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  1. #1
    Senior Member
    hulk2012's Avatar

    Prime vs zoom - which ones give better IQ

    I'm considering few lenses for my d600 and would like to know your opinion of which lenses provide better picture quality and IQ - a prime or zoom ones..


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  2. #2
    Happy to be Canadian
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    Marcel's Avatar

    Re: Prime vs zoom - which ones give better IQ

    Quality and IQ= Primes
    Practicality= Zooms
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  3. #3
    Senior Member

    Re: Prime vs zoom - which ones give better IQ

    Quote Originally Posted by Marcel View Post
    Quality and IQ= Primes
    Practicality= Zooms
    In a nutshell, yes. But that does not mean that zooms lack either build quality or IQ. If I'm inside in a studio environment then I can see working mostly with primes, but that's not me, I'm shooting in an uncontrolled environment 99% of the time, so a zoom makes my life that much easier. Plus, outside I don't have to worry so much about swapping lenses in a dusty environment as often. As I stated in your D600 v D800 thread, I've got nothing to complain about regarding IQ from the zooms I shoot with.
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  4. #4
    Gear Head
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    gqtuazon's Avatar

    Re: Prime vs zoom - which ones give better IQ

    Quote Originally Posted by hulk2012 View Post
    I'm considering few lenses for my d600 and would like to know your opinion of which lenses provide better picture quality and IQ - a prime or zoom ones..
    For just about everything, the Nikon 24-70-200mm f2.8 combo are essential to me.

    I use a prime lens if I want to go light. My zoom lenses have very good IQ and can match today's prime lenses but they are heavier. Combined weight of few primes will be heavier than one of my f2.8 zoom.

    For specific shoot, I sometimes use my primes which is why I have both to make things less complicated.
    Last edited by gqtuazon; 09-12-2013 at 02:32 PM.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Browncoat's Avatar

    Re: Prime vs zoom - which ones give better IQ

    If you're asking this question, you're not going to notice the difference anyway. My opinion on lenses is this:

    The biggest quality difference in lenses is all about the f-stop. A 5.6 lens is never going to be able to produce the same quality as a 2.8 lens (in most situations). Photography is all about lighting, and a 5.6 lens just can't make good use of available lighting. Unless you're a commercial professional where every single detail counts, all those tech reviews about IQ, chromatic aberration, blurring in the corners...all of it...it's just useless and confusing to the average Joe.

    As a general rule, primes produce a higher quality, sharper image than their zoom counterparts. The trade-off is that primes aren't really adaptable for obvious reasons.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member
    SkvLTD's Avatar

    Re: Prime vs zoom - which ones give better IQ

    But you know, if you want a +1 excuse to lean towards primes over zooms- getting that exact moment could be all the sweeter when you know you can only snap it at a certain distance/moment and then its gone all the same. It could add that extra semantic to the whole process vs knowing that you can always just zoom in and get it.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Skytalker's Avatar

    Re: Prime vs zoom - which ones give better IQ

    It is true that primes were better than zooms a while ago. But not anymore especially with Nikon.
    The Nikon 14-24/24-70/70-200mm are on par with every prime in the range of 14-200mm. Even more the Nikon 14-24 is sharper than any prime in its range.
    Nikon D4/D3/D300; Nikon 12-24G; 14-24G; 24-70G; 70-200G; 18-200; 35 1.8G; 50 1.4D; 85 1.4D; 105D micro; 105DC; 2sb900; 2sb800.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Horoscope Fish's Avatar

    Re: Prime vs zoom - which ones give better IQ

    I think before this question can be answered one has to define what they mean by "image quality". I think it's safe to say prime lenses are known to give SHARPER images over zooms, generally speaking, but that implies sharper is always better and leaves out important considerations such as contrast and saturation. That logic also implies by extension that zoom lenses render inferior results, which is certainly not the case. In point of fact I think the whole argument is silly and what we should really be focused on is not so much our equipment but how we use it. And spare me that tired argument about buying the best equipment to ensure it's pilot error vs limitation of equipment; that's the cry of the equipment fetishist. Quit asking, "What lens do I need to get the shot I want?" and start asking, "How do I get the shot I want with the lens I have?"

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  9. #9
    Senior Member
    mikeh32217's Avatar

    Re: Prime vs zoom - which ones give better IQ

    Quote Originally Posted by Horoscope Fish View Post
    I think before this question can be answered one has to define what they mean by "image quality". I think it's safe to say prime lenses are known to give SHARPER images over zooms, generally speaking, but that implies sharper is always better and leaves out important considerations such as contrast and saturation. That logic also implies by extension that zoom lenses render inferior results, which is certainly not the case. In point of fact I think the whole argument is silly and what we should really be focused on is not so much our equipment but how we use it. And spare me that tired argument about buying the best equipment to ensure it's pilot error vs limitation of equipment; that's the cry of the equipment fetishist. Quit asking, "What lens do I need to get the shot I want?" and start asking, "How do I get the shot I want with the lens I have?"

    .....
    I whole heartily agree, while a good bow with cheap arrows is not optimal if you can't hit the target then even the best equipment will be of not benefit.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member
    Skytalker's Avatar

    Re: Prime vs zoom - which ones give better IQ

    Line widths per picture height (LW/PH) can be taken as a measure for sharpness. If you want to know more about the MTF50 figures you may check out the corresponding Imatest Explanations.

    So summing up:
    1) on DX the 14-24|24-70|70-200 are SHARPER than any prime in the range of 14-200mm.
    2) on FX the 14-24|24-70|70-200 are ON PAR or SHARPER than any prime in the range of 14-200mm.

    To say that primes are sharper than nowadays professional zooms is INACCURATE.
    But they are sharper than consumer zooms.
    Last edited by Skytalker; 09-12-2013 at 05:47 PM.
    Nikon D4/D3/D300; Nikon 12-24G; 14-24G; 24-70G; 70-200G; 18-200; 35 1.8G; 50 1.4D; 85 1.4D; 105D micro; 105DC; 2sb900; 2sb800.
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