Getting Serious - #6 - I'm a Lazy Zoomer
(Nikon D7000 / 18 to 200 mm f3.5 to 5.6 - 200 mm / 1/250th / f5.6 / ISO 250)
Getting Serious - # 6 - I'm a Lazy Zoomer
Many use the mantra - zoom lens convenience v prime lens quality.
Zoom lenses are everywhere. Pretty much all consumer 'point & shoots' & all Bridge Cameras. Even Compact System Cameras & Digital SLRs are typically sold with a kit zoom lens.
But there are many enthusiast snappers who disown zooms and stick to prime lenses.
Many professional wedding photographers prefer to shoot using primes - and wide primes - say f1.4 or wider - to let them snap away in gloomy conditions without resorting to the often mood-changing use of flash.
As in many aspects of life, there is no right or wrong answer - and the answer probably depends on you and the type of photographs you mostly take.
Let's hear it for the Zoomers.
If I am travelling, and taking my Nikon DX / APS-C sized sensor camera body, I will typically take my DX 18 to 200 mm / f3.5 to f5.6 zoom lens with me. This body plus lens combination is pretty small, and gives me the 35 mm equivalent of 28 mm (pretty wide) to 300 mm (a decent telephoto). The aperture of f3.5 to f5.6 isn't that wide - but if it gets dark, I just use a higher ISO. And accept a little bit more noise in my photo.
If I am taking my Nikon FX (Full frame) body I will strap on my FX 28 mm to 300 mm / f3.5 to f5.6 lens. (Yes. I am very predictable.) This FX body & lens combination is a bit bigger & heavier than its DX / APS-C counterpart - but the larger sensor in the FX body gives me better ISO / noise performance and better Auto-Focus than my DX body. (In fact, the Auto-Focus system on the Nikon D750 can perform extremely well in very low light conditions.)
So, when I am travelling, or even if I am just on a general walkabout, I am very happy to take a wide to tele zoom.
Quality v Convenience
But, does not the 'quality' - by which most people mean 'sharpness' - suffer? Well, even consumer zooms - like the ones above - will give you more than enough 'quality' for most uses. If you know the print is going to be the size of a bill board, then you probably choose the wrong lens. But for everything else - and especially for online / social media use - the combinations above are absolutely fine. (In fact, for social media use, they are over kill - use your phone instead.) I have taken pictures with these consumer zooms that have been used both online and in hard copy in local and national newspapers.
The big advantage of zooms is their convenience. For DX the 18 to 200 mm and for FX the 28 to 300 mm is pretty much a bag full of lenses in one, neat, package.
The main disadvantage is the aperture - typically f3.5 at the wide angle end and say f5.6 at the telephoto end. Not great, but with today's digital cameras having decent ISO performance that is not a problem for most general photography.
Having Your Cake & Eating It
But, you can have your cake and eat it. As well as taking either the DX or the FX kit above, if I am going DX, I also bring along a 35 mm / f1.8 DX lens (equiv in Full frame to 50 mm). And for my FX kit I bring along - yes, you've guessed it - a 50 mm f1.8 FX lens - often referred to as 'the nifty fifty'.
These small - and comparativey cheap - prime lenses are used when I am shooting in low light. The aperture of f1.8 compared to the zooms' f3.5 really helps in low light conditions. Plus the ability of the wide f1.8 aperture to blur out the background and isolate the subject - especially in portrait conditions - is another advantage.
The Best Starter Zoom
If you do buy a Compact System Camera or a Digital SLR you may wish to save up a bit more, and not purchase the offered kit zoom - typically on a APS-C sensor camera a 18 to 55 mm lens (equiv in full frame to 27 mm to 82.5 mm). If you can afford it, a 18 to 200 mm (equiv in full frame to 27 mm to 300 mm) is quite possibly the only zoom most of us will ever need.
But if you can't afford it, enjoy using the kit zoom of 18 to 55 mm.
The Best Starter Prime
Eventually, you will want a prime lens. I would suggest, for most of us, the best starter prime is a 35 mm / f1.8 (for DX / APS-C cameras) or the 50 mm / f1.8 (for FX/ full frame cameras). These are cheap-as-chips primes and can give beautiful pictures, used properly.
So, enjoy having your cake & eating it!
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