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Old June 12th, 2009, 02:46 PM   #1
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When are zooms appropriate?

As one who is headed quickly towards Letus-land, please share thoughts on lens choice and why zooms lenses are not apparently more popular. Is it solely how fast a lens needs to be or something else. Thank you for helping out a D of F adapter neophyte.
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Old June 12th, 2009, 11:42 PM   #2
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Dave

While primes seem to be in vogue, lots and LOTS of people are using zooms.

Benefits of prime lenses:

- better performing at the equivalent focal length
- models available that are faster than any zoom could be at same focal length (zooms max out at f2.8)
- don't breathe as much when focusing

drawbacks of prime lenses:
- you have to switch the lens everytime you want to change focal length
- you are limited to the focal lengths you have - you can't dial in 61mm like you can on a zoom
- are typically not color matched (unless you buy zeiss zf lenses), so you have to be careful to white balance everytime between lens changes
- tends to reenforce a good practice of picking your focal length and then determining your camera placement.


Benefits to zooms:
- fewer lenses to carry around
- more flexibility in focal lengths - you can pick anything in the zoom range, not just limited to specific focal lengths
- fewer lenses to buy
- faster setups, as you are not switching out lenses all the time

Drawbacks to zooms:
- tend to be slower than primes -fastest zoom you will find (in SLR land) is 2.8
- generally don't perform as well as primes in the same focal length
- tend to breath when rack focusing


I've worked on features that incorporate one or both of them. It's often a matter of preference on the DP's part, importance of speedy setups, amount of available light (natural or artificial), and what lenses people have on hand


Hope that helps


Brian
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Old June 13th, 2009, 09:56 AM   #3
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Thanks Brian...

After searching for used lenses online and locally is there a zoom from either Canon or Nikon that might be worthwhile in your estimation. I have been away from any serious stills photography for a number of years and don't have that contact with product line like I used to.

Best,
Dave
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Old June 13th, 2009, 10:04 AM   #4
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I'm sure you'll find lots of opinions on this one.

First, you definitely want zooms that are 2.8 all the way through. YOu want to avoid variable aperture zooms like 18-200 f3.5-5.6. Not only is the 2.8 faster, but it's also consistent aperture regardless of zoom length, and 2.8 zooms are the pro series of glass. You'll want to make sure you get one with a mechanical aperture, meaning the older pro glass.

We shot an entire feature with two zooms once: a 24-70 f2.8 and an 80-200 f2.8 - I think you can get them both for less than $1k.

In my personal kit I have a combination of zooms and primes. I always have my 50mm f1.4, 28mm f2 (both zeiss, though I have nikon versions as well), and I supplement these with an 80-200 f2.8 zoom.

On the canon side, it's a bit tricky here. The older Canon FD lenses you can get zooms where you can adjust the aperture, but back then zoom technology was nowhere near what it is today, so they tend to be pretty poor performers.

The newer Canon zooms are beautiful, but they have only electronic apertures. The only way to use these is 1) drag around an EOS body and anytime you want to adjust the aperture, you disconnect the lens from the adapter, put it on an EOS body, change it, remove lens while pressing DOF preview, reattach to adapter. or 2) the Redrock M2 Encore is the only adapter with an active lens mount for canon EF Lenses that allows you to adjust the aperture on the adapter.

Hope that helps


Brian
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Old June 14th, 2009, 10:31 AM   #5
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I learned everything about Nikon lenses from this website:

Nikon Nikkor Lenses

We purchased all our lenses used from KEH. KEH Camera: Used Cameras, Digital Cameras, Film Cameras, Laptop Computers and More.

We purchased:

17-35mm f/2.8
50mm f/1.4
80-200mm f/2.8


A BIT OFF TOPIC
But I have learned (as Brian eludes to...thanks Brian!) that you must re-white balance whenever you change lenses. The biggest change is when we go from the 17-35 and 50mm to the 80-200mm. The big zoom has a much warmer (yellow) tone if you don't re-white balance. But I have gotten real good at using Synthetic Aperture's Color Finesse to color correct the footage and it does a great job. (as well as the 3-way Color Corrector in Final Cut Pro and also Apple's Color software). The point is, if you're white balance is off because you forgot to white balance when you changes lenses, it's pretty easy to fix.

I shot this short footage over Memorial Day weekend and edited it in a couple hours. I shot the whole thing with my white balance set to preset 5600k. I didn't do any color grading in software and you can tell where some of the shots aren't white balanced perfectly. But I left it, because I liked the look. :)

On A Good Day on Vimeo
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Old June 17th, 2009, 12:44 AM   #6
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For Nikon at least the modern zooms are of very very good quality. If you are shooting interviews they are much more convenient than primes.
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Old June 17th, 2009, 09:10 AM   #7
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Agreed - the 80-200 is a wonderful interview lens.
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