Shooting with prime lenses

As promised earlier I would explain my choice for a set of prime lenses instead of one (or more) zoom lenses and tell about my experience with shooting primes.

IMAG1461

I will focus on photography mainly, although most of this post also applies for my DSLR – video experience with prime lenses.

Why I even bothered in the first place?
Having shot with a travel zoom (18-200) I had been happy with the ‘one lens fits all’ approach for a long time.
My camera bag was light and I did not have to worry about what lens to take of missing shots due to the need to change lenses.
When moving to a Full Frame body, I had to reconsider my choice. The 18-200 would not work well, being a APS-C lens and I started to consider a set of primes instead of a new travel zoom.

Why did I start to think about primes?

  1. The image quality of my 18-200 was not too good, especially in the corners.
    corner-uns
    Corners were often rather blurry.
  2. The travel zoom gave me a lot of vignetting and some distortion, especially when shooting ‘wide open’.vig2
    18mm f/3.5 shows lots of vignetting.

    vig
    The sky shows some vignetting, even at f/5.6.
    dist
    Distortion on the upper part of a picture at 18mm.

  3. In low light situations, I was unhappy with the f/3.5 – f/5.6 the travel zoom gave me.
  4. I wanted to slow down a bit, not worrying about missing a shot and focus more on the composition and I felt like a prime lens (like my 50mm) forced me to think before shoot.

So what concerns did I have before making my move to primes?

  1. What lens(es) should I take with me and what would they all weigh together?
  2. Would I have enough tele reach?
  3. Dust on my sensor due to changing lenses
  4. Missing shots
  5. Missing VR

And how did it work out so far?

1. : The first concern is one I have to find out how this works for me. For now I take all lenses with me on longer trips. Taking the weight for granted. I think I will be more picky in the future and leave some lenses at home when I think I don’t need them.

2. : This is true, although I don’t miss my 85-300mm range too often. Usually I can just take some steps towards my subject and still get a nice shot. The only thing I cannot get with my 85mm prime is that true compressed look that a tele shot gives me. So for now 85mm is long enough.

compr
A 300mm (equivalent) shot that has a nice compressed look. 

3. : I think I will have to clean my sensor more often than before, but that is no big deal for me. For now I will use my air blower and maybe consider a wet cleaning option in the future.

4. : Missing shots was not a real concern for me anymore. Since I am no pro-photographer, I don’t NEED to get a shot. If I miss it, I will try to get another and the (good) side effect of this is that I get home with a little less pictures than before.

5. : This is true, I do miss VR sometimes. Especially when using my DSLR for video. So that might someday be a reason to buy a Full Frame zoom lens after all. (like a 24-85 kit lens with VR), but the ability to use faster shutter speeds at larger apertures makes up for the missed VR most of the times.

What do I like about shooting prime lenses. 

I am really fond of the corner to corner sharpness of my prime lenses. They all beat my 18-200 and give much sharper corners.

SharpCorn
The lower right corner of a 50mm shot shows much more sharpness. (don’t mistake the shallow depth of field)

I also really love the low light abilities of these primes. I can use low ISO and fast shutter speeds for longer and shoot hand held more.

Next, the whole process of shooting seems more relaxed. I choose a focal length and try to stick with that. Forcing me to think about where to stand to get a certain composition. Where before I just turned the zoom ring and fired some shots.

Finally the ability to get a small depth of field, gives a specific look to my pictures I like a lot.

Lens usage

So far, I especially like my 35mm lens as my main lens. I use my feet if I want to get closer or get a more wide shot.

35m
A shot with my 35mm at f/1.8 with a nice classic look and some background blur. 

I am only changing lenses when I want a specific look.

So in short:

  • 20mm: I did not buy this lens yet, so more on that later.
  • 35mm: my main lens that stays on my body most of the time.
  • 50mm: used for close up portraits or when I want to try the look it gives.
  • 85mm: used for portraits

I will update this post in the future when I will have used my 20mm for a while and after the summer holiday (the true test for me, since I will be shooting a lot then)

 

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