Art and Photography

What's with RFD's obsession with prime lenses?

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  • Aug 17th, 2012 11:01 am
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What's with RFD's obsession with prime lenses?

What's with RFD's obsession with prime lenses? A newbie posts a request for a general purpose DSLR and the most common answer is old body + 50mm 1.8 or 35mm 1.8. The lack of versatility means that the prime lens and camera will likely end up collecting dust. Couple that with old technology that has been surpassed by newer, cheaper technology doesn't make sense.

Yes, most pros only use primes, but again they usually shoot in a studio or in a very controlled environment. No one carries around 3-6 flash umbrellas and reflectors to take occasional or impromptu photos.

It's like recommending someone buy a pentium 4 running windows XP because it's been around so long that 80% (?) of corporations still run it. I know my company does... that almost 30k users!

Disclaimer: I don't have a 50 1.8. I have a 50 1.4, which collects dust. The kit 18-55 and 28-135 have far more versatility.
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rf134a wrote:
Aug 6th, 2012 1:03 am

It's like recommending someone buy a pentium 4 running windows XP because it's been around so long that 80% (?) of corporations still run it. I know my company does... that almost 30k users!

Disclaimer: I don't have a 50 1.8. I have a 50 1.4, which collects dust. The kit 18-55 and 28-135 have far more versatility.
I don't agree with your analogy in the least. Prime lenses in most cases are as good as it gets. I don't use my primes as much as I'd like to, as my zoom offers me more flexability, but I am constantly wishing it'd be as fast as my primes.

Sure, it doesn't have the range of a zoom lens, but it generally offers superior optics and are much faster than zoom lenses. In no way could they be considered as, or compared to a pentium 4.
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Limiting oneself to primes increases creativity by limiting your flexibility with zooms, and forcing oneself to one focal length.
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That's a terrible analogy.

Considering the high pixel range of DSLRs you could shoot with a prime 50mm 1.4 and crop/zoom what you need. The fact it's a 1.4 means you DON'T have to carry around strobes, flashes or reflectors and still make use of available light. The other benefit being you literally get the sharpest images possible with minor to nil distortions at all. Conversely if you used a kit 18-55 or even an upgraded medium range with constant f2.8, you still wouldn't get nearly the sharpness, bokeh and have to deal with barrel distortion.

Versatility is over emphasized IMO whatever happened to taking a few steps forward or backward? Anything within the most common ranges can be covered by repositioning yourself, anything outside of that requires a wide-angle zoom or telephoto zoom anyway.

I love the idea of Tamron's 18-270 range I could walk around all day shooting sub-par shots ONLY in fair weather, and I would be shocked if I could sell them as stock photos which require both IQ and large sized files.

It's an apples to oranges comparison with a 50mm prime vs. wide-angle or telephoto but when it comes to medium range I'll take a prime any day. The versatility isn't in being able to zoom 30-45mm it's in being able to use available light, capture motion or freeze motion, with a fast 1.4 or 1.7 and guarantee sharpness and low distortion with beautiful bokeh or sharp focus to infinity without worrying about distortion.
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duparis00 wrote:
Aug 6th, 2012 3:56 am
That's a terrible analogy.

Considering the high pixel range of DSLRs you could shoot with a prime 50mm 1.4 and crop/zoom what you need. The fact it's a 1.4 means you DON'T have to carry around strobes, flashes or reflectors and still make use of available light. The other benefit being you literally get the sharpest images possible with minor to nil distortions at all. Conversely if you used a kit 18-55 or even an upgraded medium range with constant f2.8, you still wouldn't get nearly the sharpness, bokeh and have to deal with barrel distortion.

Versatility is over emphasized IMO whatever happened to taking a few steps forward or backward? Anything within the most common ranges can be covered by repositioning yourself, anything outside of that requires a wide-angle zoom or telephoto zoom anyway.

I love the idea of Tamron's 18-270 range I could walk around all day shooting sub-par shots ONLY in fair weather, and I would be shocked if I could sell them as stock photos which require both IQ and large sized files.

It's an apples to oranges comparison with a 50mm prime vs. wide-angle or telephoto but when it comes to medium range I'll take a prime any day. The versatility isn't in being able to zoom 30-45mm it's in being able to use available light, capture motion or freeze motion, with a fast 1.4 or 1.7 and guarantee sharpness and low distortion with beautiful bokeh or sharp focus to infinity without worrying about distortion.
+1

You can't use the analogy of older vs. newer processors as well. Primes don't mean older tech...what about Canon's new 40mm pancake?

