Prime lens: What Is It And When To Use It

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A prime lens, also known as simply a prime, is a camera lens that has only one fixed focal length.

As opposed to a zoom lens—which has variable focal lengths and a range of options in between—a prime lens typically offers superior clarity, light-gathering capabilities, less distortion and distortion control, sharper images, and greater depth of field than its zoom counterpart.

What is a prime lens

The downside to prime lenses is their lack of versatility; you must move your camera in order to zoom in and out if you prefer to change the composition or subject size composition within the frame. Prime lenses are ideal for certain kinds of photography where such tradeoffs can be made in favor of image quality. Landscape photographers will often use wide angle primes for their work because they need the widest field of view possible without any optical distortions or lack luster images. Wildlife photographers on the other hand might opt for longer telephoto primes that allow them to capture distant subjects with greater detail.

Overall, it is important to know your subject when deciding whether or not to use a prime lens; if you’re doing portrait or general photography that requires precision focus and high picture quality then choosing one might be beneficial for overall image quailty. However if you have subjects on the move or need more versatility then choosing a zoom lens may be more suited for your needs.

What Is A Prime Lens?

A prime lens is a fixed focal length lens that has no zoom capabilities. Prime lenses are usually smaller, lighter and sharper than their zoom counterparts, and they produce sharper images due to their simpler design.


Prime lenses are a great choice for photographers who want to capture vibrant images with great depth of field. In this article, we’ll discuss the different types of prime lenses, when to use them, and the benefits they provide:

Benefits of Prime Lenses

Prime lenses are prized by photographers because they offer superior image quality and allow greater control over the outcome of images. They typically have a larger maximum aperture than comparable zooms, giving them more light gathering capability and allowing faster shutter speeds in low light situations. These lenses also tend to be more compact and lightweight than their zoom counterparts, making them easier to carry and handle. Furthermore, their fixed focal length forces you to compose shots more creatively as you don’t have the option of zooming or adjusting your perspective with different focal lengths.

This combination of features makes prime lenses especially well-suited for portrait and low-light photography as well as close-ups or macro shots requiring extreme depth-of-field. Prime lenses are often considered the most effective way to capture high quality images. Photographers who use primes can also benefit from having several different focal lengths available for specific shooting situations, allowing for greater flexibility and creativity when it comes time to take a picture.

Drawbacks of Prime Lenses

Prime lenses can become a relatively expensive investment as they range from moderately priced starter models to very expensive professional quality lenses. Additionally, they typically have slower maximum apertures which may limit low light shooting capabilities. Finally, prime lenses provide limited flexibility in terms of focal length options, as there are no zoom functionality or variation within the lens itself.

However, there are benefits that can make up for these drawbacks. Prime lenses generally feature superior sharpness and improved optical performance due to the fixed design and fewer elements used in construction. They also tend to offer improved color accuracy, less chromatic aberration, faster autofocus performance, and greater build quality when compared to zoom lenses of similar price range. Additionally, prime lenses often feature superior low light performance due to their wide maximum apertures and usually have less distortion than their zoom counterparts – making them the perfect choice for portrait shots and landscapes where fine details need to be captured with precision.

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When To Use A Prime Lens

A prime lens is a lens that has a fixed focal length, meaning you can’t zoom in or out. Prime lenses are great for photographers who want to take sharp, high quality photos and take advantage of the wide aperture and low light performance.

But when should you use a prime lens? Here, we’ll cover the best times to use a prime lens, so you can get the most out of your photography.

Low Light Photography

Using a prime lens when shooting in low light is a great choice. Prime lenses can be expensive, but they have much less noise due to their larger aperture and fewer lens elements which means higher quality images at lower ISO settings. Prime lenses also have a shallower depth of field which helps separate the subject from the background. Coupled with their wider maximum aperture, prime lenses can be perfect for capturing brighter images in low light situations without increasing ISO levels too much.

The drawback of course is that prime lenses are fixed focal length so you cannot zoom in or out as you can with a zoom lens – you’ll need to physically move closer or further away from your subject. This could be particularly difficult if you’re shooting in close quarters or when doing architecture photography because precise perspective control is needed for the most desirable results.

