based on their structure and purposes.

Here’s a quick rundown of their pros and cons:

Prime Lenses Pros & Cons:

Pros Cons
Lightweight and compact Lack of versatility and flexibility
Better prototype quality
Great low-light functioning

When you should use prime number lenses

Prime lenses, considering of their stock-still focal length and wider maximum discontinuity, permit more light in. This creates precipitous images and footage with stunning shallow depth of field. Prime lenses too have fewer optical elements and moving parts, which means prime lenses provide faster focusing. They are smaller in size, weigh less, and sometimes are lighter on price too, unless you’re investing in professional prime lenses.

If you lot prefer the all-time paradigm quality, faster focusing, smaller and lighter lenses, or a lower price indicate, prime lenses might be your all-time choice. If you are a photographer or filmmaker needing lenses that provide the all-time optical imagery, shallow depth of field, and fantastic low light performance, definitely look into prime number lenses.

Hither are some types of photography that make the most sense for prime lenses:

  • Portrait photography
  • Product photography
  • Landscape photography, if you want edge-to-edge sharpness
  • Wildlife or sports photography, if you need the best quality and focusing speed

Zoom Lenses Pros & Cons:

Pros Cons
Wider focal range Tend to exist bigger and heavier
Flexible framing and zooming Adventure of distortions and aberrations

Every bit you can see, the type of lens that is right for you volition ultimately depend on your needs and preferences. If you are very particular about image quality and don’t need to adjust your focal lengths, then prime number lenses are the manner to go. Just if existence able to apace accept photos at different focal lengths is more important than having a pocket-sized camera purse, then zoom lenses are the best option for you.

When y’all should use zoom lenses

Zoom lenses, because of their variable focal length, are incredibly versatile, sometimes housing several prime lens focal lengths into one lens. Prime lenses might be slightly sharper and faster and accept wider maximum apertures, simply professional zoom lenses accept developed so much over the years that the gap between prime and zoom lenses is closing fast.

Today’due south zoom lenses, particularly professional person-grade zoom lenses, are incredibly abrupt and fast and are pushing the limits on maximum discontinuity, with some offering every bit depression every bit f/2.

If you prefer reliable, versatile lenses that can handle a multitude of shooting types and styles, go for a zoom lens. If yous travel or piece of work on the route a lot and want to simplify your lens kit, zoom lenses might be a great option as well, since they can replace several prime number lenses with one zoom range.

Here are some types of photography that make the most sense for zoom lenses:

  • All types of photography. That’southward how versatile zoom lenses are. While you may cede a niggling scrap when information technology comes to sharpness, epitome quality, focusing speed, and better low calorie-free operation, the gap has shortened significantly between the ii lens types. This makes the versatility and convenience of a zoom lens worth information technology. This is especially of import if you desire to try out different photography styles and types and see which yous adopt.

Recommended Lenses

male photographer shooting with a Canon L-series zoom lens
Image via Shutterstock

To help you observe the right type of lens that suits the types of photography that yous practice, hither are some of the virtually popular prime and zoom lenses that both aspiring and professional person photographers use, and the reasons why you’ll need them.

Prime Lenses


Why You lot Need It:
  • Wide-bending field of view
  • Remarkably sharp
  • Excels in low-low-cal shooting conditions
  • Great for landscapes, astrophotography, group portraits, and issue photography
Recommended 24mm Lenses


Why You Need Information technology:
  • Classic photojournalistic focal length
  • Captures enough of the environs to provide image context
  • Excels in personal, across-the-dinner-table snapshots
  • Groovy for portrait, street, upshot, and food photography
Recommended 35mm Lenses:


Why You Need It:
  • Offers a “normal” field of view
  • Eliminates perspective distortion
  • Bright, wide constant maximum apertures
  • Compact and affordable
  • Considered a photographer’s must-have
  • Great for portrait, street, and everyday photography
Recommended 50mm Lenses:

Zoom Lenses


Why You Need It:
  • Highly versatile zoom range
  • Groovy walk-around lens
  • Suits a wide range of photography styles
  • Bachelor in models with wide maximum apertures
Recommended 24-70mm Lenses:


Why You Need It:
  • Versatile zoom range
  • Splendid border-to-border sharpness
  • Precipitous, high-contrast images
  • Dreamy bokeh quality
  • Considered a photography staple
  • Slap-up for portrait, sports, and event photography
Recommended 70-200mm Lenses:


Why You Need It:
  • Longer telephoto accomplish
  • Highly versatile zoom range
  • Equivalent to 450mm on APS-C sensors
  • Increases background pinch
  • Ideal for getting in on sports action
Recommended lxx-300mm Lenses:

Feature image by lucas Favre on

Nathan Lee Allen

Nathan Lee Allen is a storyteller and photographer from Kentucky. Check out his work on his website, on, and Instagram @nathanleeallen.