Fixed lenses vs zoom: which is better, and why?

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There are some debates that are almost as old as the photography itself: RAW vs JPG , Canon vs Nikon , full frame sensor vs cropped format … One of them is the eternal debate on whether fixed length or long focal length lenses are recommended. variable; that is, the fixed optics vs. the zoom . Which ones are better? We will discuss several aspects to assess the best option in each case.

Of course there is no clear and forceful answer because, like almost everything in life, it depends on many things . In this case, that “depends” we should accompany you with a “for what” or “the situation”. That is why we are going to see different qualities of the lenses and comparing the benefits of each other to determine which ones are better and why.

Weight and size

One of the major differences between obvious and existing optics is their physical dimensions, ie their size and weight. As you know, most variable lenses contain more optical elements than solid lenses. Approximately one type of zoom may have about twenty lenses before the six and twelve lenses that normally contain a fixed lens.

Fixed lenses vs zoom: which is better, and why?
Canon 24-70 mm ƒ2.8 and 50mm ƒ1.8 (size comparison is approximate)

This obviously implies that a fixed optic weighs less than a variable-length one. For example, the Canon weighs 24-70mm ƒ 2.8 lens, one of the most popular standard zoom that is used by professionals who work with cameras of this brand, about 800 grams, while a Canon 50 mm 1.8 1.8 160 grams.

Of course, if you wanted the same focus coverage with fixed optics, you would need at least two more lenses (for example, the Canon lenses 28 and 85 mm, both 1.8), but even those three together would only weigh a little bit more as the goal to

In terms of size, the magnification is generally much larger due to the more complex zooms. Of course, it’s true that the not-very-large lenses associate large lenses with quality (a camera is better, the bigger the lenses are, they think), and if you’re a beginner, you might be tempted to wear one of those big ones, to do so.

But if your neck or back begins to protest against the weight or if you check the quality of the photos, you’ll probably change your mind.

Fixed lenses vs zoom: which is better, and why?
Photo of Yash Dengre

From this we can conclude that the benefits of using lighter and smaller lenses is obvious. Basically, they allow less strain, which can make us weary of wearing the equipment on our backs, but they also offer a discretion that is highly recommended for certain genres such as street photography and photojournalism. Therefore, in this first section, which refers to weight and size, we can clearly say that the winners are the goals set.

Purchase price

When talking about “piggy money”, they are driven forward by the benefits of set goals. With the example of the two Canon we said before, you can now get the 24-70mm 2.8 for Amazon for around $ 1899, while the 1.8mm on the same page now costs only $ 146 (yes you know that Amazon prices are very variable, and the higher the price, the clearer the target, especially with large openings, the costs of which are usually rising.

Fixed lenses vs zoom: which is better, and why?

To understand why there is so much price difference, you need to consider two variables. The first is the more complicated structure with more elements, which makes higher costs apparent.

In terms of the other, it is necessary to think that the zoom lens is relatively new (the first was patented in 1902, but was not commonly used until the 90s of the last century), while the fixed optics have always been there since its invention photography. 

Therefore, it can be said that the development costs are more than amortized. As we expected, in this second section, the lenses of the fixed focal length are again victorious.

Quality and sharpness

It is true that the Goal Goals have improved greatly in recent years and that they allow for images of outstanding quality, but here, too, the festivals have an advantage.

It must be assumed that fixed optics only have to work in the focal length for which they are designed, while the variable focal length must cover several distances. This means neither more nor less that these goals are more susceptible to distortion and chromatic aberration.

Fixed lenses vs zoom: which is better, and why?

Of course this does not mean that a fixed goal will allow you to take better pictures than a zoom , but it is clear that in this third section they are again ahead , although perhaps with a little less advantage than in the previous sections.


We enter another category in which the fixed optics again stand out without any doubt about the zoom . Except for some exceptions, you will not find a variable focal lens that offers a larger diaphragm of ƒ2.8 (and this luminosity is not always fixed throughout the focal length), while in fixed optics it is very common to see diaphragm apertures below that value, for example in the recurrent 50 mm lenses that are usually ƒ1.8 or 1.4 .

Fixed lenses vs zoom: which is better, and why?

As a result, these goals offer obvious benefits in many situations. Especially when the light is tight, it takes up to three apertures where the difference between shooting at f1.8 and shooting is f3.5 (the largest that most conventional zoom lenses offer).

As you know, an up / down bezel requires a double / half light, which means you have to shoot at 1/250 or 1/60, a noticeable difference.

It also shows, for example, if we want a nice bokeh. Although a bright zoom can be achieved, this is obviously much easier if we have fixed lenses. Therefore, the fixed lenses come again (and move on) and win.


Finally a section in which the lenses of variable focal distance expire clearly to the fixed ones. On those occasions when it is not possible to move to look for a different point of view or get closer to things is where the possibility that zooms have to alter the point of view without moving from the site is priceless.

Fixed lenses vs zoom: which is better, and why?

There are many examples, eg. For example, indoor sports photographers, who are normally assigned a place they can not walk away from, or wildlife that needs to shoot out of a car (in the typical photo safari), and for whom the flexibility of variable goals applies is fundamental.

The advantage of zoom in this area, however, extends further and extends to other areas as well. For example, at a time when the weather conditions prevent frequent lens changes to prevent the sensor from being damaged by dust or moisture.

Of course, you can always resort to changing the lenses in a more or less closed object, or even a plastic bag, but it is often better to resort to the versatility of a good one. In this section, therefore, the lenses of the variable focal length gain are tracked.

Other variables

We have already talked about the most important sections to assess the confrontation between fixed and variable lenses but we can not finish without mentioning some other things that also have their importance, even if it is something minor. First of all we talk about the speed of focus , an aspect without doubt important for certain areas.

Fixed lenses vs zoom: which is better, and why?

If we did not say it alone, this is mainly because the difference between the two types of optics is very blurred (which is why we will not count it for the last note).

Basically, because of their lower internal complexity and their commitment to a certain distance, the fixed ones are usually faster and more accurate. However, many of them, especially old ones, only offer a manual focus mode that makes things complicated.

On the other hand, many modern zoom lenses, usually autofocus, are very sophisticated and offer great results that focus on most situations.

Another topic that we should point out here is the topic of creativity. This topic is certainly very subjective, because we can not say that it is a kind of optics or anything else at the time of a good picture. However, it is true that there is a risk that a zoom will cause us not to leave the site, which will permanently limit our creativity.

Fixed lenses vs zoom: which is better, and why?

For if we add the points achieved in each of the sections it seems clear … The fixed lenses! (by 4-1 in soccer terms, without counting the last epigraph).

 Of course, everything depends , as we said at the beginning. Because it is very important to know first what you want to achieve and what kind of photos you want to make . 

For example, for macro photography the fixed lenses will surely give you much better results, but to cover reports perhaps the flexibility of a zoom is decisive. Therefore, surely the most important thing is to be able to choose the objective you really need .

So if you are one of those who thought to buy a superzoom, such as 18-200 mm to be able to use it in all possible scenarios, maybe you should think twice . Certainly, the flexibility that is going to give you is very big but, as you have seen, it has important counterparts (lack of sharpness, distortion, aberrations …).

And the same if you are one of those who believe that a zoom lens can not give image quality, in which case maybe you should see some of the last ones presented.But, as always, we appeal to you to tell us your experience . What kind of goals do you like the most? Fixed or zoom ?




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