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Zoom vs. Fixed-Focal-Length

 
 
BWL
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      10-18-2004
Just wondering which way I should go on this. I'll be getting a Canon 20D, probably between new year's and spring. I have a G1 now, but this will be my first DSLR. I've been reading up on lenses, and it seems apparent that fixed-focal-length lenses have much better optics and photo quality. I was initially thinking of getting a 28mm (or thereabouts), and a nice long 300 or 400mm for wildlife photography.

My question is: is the quality of fixed-focal-length lenses great enough to offset the convenience of zoom lenses? I mean, if the difference in photo quality is negligible, a zoom would be much preferable.

Also, I've read that DSLR's are very sensitive to dust that can get on the sensor when the lens is off, even for a short time. Does having fixed-focal-length lenses, and having to swap them fairly frequently, invite problems with dust & debris inside the camera?

Thanks for any insights,

BW
 
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Tetractys
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      10-18-2004
BWL wrote:

> Just wondering which way I should go
> on this....


I cover 18mm through 300mm with three
good quality zoom lenses, so my opinion,
backed by hard-earned cash, is:

> ... is the quality of fixed-focal-length lenses
> great enough to offset the convenience of
> zoom lenses?


No. There is a difference, but for the average
amateur and even most pros not doing studio
work, it's not enough to go prime unless you
have a specific need.

>.... Does having fixed-focal-length lenses,
> and having to swap them fairly frequently,
> invite problems with dust & debris inside
> the camera?


Yes. You will need to clean the CCD filter
from time-to-time, but the interval will be
greater, the less frequently you open the box.
(Also, avoid opening the case outside in
high wind at the beach, downwind of a
dusty baseball game, stuff like that.)


 
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Bill Crocker
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      10-18-2004
Zooms are much better than in previous years. Unless you're going for the maximum perfection, at a cost, both monetary, and one of convenience, go with the zooms.

Bill Crocker

"BWL" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message news:(E-Mail Removed)...
Just wondering which way I should go on this. I'll be getting a Canon 20D, probably between new year's and spring. I have a G1 now, but this will be my first DSLR. I've been reading up on lenses, and it seems apparent that fixed-focal-length lenses have much better optics and photo quality. I was initially thinking of getting a 28mm (or thereabouts), and a nice long 300 or 400mm for wildlife photography.

My question is: is the quality of fixed-focal-length lenses great enough to offset the convenience of zoom lenses? I mean, if the difference in photo quality is negligible, a zoom would be much preferable.

Also, I've read that DSLR's are very sensitive to dust that can get on the sensor when the lens is off, even for a short time. Does having fixed-focal-length lenses, and having to swap them fairly frequently, invite problems with dust & debris inside the camera?

Thanks for any insights,

BW
 
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C J Campbell
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      10-18-2004
I have been shooting aircraft and doing aerial work with zoom lenses for
years. There is a theoretical difference, but you really can't tell unless
you work with a tripod in very controlled conditions and blow it up huge. My
favorite current lens is the Nikon 80-400mm VR. It is a bit heavy, but the
thing has almost become my normal lens. OK, it is real heavy.


 
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Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark)
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      10-18-2004
Tetractys wrote:

> BWL wrote:
>
>
>>Just wondering which way I should go
>>on this....

>
>
> I cover 18mm through 300mm with three
> good quality zoom lenses, so my opinion,
> backed by hard-earned cash, is:
>
>
>>... is the quality of fixed-focal-length lenses
>>great enough to offset the convenience of
>>zoom lenses?

>
>
> No. There is a difference, but for the average
> amateur and even most pros not doing studio
> work, it's not enough to go prime unless you
> have a specific need.


Well, I'll disagree. But it really comes down to
style. In the shorter focal lengths, if you do
landscapes and usually stop down to f/8, then you
probably will not see a real difference in quality
from a zoom to a prime. If you only hand hold, then
you probably will not see a difference either.
I use a 28-135 mm IS as my "everyday" lens.
It is really nice at about f/8. I also have
24, 28 and 50 mm primes but use them a lot less.

But in the longer telephotos, the zooms are not
as sharp as the primes. Also note some zooms by
their zooming action may actually push and pull
air into the camera and therefore dust onto the
sensor. I just tested the 100-400 L IS and it is
amazing how much air it pumps. I'll never put it
on a DSLR again! But besides that issue, for wildlife
you can get an f/4 lens that you can use a 1.4x TC on
and still be sharper than the zooms. I replaced
my 100-400 L IS with a 300 f/4 L IS (cheaper and
sharper). I sure like the flexibility of the
zoom, but have stopped using them in the telephoto
focal lengths (>200mm)

Roger Clark
http://www.clarkvision.com



>
>
>>.... Does having fixed-focal-length lenses,
>>and having to swap them fairly frequently,
>>invite problems with dust & debris inside
>>the camera?

>
>
> Yes. You will need to clean the CCD filter
> from time-to-time, but the interval will be
> greater, the less frequently you open the box.
> (Also, avoid opening the case outside in
> high wind at the beach, downwind of a
> dusty baseball game, stuff like that.)
>
>


 
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Tetractys
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Posts: n/a
 
      10-18-2004
Roger N. Clark wrote:

> But in the longer telephotos,
> the zooms are not as sharp as
> the primes.... (>200mm)


I agree with the premise. At longer
lenghts, you're probably better off
with a prime. But -- for me -- the
break point would be higher, about
400mm plus.

> Also note some zooms by their zooming
> action may actually push and pull air into
> the camera and therefore dust onto the
> sensor. I just tested the 100-400 L IS
> and it is amazing how much air it pumps.


Never heard of that. How did you test?


