GROUP TEST: STANDARD PRIMES
A standard prime has always been considered a ‘must-have’ lens by many enthusiasts. Which of these four popular options stands out above the rest?
We test out four popular standard prime lens offerings and compare their image quality, handling and value for money to reach a final verdict
rewind a few years and, to really make the most of what film or digital sLrs had to offer, you’d need to add a prime lens rather than a zoom. There was simply no beating a prime for sheer optical quality, but is that still the case? some of the latest standard and telephoto zooms certainly rival their prime counterparts for contrast, sharpness and colour rendition, and even for control over colour fringing, ghosting and flare. But that’s not the whole story.
even the best standard and telezooms tend to have a widest available aperture of f2.8, although there are a couple of notable exceptions, like sigma’s 18-35mm f1.8 APs-C format and 24-35mm f2 full-frame compatible lenses. Typically though, if you want a natural perspective and viewing angle, coupled with a really wide aperture for enabling fast shutter speeds under dull lighting, prime lenses are still the way to go.
in many cases, the outright image quality can still be better than with a top-quality zoom lens, with better sharpness across the entire frame and with reduced distortions and vignetting. it’s not all good news, however. Longitudinal chromatic aberrations, or ‘bokeh fringing’, can be a problem when shooting at very wide apertures. This can cause noticeable red, blue or green halos around high-contrast edges in a scene, across the entire image frame. Unlike lateral chromatic aberrations, usually referred to simply as colour fringing, bokeh fringing can’t be automatically corrected in-camera or removed during rAw processing.
50mm f1.4 standard primes have traditionally been fairly simple, small and lightweight. some of the latest designs from independent manufacturers are comparatively large, heavy and complex, compared with current own-brand optics from the likes of Canon and Nikon. Let’s take a look at how the most popular standard primes for full-frame DsLrs shape up…