8 Key Benefits of Using a Prime Lens for Photography

March 14, 2024
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Imagine you’ve just started your journey in photography or filmmaking, and you’re using the lens that came with your camera – that’s your kit lens. It’s a fantastic starting point! But let’s say you’re ready to explore and try new things with your camera. This is where prime lenses come into play.

So, what’s a prime lens? It’s a type of camera lens with a fixed focal length. Unlike a zoom lens, which lets you zoom in and out, a prime lens stays at one specific distance. You might wonder, “Why should I use one if it can’t zoom?” Prime lenses are known for making us better photographers and filmmakers. 

Since they don’t have the complexity of zoom lenses, you move around to get the perfect shot, helping you learn more about composition and framing naturally. They often offer better image quality and work wonders in low light. Using a prime lens can be a fun and educational step up from your starter kit lens.

What is a Prime Lens?

A prime lens is a camera lens with one job: it captures images at a single, fixed distance from your subject. Unlike zoom lenses, you can’t zoom in or out with a prime lens. The “focal length” term is just a fancy way of saying how far or close your subject appears through the lens, and in prime lenses, this distance doesn’t change.

Now, let’s talk about apertures, the openings in the lens that allow light to enter. Prime lenses are particularly impressive because they have large apertures and let in much light. This feature makes them excellent for low-light conditions. They’re designed to open wide, with aperture sizes ranging from f/2.8 to f/1.2, allowing more light to hit the sensor and improve image quality in dim settings.

Because prime lenses are fairly straightforward, with few moving parts, they’re less likely to have issues. Think of them as reliable, straightforward friends who are always there when you need them.

Zoom lenses, while super versatile because you can change the focal length, are more complex and prone to more problems. Plus, prime lenses often come in a smaller package than zoom lenses, bringing many benefits like better image quality and performance in low light.

Prime lenses are simple, reliable, and great for getting high-quality shots, especially in less-than-ideal lighting.

8 Reasons To Use A Prime Lens

There are two main types of lenses for your camera: prime lenses and zoom lenses.

A prime lens sticks to one focal length, like 50mm, meaning it sees the world from one unchanging perspective. On the flip side, a zoom lens can cover a range of 24-70mm, allowing you to get closer or further away from your subject without moving your feet.

You might think, “Hey, more options with a zoom lens means better bang for my buck, right?” But hold on—there are some pretty compelling reasons to choose a prime lens instead.

Here are eight reasons to use a prime lens:

1. Bringing in More Light

One of the prime lenses’ top perks is their ability to let in heaps of light. This is thanks to their wide maximum apertures, which means the opening in the lens can get big, allowing more light to hit your camera’s sensor while you’re snapping a photo. 

This feature is a game-changer in low-light situations, helping you capture brighter images without having to adjust your camera’s ISO or slow down the shutter speed.

2. Blurring the Background

Thanks to the same wide apertures that let in more light, prime lenses also give you the power to achieve a shallow depth of field. This is photographer-speak for making your subject pop with sharpness while the background fades into a dreamy blur. 

If you’re aiming for those portraits or shots with the focus on your subject and everything else softly out of focus, a prime lens is your best friend.

3. Sharper Images

Prime lenses often outperform zoom lenses in sharpness and detail because they are optimized for a single focal length, avoiding the design compromises inherent in zoom lenses.

While it’s true that lenses can be a bit softer at their widest aperture, nudging the aperture a bit smaller (which still lets in plenty of light) can enhance sharpness. 

So, even with a slight adjustment, you’ll likely notice that your shots are still bright, have that lovely blurred background, and are impressively sharp.

4. Better Image Quality

Prime lenses excel not only in sharpness but also in overall image quality. Their design for a specific focal length means you’ll encounter less distortion and chromatic aberration, resulting in clearer and more color-accurate photos.

This means your photos with prime lenses often look cleaner and more professional.

5. Good Value

Now, let’s talk money. Prime lenses can range widely in price, but here’s the thing: you can get a decent prime lens without breaking the bank. Take the Canon 50mm f/1.8, for example. It’s way more affordable than its high-end cousin, the 50mm f/1.2, yet still delivers fantastic image quality. 

So, in terms of what you’re spending versus what you’re getting in image quality, prime lenses often give you more bang for your buck.

6. Smaller & Lighter

Size matters, especially when you’re carrying gear around. Prime lenses are generally more compact and lighter than zoom lenses, making them a perfect choice if you’re always on the move and don’t want to be weighed down. 

And if you want to keep things light, there are “pancake” lenses – prime lenses designed to be ultra-thin. They might not be fluffy like real pancakes, but they make carrying your camera gear a piece of cake!

7. Getting the Hang of the Focal Length

Using a prime lens means working with just one focal length – no zooming in or out. This limitation is a secret weapon for learning. It trains you to understand how different scenes will look through your camera at that specific distance. 

Frequently using a 50mm lens, you’ll quickly develop an intuition for framing your scenes, knowing what elements your frame will include and exclude.

This can be a really fun and engaging way to enhance your photographic skills.

8. Encourages Movement for Creative Shots

Here’s another creative boost from using a prime lens: it makes you move. Since you can’t zoom with a prime, you need to move closer to your subject physically if you want a closer view. Moving around can open up a new world of angles and compositions you might not have considered otherwise. 

It’s a fantastic way to break the habit of shooting from the same spot and explore the space around you. A prime lens doesn’t just capture photos; it encourages you to engage more deeply with your environment, leading to more dynamic and exciting shots.

Prime Lenses Are Tools for Creative Freedom and Precision

Each photographer must decide whether to use a prime lens based on their own preferences and style. Mastering a prime lens can be immensely rewarding, offering more benefits than drawbacks, especially once you grasp the essentials of its use.

For many photographers, the allure of prime lenses lies in the creative freedom they offer. Using a prime lens puts you firmly in the driver’s seat of your photography. You’ll stop using Zoom as a crutch and, instead, think more critically about composition and positioning. This level of control ensures that the lens serves your vision rather than dictating your choices.

On the other hand, some view prime lenses as tools tailored for specific tasks—capturing portraits with stunning clarity or shooting vibrant scenes in low light.

Ultimately, the type of lens you choose matters less than understanding and utilizing it to its fullest potential. Knowing your equipment—how to leverage its strengths and mitigate its weaknesses—is crucial. This knowledge, combined with the ability to apply it effectively, truly enhances your photography.


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