What’s the Difference Between a Prime and Zoom Lens?

By January 8, 2016Blog
What’s the Difference Between a Prime, Zoom and Cine Lens

Should I use prime lenses or zoom lenses for my video project?

It really does not matter what type of video you are shooting. Whether it’s a video for a travel blog, food recipe or short indie film set-up time is always going to be an issue. In many cases you may only have access to a location for a limited amount of time. Also, if you are filming an interview the subject may only be available for a brief amount of time. The point is that every project varies from one to the next. There are two main categories of lenses which consist of primes and zooms. Both have advantages and disadvantages over another which is discussed below.

What is a zoom lens?

What is a zoom lens for video production


  • A great zoom lens can replace multiple prime lenses for a job.
  • Zoom lenses can be great for filming wedding and events since the camera operator can keep a safe distance.


  • The aperture can change depending on the zoom lens that is being used. Lens that change aperture during a zoom will cause the subject to get lighter and darker affecting video quality. There are professional zoom lenses that will remain in a constant aperture during a zoom, but this will be reflected in their higher price.
  • Zooms are not as sharp at any given focal length as a prime lens of that focal length.

What is a prime lens?

A prime is a lens has a single focal length such as ‘ 35mm ‘ and they do not offer the ability to zoom. Prime lenses are much more portable since they typically use less glass. Also, they are typically smaller than their zoom counterparts making them easier to travel with. An advantage is that prime lenses offer very sharp focusing. With no ability to zoom, camera operators will physically need to move the video camera from spot to another to get the shot.


  • Because you will have to move more to compose the shot, a prime lens can actually help you film more creatively. Great video making has a lot to do with frame composition.
  • Sharper images when compared to zoom lenses which is due to a less complicated build.


  • A zoom lens will allow a camera operator to keep a safe distance from the subject. With a prime lens you can only compose an image by going further or nearer the subject.

Best of luck with your travel video content!


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