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Primes vs. Zooms


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#1 DS Williams

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 04:06 PM

Hey guys

I know the basic differences, but beyond sharpness and speed, what are the other differences?
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#2 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 04:15 PM

Size, weight and the accessories. For instance, most zooms demand 6x6 filters and matte boxes, adding extra bulk to an already big lens. The Optimo 24-270mm is a beast and it severely limits its uses - no steadicam, no handheld, no car interiors etc. They also tend to focus less close.

On the plus size they are quicker to use and will save time in certain situations.
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 07:20 PM

Size, weight and the accessories. For instance, most zooms demand 6x6 filters and matte boxes, adding extra bulk to an already big lens. The Optimo 24-270mm is a beast and it severely limits its uses - no steadicam, no handheld, no car interiors etc. They also tend to focus less close.

On the plus size they are quicker to use and will save time in certain situations.


With all those glass elements, zooms are more prone to flare and generally are less contrasty than primes.

They are more likely to breathe when you rack-focus at the wide-angle end.
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#4 Paul Bruening

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 07:52 PM

There are directorial concerns worth addressing along with photographic and technological. Zooming shot are, generally, used sparingly or not at all in movie grade product. Some directors will use them only when they have to to follow an action through depth. Though, with the "reality" technique trend, zoom shots are becoming more popular. I have noticed that when they are employed to enhance the sensation of presence, they get used a lot. That is to say, movies either use them a lot or nearly never based on production and directorial design.

These are all off-the-cuff remarks and are not meant to be absolute statements.

I, personally, think zoom shots in a dramatic production stink of cheap.
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 08:54 PM

I, personally, think zoom shots in a dramatic production stink of cheap.


That's too broad a generalization -- look at all the zooming in Altman's and Kubrick's movies.
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#6 Mike Lary

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 09:05 PM

That's too broad a generalization -- look at all the zooming in Altman's and Kubrick's movies.

I agree. I also love the zoom work in Bergman's "Cries and Whispers". It's delicately orchestrated. Also, Tarkovsky's films used zoom lenses quite effectively. To me, a moving shot doesn't look 'cheap' unless it's poorly executed, poorly motivated or self indulgent, regardless of what technology is used.
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#7 Chris Keth

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 10:29 PM

I, personally, think zoom shots in a dramatic production stink of cheap.


You've never hid a little zoom in a dolly to get frames on both ends just right?
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#8 Gus Sacks

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 02:33 AM

I think it's also a way of working. Some people like zooms because they're quick, easy to adjust frames... But some others, like me, prefer to pick a lens and set a frame and work from there. I think to me it's a starting point to work from. Like taking a breath and sitting down and taking a second to evaluate your decisions.
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#9 Gus Sacks

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 02:32 AM

Double post.
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#10 Chris Keth

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 02:45 AM

I think it's also a way of working. Some people like zooms because they're quick, easy to adjust frames... But some others, like me, prefer to pick a lens and set a frame and work from there. I think to me it's a starting point to work from. Like taking a breath and sitting down and taking a second to evaluate your decisions.


I tend to feel the same way as you. When I have a zoom, I need to be very disciplined about it. Otherwise, I'll find myself zooming out a bit instead of moving back a couple of feet. Little compromises like that are not a good thing, to me, when they are just done because of laziness.

I have learned how I like to work with zooms and I enjoy it more now. The room between prime lengths are nice to have accessible. It always kind of sucks when you have a 32 and a 36 but you really need a 34 for whatever reason.
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#11 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 05:19 AM

That's too broad a generalization -- look at all the zooming in Altman's and Kubrick's movies.


Speilberg seems to be quite fond of crash zooms out - like in ET when ET is going into cardiac arrest, it zooms out from Eliots face to the doctors in foreground.
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#12 Serge Teulon

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 06:38 AM

I like primes but a zoom is lovely for flares and more importantly, in those moments, saving time.
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#13 A. Whitehouse

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 08:07 PM

That's too broad a generalization -- look at all the zooming in Altman's and Kubrick's movies.


Or Sergio Leone and other Italian films...
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