Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Optimus "Prime" vs. Mega"Zoom"tron

First, let me preface this blog entry by saying that I am by no means a professional photographer.  I have never taken a photography class and do not consider myself to know much when it comes to the technical aspects of the camera itself.  This entry is purely my opinion comparing a couple of lenses that I own and which I prefer to use over the other.  What I know about photography, I learned myself by trial and error and reading forums and blogs with my husband.  If you are a professional, please do not take what I'm writing seriously...because heck...what do I know right? :)

OK, so lately photography's been overwhelming my blog.  In fact, today Chris said, "Hey...you haven't been to Anthro in awhile!"  And in fact, I didn't even go on the Anthro site today to check out the sale.  But girls, I do miss my dresses and skirts and ruffles!!!  Believe me, it's hard...but I feel like it's a great thing to give my wallet a break and focus on something else for awhile.

When I talk about cameras and lenses with friends, coworkers, acquaintances...I often tell them that I primarily shoot with prime lenses.  And most don't know what I'm referring to.  To  keep the explanation simple, a prime lens is a fixed focal lens.  Meaning that when you look into the view finder on your camera, you only see one distance...and you're unable to twist the lens itself to zoom in and out.  My friends that own a DSLR, I find, oftentimes don't know what I'm referring to either.  And I think this is because nowadays when you buy a DSLR at like a Costco, the camera comes in a kit form, and a kit lens accompanies that camera.  These lenses are zoom lenses.

When we bought our Canon 7D, it came with a 18-135mm zoom lens.  When I first got it, I wanted as much range as possible because I wanted to cover all my bases.  However, I recently realized that I rarely grab my kit lens that came with the camera.  Why?  I've decided to give you all an example below.

I went ahead and took two pictures of our little bonzai tree:
Picture A

Picture B
Picture A was taken with a 50mm prime lens with a f stop of 1.8.  When I say f stop, or when someone refers to something like f1.8, they are referring to the "aperture" setting (there's a whole other thing with f stops which I won't go into detail at all).  And aperture is the lens opening which controls the amount of light let into the camera.  Because my dining room has pretty dim lighting, I shot Picture A at an aperture of 1.8 (which allows in the most amount of light) with a shutter speed of 1/30th of a second.

I then switched to my kit lens, zoomed it to 50mm and shot it at also 1/30th of a second.  And you can clearly see that Picture B is much darker than Picture A.  This is because when the zoom is used on that lens, the aperture adjusts to f5, which decreases the amount of light let into the camera.  For this lens that I own, because it came with my camera kit, the quality is not the highest which resulted in that poor quality of Picture B.  There are higher end quality telephoto zoom lenses made by Canon and Nikon, for instance, that's able to fix at a specific aperture regardless of the zoom.

So...because Picture B was so dark and the widest aperture at 50mm is f5, I had to slow down the shutter speed to let in as much light as possible.  Below I shot the bonzai tree at a shutter speed of 1/8th of a second to get it light enough to be ok.
Picture C

Even in Picture C, the light and color of the bonzai is still not as good as Picture A.  I could slow down my shutter speed even more, but then I'd risk blurry pictures since my hands aren't completely still.  Also, if you notice the green vase in the background of Picture A vs. Picture C, the vase itself is way more blurry in Picture A than in Picture C.  The blurrier the background (what is known as bokeh), the more crisp your focused subject will be (depth of field).  Bokeh and depth of field, though, is another post all together.  :)

So, as you can see...I truly do favor my prime lenses more than my kit zoom lenses simply because I believe it allows me to shoot crispier pictures.  In the future, I'd love to invest in a couple of more prime lenses in different focal lengths, including a good telephoto lens, but for now, my 50mm f1.8 will do!  BTW, this 50mm I used is only $99!!!  A great little lens for beginners like me!  

Thanks for reading!  What do you think?  Helpful?  Boring?  Haha...you won't hurt my feelings!


  1. Um, 1000% helpful for a TOTAL novice like me. I don't understand a think about lenses and I'm a visual learner. Reading about something doesn't do it for me, I need to SEE what it's all about. Your picture examples are exactly what I'm looking for and I appreciate your layman's terminology. I would absolutely LOVE if you kept doing posts like this!!

  2. follow up-is that the lens you used for the wedding pictures you took? If you post more, can you indicate what lens you used? Thanks again!

  3. I agree with Pamela - this is great! I haven't graduated from a regular point-and-shoot camera yet, but I am hoping to someday put in the investment in a nice SLR-type camera. This helps let me know what I'm looking for, because reading the camera specs is typically like trying to read Greek to me!

  4. This is a great post! We actually just got our prime lens on Monday and love it so far. So excited to experiment this weekend!

  5. Wow, this is great, Cindi! It's like camera-lenses-and-what-they-do for dummies! (which is exactly what I am, when it comes to camera lenses and what they do). Thanks so much for sharing this. Like Lisa, I'm still using a point-and-shoot, and dream of graduating to something nicer someday, but can't imagine what I'd do with it once it was in my hands. Now I know that I'll get myself a prime lens! (hahahaha)

  6. Cindi - this is awesome! Thanks 4 sharing. It's fun to read about other stuff other than just fashion. And photography and esp beautifully taken pics, give me the same rush as a beautiful dress. So I hope to see more of your amazing shots.
    On a side note, I finally got caught up on The Bachelor and that Michele psycho chick is really creeping me out. What's with the fireworks in the background after they kiss??? She is seriously mentally unstable. And sweet Barbie doll Emily had me bawling when she told her story. Ok, I'll stop :)

  7. Pamela - Definitely...I will be posting what lenses I use. For the majority of the time at the wedding on Saturday, I used the 85mm and the 50mm. Since we just have one of each, Chris and I would change back and forth. The 85mm is REALLY close but it's great for shooting portraits because it's so crisp and you can stand pretty far away from them but still catch a good expression.

