Is it time to swap primes for zooms?

Photography is often about compromises, especially when it comes to gear. For example, a lightweight compact may be preferable to pack in your bag over a much heavier DSLR, but it’s likely the DSLR will offer you much higher image quality, along with more features and functions.

One of the longest-running kit conundrums photographers face is when it comes to their choice of optics. Those seeking versatility tend to opt for zooms – being able to change from wide-angle to telephoto with the twist of the wrist is incredibly appealing, especially if space in your kit bag is at a premium or you are travelling and only wish to pack one lens for the road.

Could it be time to switch up heavy primes for versatile zooms?

However, it’s typically been prime lenses (which feature a fied focal length such as 24mm, 35mm or 50mm) that have had the edge on image quality over their zoom optic counterparts. Plus they have the added benefit of faster maximum apertures (such as f/1.8 or f/1.4) enabling the photographer to not only create incredibly shallow depths of field in the frame and capture attractive bokeh, but also to quicken up the shutter speed – handy in low light situations where camera shake could creep into the picture.

The arrival of Tamron’s 35-150mm F/2.8-4 Di VC OSD, which will be available for Canon EF and Nikon F mount full-frame cameras, has cranked up the debate about whether zoom lenses have closed the gap on primes – a factor that could well influence which glass you buy in the future.

From wider portraits to close up detail shots, Tamron’s 35-150mm lens covers it all.

Tamron explains its latest zoom lens is suitable for use on 50+ megapixel cameras (good for the Nikon D850 or Canon 5DSR then), plus the lens features high-performance LD (Low Dispersion) glass, Fluorine Coating and 5-stops of compensation thanks to the lens’ VC (Vibration Compensation) technology. With features like this, it’s hard to argue against Tamron’s 35-150mm being able to take on some of the prime lenses on the market at the same price level (£799/$799).

One area the Tamron 35-150mm can’t match a prime is when it comes to maximum aperture, with the Tamron offering f/4 at its longest focal length (150mm) – although other brands do offer zoom lenses with ultra fast apertures (Sigma’s 18-35mm f/1.8 for example).

Has lens technology closed the gap between primes and zooms?

Perhaps the trick is to achieve an optical balancing act; using a zoom when you a lightweight and versatile set-up and weightier primes when you can’t compromise on image quality. What is clear though is that technology has brought zoom lenses not only into the same ball park as prime lenses, but to a place where they are almost in touching distance, which can only be a good thing for photographers as it widens the selection of optics available in the market.

How do you feel about the zooms v primes debate? Are you ready to give newer zooms a chance instead of the primes that sit in your gear bag or are you stay fixed focal length forever?