- Term: Prime Lens
Description: A prime lens is a lens that has a single focal length, as opposed to a lens which can vary its focal length, known as a zoom lens. Common maximum apertures found in modern prime lenses include f/1.2, f/1.4, f/1.8, f/2.0, and f/2.8. Common focal lengths for prime lens designs include 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, and many others. While the inability to zoom in or out may be considered a disadvantage with a prime lens, many photographers use prime lenses for a variety of reasons, from boosting creativity to portability and affordability.
Prime Lenses Explained
Prime lenses, thanks to the simplicity of their design, often provide a faster aperture than zoom lenses. Primes are often smaller and lighter than zooms as well, making them more portable and inconspicuous. However a very "fast" (and sharp) prime can easily be bigger and heavier than a "slow" (and sharp) zoom lens.
A History of Prime and Zoom lenses
Historically, zoom lenses are a relatively recent invention; early camera optics were entirely single focal length designs. As zoom lenses became more common, they were often a serious compromise of image quality compared to a prime lens: prime lenses were both sharper, and faster-aperture.
With the advent of computer-aided design, however, zoom lenses began offering both features: professional-grade sharpness, and relatively fast apertures. While prime lenses are still capable of the fastest apertures such as f/0.95, or f/1.4, many (sharp) zooms exist with an f/2.8 aperture, and some even with an f/1.8 or f/2 aperture.
The advantages of a prime lens
Despite the improvements seen in modern zoom lenses, prime lenses can still offer a myriad of attractive features. Prime lenses can be smaller, lighter, and more affordable than zooms. While having a prime lens that is all three of those things is common, faster apertures are another separate advantage of primes, one which sometimes requires a compromise on weight or affordability.
With this in mind, different photographers choose different prime lenses for different reasons.
Fun fact about prime lenses: While many prime lens' focal lengths are indeed not prime numbers, (24mm, 50mm) ...there are a few lens manufacturers which seem to frequently use actual prime numbers when designing their focal lengths. For example, 31mm and 43mm, which are Pentax "Limited" lenses.
Workshops Related to Prime Lens Definition
Wedding Workshop Four | Photographing The Couple: Favorite Lenses Used For 10,000 Couples Portraits
Favorite Lenses Used For 10,000 Couples Portraits Which lenses should you use throughout a wedding day? The answer, perhaps surprisingly,…
Wedding Workshop Four | Photographing The Couple: Additional Zoom And Prime Lenses For Couples Portraits
Additional zoom and prime lenses for couples portraits While zoom lenses are certainly versatile and convenient for capturing a wide range…
Related Articles to Prime Lens Definition
How to Create a Home Portrait Studio for Under $20
Follow along as we set up a home portrait “studio” (with a budget cap of $20 for a reflector), capture our shot using whatever gear we already have (including a phone camera), and edit the image in Lightroom and Photoshop.
5 Tips on Shooting Sharp Images with a Wide-Open Aperture
How do we get tack-sharp images, especially when it comes to groups, when we’re shooting with a wide-open aperture? Here’s how in 5 tips (plus 3 bonus tips)!
5 Tips for Creating Authentic Natural Light Family Portraits
Here are five tips for creating beautiful natural light family portraits with posing tips to elicit authentic emotions.
Nikon Officially Announces the Mirrorless Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S and 50mm f/1.2 S Lenses
Nikon Inc. announced two innovative additions to the growing lineup of NIKKOR Z lenses, the ultra-wide angle NIKKOR Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S and powerful NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.2 S lenses.
3 Ways to Level Up Your Creativity Without Buying Additional Gear
You can use these simple techniques and the gear you already have (a camera, a lens, and maybe a tripod) to level up your creativity. Check it out!
5 Simple Recipes for Great Portraits Anywhere w/ Behind the Scenes!
With a little creative effort and insight, however, you’ll find that you can actually capture great portraits in any location.8.5
Fujifilm X100V Real-World Camera Review | Head to Head Series
Our new Head to Head Series is here to offer HONEST, objective gear reviews and share what it’s like to actually live with the products and use them in real-world situations.
Samyang AF 85mm F/1.4 RF Review – What Makes The 85mm Focal Length Special?
Samyang´s 85mm is the first from a third-party company that brings a lens of this focal length for the new RF mount from Canon. Bringing a sharp and affordable go-to portrait lens for an incredible mirrorless system