    Lisa - I felt the same when I got the Canon 7D. That's why I waited this long to play around with it because I was so intimidated by the menu and all that crap that's inside a camera. Then finally something just clicked. I will post the three things a person need to know to get started soon! I think it'll spark the same feeling I had when I just "got it".

    Erin - YAY!!! I can't wait to hear how you like it. It'll blow your mind!

    Carol - I know...it's really intimidating. This huge black thing, with so many buttons you don't know what to deal with. I can't post for more posts like this as I start learning more too.

    Lisa - Aww..thanks for the sweet comment. I didn't want to lose readers because I don't take OOTD's but if people like me, they'll hang around right? Oh and Bachelor...OMG!!! Michell got like one of the first roses he gave out. Which means he really wants her to hang around. What the! He's so awkward! I almost don't want Emily to be with him! Haha she's too good.

  8. I've been reading your blog for a couple months now after finding it while searching for Anthropologie blogs. I'm so glad your blogging about photography now as well because I just purchased a DSLR (not as fancy as yours, but pretty cool nonetheless!) and have been doing alot of research on lenses, aperture and creating "bokeh." Your blog kills two birds with one stone for me! Fashion and photography!! Thanks and keep the tips coming!!

  9. Hi Cindi! Like a previous poster mentioned, I found your blog while looking at other Anthro blogs, and have been following you for a couple of weeks now. I love that you're blogging about photography and fashion. I've had my DSLR (a Nikon D40) for about 3 yrs, and photography is now one of my favorite hobbies. Like you, my preferred lens is prime, which is also a 50mm f1.8! Love love love the pictures that it can produce...the kit lens just can't compare!

    Anyway, I look forward to more of your photography related posts! I'm still learning and experimenting myself, and enjoy reading and picking up tips wherever I can get them :).

  10. Keep up the photography posts! I'm been researching DSLR cameras for awhile now and am hoping to buy one in the near future, so posts like these are a big help!

  11. I hope you do more of these photography posts! I actually just recently started learning about aperture and shutter speed, but I still get really confused. I only use a simple point and shoot (Canon G12), so I can't get the results that I wish I could. I have problems creating that blurry background effect. I've read that I need to zoom in and set my aperture to a smaller number, but when I zoom in, my aperture automatically goes to a higher number. I just need to keep practicing and learning, so more posts like these please!

  12. P - Thank you so much! I'm so glad you commented because I was thinking that no one's going to be interested in something like this if I started off with a fan base of Anthropologie lovers. I just didn't want to lose readers if I don't have to so I'm glad you finally commented. Welcome, btw! :)

    Ivy - I'm so glad that you share the same love for photography. I hope you'll continue to comment and share some pics with me that you took. We can share notes! :)

    Sara - I'll be happy to share any information you'd like to know about DSLR...although I don't know much! Haha.

    Liz - Oooh...I have the Canon G10! :) I really like the G-series...good choice. The thing with the point and shoots, because the zoom needs to accomodate so much and typically point and shoots use lower end glass, it's impossible to not have your aperture stay the same. It's very annoying. But the technique you read is right. In order to create that blurry effect, you need to shoot with a wide aperture (small f number) and zoom in really close. That's why I like the prime...because the "zoom" per se is how close you stand. Thus the aperture won't change. :)

  13. I forgot to mention that you inspired me to do Project 52! I'm following the MCP Project 52 themes on Facebook, and have been adding my pics to the Flickr group...so many amazing photos, and it's only week 3! Mine feel so amateur compared to most of them, but at least I'm getting practice :D.

  14. Definitely helpful since I am just learning with my new camera - FINALLY going to a class next week! I just bought a new flash for our zoom lens because I kept getting dark shadows/circles at the bottom of my pictures from the flash hitting the lens...kind of annoying and I wish they would have mentioned that you'd need a flash higher up when my husband bought the lens that he did. Anywho, I'm going to pick up another lens soon, I really love the blurred background in pictures!

  15. We have an SLR but I don't know how to use it to take professional-looking pictures, so this is great! There are so many options on the camera, that i don't know where to start adjusting. I will have to refer back to your posts whenever i get stumped. Keep up these posts!

  16. These tips are very helpful! The husband and I recently invested in a nikon dslr, and we have been having so much fun with it. Quoting the husband, "I am surprised that I can have so much fun with a camera!" :).

    With regard to the recent comment you left me, I want you to know that I appreciate you sharing your words. I am a pretty emotional person, and sometimes I can be a drama queen. And I do have mood swings. One of my aunt described my relationship with my husband very well--that I am a "Chinese wok" and my husband is a soft cotton. He has lots of patience and understanding for me. I do feel sorry for him when I going through my PMS days each month heh. I admire and love him ever more for being able to put up with me (even just during those few days each month). Your Anthro/car example with your husband is very darling. My husband doesn't like to shop, period. However, he does accompany me to shopping/return trips to the malls/stores. I have observed many times over and over again that he was the only one or one of very few men in the retail stores I visit frequently. He actually walked around me with as I pass from one section to another, unlike the few other men who were just sitting somewhere, looking bored, while pretending to be reading something or looking at their phone meanwhile their partners shop. My husband actually likes to pick out certain clothing pieces (usually ones that stand out in bright colors LOL) for me to try on. I feel very lucky. You are very lucky. Cheers to us :). I enjoy spending lots of time with my husband and he the same. I don't think that is dependency at all. Some might say that it is important and actually healthy for couples to create some space between each other. There might be some truth to that. As for my husband and I, we don't need nor want space between us. I sense the same from your relationship with your husband :).

  17. I just gave you a mini shout out on my blog :) Scroll down to the last paragraph of today's post.