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When do you use prime lenses / Best situation to use prime lenses - during an event.

mvheystmvheyst Member
edited February 2012 in wedding photography
When you shoot an event (e.g. wedding) you need to work fast. Fast (f/2.8) Zoom lenses (e.g. 17-55mm) is very helpful and convenient. Prime lenses are faster (e.g. 1.4 / 1.8) and it has better optical quality (and shallower max depth of field).

I want to know when do you actually use a prime lens (e.g. the 85mm f/1.8 or 35mm f/1.8) lenses. In which situation (during an event) would you actually remove a zoom lens (and loose the convenience) in favour of the prime lens?

Therefore, I want to know when you can't be without a prime lens..


  • TruemomentsTruemoments Member
    edited February 2012
    I use my zoom lenses during the procession (70-200) and for reception (17-55). Most of the time I use 17-55 for its versatility- group shots on the table, dance floor shots, etc. I use primes like 105 macro for my ring shots, bouquet and cake images. 50mm for some portrait shots (I use DX Nikon so 50mm is just perfect). Another zoom I use is my 11-16 wide lens for album cover shots, like architecture of the church, venue and some creative shots. I use 2 cameras all the time so I prevent missing the a-ha shots of the wedding from changing lenses. or to get a full frame effect shot I do photo stitching (some call it Brenizer thingy) by using my 70-200mm zoom or 85mm prime.
    So I don't know if this can help just wanted to share, thanks
  • i break out the primes in loooow light.
  • mvheystmvheyst Member
    edited February 2012
    Truemoments & kennykodak - Thanks for the replies.

    I want to find practical & compelling reasons why I should use prime lenses vs Zoom lenses during an event. Say I have 3 bodies, with 3 zoom lenses (wide angle, normal zoom & tele zoom). When would you remove a zoom lens (and loose the versitility) in favour of a prime lens?

    * Macro lens (e.g. Nikon 105mm) for close-up shots of rings, bouquet, etc. This makes perfect sense & I would change one of the zooms for a macro lens.

    * Low light (when do you actually replace a f/2.8 17-50mm zoom lens with a 35mm f/1.8, 85mm f/1.4 or 85mm f/1.8 ?

    In low light - Why would you replace a zoom lens with a prime lens, if you can use flash?

    * Depth of field ?

    * Image quality ? (When is the image quality of a prime lens prefered above the flexibility & quality of a good zoom lens (e.g. Nikon 24-70mm) ?

    * Portraits? Is a prime lens really better? ( Most of the portraits on this website was shot using a Nikon 24-70mm lens. )
  • it depends if you focus (pun intended) on quality or quantity...wide open at 1.2or 1.4 aint nothing like 2.8 with three bodies I'd use 24mm 1.5, 85mm 12. and 135 mm 2.0

    most def depth of field and isolation from background
  • assuming your zoom lens is at best a 2.8 then a 50/1.2 or a 35/1.4 will connect focus wise a lot easier. you might even catch a garter or bouquet in the air at an outdoor event. a slower zoom is going hunt (focus search) like a coon dog in spring. there's the bokeh thing of open aperture and then there is tack sharp timely focus that's captures the moment.

  • For all my weddings to date I've used the 3 Nikon zoom, 14-24, 24-70 & 70-200, but for the first couple I had the 85mm f/1.4D and the third I rented the 24mm f/1.4

    I find that the vast bulk of the wedding is covered by zooms, I don't have the experience to know what prime to have on for certain times so play it safe and use the 24-70 and 70-200 on two bodies nearly all the time. If I see a shot, for example wide shot from the back of the church, or large group shot, I'll throw on the 14-24mm.
    I used the 85mm for portraits, once I have a few portrait shots in the bag, and time allowed I'd put on the 85mm and take a few with that.
    During the first dance I'd use the 85mm and also the 24mm when I rent it that one time.
    When I look back on the weddings to date, and take into account the shots the couples liked the most, and what I think are my best shots, the primes come out top in terms of percentage, not sure why, is it the dept of field, out of focus area, not sure why to be honest.

    For the last wedding I sold the 85mm f/1.4D before it and did not rent the 24mm, just shot with zooms. The photos seems just as good and the bride was delighted with the shots and album, from the photography side of things I felt the zooms struggled with the low light at the first dance so I had to settle for a mixture of higher noise than I'd like or use flash a couple of times. But to be honest the couple did not care.

    Two articles that you might find interesting, first if by Jeff Ascough who gives a straight to the point articles or if he uses primes or zooms at weddings. Second is by Neil giving some info on the lenses he uses at weddings.


  • From Reviews Written by Glenn Carpenter

    " ... the most important quality of a fast prime is its ability to take photographs using a large aperture: without this ability there are any number of excellent consumer and professional zooms that are capable of doing the same job. Its essential distinguishing quality, then, is its ability to make images at apertures wider than f/2.8 ..."
  • http://www.sujoyrdas.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/fast-lenses-are-meant-to-be-shot-wide.html

    " In my book fast glass should be used wide open, otherwise why pay the premium for a fast 1.8 prime lens? "

    " Bokeh

    An issue which is not often discussed is the bokeh or the out of focus background with a fast lens. The creamy bokeh of a Nikon 85 1.4 is to be seen to be believed and well worth the investment in the lens if you need photos of this type. "
  • What I need to do to blur the background is in CS5 I use a lens blur. I select the person and then feather and then use lens blur.
  • NaftoliNaftoli Member
    lens blur in PS is nowhere near the same as real bokeh it is tedious to apply besides being unrealistic. ironically u want to blur the background of photos in photoshop that were taken with too much dof due to slow max aperature on cheap lenses however the more dof thats in the image the harder it is to select and extract the subject, for example if the it were a medium close up portrait and u took it at f2.8 and u want to make the background more blurry in most cases u can just grap the quick selection tool and quickly make ur selection in a few brush strokes, but if ur using and aperature of f6.3 it can easily take 3 times as long to get a good mask
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    edited December 2013
    What that author doesn't consider, is that a wide aperture does not necessarily give you great bokeh.

    Bokeh is NOT the same as shallow depth-of-field.

    look at the bokeh here of the Nikon 50mm f1.4 when used wide open:

    It looks terrible.
  • I know this may sound low tech and a little ignorant, but personally, I try to use an all around zoom lens when I can because I hate lugging equipment. And I have lost so many great "never gonna get that again" moments fumbling with switching camera lenses. I put one lens on, get down to business, and keep my eye on the subject so as not to miss anything. Maybe I just work with too many toddlers?
    Is this unreasonable?
  • everything is a tradeoff u have to figure out what works for u, quality, speed, time, r just a few things to be factored in when choosing which gear to use, if ur so pressed for time and u dont want to hold a big heavy camera u can by a point and shoot that has 28x optical zoom and u will never have to switch lenses and u can carry it all day, but the quality of ur photos will be nowhere near what it would be had u been shooting with even a 50mm 1.8 prime on a dslr, personally i wouldnt feel good about the quality of my work if i would use an all in one zoom for everything
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