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Why not a zoom lens?

Perry_95 7 59 1 Wales
24 Mar 2011 10:37PM
I am fairly new to photography and am thinking in investing in a further telephoto lens than i already have, i am looking at three lenses in particular at the moment, sigma 70-300mm (also macro) pentax 55-300mm and the pentax 300mm, now the pentax 300mm is faster but what are the benefits of not having a zoom? surely there will be times when you are closer to something than your zoom will allow or have i gone copmletely off the tracks in the fact that if this happened you would simply move back or change lens. Also is it better to get pentax own brand which has a wider focal range or go for a sigma which also includes macro and i think it is also a faster lense than the pentax. help please Smile

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coliwolii 8 69 United Kingdom
25 Mar 2011 12:26AM
you've pretty much worked this out for yourself. A lens that is not a zoom is a "prime" lens. Prime's tend to be faster than zoom's and (in the days when I started taking pictures) were allways capable of taking better quality images. However although they still tend to be faster, optic technology has improved to the point where there is less of a difference. As you say you can walk towards or away from your subject for the same effect, if it is possible to do so.
I do however feel that a 300mm prime in your situation would be a mistake. These sort of lenses in my opinion are great for photographers that have an exact purpose for owning that focal length. For you, owning two lenses, a zoom would be a far better option, particularly if the other lens you own meets or overlaps the one you intend to buy. For example: if you own a 24-70 zoom, then a 70-300 would make sense. It also means your not lugging unecasary kit around. Thats not to say you can't add/improve your lenses later on?
I have: 12-24, 24-70, 70-200, 135-400 and a prime macro lens.

As for the Pentax - Sigma debate, I have used both over the years and I would say there is little difference in the two brands (although I'am not familiar with the actual lenses that you speak of).

Hope this helps.
StrayCat 14 19.1k 3 Canada
25 Mar 2011 2:49AM
Hi James. You are in the same situation in which I found myself last year. You need the reach of a long telephoto, plus you will want speed also for sports or wildlife. I had a K20D, and I enjoyed the camera, but for what I wanted to do, eg. birds in flight, grandchildren's activities, general wildlife and street photography, I just ran out of lens choices with Pentax. I could have gone with Sigma, or one of the other 3rd party suppliers, but I knew I still wouldn't be happy, so I sold all my Pentax kit, and just started out fresh with Canon. You don't need to do that.Wink

The way I see it, you have 4 choices with Pentax; the 55-300mm f4-5.6, which gets good reviews, but is not fast enough for action photography, and I would get it over any 3rd party lens of similar focal length; you mentioned the Pentax 300mm f4.0, which is a lot of lens, in fact it's a beauty. I've seen it on the camera of a well known wildlife tog in a documentary on African wildlife. Expensive, and do you want to carry that weight around with you; how about the 60-250mm f4.0? Has a good reputation, over a pound lighter than the 300mm and it's a zoom with a fairly fast constant aperture throughout the range. Same price as the 300mm; now, here's the lens I would have gotten had I stayed with Pentax, the 200mm f2.8 SMD. Fast, sharp, quiet, and solid as a church. Then you could look for a 1.4X AF TC.

Those are the Pentax lens choices you have; now here's a suggestion; have a look at 3rd party 70-200mm lenses, like Sigma, Tokina, and Tamron. Here's the advantage you have, your camera has image stabilization built in, so why would you pay, for example, $1300.00 for a Sigma 70-200mm with OS built into the lens, when you can get one without OS, but with the High speed motor (HSM), which you'll want, for not even half that amount on ebay. Those lenses are very heavy, and big, but you can't get away from that if you want speed, quality, and reach. Then later, you can get a TC for it. A 1.4 TC will give you 420mm on the long end, but the important thing is it's still an f4.0 throughout the range because you will lose only one stop of light. You already have a better close-up lens than the Sigma 70-300 will give you in the Pentax 18-55mm with an 8 inch close focus distance.

So, you have to do your research, and remember, that's half the fun.Grin

Good Luck,
ianrobinson Plus
8 1.2k 8 United Kingdom
25 Mar 2011 8:49AM
As stated above having a prime long focal length lens unless you need one for specialised photography is a waste of hard earned money, don't do it you will find you will not use it very much at all and end up selling it.
I would always go for a zoom lens with this focal length and use primes for short or shorter focal length, lets say 30mm f1.4 50mm f1.4 80mm f1.4. i would say 50mm f1.2 but to be fair i have heard stories from owners of these lens and they say on the canon 5d mark ii there is a focusing issue, these are superb primes that in my opinion can not be beaten for pin sharp accuracy and detail with good light and colour.
I tend to spend more than i can afford on lenses to get the best out of them i only have one long focal zoom lens and that's a canon 70-200mm f2.8 L is usm ii 1800.00s worth, but i have owned the sigma 70-200mm f2.8 hsm basically there so called equivalent, i even had canon none IS version that cost 945.00 and found it to be a hand full and limiting, as for the sigma it really could not do its job properly and no matter how good you were with hand hold it was a blur.
I am very very pleased with making that final decision to spend the extra to have excellent images day in day out and all because i swallowed hard and dug deep into my pocket for 1800.00 as aposed to 945.00.
The benefits i get off this camera is i loose no or very little quality when i put the canon extender on 1.4x or 2x where as the others i will loose quality.

