What do you mean “eww”?

My son, Harry, making love to a double-serve of ice-cream; captured on a 50mm prime. It would take a skilled photographer to replicate this on a zoom.

My son, Harry, making love to a double-serve of ice-cream; captured on a 50mm prime. It would take a skilled photographer to replicate this on a zoom.

Over the last few weeks, some friends who want to take photography a little more seriously asked what lens they should get for their new camera. I tell them to get a 50mm f/1.8 lens (or the equivalent on a full-frame) because it’s cheap and produces great results. The response I got almost universally was “eww.” So I’ve compiled the ten-point conversation that occurs after I ask “what do you mean eww?”

1. My camera already comes with a zoom lens.
The zoom lens that came with your camera is a piece of crap. Take my word for it. I would take my non-zooming 50mm prime over your slow zoom any day.

2. What do you mean by “slow”?
It’s complicated. Basically, it means I can shoot in low light and you can’t.

3. But my camera can do ISO 25600. Doesn’t that let me shoot in low light?
Do you like photos with lots of noise? I like my photos clean, personally.

4. Wouldn’t I be limiting my options with a prime? I mean, wouldn’t I have more options with a zoom?
Yes. But you need be honest with yourself: 90 per cent of what you’re going to try to shoot will be rubbish anyway.

5. But what if I’m too far away?
Walk up to it.

6. What if I can’t walk up to it?
Some photos just aren’t meant to be.

7. Well now you’re just not being helpful. How am I supposed to learn if I’m cutting off all my shooting options?
You’re not. It’s true you’ll only learn what shots work and don’t work by shooting a lot, but a prime lens will force you to learn how to shoot well at one focal length. That in itself can take ages, but you can expand from there to other focal lengths.

8. Then why can’t I just get a zoom and do that?
You got me there. I suppose you could. Good luck with (2), though.

9. Isn’t there such a thing as a fast zoom lens?
Yes. I have a few. Would you like to try one out?

10. Hey your fast zoom is awesome. And I see it only costs a WHOA THERE IS NO WAY I CAN JUSTIFY THAT.
Yup.

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