• Timothy Philip

Primes vs Zooms

Choosing the best lens for your next project.


I discussed in my previous post the difference between cinema lenses and still lenses, but now I am going to talk about choosing the best focal length for you.


What types of lenses are there?

Prime lenses are the most common and have a fixed focal length. One example of a prime lens is also known as the "normal" lens, or 50mm lens. When attached to a full-frame 35mm camera sensor, the 50mm is said to give the most realistic view compatible to our human eye. Others argue a 35mm is the "normal" lens as well, visually similar to the view from both eyes open at once. Confused? One eye open looks like a 50mm perspective, both eyes open look like a 35mm point-of-view. These lenses are usually lighter and faster than zoom lenses due to less glass being used. Most of the famous cinematographers that make the movies you love to watch use these lenses.


Zoom lenses allow different focal lengths from one, single lens. This makes them more flexible than prime lenses, but not as fast, and heavier. They are extremely versatile for fast-action environments, such as the popular 70-200mm which is used by many wedding and sport photographers alike, or the 24-70mm lens.


Within these two categories of lenses, below is a guide to different focal lengths used and what environments they are used for.


Please note that some lenses are designed for different camera bodies. DSLR, Mirrorless, or even Cinema cameras are either full-frame or crop sensors. While full-frame lenses can be used on a crop sensor, a lens designed with a crop sensor cannot be used on a full frame camera. Keep that in mind!