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Tips Photography


oom lenses

Why carry around a whole bag of fixed focal length ("prime") lenses when you could just buy a Tamron 28-200 zoom lens for $300? With a twist of a ring, the Tamron will give you any focal length from 28mm to 200mm. The only problem with this idea is that, sadly, the laws of physics and common sense have not been repealed.

Photographic lenses in general are not very good. They only appear to be good because people very seldom enlarge or closely inspect images. Lenses are subject to many kinds of distortion, all of which are more difficult to engineer around in a zoom lens. Furthermore, zoom lenses tend to be slower (admit less light) than prime lenses. This forces the photographer into using flash and/or a tripod.

Does that mean you shouldn't buy a zoom lens? Absolutely not. I own three beautiful zoom lenses for my Canon EOS system: 20-35/2.8L, 28-70/2.8L, and 70-200/2.8L. These are a great convenience for the lazy and/or pressed-for-time photographer. However, none of these are as good as prime lenses in their focal length range. Each of these zooms costs about $1500 so they won't help you out if you don't like the prices of the prime lenses.

Personally I'd rather have my 28-70/2.8L than a 50/1.8. But I'd rather have the 50/1.8 than Canon's cheaper mid-range zooms. And I'd rather have a Yashica T4 point-and-shoot than a bottom-priced Tokina mid-range zoom