My personal favourite
There is a reason why these type of lenses are called “Prime”. In the world of photography, it is a primary part of any photographer’s lens collection, as it delivers high quality images and gives you a wide aperture range. Just fix one on to your DSLR and start shooting and you will see the results for yourself.
What makes a prime lens, prime?
Like any other lens that you can think of, a prime lens has its own characteristics. These factors make a prime lens stand out from the slew of other lenses.
- Focal length: The first thing that you will notice about this lens is that, unlike other lenses, which have a range of maximum and minimum focal length that you can vary, this one is fixed to one particular focal length.
- Aperture: Prime lenses can have very huge apertures compared to other lenses.
- Depth of Field: With great aperture, comes great Bokeh. Bokeh is a Japanese term that denotes the way the lens aesthetically renders the out of focus points in a frame.
Fixed Focal Length
In technical terms, the distance between the lens and the point in front of the lens in space where the light converges is known as the focal point. This means all the points in front or beyond this point will not focus and will result in lens blur. This is also the reason for the shallow depth of field.
Since prime lenses have a fixed focal length, you will not be able to zoom in and out. You will have to move and position yourself or your subject to get the composition right.
The fixed focal length makes do with the clunky zoom in and out mechanism. However, their huge aperture sizes do more than just compensate for having a fixed focal length.
The maximum aperture range starts at f/1.8 or even f/1.4. That means during a clear day light, you will be able to shoot at shutter speeds beyond 1/1000th of a second at ISO 100 thus resulting in very sharp, very clear images. Even during twilight situations, you will be able to shoot at 1/125th of a second, which is still a safe range for hand-held shooting.
Bokeh effect works great especially in portraits. Have you ever seen those fantastic portrait shots in magazines? The ones that have their subject in focus but the background appears to have disappeared into a pleasing blurry evanescence. With a prime lens, taking such shots will be as easy as shooting from a point and shoot camera.
The massive 1.4 aperture makes it very easy to keep the object alone in focus and blur all the other background and foreground points thus creating a very tight and shallow depth of field. Even at f/1.8, this still works great.
Uses of a prime lens
Having a fixed focal length, one might think that the prime lenses will lack in utility. You may think that it is probably only for some specific shooting needs. However, that is not the case. There is more to a prime lens than what meets the eye.
Personally, I feel this is the number one use of a prime lens. The moment I have to shoot a portrait, the first thing I do is fix up a prime lens on my camera. Portrait photography is all about getting the model’s vision in focus and a prime does just that for you. Set the focus point on the eye of the model and let the auto focus do the rest of the work.