All in all i am glad i spent the money as i feel it is an investment as much as a joy to use. Good lenses never loose there value.
hobbo Plus
7 1.2k 2 England
25 Mar 2011 9:35AM
I get a great deal of pleasure and excellent results from my TAMRON 70-300 Telephoto/Macro lens.....................a good buy if you are on a budget:

Please look at my personal gallery for evidence:

darranl 8 318 England
25 Mar 2011 10:57AM
I also have a basic Tamron 70-300 but used on a Nikon, I have taken some pictures that I am really happy with (and uploading them elsewhere has gained Tamron a couple of additional sales) but one thing I sometimes miss is no image stabalisation - I see you are using a Sony hobbo so already have that built in to the camera body already.
keith selmes 14 7.3k 1 United Kingdom
25 Mar 2011 1:57PM

Quote:what are the benefits of not having a zoom
Lower price, lower weight, less bulk, less to go wrong.
There is the downside that you might miss something because you were changing lenses, might not be able to change your position etc., you really have to work out a personal equation of which of these is most importnat, or most likely be an advantage or a problem. e.g. if you frequently work from a fixed spot, with subjects at a variable distance, zoom could be more important. Or if you often work in open spaces with freedom to move around, and maybe carry the lens long distances, a prime might be better.

Quote:one long focal zoom lens and that's a canon 70-200mm f2.8 L is usm

I wouldn't call that long exactly. Long-ish perhaps.

you will find you will not use it very much at all and end up selling it.

I started using a 200/2.8L with a film camera, and still do. I don't think I'm doing anything specialised, and would tend to see it the other way round - there are specialist activities that justify the cost of a zoom lens.

I expect there are widely different ideas of what specialist and normal would mean, depending where we are and what we do.
mikehit 8 8.0k 13 United Kingdom
25 Mar 2011 6:24PM
I travelled in two years in 1990s with my film SLR and three primes (28mm, 50mm and 180mm) - in those days zooms were crappy or VERY expensive (and usually both). If I had the 'wrong' lens on, I either changed it or enjoyed the scene for what it was - I missed a lot of photos but accepted that as a limitation of the kit and I didn't know any better. A combination of good-quality cheap zooms and 'throw-away' digital imaging means you can photograph as much as you want and always be prepared.

A strong advantage of zooms is that you can experiment easily with focal lengths and very quickly understand how they affect the image. Or, equally likely, the zoom option will make you lazy and stand still instead of moving around to find new angles Tongue.
Primes often have a larger minimum aperture so you can use them in lower light, or use the depth of field creatively. Although the 300mm is faster, I would suggest getting the zoom and only think seriously about the prime if you do a lot of sports/wildlife and want the wider aperture to isolate the subject from the background.

In general (certainly with Canon) the own-brand zooms focus quicker, are often quieter and are sometimes more mechanically reliable. This comes from the fact that Sigma/Tamron do not have access to the AF technology but reverse engineer it. Having said that, Sigma/Tamron etc do make damned fine optics which satisfies many a professional - and unlike the hobbyist who often buys for status, the professional buys something that is good enough to bring the money in and make a living .
coliwolii 8 69 United Kingdom
26 Mar 2011 12:03AM
As you can see a lot of different opinions!

Just something to be mindful of - there is a couple of posts above talking about changing lenses and then mention an armoury of several very expensive prime optics.
If I understood you correctly, you are adding 1 lens to an already owned kit zoom? If this is the case then I would suggest (for the time being at least) this is a "no brainer" ......you need a zoom.

Something else not mentioned with the "prime lens" argument, if you are going to spend your time photographing outdoors (which I presume you must be with a 300mm), changing optics WILL cause dust problems. A possible additional expense, I suspect you can do without?


keith selmes 14 7.3k 1 United Kingdom
26 Mar 2011 11:39AM
The extra expense for dealing with dust is a few pounds for one of those rubber rocket squeezy air blower things. Smile
And sometimes a bit of image cleaning on the computer.
I think rarely people get something that won't budge that easily, it seems pretty unusual though.
coliwolii 8 69 United Kingdom
26 Mar 2011 9:18PM
Not stricly true Keith,
a rocket blower can remove sensor dust a lot of the time, but certainly not all . In fact I believe if you search e_Photozine for "sensor cleaning" you will find several articles on the subject, most suggesting that a blower is the least effective way of removing dust. Incidentally the few pounds you speak of actually equates to around 35 if you buy "Visible dust's" Zeeion blower! The same company sells sensor cleaning kits for over 100, with little sign of them going bankrupt?
The fact is that if you change lenses regularly out side, you will experience dust problems at some time, how you rectify this varies, but it will come to some cost and/or hassle.

However I find myself doing something that I really hate about ePhotozine forums - moving away from subject!

This young photographer is asking for advice on which lens to buy, one of the lenses he is considering (remeber as a second lens, with the first being a kit lens) is a 300mm prime. I feel that this would be a bad choice, if you or anyone else disagrees with this, speak up and give your reasons. But I fear you will be typing as the "men in white coats" are dragging you away!
Perry_95 7 59 1 Wales
26 Mar 2011 9:23PM
I was thinking of not buying the prime lens but was wondering what the benefits are, and as i am certainly not a specialist in any area (i enjoy all kinds, wildlife, sports, portraits, landscape, etc) therefor i think i was right in going for a zoom lens. I have encounterd a dust issue so am purchasing a rocket blower since the incamera sensor cleaner cant remove it. Thanks Coliwolii on the other hand for reminding people that this was a prime vs zoom lens discussion :L :L no worries, thanks everyone for their input and more inputs to push me towards a zoom are welcome Wink

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