A Beginner's Guide to Prime Lenses

When you're just starting out in photography, one of the first things you'll probably wonder about is the difference between prime and zoom lenses. Check out this helpful video that details the characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages of both types.

Many photographers (particularly wedding and portrait pros) swear by prime lenses, which, simply put, are lenses that have a fixed focal length. When you're first starting out, there is a tendency to think that zoom lenses offer you a bunch of extra focal lengths, so why would you ever want to buy a prime lens? This helpful video from e6 Vlogs details why you might want to consider one. In my opinion, while there are advantages such as weight, light-gathering ability, and thinner depth of field, I really think that prime lenses are best for beginners, because the inability to zoom forces one to think about composition much more, and you quickly begin to appreciate the different looks offered by different focal lengths. I also think primes are just more fun to shoot with. 

And if you'd like continue learning the basics of photography, be sure to check out "Photography 101: How to Use Your Digital Camera and Edit Photos in Photoshop!"

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Peter Guyton's picture

Good intro. There are certain subjects that tend to ignite flame wars: Canon vs Nikon (and now Sony), Mac vs PC, Mirrorless vs DSLR, and prime vs zoom. I'm personally a "prime first" guy and save the zoom for "zoom situations" if you will, so I kind of agree with the video. I wish he'd shown some 85/105/135 (equiv) shallow DOF shots though.

"you quickly begin to appreciate the different looks offered by different focal lengths"


I'd go further to say that, in my experience, shooting primes teaches you to SEE at different focal lengths. Photography is, in a nutshell, learning exposure, learning the machine/gear and then putting the knowledge of those two together, to realise the photo you see in your head.

Learning with primes builds in your head a way of seeing at that focal length. This is an essential part of building good pre-visualisation skills.