What is the difference between prime and zoom lenses?

No matter where you are on your journey as a product photographer, or even if you’ve created your own packshot studio the decision on buying a new lens will often be a complicated one. There are plenty of types to choose from and then there are the different brands to compare.

One of the main decisions many have to make is whether to go for a prime lens or a zoom lens. As a result, we thought it best to create an article that details the difference between the two along with the most important advantages and disadvantages.

As always, each product photographer will have their own requirements and as such, the pros and cons will differ but there are fundamental points below that you should be aware of.

Prime lenses

Let’s start off with prime lenses! As a product photographer, you may be asking why would you want one when a zoom lens has greater flexibility and range?

These lenses have a fixed focal length but can sometimes offer better performance in low light. Let’s delve into some of those advantages and disadvantages now.

The advantages

Many of the prime lenses you can purchase for your packshot studio offer wider apertures than a comparable zoom lens. This in turn means they will allow more light in, getting a better image in those low-light product photographs. It can also help with getting those shots where the background is blurred out.

Whilst many of the prime lenses out there weigh a lot and can cost a lot, a product photographer should always be on the lookout for a 50mm prime lens. It might seem like it isn’t the best option but you can get some fantastic photographs for such a cost-effective and lightweight option.

The disadvantages

Countering the argument above, it is important to note that many prime lenses on the market cost a lot of money and take up a lot of space in your camera bag. You can get cheaper versions if you shop smartly, but it may still be a more expensive option compared to getting some zoom lenses for your packshot studio.

Zoom lenses

Zoom lenses are all about versatility and are a popular choice for junior and experienced product photographers. Let’s explore some of the main advantages and disadvantages of a zoom lens.

The advantages

When you go for a zoom lens, you’re able to undertake a wide range of shots depending on the product you’re shooting and the composition in question. You simply edit the settings on the zoom and any other camera settings you feel necessary without having to change equipment.

Thanks to not having to carry a wide range of lenses, a big advantage of going for a zoom lens is you will carry about less equipment. As a product photographer, you never want to have to use up unnecessary space in your camera bag.

The disadvantages

In general, the main disadvantage of using a zoom lens is that the quality of the image can sometimes be lower. However, this is primarily when looking at lower level lenses and the more professional models will deliver good results.

Aside from that, it can be argued that zoom lenses are less portable as they weigh more and don’t deliver the same results in low light. If you plan ahead and understand your photoshoot then this can easily be mitigated.