airways1
Posts: 536
Joined: Mon Jul 19, 1999 3:05 am

Are Fixed Focal Length Lenses Better Than Zoom?

Thu Oct 30, 2003 9:31 pm

About a month ago I bought a Canon 300D. The pictures I get from it look very good, but perhaps not quite as sharp as they could be. In each case I am shooting with a zoom lens, Canon EF 75-300mm, EF 28-80mm or EFS 18-55mm.

I was just wondering whether fixed focal length lenses would give me sharper images...?

Having said that, I'm not complaining about the photos I am getting.

David
 
LGW
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RE: Are Fixed Focal Length Lenses Better Than Zoom?

Thu Oct 30, 2003 9:56 pm

David,

Fixed focal length lenses (eg 300mm f4) will give you sharper images that the lenses discussed above and better image quality.

Although this does come at a price, comparitivly fixed focal length lenses are more expensive than their zoom counter parts.

Probably one of the best people to give you a responce to this thread would be Colin K Work as he uses fixed focal length lenses as wel as zoom.

You talk of your images being soft, on a side note Canon DSLR images are meant to eb soft in order to give the user greatler control over the editing of the images, unsharp mask in Photo shop is probably the best method of making images sharper while maintaining quality.

Ben Pritchard
 
glennstewart
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RE: Are Fixed Focal Length Lenses Better Than Zoom?

Thu Oct 30, 2003 10:17 pm

Hi David,

I can confirm that primes are certainly sharper than zooms. It's a given that the sacrifices that are made to a lens to allow it to zoom, reduce the ability for it to perform at its best. Primes are designed specifically for their given zoom.

I think however that you may be experiencing one of a number of possible problems

  • Aperture

  • With the 75-300mm at least, try to stay away from f4.0 or more wide open. The consumer zooms are terrible performers at these apertures. I suggest f7.1 or f8.0 at least - otherwise softness will be encountered.

  • Movement & ISO

  • In some situations, using f7.1, f8.0 will force you to use lower shutter speeds unless you wish to alter the ISO setting. At the lower shutter speeds (e.g. 1/60), panning with a subject to take a single shot, you'll produce hit and miss results. Try taking a few shots by holding down the shutter release, and pan with the subject. This will reduce the movement associated with hitting the shutter release and produce a couple of good results in a batch of bad.
    If you have IS, resort to this for the static shots, otherwise bump up the ISO. At around 800 ISO you'll be getting as noisy as our point and shoot counterparts do on a daily basis at 100. If the noise is still unacceptable, try www.neatimage.com

  • Design

  • Unlike the point & shoot, rangefinger digitals, the Canon DSLR range are designed from the ground up to produce slightly soft images. In this un-retouched form they are more suit to publishing. The 300D is a little sharper that the 10D because the parameters are shifted up a notch (sharpness 0 on 300D is like +1 on 10D). Canon's covering those amateur photographers who will insist on making prints straight from the image found on the CF without visiting Photoshop first.
    If you don't edit your shots, and resort to USM - you're missing out.

    Last but not least, take a look at Pro versus Consumer lenses.


    Regards,

    Glenn Stewart
    Respected users.... If my replies are useful, then by all means...
     
    Skymonster
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    RE: Are Fixed Focal Length Lenses Better Than Zoom?

    Thu Oct 30, 2003 10:48 pm

    Sweeping generalisations... Whilst primes are generally sharper than zooms, I bet I can find a zoom that is sharper than a prime - it all depends on who makes them, which lenses, etc.

    I am unaware of the capabilities of the EF-S lens but the other lenses you mention are quite capable of producing nice sharp results. More particularly they should produce nice results because you're using a 300D, which with its small sensor which puts the emphasis on a lens' central definition rather than the edges which is where most softness is likely to exist. Certainly, there's shouldn't be any major softness problems produced by those lenses unless you're intent on using them wide open at longest focal lengths all the time, and I know from direct past experience that the 75-300 and 28-80 are quite capable (although obviously not as good as L glass) even used wide open, unless you're into producing really big enlargements.

    I certainly wouldn't spend money on primes to achieve greater sharpness - what you've got now is good enough and the problems are more likely to be that you need to unsharp the images, as does everyone who uses a DSLR.

    Andy
    There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old bold pilots
     
    EGBB
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    RE: Are Fixed Focal Length Lenses Better Than Zoom?

    Thu Oct 30, 2003 11:23 pm

    Whilst primes are generally sharper than zooms, I bet I can find a zoom that is sharper than a prime - it all depends on who makes them, which lenses, etc.

    Derek challenges Andy to name a zoom superior than a Canon prime  Smile/happy/getting dizzy

    Derek



     
    Skymonster
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    RE: Are Fixed Focal Length Lenses Better Than Zoom?

    Thu Oct 30, 2003 11:54 pm

    Derek, I didn't say a Canon prime... I bet I can find some grot-bag prime made by some back-of-beyond company that isn't as good as, say, one of Canon's 70-200L lenses.  Laugh out loud

    Andy
    There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old bold pilots
     
    ckw
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    RE: Are Fixed Focal Length Lenses Better Than Zoom?

    Fri Oct 31, 2003 1:54 am

    Well I would say my 70-200f2.8 L is as sharp as if not sharper than my Canon 50mm 1.8 - but then it bloody well should be considering the price difference!

    But the general rule would be that for a given price point, the prime will always outperform the zoom.

    If you are comparing the center of the image shot at f8 across a range of lenses, you'll probably see little difference in sharpness across a range of lens types and prices. But when you start looking at the edges shot with the lens wide open, the difference becomes very obvious. Yes, a good Canon L zoom will outperform many budget and even midprice primes in this respect.

    Another consideration is that primes will invariably perform much better with extenders than zooms.

    Cheers,

    Colin

    Colin K. Work, Pixstel
     
    airways1
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    RE: Are Fixed Focal Length Lenses Better Than Zoom?

    Fri Oct 31, 2003 2:11 am

    Thanks for the comments, everyone!!!

    I will have to do a bit more experimenting, and hopefully get some shots into the database.

    Glenn, why are soft shots better for publishing?

    David
     
    ckw
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    RE: Are Fixed Focal Length Lenses Better Than Zoom?

    Fri Oct 31, 2003 7:12 am

    Its not that "soft shots" are used for publishing as such, it's that the amount of sharpening required on an image depends on how it is to be used. For critical work a publisher will often prefer a shot straight out the camera (soft) and apply their own sharpening technique - they can't do this to a sharpened image as this will result in artifacts being emphasised.

    Cheers,

    Colin
    Colin K. Work, Pixstel
     
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    clickhappy
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    RE: Are Fixed Focal Length Lenses Better Than Zoom?

    Fri Oct 31, 2003 7:51 am

    I always provide an untouched shot (no post processing) when I receive a usage request. It gives the client more flexibility.

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