If you own a DSLR or are interested in photography, you must have come across the term ‘Prime Lens’. People seem crazy about them, but what exactly is a prime lens?
A prime lens is a fixed focal length (FFL) lens. Unlike regular zoom lenses, this means you can’t change the focal length to zoom in or out. The photographer has to move around to get the required composition.
Prime lenses often have large apertures ranging between f1.2 to f2.8. This makes prime lenses inherently better than zoom lenses as you get a more shallow depth of field (the background blur you see in photos), better low-light performance, and better overall image quality.
Since the aperture on these lenses is generally quite large, they get more light in. That means you can shoot on a lower ISO in low light conditions, reducing noise (or image grain). Also, these lenses often tend to have less focal distances, which means you can get close to your subject and still have it in focus.
As mentioned above, prime lenses are fixed in focal length; hence, there are different prime lenses of different focal lengths available for various purposes. In this post, we go over four of the most common types of prime lenses and help you decide which one to choose when.
Note: For this article, we’ll consider only Canon lenses, but the information holds for all lenses regardless of brand.
The 24mm is a prime wide-angle lens that can pack a lot of pixels into a single frame. What you get is a rectilinear wide-angle image. It just happens to be coming from a prime lens.
The main advantage to using this lens, apart from the wide aperture, is its focal length only. While you give up a little bit of that depth of field as compared to 35, 50 and 85mm lenses, you gain in portability and image size.
This lens is a lifesaver if you happen to be shooting in constraints and indoors and still want the depth of field or clarity or perhaps the cinematic look if you’re shooting video.
Like any other prime lens, this lens also has many variants. The Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM, coming in at about INR 8k, is an excellent example of a 24mm prime that doesn’t break the bank. While you can get wider apertures than that, the lenses will be way more bulky, heavy and expensive.
Moving on to a slightly more narrower lens. The 35mm fits in the sweet spot between the 50mm being too narrow and the 24mm is too wide.
The main advantage the 35mm provides over the 24mm is that it can still give somewhat of a wide-angle view in an f/2 aperture. That is, without the lens being super bulky or expensive. You can immediately pick a 35mm f/2.0 lens by Yongnuo for your Canon DSLR for about INR 7k on Amazon.
The 35mm is an excellent indoor and outdoor photography lens. The wider aperture also provides for outstanding low-light performance. All in all, a solid choice for any photographer/videographer alike.
The 50mm is perhaps the most commonly known prime lens professionals and amateurs use. At 50mm, the lens is relatively narrow and provides for a zoomed-in image. The main advantages here are the portability, price and the f/1.8 aperture.
You can use the 50mm for pretty much every type of photography. It is a highly versatile lens that can be adapted to any situation and style. You also get highly cinematic-looking footage with it.
The 50mm (known as the Nifty Fifty) is quite a fast lens for your price. That f/1.8 aperture gives you excellent bokeh; you get insane low-light performance and amazing overall image quality.
The 50mm prime f/1.8 by Yongnuo for Canon is available on Amazon for about INR 4.4k compared to Canon’s 50mm f/1.8 EF-S STM, which is double the price at INR 8k. There are several other third-party sellers available as well.
Note that there is an f/1.4 variant also available, but it’s significantly more expensive.
This one’s going to be a bit heavy. The 85mm is the priciest lens on this list and for a good reason. You get a medium telephoto lens with an f/1.8 aperture at this focal length. The 85mm is similar to the 50mm, except for the focal length.
If you’re shooting outdoors, this is your lens of choice. You get telephoto, wide aperture, fantastic image clarity and some nice bokeh. This is also known as a portrait lens for its ability to capture more extended subjects.
Canon’s offering of the 85mm f/1.8 USM on Amazon is INR 29k. Quite on the pricy side, but the lens is worth its price.