Why zooms rock (Part 2)

Zoom lens

A while ago, I did a blog on prime lenses and their strengths - but there is still a case for zooms:

Grand Canyon Horseshoe Bend Panoramic

1. When you can't move or can't get closer! People often refer to 'sneaker zoom' with prime lenses - meaning they walk closer or further to adjust framing. That is great if you have the option, but try moving a little closer when standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon - or even getting closer to get a photo at the kid's Christmas concert.

Grand Canyon Horseshoe Bend Panoramic

2. To keep the camera sealed. In bad weather or dusty conditions you may risk getting dirt, grime or water into your camera by changing lenses. Not to mention the inconvenience of changing lenses when doing outdoor activity.

Frost covered tree

3. When the focal length you like isn't covered by a prime lens. Not all focal lengths are covered by primes, especially in the wide end. Canon doesn't make a 10mm prime lens to use on crop bodies, for example. A zoom allows for very precise in camera framing to avoid cropping later.

Climate change

4. To respond quickly to action. I like the challenge and simplicity of just taking my 28mm prime with me on family outings, but I wouldn't risk heading on the family vacation without a zoom or multiple lenses (risk missing some shots I mean). When your subject is coming closer and then moving further you can maintain framing with a zoom.

Lens stabilizer

5. Image stabilization. With Canon and Nikon you basically have to get a zoom if you want a stabilized lens (with a couple of macro lenses as exceptions).

Personally, while I really enjoy working with prime lenses, I do find that I use a single zoom lens (24-105mm) and a prime macro for the majority of my stock photos - so both have an equal place in my kit.

Let me know your comments and thoughts on zooms versus prime lenses.

Photo credits: , Brad Calkins, Jhanger.
Brad Calkins
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  • Bradcalkins
  • Salmon Arm, Canada

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March 11, 2011

nice shots. Good luck


March 03, 2011

nice pics and i like it.good luck to you


February 25, 2011

All good points. I'd have to agree. As for me, I love my prime lenses, I love my zooms. They each have a special place in my heart, depending on my mood, my subjects, etc. However, I will admit that my zooms at times cause me to be lazy...I don't move around as much. With my primes, I am forced to move and really think about where i want to stand and focus, etc.. And with my zooms, I always have to remember to try to stay within my sweet spot, or I may lose a good stock picture due to lens quality issues.


February 25, 2011

Thanks - I can't take credit for the Grand Canyon shot, though :)


February 25, 2011

Great points and great images Brad.


February 25, 2011

Thanks for sharing...


February 24, 2011

Agreed. I have a prime macro that also functions for normal use but like you said, if my fickle mind wants to change the frame, I end up moving a lot. You can't always do that. Zoom lenses have come a long way in quality (some, in the past, have claimed that primes are the way to go for pro quality, but I disagree) the modern zoom can deliver incredible results and give you invaluable versatility to get any shot you need from any point.


February 24, 2011

Thanks for sharing! Great blog


February 24, 2011

Great blog Brad! Thanks for sharing! :)


February 24, 2011

I totaly agree with all of your points.

I used to use three prime lenses (24mm, 50mm and 100mm). Although I loved the quality images they produced, I did not enjoy carrying around their weight. And as you said, since I started using a zoom (24mm-105mm) I missed out on very few photo opportunities while before it was quite common. To catch that magic moment, you have to react quickly, very quickly.
I'm using a Canon 5D without automatic dust removal, exposing the camera internals to dust and dirt is really not an option. I can't afford having my sensor cleaned every week.


February 24, 2011

Thanks again for sharing your experience...


February 24, 2011

The Canon 24-70mm zoom is as sharp as any prime lens Ive seen. I think that zoom lens technology, in many cases - not all, has come to par with prime.

It is true that there are zooms sharper or as sharp as primes, but primes usually have the f/stop advantage at least. The 24-70mm is a great lens, but a lot more money than an equivalent like the Canon 35mm f/2.0 which beats it in aperture and only costs $300. I do agree, though, that one of the reasons I use my 24-105mm so much is that it is just as sharp as my primes at f/4-f/5.6... It doesn't beat any of my primes on weight, price or max aperture though :)

I think wide aperture will always be the main difference to justify a prime lens over a zoom. f/2.8 zooms come really close, especially when you consider than many of the fast primes have lower contrast and sharpness wide open - requiring stopping down to f/2 or f/2.8 anyways for max sharpness. This is from a stock photo perspective, of course, where sharpness has more importance...


February 24, 2011

The Canon 24-70mm zoom is as sharp as any prime lens I've seen. I think that zoom lens technology, in many cases - not all, has come to par with prime.


February 24, 2011

I agree. I like the sharpness from prime lenses but unless you are at the right distance and are shooting something relatively still, you risk missing some shots and/or need to do cropping in post-processing, latter of which would reduce the sharpness benefit.


February 24, 2011

Great blog.