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Zoom Lens vs. Fixed Lenses: Which one is best for YouTuber?

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Mar 27, 2024• Proven solutions

As a YouTuber it is a good idea to understand the way your camera works, since you will be using it so often. If you make your videos using a DSLR then you will need to know the difference between the two categories of camera lenses. Most cameras only have the one built in lens, but with a DSLR you choose which lens you want to use.

You can get a lot of different lenses for your DSLR and they all have different effects on the images you record. All of these lenses fall under one of two categories; fixed or zoom. Zoom Lenses allow you to zoom in and blow up a portion of your frame. Fixed Lenses can have a lot of interesting effects, but they do not zoom. The built-in lenses in most non-DSLR cameras are all Zoom Lenses, so chances are you are more used to them.

Being able to zoom is convenient, but there are benefits to Fixed Lenses too. This article will walk you through the differences and explain which type of camera lens is best for YouTube.

Camera Lens Comparison: Zoom Lens vs. Fixed Lenses

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What Do I Need to Know About Fixed Lenses?

Seasoned videographers often claim that a lens is more important than the camera body because a good lens can improve the quality of the footage. Photo and video camera lenses are constructed using the same principles, which means that any lens that is compatible with your DSLR camera can capture both still and moving images.

All lenses have different focal lengths, and a fixed lens is simply a lens with a fixed focal length.Fixed Lenses are also called Prime’ Lenses, which have a set angle of view, so for example, if you have a 35mm prime lens you won't be able to increase or decrease its focal length.

When you rely on Fixed Lenses you learn to choose the perfect lens for every shot, a lot of people appreciate the skill and creativity that can go into making these choices.

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What are the advantages of using a lens with a fixed focal length? To find the answer to this question we'll have to take a look at some of the features of prime lenses:

Stunning Performance: Videos recorded with prime lenses are known to be sharper and more visually pleasing than the ones captured with a zoom lens. The fixed focal length requires incredibly precise glass, which is the reason why most prime lenses produce image quality that matches the quality of images produced with high-end zoom lenses.

Prime Lenses are Small and Lightweight: If you are shooting videos in outdoor locations often, you probably know that weight can be a problem. Fixed lenses enable you to reduce the weight you have to carry around while you're shooting a video or taking photos, but they aren't as versatile as zoom lenses.

Practice, practice, practice: Composing a shot, finding a great angle or learning how to find the best camera position for each scene you shoot are all important skills. Using a prime lens will force you to look for a place where you can physically put the camera, in order to get the shot you want, instead of composing images by just zooming in or out. It is a challenge, but a challenge well worth taking.

Creative results: Aperture allows you to control how much light you are letting into the camera. Prime lenses can have apertures as wide as f/1.2 which makes them extremely useful in low light conditions. Fixed lenses also have a shallow depth of field so you can use them to get a nice background blur.

Cost Efficiency: Camera equipment can get quite expensive, but if you are looking for a way to save money on lenses and still get stunning image quality prime lenses are your best solution. You can find high-quality fixed lenses for just a couple of hundreds of dollars, while you'd have to spend much more on a zoom lens of the same quality.

Drawbacks of Prime Lenses:

  • Shooting action scenes where you have to change the focal length quickly is nearly impossible.
  • Placing the camera in the perfect spot to get the best shot may not be possible in all filming locations.

If you only have Fixed Lenses then you definitely need more than one and you will probably want to build a set. Every time you change your lens or move your camera to a better location while using Fixed Lenses, a Zoom Lens could have saved you time and effort. A lot of photographers and videographers enjoy taking that time and effort, though. Fixed Lenses are more affordable than Zoom Lenses, although you do need to buy more of them. You can create effects like bokeh or background blurring with Fixed Lenses, and the additional planning that goes into your shots can add a level of artistry.

What Do I Need to Know About Zoom Lenses?