But if you don’t mind lacking the ability to quickly switch between several different focal lengths and want high-quality images with good light gathering power – prime lenses are well suited for the job.

Portrait Photography

Portrait photography calls for a higher emphasis on background blur known as “bokeh”. This effect can be achieved with prime lenses as they feature larger apertures, which allow more light to enter the lens and create images with shallow depth-of-field. This type of lens also offers a fixed focal length which helps portrait photographers maintain consistent perspective between shots.

When compared to a zoom lens, the lack of zoom capability may seem limiting, but the lack of bulk means that you have more flexibility in your composition since you won’t have to make room for the extra glass and housing that adds weight to zooms. With less weight and bulk also comes less vibration, so your shots will be sharper than if you use a zoom lens when capturing portraits.

Prime lenses are also great tools for portrait photography as they aid in blurring backgrounds while creating beautiful borders between its focal point and bokeh. Additionally, prime lenses produce images with exceptional micro contrast due to their sharpness at wide open apertures. The size and weather-sealing features of some models make them ideal choices for outdoor portraits in harsh conditions that may require extra protection from the elements like water or dust.

Landscape Photography

When most people think of landscape photography, they usually think of wide-angle lenses, but there are also times when using a prime lens is the right choice. Prime lenses are fixed focal length lenses and don’t zoom like a zoom lens does. This means that photographers must move their bodies to get closer or further away from their subjects in order to compose the image in the way they want. While this might seem inconvenient at first, prime lenses have several advantages that make them advantageous for landscape photography.

One of the biggest benefits of prime lenses for landscape photography is their low distortion and wide maximum aperture settings. Distortion happens when a lens with a short focal length stretches points on an image outward from its center, creating an effect similar to keystoning in architecture photos. Prime lenses also have wide maximum aperture settings, allowing them to capture more light than a zoom lens can manage, resulting in sharper images with less noise.

Another great feature of prime lenses is that they tend to be considerably lighter than zoom lenses, making them easier and more comfortable to carry out into nature in search of beautiful landscapes. They’re also typically much more affordable than zooms, so if you need both types you won’t break the bank purchasing them.

So while it’s true that you typically need a wide-angle lens for capturing spectacular vistas and sweeping fields as far as your eye can see; don’t discount using a prime lens either as they offer distinct advantages over zooms and can make all kinds of stunning images possible even within the confines of limited space or tight compositions!

Street Photography

Street photography is one of the most popular genres of photography as it allows photographers to capture stunning images within an urban environment. Prime lenses offer a unique opportunity to photographers as they provide a unique field of view. By using prime lenses with a wide maximum aperture, you are able to create stunning bokeh effects and light up much darker scenes.

A great choice for street photography is a prime lens with a wide-angle focal length that captures more elements in the frame. A wider angle will also allow you to be closer to your subjects without having to back out too far—ideal for street shots with small subjects or cramped compositions. The maximum aperture should also provide shallow depth-of-field effects, allowing you separate your subject from its background even when zoomed out further than usual – this results in shots with greater focus on your main subject and enhances visual impact.

Some examples of prime lenses suitable for shooting street should include:

  • 35mm f/2 lens – great for capturing both close and distant subjects in tight spaces and narrow alleyways
  • 50mm f/1.4 lens – ideal for capturing people mid range
  • 85mm f/1,8 lens – perfect for those longer range shots when available light is low, such as sunsets


To sum up, prime lenses are a great choice for photographers who want to capture high-quality images and have the luxury of being able to work with just one lens. Prime lenses can produce sharp results and be used for low-light photography without having to turn to high ISO numbers or complex focusing techniques. They are also ideal for landscape and street photography as they provide narrow depth of field. Many professionals and creative photographers also use prime lenses because they allow them to experiment and create unique images that can’t be achieved with zoom lenses.

Ultimately, understanding how prime lenses work will help you decide if it’s the right option for your needs and budget:

  • Sharp results
  • Low-light photography
  • Ideal for landscape and street photography
  • Allows for experimentation and unique images

Hi, I'm Kim, a mom and a stop-motion enthusiast with a background in media creation and web development. I've got a huge passion for drawing and animation, and now I'm diving headfirst into the stop-motion world. With my blog, I'm sharing my learnings with you guys.