Prime vs. Zoom

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by JCJackson, Jun 2, 2010.

  1. JCJackson

    JCJackson Member

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    I'm a fairly recent convert to MF - about 6-7 months. I have been using a Pentax 645N with a 75mm prime and a 200mm prime. Mostly I am shooting slower films (50 - 100 ISO) with tripod striving for very sharp, detailed, low grain negatives. I have been very pleased with the ability of these lenses to deliver just that. I am considering an 80-160mm (FA) zoom to fill in all the focal lengths between the primes, and for portrait work. Will there be a discernible difference in sharpness with the zoom as compared to the primes?
     
  2. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    I always though that primes were better than zooms as far as sharpness. I'm not sure about the 80-160 zoom. It may not be a heck of whole difference in the long run. I would give it a try!

    Jeff
     
  3. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I have been happy with zoom lens in 35mm.

    I have only used primes in MF because the Hasselblad-Zeiss zoom lenses are so expensive. Besides, I already have the range covered with primes.

    Steve
     
  4. jamesgignac

    jamesgignac Member

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    I shoot with primes...mostly due to their availability, affordability (relative), and the fact that (at least with my bronica systems) I could keep two great primes for the weight and bulk of one zoom lens...plus zooms just give you another ring around the lens to fiddle with and I just can't be bothered - stepping forward or backward (with or without a tripod) is usually an option available to me and I find I work better this way.

    I didnt' used to be like that - when I first started I hunted forever for a zoom for my ETRSi...then found it, bought it, used it very little, and put it back into the marketplace.
     
  5. stp-montana

    stp-montana Member

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    While primes have a reputation for better sharpness than their zoom counterparts (a reputation that is generally deserved), the Pentax zooms may be one of the few exceptions. The 80-160 and 45-85 Pentax zooms are exceptional zooms. The 45-85 is generally regarded as sharper at 45mm than the 45mm prime. I use both of these zooms on my Pentax 645 (NII) without any qualms regarding sharpness.
     
  6. JCJackson

    JCJackson Member

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    Thanks you for this helpful response. I will zoom without qualm, but still check it out at 16x20!
     
  7. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    Zooms have come a loooong way since the awful optics of the 1980s. Here on APUG, passion and pain has been played out between exponents of both who fiercely proffer that one is superior to the other. Not necessarily so! Doesn't Leica now have zooms? Who else? And the marques? Of course. Canon, Nikon, Pentax all have excellent optics build on solid R&D. I have confidence in my Canon zooms but also my Canon primes as I'm trained to know how to get the best benefit from both, not just relying on what others tell me, or any fancy enumeration on the lens barrel — just good old fashioned knowledge and experience.
     
  8. TareqPhoto

    TareqPhoto Member

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    I use primes as well, but hope i can find a zoom which give me more range equivalent to 24-70 or 70-200 in DSLRs, i saw one zoom for Mamiya RZ67 Pro which is 100-200, didn't find one zoom for Hasselblad 500 series even i am sure there is, so i think i better stay with primes.
     
  9. ContaxRTSFundus

    ContaxRTSFundus Subscriber

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    I have been consistently impressed by Mamiya's zooms. The 55-110 and 105-210 were both outstanding 645 lenses - I simply added the 45 N, 80 1.9, 150 2.8 (and my old 140 Soft Focus!) and I could cover 99% of my needs - selling my other, slower primes paid for the 2 zooms that replaced them.

    The Mamiya 100-200mm zooms for the RB & RZ (35mm equivalent 48-97mm) are also remarkably sharp and free from distortion. A useful tip is, if you're using cameras like a 'Blad or Mamiya RZ, you should be able to hire a zoom for a day and then review the results. It won't cost too much and you'll have empirical proof of their worth - or lack of it.
     
  10. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    I agree completely.

    Mind you, that doesn't mean that the zooms made, what?, 20 - 30 years ago have become better lenses, now that their present day brothers and sisters have.

    So the anti-zoom sentiment still is justified, as far as old gear is concerned. And i believe that many of us here have heaps and heaps of old gear, and are looking for more old gear to heap on those heaps of old gear.

    So beware of the zoom!
     
  11. funkpilz

    funkpilz Member

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    I don't need that many lenses, and I can't stand heavy cameras, so it's primes for me. But I have no prejudice against zooms either.
     
  12. Pumal

    Pumal Member

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    I always shoot primes, especially the old. Couldn't tell you much about modern Zooms in MF
     
  13. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    You say it is for portraiture. Do you foresee a need for speed in your workflow in the room? Will you be shooting a lot of young children or mainly adolescent and adults? Do you have tons to throw at glass or are you in the 'need-to-pick-and-choose' boat? Primes are lighter, faster (aperture), slower (speed of use), less expensive. Zooms hold to the contrary (heavier, smaller max apertures, quicker to use, mo expensive). So it comes down to what you want and what you need and the balance you find in between the two.

    Oh, and I prefer primes but love zooms so I cannot help you there. (LF not really applicable in this discussion I suppose.)
     
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  15. epig

    epig Member

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    The Schneider Varigon 140-280mm f5.6 comes to mind for 500 series Hasselblads as well as for the 2000/200 series. There was also the (Fuji)Blad 60-120 FE lens for the 200 series.

    Eric
     
  16. jime11

    jime11 Member

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  17. c.louis

    c.louis Member

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    Prime lens usually have lower f/Stop while consumer grade zoom lens usually start from F5.6... If you zoom closer to your subject you might not get to your lowest f/stop.

    Zoom lens also might more vulnerable to chromic abbreviation
     
  18. tlitody

    tlitody Member

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    maximum f-stop may be a limitation for dof effects and also because the viewfinder will be dimmer. For portaraits do you really want bitingly sharp images anyway. A slight softness to the image is usually more flattering to the subject.

    I remember seeing a full face photo of a TV presenter on a magazine cover. She was considered to be a bit of a looker. I rekon the tog didn't like her. He must have used a macro lens. You could see every skin pore and blemish on her face and the image was knife edge sharp. Made her look like a gorgon.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 13, 2010
  19. TareqPhoto

    TareqPhoto Member

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    Where i can find that Schneider Varigon 140-280mm f5.6?
     
  20. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    Places like KEH and eBay.
    They are not very rare items.

    But mind that you get the one you need, i.e. one with shutter for 500-series Hasselblad. There also was a version without shutter for 2000-series Hasselblads.

    It's a big, heavy and slow lens. Not cheap either. Are you sure you want one?
     
  21. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    The man has GAS that will not quit!
     
  22. Cropline

    Cropline Member

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    I have the Bronica ETR 45-90.It's OK,nothing spectacular.As far as Schneider goes for the 645 Bronica,I have read that the 125-250 was good.Also the 110-220 f/4.8 gets excellent reviews.
     
  23. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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    I have zooms and primes for 35mm. I only use primes with medium and large format (obviously). In no case have I found myself wishing for a zoom with medium format. In fact just going out with one or two lenses tend to give me more keepers than when i take the zoom. I don't know why, other than I need to move more and moving makes me see more options.
     
  24. TareqPhoto

    TareqPhoto Member

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    Also it forcing or tighten you a bit, with zoom i always confuse if i should use this focal length or that, but with prime there is only one focal length so i have to frame the scene myself and move for composition and make it easier, and with zoom i feel more lazy, just stand here and rotate back and forth, how easy.
     
  25. Pumal

    Pumal Member

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    The idea is to go out with an idea in mind. Therefore; one or 2 Primes will do it.
     
  26. skahde

    skahde Member

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    And back in the lab generous cropping will do the rest... :D