Pro Photographer Lists His Top 10 Reasons Why He Prefers Prime Lenses and Which Ones are Best

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Well known nature photographer Scott Bourne, like many other photographers, is contemplating a switch to a micro 4/3 mirrorless camera system because of the obvious advantages in size, weight, cost and now, quality.  As a photographer, Scott says he prefers to use prime lenses whenever possible, and lists his top 10 reasons in a new article on PhotoFocus.com.

Scott writes…

“I do use some zooms, mostly because the micro four-thirds lenses don’t cover some of the focal lengths I need without zooms, but I primarily use and prefer primes. Here’s why.

1. Habit. I am older than most of you and back when I started in photography, zoom lenses were just horrible. They didn’t perform as well as modern zooms and most of us avoided them like the plague. They were slow, not very sharp at either extreme, bulky and expensive. I just got used to shooting with primes.

2. Focus. Whether you are using auto-focus, or manual focus, primes almost always focus faster/better than zooms…

3. Size & Weight. Prime lenses are more compact. They are smaller, easier to pack, easier to carry and lighter so they aren’t as physically taxing as zooms. They also tend to be more stealthy and less threatening to subjects.

4. Close Focusing Distance. Primes generally have a shorter close focusing distance than zooms. With zooms, I have to stay further back…

5. Sharpness. This is less a problem today than it was 30 years ago, but in my tests, primes are almost always still sharper than zooms…

6. Less Distortion.  Prime lenses tend to have less distortion. Things like chromatic aberration are better controlled in primes…

7. Composition. Primes slow you down and force you to make conscious lens choices – which force you to make conscious composition choices…

8. Cost. The prime lenses I own typically cost less than the high-end zooms…

9. Video. Most zoom lenses don’t work as well when I am shooting video as do primes…

10. Better Resolving Power. Resolving power translates to the ability to distinguish small details. Zooms tend to have less resolving power than primes…

There are some disadvantages to primes. You have to own more lenses if you want to cover all focal lengths. They are less convenient. etc. But to me the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.”  (Read full article on PhotoFocus)

My 2 Cents

One of the biggest advantages of a micro 4/3 camera system is the abundance of high quality lenses from which you have to choose, including those from micro 4/3 originators Panasonic (who make many lenses in partnership with Leica) and Olympus (whose M.Zuiko lens lineup is superb).  There’s also a burgeoning number of 3rd party lens manufacturers like Sigma, Rokinon, Samyang, Bowers, and Tamron who are joining the micro 4/3 party, and no less than 5 companies have also committed to making micro 4/3 cameras, so it looks like even more lenses are on the horizon.

When it comes to Prime Lenses vs Zoom Lenses, I’m pretty much in full agreement with Scott, with the exception of the new Panasonic 12-35mm and 35-100mm Pro Spec Zoom Lenses.  These are premium quality zooms with a constant aperture of f/2.8 across the zoom range.  They’re a great addition to the virtual plethora of premium primes (say THAT 5 times really fast ~_^) that the micro 4/3 standard can boast.

In the video above, Kai Wong and DRTV highlight one of our favorite M43 Primes, the Panasonic / Leica 25mm f/1.4 Summilux.  (See a list of our favorite M43 Primes below)

Our Favorite Micro 4/3 Prime Lenses

Panasonic 8mm 3.5 Fisheye lens

Olympus M.Zuiko 12mm 2.0

Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm 1.8 Wide Angle Lens

Panasonic 20mm 1.7

Panasonic Leica 25mm 1.4 DG Summilux

Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm 1.8

Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm 2.8 Macro Lens

Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm 1.8

Bargain Primes

Here are a few of the best lenses made by 3rd party manufacturers. Great lenses at a bargain price!

Rokinon 7.5mm 3.5 Fisheye lens

Sigma 19mm 2.8

Sigma 30mm 2.8

**NOTE** The Sigma lenses have been discontinued and will soon be replaced by updated versions in Sigma’s new “Art” lens lineup, which are supposed to be higher end lenses. That being said, these two lenses are great. I have both and they produce sharp, clear images and the focus is lightning fast (and quiet too, so they’re good for video). If you can still get these, I highly recommend snapping ’em up. — SG

Best Cheap Lens That You’ll Ever Love

If you’re looking for a fun little manual focus lens, you can’t go wrong with a C-Mount lens (with micro 4/3 adapter). These little beasties were originally made for 16mm film cameras and have also been used used as closed circuit tv lenses, but they adapt extremely well to micro 4/3 cameras. They’re very similar (almost identical) to the specialty SLR Magic lenses that sell for hundreds of dollars, and the best part… you can get one for about $30 USD!  (Learn more here)

Rainbow Imaging 35mm 1.7 TV/Movie Lens with micro 4/3 adapter

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