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Photography Question 
Shobin George
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/27/2005

Lens Choice: Zoom or Fixed?

I am a bit confused. I have two options to buy - 28mm fixed lens with 2.8 aperture and 28-80mm D zoom lens with 3.5 aperture. Which one should I buy? I am getting both at the same price. Which would be better option, regarding clarity etc.? Looking for a helpful advice...

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3/4/2007 9:14:06 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/18/2000
  It depends on the specific make/model lenses. Not always the case, but generally the fixed or prime lens will be marginally sharper with less barrel/pincushion distortion at the borders, and have faster maximum aperture (f/2.8 two-thirds of a stop faster than f/3.5). Its design will be optimized for its specific focal length, while a zoom lens involves compromises necessary to give a range of focal lengths. And because a good prime lens can be constructed with far fewer lens elements, they have better resistence to flare/ghosting effects.
That said, zoom lenses can be quite good. Depending on the specific lens, conditions and technique, images captured with a zoom lens may be indistinguishable from those taken with a prime unless one is "pixel peeping" at extremely high magnification or enlargement.

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3/5/2007 5:36:24 AM

Shobin George
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/27/2005
  Thank you for your response...

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3/5/2007 9:03:04 PM

Russell C. Amidon
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/19/2004
  I could not add a single thing, and certainly not as well as Jon already has, but my thoughts are of his answer completely....stick with the prime lens.
- Russ Amidon

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3/6/2007 6:41:30 AM

Christopher A. Walrath
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/25/2006
  I agree. I have a Minolta XG-M and an srT101 and I have about seven lenses. All are prime. No zooms. It makes it tricky guessing which lenses you might need when you have to pack light, but I have always liked pushing myself to make the composition fit into the image area mandated by a fixed focal length lens. Of course this is my personal preference. You could have two lenses cover the whole gambit. i. e. a 28-135mm zoom and a 100-400mm zoom would give you everything you needed in just a couple of pieces. As for image quality, zooms were lesser in image clarity and sometimes would not focus well to infinity, about 25 years ago. These are not issues with newer lenses. But bear this in mind the older the lens is which you decide to use.

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3/17/2007 3:18:46 PM

Kevin Ekstrom
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/20/2005
  There are many exceptions to the so-called "PRIME RULE".

My Nikon FE2 has a 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 it's a shorter version of the earlier 35-70's.

This lens is TACK SHARP! Even in the macro mode at 70mm setting with 1:4.4 magnification. This lens retains it sharp image quality at all its focal lenghts.

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6/28/2007 12:37:57 AM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005

The advice given so far is good.
Primes are indeed sharper than multi-element designs.

It appears you are shooting digital.
Something we often forget about is that little problem known as sensor dust. Yeesh!
Changing leneses often will almost always lead to dust on the sensor; what follows is that fun job of cleaning the sensor. LOL

I personally grew so tired of cleaning my sensor, that I finally purchased a 18-200mm VR lens.

I am not all that concerned about the slow speed of this lens (3.5) since bumping up the ISO is easy with a digital...besides, 2.8 to 3.5 is really NOT that much.

With that said, I also have a 50mm prime @ 1.8. I absolutely find this lens amazing in color, contrast, sharpness and speed, and WILL use it when the situation calls for it.

It is a trade off of convenience Vs marginal quality.

Now; for the pro sports shooter, the situation is of course quite different, where 600mm primes are common, though few amateurs have the bank account to own these. (LOL) Watch any pro NFL game and you'll see these people on the sidelines, rarely with multiple lenses, but with multiple cameras!; nearly all fitted with primes.

AS for distortion in any large excursion zoom, don't sweat it; you can usually eliminate it with some savvy photoshop work.

Take it easy Shobin, you are suffering from what many do..It's called "lens envy"..There is no cure other than a fat bank account.


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6/28/2007 3:02:32 AM

Shobin George
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/27/2005
  Thank you Pete, I have purchased 28-2.8 It is very sharp. I also have 28-200. So I went for 28-2.8. Thank you

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6/28/2007 5:07:13 AM

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