Home Camera Settings What is a Prime Lens? And, Why You Should Use It!

What is a Prime Lens? And, Why You Should Use It!

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Whether you’re wondering “what is a prime lens?” or just want to know what the real differences are between a prime lens, kit lens, telephoto and wide lens, then this article is for you. Among the various types of lenses available in this article we hope to introduce you, in some detail, to one of the best lens category out there – the prime lens.

The Advantages of Using a Prime Lens Versus Kit Lens, Telephoto Lens and Wide Lens

If you have just been using the kit lens that came with your DSLR, you’ll soon be looking into expanding the collection of your lenses. And as you dive into this search, you’ll find yourself facing a pile of data about the lens category, focal lengths, f-stop range, number of moving parts, material user, effective zoom, price, weight, and tons of other details.

what is a prime lens
Photo by Andy Ramdin

During your research you’ll come to find that most professional photographers have a prime lens in their bag. What is a prime lens? A prime lens is a lens with fixed focal length. Meaning it is not able to zoom – at all. This might be a hard fact to digest, why would anyone use a lens that doesn’t zoom? Let’s see why.

When a lens doesn’t have to zoom, it has fewer internal moving parts. This results in a very prompt response to the camera’s actions. And since the focal length is fixed, a prime lens is able to go really wide on the aperture. For example, you’ll easily find a 50mm prime lens at 1.8 or 1.4 f-stop. What this also means is, you could work at faster shutter speeds than you would on a zoom lens. This can help you creatively or even solve some camera shake issues.

And since the prime lens has fewer internal parts, it is mechanically simpler to build, which results in very crisp & sharp images.

Prime Lenses Create Bokeh & Depth of Field

These two image characteristics have many creative uses, and a prime lens really helps a photographer in excelling at these.

what is a prime lens bokeh
Photo by Andrew Abogado

Since a wider aperture allows for much more light to flow in, the resulting image from the prime lens will have colorful & beautiful bokeh. A prime lens also gives a great range of focal distance, which enables better depth of field control compared to a zoom lens. Finding a zoom lens that has such wide aperture at the same focal length as a prime might just be super expensive or unavailable.

Hands vs Feet

With a zoom lens you use the convenience of sitting at your spot and zooming right into where your subject is. Sometimes in doing so, you end up getting extra items in your frame. Or you might miss out on something that could be included if you changed spots.

With a prime lens, your frame is always fixed. You’ll have to manually move around and find the exact things you want in your frame. This might not always be a good thing under all circumstances, but it’s something you should consider. Finding & framing the right subjects would really help improving your pictures.

Light & Small

If a prime lens is going to be just your second lens after a kit lens, behold till you start falling for a third and a fourth! You might start wondering what to carry around. A telephoto lens might need a tripod or a high range zoom lens might be too heavy.

what is a prime lens light and small
Photo by The Jordan Collective

Prime lens makes it’s case by being light and small, to fit into your bags and help you take amazing shots.

Cost & Quality

 As a topping on the pie, a basic prime lens comes at a pretty low cost. If you go with a 1.8 f-stop 50mm prime lens, you might find something for a $100 or so. And since the build mechanics are simpler, the lens is much stronger and of a much better quality.

Give it a try. I am sure you will soon love your prime lens and enjoy photography all over again. After all the original cameras came with prime lenses!

Happy clicking!

Article written by photographer Vrajesh Bhavsar. Connect with Vrajesh on 500px.com.

We hope you enjoyed this article on what is a prime lens and the advantages it offers. Share your experiences using this type of lens by leaving a comment.

 

4 Comments

  1. JAIKUMAR MENON

    March 30, 2012 at 4:37 am

    I AM A GREAT FAN OF DPT AND I GET TO LEARN LOT OF STUFF FROM THE SITE AND NEWS LETTERS RECEIVED FROM DPT.

    I THANK EACH OF YOU OF DPT TO EDUCATE AMATUERS LIKE US TO LEARN DIFFERENT ASPECTS OF PHOTOGRAPHS.

    KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK

    JAIKUMAR MENON

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