Zoom Lenses are more expensive than Fixed Lenses, though, and they are not capable of creating some of the same effects. You cannot blur your background or create a bokeh lighting effect using a Zoom Lens because most Zoom Lenses do not have wide enough apertures.

A Zoom Lens is adjustable. Rather than choosing the perfect lens for a shot you can zoom in or out until everything is exactly how you want it.

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This makes Zoom Lenses more versatile. If you cannot adjust your lens then you have to hunt for the perfect distance from your subject to capture it in focus, or change the lens on your camera. With a Zoom Lens you can just zoom.

Unlike the fixed lenses, zoom lenses allow you to change the focal length by turning the focal ring. Telephoto, wide angle or mid-range lenses can also be zoom lenses that allow you to combine the properties of telephoto, wide angle, and mid-range lenses. Simply put, you can use the same zoom lens to take a variety of shots with different focal lengths.

Besides letting you adjust the focal length, most zoom lenses allow you to change the aperture, but their maximum f value is below the professional standard. The limited aperture speed slightly decreases the performance of zoom lenses in low light conditions. Let's see what other benefits zoom lenses have to offer.

Flexibility and Adjustability: When you are on the set you have to be ready to adjust to new situations quickly so changing a focal length within a few seconds may make all the difference. While prime lenses require you to constantly switch between lenses, zoom lenses allow you to easily find the optimum focal length for the scene you are recording.

Image Stabilization Technologies: Nearly all modern DSLRs have built-in image stabilization systems, but some zoom lenses also feature powerful technologies that reduce the effect camera shaking has on the footage the camera produces. Image stabilization features provided by zoom lenses can be important when you're shooting at low shutter speeds.

Saving time and space: If you work only with prime lenses you'll have to change lenses constantly, which means that you'll have to carry a lot of lenses to each location. Zoom lenses allow you to carry less equipment and they enable you to save time on switching lenses for each new shot you take.

Drawbacks of Zoom Lenses:

  • Buying good zoom lenses requires you to spend a lot of money because some high-end models can cost a few thousand dollars. Lower priced zoom lenses produce image quality that is considerably lower than what prime lenses can offer.

Fixed Lens vs Zoom Lens: Which is best for your Youtube Channel?

Which type of lens is better for you and your YouTube channel will depend on what kind of channel you have.

A lot of vloggers reuse the same camera set up every time they vlog. For example; beauty gurus, opinion vloggers, and even some comedic vloggers tend to stick to one main set. If you fall into one of these genres, or a different vlogging genre where you do not tend to move around, then a Fixed Lens can meet all your needs. You do not need to be able to zoom if your shot never changes.

You will still need a variety of Fixed Lenses if you ever want to make a different kind of video, or if you plan to use your camera for photography.

If you are interested in vlogging, but do not plan to become interested in videos or photography more generally then a Zoom Lens might be better for you. You will be able to take a variety of shots without as much planning. Also, if you like to film on the go then it is a lot simpler to travel with one Zoom Lens than a case of Fixed Lenses. Vloggers who move around a lot, like travel vloggers and some daily life vloggers, are also more likely to need a zoom feature.

Prime or Zoom Lens, Which One Should I Use for My Vlogs?

Cinematographers rarely use a lens to zoom in or to zoom out, because camera movement in cinema means that you have to physically move the camera. The fast apertures and low prices are a part of the reason why prime lenses are so popular among all types of video producers. Besides, the shallow depth of field the fixed lenses offer can produce amazing visual effects when you are shooting portraits. That's why a prime lens is a great option for all studio based vlogs that don't involve a lot of movement.

On the other hand, if you are traveling a lot and you don't often shoot at locations where you can easily have access to a lot of different lenses, using a zoom lens is simply a much better option. You'll be able to compose a shot much faster and you'll be better equipped for the documentary style of videography. Other than price, there are no further reasons why you shouldn't use a zoom lens to record your videos.

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Richard Bennett
Richard Bennett is a writer and a lover of all things video.
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