Also, photography is an art...you don't tell someone they should be using crayons, spraypaint or whatever. Art is an interpretation of the artist...it doesn't matter the tools they use.
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also to be clear, it's not RFD obsession, just happens that there are a lot of people here who knows photography well. any professional forum will have the same response

I will tell you, a lens like 18-300 (by Nikon) is versatile to the max, if you are only on vacation and set the camera on Auto Intelligence and just spray the shutter. (and if you only go out durin the day)
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It all depends on the end user really, when someone asks me what they should get, I always ask them what they intend to shoot. I personally find using primes fine for most occasions.
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I would have to agree with the OP. Primes are great in their own ways, but they are not the best solution to someone just starting out, and even for many people who know how to shoot but do not do it for a living. When I'm out and about I don't really care that much for how undistorted my images are, how extremely sharp they are, or that bokeh is top of the line smooth stuff. I primarily care that I can get the photos I want with minimum fuss and for that zoom lenses offer a better solution. My main gripe with the nifty-fifty is that it's too long in many cases, particularly on a crop body (thankfully, no one is suggesting a noobie to buy a full frame body). A zoom that can go down to at least 18mm is a much better value proposition in many situations.
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I shoot weddings with primes only.... And as we all know those aren't exactly shot in a studio only environment. Where exactly did you get the idea that primes are old technology? You do know that Nikon released their awesome prime lineup not long ago right?

Its all about what you are doing with the lenses. There are two schools of thought, one being that if you are restricted with primes you will have to concentrate more on how you are composing the image rather than let me shoot it at every focal length I have available and see what happens. Primes also do not change their look like zooms since everything changes once the lens is used at different focal lengths. This gives a person a consistent "look" so its one less variable to worry about. You have to understand that your feet will help you with the lack of zoom but at the same time you will not get every shot. Personally I rather get a few awesome shots rather than a load of stuff I could have shot because I had a zoom.

My zooms don't leave my bag unless my prime is broken.... Or if I need the 70-200 for the reach unattainable with the 85.

I don't really understand the reference to umbrellas and lights etc? Can you elaborate? I shoot primes and the only time a flash is used or an umbrella is when we have time during formals. Reception lighting is key but again not absolutely necessary...

Its good that you found the combo of lenses that will allow you to shoot comfortably, just realize that everyone is different. I know a lot of pros who live by zooms which is fine. They are no less a photographer than I am.
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I shoot just about all my landscapes with a 35L (check out my Flickr link below), and I use 1.4 quite often. The look you get is stunning, IMO. I tried a 16-35L and 17-40L for a while, but the distortion makes it a useless lens for me. Corner sharpness is also an issue on a FF camera. Plus, after having f1.4, f2.8 and f4 are boring. I wont be spending any more money on UWA until I can afford a TSE

I also have a 70-200 which is absolutely amazing. I considered replacing it with an 85L, but the 70-200 is just too versatile.
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You wanna sell me the 50mm f/1.4? My f/1.8 is pretty noise when focusing.
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RCGA wrote:
Aug 6th, 2012 3:16 pm
the 70-200 is just too versatile.
It really is... So freakin heavy and cumbersome at times but when you need it the thing is awesome.
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X820 wrote:
Aug 6th, 2012 7:03 pm
You wanna sell me the 50mm f/1.4? My f/1.8 is pretty noise when focusing.
50mm 1.4 is not that much better than 1.8.. Not worth it in my opinion
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bosoxfanx1 wrote:
Aug 6th, 2012 8:07 pm
50mm 1.4 is not that much better than 1.8.. Not worth it in my opinion
I don't know... My copy was pretty sweet. Sharp wide open and pretty fast focus. Cheap build and flares easy thats all. I would say its worth the upgrade
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ryan_lau100 wrote:
Aug 6th, 2012 10:56 am
I shoot weddings with primes only.... And as we all know those aren't exactly shot in a studio only environment. Where exactly did you get the idea that primes are old technology? You do know that Nikon released their awesome prime lineup not long ago right?
Maybe I phrased it wrong, but I definitely don't think primes are old technology. I whole heartedly disagree with the advice to buy an old body like the 50D or 60D, both quite mediocre bodies when they came out. New technology makes even the best older bodies obsolete.

Of course, all of this criticism is for the hit and run posters who just post "derp buy old 50D and EF50 1.8 derpy derp". Everyone that has posted in this thread understands the artistic angle of taking a photo but some people just want to take a photo of their kids, dog, cat, whatever. For these newbies, the 18-55 kit lens with a good deal on a current body is their best bet.
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