 
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Nostrobino
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      10-18-2004
Fixed-focal-length lenses generally have the advantage of being lighter and more compact than zooms, and often have larger maximum relative apertures too. But as far as image quality is concerned, today's better zoom lenses are so good that the difference (if any) compared to FFL lenses is not likely to be noticeable. FFL fanciers don't like to admit this, but how many of them have ever been able to actually tell from a photograph whether it was shot with an FFL or a zoom? The convenience of a zoom is not something most users would want to give up, and your point about frequent lens changing allowing ingress of dust and dirt is also a good point and something to think about. That fixed sensor is obviously much more likely to make this a problem with digital SLRs than with 35s.

N.
"BWL" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message news:(E-Mail Removed)...
Just wondering which way I should go on this. I'll be getting a Canon 20D, probably between new year's and spring. I have a G1 now, but this will be my first DSLR. I've been reading up on lenses, and it seems apparent that fixed-focal-length lenses have much better optics and photo quality. I was initially thinking of getting a 28mm (or thereabouts), and a nice long 300 or 400mm for wildlife photography.

My question is: is the quality of fixed-focal-length lenses great enough to offset the convenience of zoom lenses? I mean, if the difference in photo quality is negligible, a zoom would be much preferable.

Also, I've read that DSLR's are very sensitive to dust that can get on the sensor when the lens is off, even for a short time. Does having fixed-focal-length lenses, and having to swap them fairly frequently, invite problems with dust & debris inside the camera?

Thanks for any insights,

BW
 
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Nostrobino
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      10-18-2004

"Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark)" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in
message news:(E-Mail Removed)...
> Tetractys wrote:
>
>> BWL wrote:
>>
>>
>>>Just wondering which way I should go
>>>on this....

>>
>>
>> I cover 18mm through 300mm with three
>> good quality zoom lenses, so my opinion,
>> backed by hard-earned cash, is:
>>
>>
>>>... is the quality of fixed-focal-length lenses
>>>great enough to offset the convenience of
>>>zoom lenses?

>>
>>
>> No. There is a difference, but for the average
>> amateur and even most pros not doing studio
>> work, it's not enough to go prime unless you
>> have a specific need.

>
> Well, I'll disagree. But it really comes down to
> style. In the shorter focal lengths, if you do
> landscapes and usually stop down to f/8, then you
> probably will not see a real difference in quality
> from a zoom to a prime.


A zoom lens is just as much a prime lens as a fixed-focal-length lens is.
The OP's terminology is correct. His choice is between zoom and fixed focal
length (FFL). Both are prime lenses, though there is no reason to use the
term "prime lens" except to distinguish that lens from some supplementary
lens or other optical device used with it.


> If you only hand hold, then
> you probably will not see a difference either.
> I use a 28-135 mm IS as my "everyday" lens.
> It is really nice at about f/8. I also have
> 24, 28 and 50 mm primes but use them a lot less.


Use a tele extender with a zoom and the zoom is the prime lens. Use a 24mm
(or 28mm, or 50mm) lens alone and there is no reason to refer to it as fixed
focal length anyway; you have already done that with "24mm lens" (or
whatever). No offense, but this silly misusage of "prime" should be stamped
out.


>
> But in the longer telephotos, the zooms are not
> as sharp as the primes.


Zooms are primes.

N.


 
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Gene Palmiter
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Posts: n/a
 
      10-18-2004
Start with a zoom...think wide, normal, or long and pick one with a range
you expect to be most useful for the subjects you shoot most. For most
people I expect that its a wide to slightly tele. That will cover scenics to
portraits. Then....if you find yourself doing the same sort of work over and
over again get a prime for that. I do a lot of portraits and small objects.
So for me a slight tele with macro would be a good choice.


"BWL" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
news:(E-Mail Removed)...
Just wondering which way I should go on this. I'll be getting a Canon 20D,
probably between new year's and spring. I have a G1 now, but this will be
my first DSLR. I've been reading up on lenses, and it seems apparent that
fixed-focal-length lenses have much better optics and photo quality. I was
initially thinking of getting a 28mm (or thereabouts), and a nice long 300
or 400mm for wildlife photography.

My question is: is the quality of fixed-focal-length lenses great enough to
offset the convenience of zoom lenses? I mean, if the difference in photo
quality is negligible, a zoom would be much preferable.

Also, I've read that DSLR's are very sensitive to dust that can get on the
sensor when the lens is off, even for a short time. Does having
fixed-focal-length lenses, and having to swap them fairly frequently, invite
problems with dust & debris inside the camera?

Thanks for any insights,

BW


 
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JohnR
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Posts: n/a
 
      10-18-2004
I always recommend the typical wide to tele zoom as a standard lens. For
extreme wide or long tele, fixed is good.

The fast 80-200mm zooms are not too bad either. If you shoot architecture or
perform copy work, I'd suggest a fixed lens (less distortions).

I fast 50mm lens is nice to have for available light work.
John

"BWL" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
news:(E-Mail Removed)...
Just wondering which way I should go on this. I'll be getting a Canon 20D,
probably between new year's and spring. I have a G1 now, but this will be
my first DSLR. I've been reading up on lenses, and it seems apparent that
fixed-focal-length lenses have much better optics and photo quality. I was
initially thinking of getting a 28mm (or thereabouts), and a nice long 300
or 400mm for wildlife photography.

My question is: is the quality of fixed-focal-length lenses great enough to
offset the convenience of zoom lenses? I mean, if the difference in photo
quality is negligible, a zoom would be much preferable.

Also, I've read that DSLR's are very sensitive to dust that can get on the
sensor when the lens is off, even for a short time. Does having
fixed-focal-length lenses, and having to swap them fairly frequently, invite
problems with dust & debris inside the camera?

Thanks for any insights,

BW


 
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