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FORUMS Canon Cameras, Lenses & Accessories Canon EF and EF-S Lenses 
Thread started 23 Oct 2011 (Sunday) 18:01
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Fix vs. zoom

 
Meanie
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Oct 23, 2011 18:01 |  #1

Are there any advantages of a fixed lens over a zoom and vise versa? For example, I've contemplated a 400mm lens and viewed a fixed 400 and a zoom 100 to 400 zoom. Obviously, the zoom offers a variety of focal lengths, but otherwise, would one be better than the other?

Thank you




  
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DreDaze
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Oct 23, 2011 18:10 |  #2

Meanie wrote in post #13294742 (external link)
Are there any advantages of a fixed lens over a zoom and vise versa? For example, I've contemplated a 400mm lens and viewed a fixed 400 and a zoom 100 to 400 zoom. Obviously, the zoom offers a variety of focal lengths, but otherwise, would one be better than the other?

Thank you

assuming you're talking about the canon versions...there are other differences, the prim 400mm lacks IS which could be a problem, it should be faster to focus, and sharper wide open than the zoom 100-400mm...

typically a prime will be a bit better in image quality, but you don't have the versatility of the zoom...

what are you trying to shoot with the telephoto?


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Sorarse
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Oct 23, 2011 18:14 |  #3

A fixed, or prime, lens will be specifically designed to be at it's optimum for that specific focal length. With the options you mentioned, a 400mm prime lens should give better results than a zoom lens that has 400mm in it's range, as the design of the zoom lens is a compromise to meet the requirements of the zoom range.

The advantages of the zoom is that you effectively have several lenses in one, which saves you having to keep changing lenses.

Having said all that, modern zoom lenses are getting better and better. You only have to consider Canon's latest 70-200mm f/2.8 to see how good they are getting, but a well designed prime should always have the edge.


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Meanie
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Oct 23, 2011 18:24 |  #4

DreDaze wrote in post #13294779 (external link)
assuming you're talking about the canon versions...there are other differences, the prim 400mm lacks IS which could be a problem, it should be faster to focus, and sharper wide open than the zoom 100-400mm...

typically a prime will be a bit better in image quality, but you don't have the versatility of the zoom...

what are you trying to shoot with the telephoto?

Nature photography, animals, etc.




  
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Oct 23, 2011 18:53 |  #5

If you are comparing the Canon 400 and the 100-400, I'd get the 100-400 if only for the IS.


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Oct 25, 2011 16:46 |  #6

With modern computer design of lenses, zooms can equal and even surpass fixed focal length lenses for IQ. Where a prime has a definite advantage over a zoom is that a fixed focal length lens will typically be lighter and more compact compared to a comparable FL and max aperture zoom. So if you want to be more inconspicuous and/or carry less weight all day with a single lens, choose fixed focal length.


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Oct 25, 2011 16:51 |  #7

Wilt wrote in post #13305689 (external link)
With modern computer design of lenses, zooms can equal and even surpass fixed focal length lenses for IQ. Where a prime has a definite advantage over a zoom is that a fixed focal length lens will typically be lighter and more compact compared to a comparable FL and max aperture zoom. So if you want to be more inconspicuous and/or carry less weight all day with a single lens, choose fixed focal length.

This ^^ and in most cases the prime will be considerably less expensive. (for same IQ & max aperture)


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Oct 25, 2011 16:52 |  #8

For general wildlife, I'd go with the 100-400 out of those two. You don't always know where the critters'll show up or how far away you'll be. It's nice to be able to zoom out and get a little bit wider without having to move and spook something.


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Oct 25, 2011 17:07 |  #9

The 400 prime is slightly sharper, a couple hundred buck cheaper (maybe only $100 cheaper), a good bit lighter, and slightly fast AF. The zoom zooms, and has IS.


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Meanie
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Oct 25, 2011 17:25 |  #10

Snydremark wrote in post #13305717 (external link)
For general wildlife, I'd go with the 100-400 out of those two. You don't always know where the critters'll show up or how far away you'll be. It's nice to be able to zoom out and get a little bit wider without having to move and spook something.

I was thinking along those lines as well. It's difficult to capture an animal at a desired length when they are constantly moving or difficult to get that great shot if I'm restricted in movement or area.




  
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Meanie
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Oct 25, 2011 17:28 as a reply to  @ Meanie's post |  #11

Thanks all for the help. What I gather is the pros and cons for both type of lenses (aperture, being the primary issue). Obviously, it depends on my general usage.




  
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RPCrowe
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Oct 25, 2011 17:52 |  #12

I have a 70-200mm f/4L IS zoom along with two long primes: 300mm f/4L IS and 400mm f/5.6L. I love them all but, if I had only one lens for wildlife, I would opt for the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS because of its versatility.

However since I shoot with two or more cameras regularly, my three lenses work for me.

One plus for the 300mm f/4L IS and 400mm f/5.6L primes is that they have built-in sliding lens hoods. These are a joy to work with in comparison to the separate bayonet type hood. They are especially nice when using a CPL filter because I can slide the hood back, rotate the CPL and extend the hood all in a split second.

I wish my 70-200mm f/4L IS has that type of hood.

BTW: As per Amazon prices in U.S. Dollars: The 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS = $1639, 400mm f/5.6L = $1299, 300mm f/4L IS = $1,359 and the new 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS = $1,499. The last two lenses can be a bit chort for a lot of wildlife, especially birds but the 300mm f/4L IS accepts a 1.4x TC without great loss in image quality and auto focus speed and accuracy. Of course, the TC costs extra. OTOH; the 300mm f/4L IS has a very close MFD and is a dandy close up lens, especially when fitted with the TC, an extension tube or a 500C close-up filter.


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Oct 27, 2011 04:00 |  #13

RPCrowe wrote in post #13305965 (external link)
I have a 70-200mm f/4L IS zoom along with two long primes: 300mm f/4L IS and 400mm f/5.6L. I love them all but, if I had only one lens for wildlife, I would opt for the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS because of its versatility.

I'm interested that you have both the 400 and 300 primes. I'm not that happy with my 100-400, it's now with Canon and I'll probably sell it.
If you a get a good sharp copy then I'm sure you'll be happy.

If I find the 300 + a 1.4x TC is as good as my 400mm, particularly for birds when on a tripod/gimbal then I can't see the point of keeping the 400.

Having seen some examples of that combo there seems not much real world difference.


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Sirrith
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Oct 27, 2011 04:11 |  #14

I'm considering the 100-400 and the 400 5.6 as well, and personally I can't justify paying that much more for the 100-400 even though it is so much more versatile. OTOH, if the 300 F4 IS + 1.4x TC can come close to the 400 5.6, then that would definitely be a consideration as it would be almost as good, slightly more expensive, but more versatile than the 400 5.6.


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Oct 27, 2011 04:34 |  #15

Any additional glass between your subject and your sensor imparts, however minimal, an IQ hit...

If you need the versatility of a zoom, get the zoom. If you need superior IQ and are willing to work a little harder to get the shot (IOW, willing to "take a hike" with your gear), go with a suitable prime.


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Fix vs. zoom
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