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?

Digital Photograper - - Contents -

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…

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