Gadget Finder

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Prime vs Zoom lens

Here's an interesting experiment I just did today. I compared a prime lens vs a zoom lens. It's a generally accepted fact that a prime lens will always beat out a zoom lens. I've always been a curious person and decided to put this belief to the test today.

I decided to test a Canon 50mm F1.8 lens VS a Canon 24-105L f4 IS. I set the camera to manual mode with the following settings. 1/40, f4. ISO400. The 24-105mm was zoomed to 50mm.

Here are the comparison pictures. Cropped at full size from the middle of the picture. This 1st picture is from the 50mm f1.8 lens.

Here's the picture from the 24-105L f4 IS lens.

Look at the softness that starts to happen from the red words(Lighter Fluid) downwards on the 50mm f1.8! It's rather pronounced isn't it? The focus point is right on the PP of the Zippo word. Just in case you're wondering if handshake or Image Stabilisation played a part in the shots, the pics were taken with the 5D mkII on a tripod. So yes, we can see that it's all a myth. A Prime Lens is NOT always sharper than a zoom lens. Shocking but true. Myth BUSTED!

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afiqikhwan said...

i think if u want to compare between a zoom lens with a prime lens,u should be fair.
u should use, let's see, a 50mm 1.4 vs the 24-105 L.
after that u'll know the difference between a prime lens and a zoom lens.

Ian Ho said...

Doesn't matter what prime it is. I'm just trying to tell ppl not to blindly follow generally accepted "facts". The 50mm f1.8 is always hyped up in forums as being a super nice, super sharp lens. So I wanted to show that even though it's a prime doesn't mean it will necessarily beat a good zoom lens.

I'm very sure many ppl expect miracles when they buy the hyped up 50mm f1.8. I hope they have a sense of reality after seeing this, to know not to expect so much from a cheap prime n that it will NOT beat a proper zoom lens.

Yossarian said...

The 50 mm 1.8 is a very fine lens, for the price. Compare this to a fantastic L zoom with about 12 times the price tag, and you get these results.
Now, if you would compare the zoom to the Canon 1.2 50, or 1.4 85 mm L, (both slightly more expensive than this zoom) and you will clearly see the results. here you compare the cheapest Canon amateur plastic lens with a high prices L lens. Sorry, doesn't make sense.

Ian Ho said...

As I've said before, this is not a scientific test or anything. It's just to show the people who are new to photography, not to blindly follow generally accepted facts. I'm sure there are many people out there who still believe that it doesn't matter what prime lens u use, it's still gonna be better than any zoom lens. That is what I'm trying to show here, that u cannot just say ANY prime lens will beat a zoom lens.

Vincent Pang said...

i believe the 50mm f1.8 suffers from corner softness. Btw, the 24-105mm F4 IS is one of the sharpest canon zoom lens :) The 16-35 and 70-200 is not as sharp as 24-105. Only the 70-200 f4 IS is about as sharp as this lens :)

this shows L lens 0wn3d prime lens :) L lens the best, keep on buying it :) hahahah

btw, if u got chance try 24mm f1.4L, 35mm f1.4L, 135mm f2 L... u don't want to take it off your cam :)

Ian Ho said...

You're absolutely evil, Vincent. Are you trying to make me bankrupt with all those L lenses? I'm not gonna buy so many. I'll probably just get a 17-40L or 16-35L later on for some UWA action but am certainly not gonna bankrupt myself on all those lenses you mentioned. Hehehe. I might just get a 70-200 f2.8L IS to replace my Sigma 70-200 f2.8 purely for the IS.

Cyth said...

50/1.8 and 24-105 F4L IS .. both taken at wide open.

1.8 and 4... do consider the DoF too.

Ian Ho said...

What difference in DOF are you talking about? LOL. The 50mm lens was stopped down to f4. It would be extremely silly to compare them at f1.8 n f4. The pictures were taken with the 50mm lens stopped down to f4 while the 24-105 was set at 50mm length, wide open at f4.

Anonymous said...

your test doesn't prove anything since 50mm F1.8 was not open at the widest F1.8 but 24-105 is.

Best to test out sharpness is shot at between F8 to F11

Ian Ho said...

Funny fella. Do you even know anything about lenses? The 50mm lens is stopped down all the way to f4. The 24-105L is wide open at f4. A lens that is stopped down so much should already be super sharp. The fact that the 24-105L was wide open n still beat the 50mm shows just how bad the 50mm F1.8 lens is. Also, u buy a fast prime to use at f8-11???? U really r a joker eh? U might as well just use the 18-55IS kitlens at 50mm f8-11. Haha

Ian Ho said...

Oh I just noticed the 1st comment by afiqikhwan regarding the Canon 50mm f1.4. That's a shitty lens too if u must know. It's extremely soft at f1.4. Almost useless at f1.4 actually, unless ur trying to achieve a soft focus dreamy kinda look. LOL. I really don't understand y so many ppl get all hyped up at the mention of Canon 50mm f1.4 n f1.8.They're horrible lenses.

Even the 50L is not good. I have tried many units of 50L n come home empty handed. There r a lucky few who get gems though.

Anonymous said...

Stop comparing a L zoom to Canon's least expensive prime dude.

Test the 18-55 kit lens against the 50 f/1.8

Primes are generally sharper, but it doesnt mean a cheap inexpensive prime can beat a L zoom.

Test the L zoom against a prime like the 35L, 85L.

Ian Ho said...

Why not compare to an L zoom? This is to show all those silly fellas who simply spew out nonsense like "ALL primes are sharper than zooms".

I'm pretty sure there are a lot of other decent non L zooms that beats the cheap primes too. This article is just to put across my point that just because it's a prime doesn't mean it's always sharper than a zoom. That is a very common misconception.

The only thing you gain for sure with a cheap prime is speed. Sharpness and smooth bokeh is not a sure thing. In fact the Canon 50mm f1.8 has extremely distracting and rough bokeh.