Pros and Cons of Prime Lens

Notoriously (at least for the last 4 years) I’ve always solely shot with prime lens. Regardless of whatever the job or project was I always able to create shots with my two favorite focal lengths: 85mm and 35mm. Let me backtrack and give you a brief history of my relationship with zoom lens though.


Back in the day I used to shoot with primarily two zoom lens: 24-70/2.8 and 70-200/2.8. At the time I was shooting more photojournalistic stories and these lens were the perfect combination. Whether I was covering an up close and personal interview, rowdy concert, or collegiate basketball game these lens had my bases covered. And even though they were only f/2.8 low light settings rarely posed a problem since the my images would mainly end up as newspaper prints or small web images. My switch came when I started creating and conceptualizing projects for my art classes.

Above images taken with Canon 85mm/1.8


My school heavily focused on theory rather than technical skill. Since I spent so much time writing and presenting my ideas for critiques before actually shooting anything by the time I picked up a camera I had already pre-visioned my shot and knew exactly what I wanted to see in viewfinder. Being your typical poor student at the time I would often light my photos —Strobist style! I’d set my camera on a tripod then take multiple exposures: 1 exposure lighting the subject, then many more the light the background (I only had one speedlight at the time). Locking my camera to sticks forced me to be decisive on my composition. Because of this approach to my personal projects I gradually switch out my zoom lens to primes. Simultaneously I was also gradually moving out of photojournalism to editorials. I honestly felt that zooms allowed me to mentally lazier with photography, while primes consistently challenged me creatively.

Here are the pros and cons of why I love shooting with primes.

Pros of Shooting with Prime Lens

  • Faster lens 
  • Cleaner, “crispier” picture quality
  • Generally lighter and smaller than zoom lens
  • No barrel distortion
  • They literally force you to move around to compose an image

Cons of Shooting with Primes Lens

  • They’re only one focal length
  • It’s more expensive to have all your focal lengths covered
  • You might have to switch lens more often
  • They literally force you to move around to compose an image

“They literally force you to move around to compose an image.” This is perhaps my favorite thing about shooting with primes. Since I shoot primarily shoot portraits being forced to physical walk around to zoom and in and out keeps me on my toes and engaged with the subject at hand. Because I’m constantly moving around, I’m constantly being present during the photo shoot. By being present I’m constantly thinking about how to make a stronger photo and direction the subject to bring out a particular expression out of them.

The weight and size of the lens matter to me as well. I enjoy prime lens because their usually smaller and lighter (unless your my old Canon 85mm/1.2). By being smaller the lens are more inconspicuous and draw less attention to itself. When I’m shooting I want my subject to completely forget about the camera! I personally feel it’s strange to talk to a human with a camera for a head.


This really goes back to engagement for me. Additionally smaller lens make it much easier to guerrilla a shoot 😉

If you been following me over on Facebook, you’ll know that I recently picked up a Nikon 24-70/2.8. During my growth as a photographer I’ve found a new need for zoom lens in my camera equipment arsenal. I will blog about the return of zooms to my camera bag soon!

Camera Gear:

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