I would like to know the differences between:

  • 50mm prime lens
  • 50mm in a zoom lens
  • 50mm macro lens
  • \$\begingroup\$ See also these basic questions: What is a macro lens? and What is prime lens?. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 0:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ This question is now a "hot question" - upvoters remember upvoting a question means you think it is "well researched" - which this clearly isn't. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alec Teal
    Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 2:56

1 Answer 1


Let's start with what is similar with all three of these lenses:

They all have a focal length of 50mm. You should also be able to have a lot of overlapping focusing distances and aperture values.

Now, to what's different.

When it comes to a zoom lens, they tend * to have a different maximum aperture values that are smaller than with a prime. The advantage is that you can zoom in and out so if your subject looks better at 55 then you can adjust your focal length to make your picture look "better".

The prime and macro lenses are very similar however, the difference comes in the focusing distance. With a macro lens you can do macro photography. This means if you want to take some very close pictures (normally people take pictures of bugs) then you can focus to that close of a range.

With a regular prime lens your biggest advantage is cost. Most non-macro lenses are cheaper than their macro counterparts.

Also, with primes you tend * to have a faster (or larger) maximum aperture. However, unlike your zoom lens you might not be able to get the picture you want and also may be unable to take a step forward (or backwards).

Some helpful definitions:

Aperture: also known as an f-stop this affects your depth of field. The larger the f-number number, the smaller your aperture is, and the larger your depth of field will be. For some pictures you may want to have a very large depth of field and then you can see everything behind your subject in focus. The downside is, when you use a smaller aperture, then you also decrease how much light is passed through the lens.

A bigger maximum aperture isn't always better. For example, people will spend more money on a 200mm with f/2.0 vs 200mm with f/2.6. It all depends on your requirements.

Minimum focusing distance: How close an object can before it will be in focus. All lenses should be able to focus to infinity; however, it is the minimum distance that is of importance (in this case). If you want things very close to you then you need a small minimum focusing distance. A macro lens will have the smallest; however, it has the tradeoff of cost.

*not always

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm ready guys...lay it on me. \$\endgroup\$
    – SailorCire
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 19:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ See my edits. :D \$\endgroup\$
    – inkista
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 20:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good answer but you realise that 'tend' already implies that it's not always the case? You footnote baited me twice there. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 23:34
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ So the difference between a 50mm zoom and a 50mm prime is that the prime will have a better maximum aperture value, right? About prime and macro, how can the minimum focusing distance be changed when they are f the same focal length? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ann
    Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 4:11
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ A 50mm prime will tend (yes, tend) to have a larger max aperture than a zoom. But this is not an inviolate law of nature. 50-150mm f/2.8 zooms do exist, and I happen to own a 50mm f/3.5 prime! It is quite a tiny lens however, and the 50-150mm is a big one. \$\endgroup\$
    – Staale S
    Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 13:20

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