So, which lens is better, f/2.8 or f/4.0?
We don’t often post reviews, but this ongoing debate has been on the minds of both amateur and professional photographers looking to buy or upgrade their equipment. We decided that due to some people asking us this question through email, we should address our views on the topic through an article. Both the f/2.8 and f/4.0 lenses are popular, and there are pros and cons to having each. However, we agree that the conclusion isn’t as simple as it may seem.
Ignoring the usual price gap between the f/2.8 and f/4.0, let’s look at the speed of both lenses. The difference between both lenses is one full stop of light. In other words, the f/2.8 will allow you to shoot in lower light conditions without raising your ISO too high. As a result, the f/2.8 is deemed to be faster than the f/4.0, and is better suited for situations like sports and night events. A large factor to consider when choosing between the f/2.8 and f/4.0 is the ISO capability of your camera. If your camera produces very grainy images at high ISO’s, then it’s probably better for you to get the f/2.8. However, if you don’t really shoot in situations that require high ISO’s, meaning that you usually shoot during the day or with a flash, then the f/4.0 would be the right fit.
The sharpness difference between the f/2.8 and f/4.0 lens should be minimal. If you’re planning to shoot in broad daylight, it’s most likely that you’re going to stop the f/2.8 lens down to a smaller aperture anyway. In other words, since an f/2.8 lens will be shot at f/4.0 during the day, there will be no difference in sharpness. When shooting wide open (f/2.8 lens is shot at f/2.8 and f/4.0 is shot at f/4.0), we see that the f/2.8 is slightly less sharper than the latter. However, the difference in sharpness between the two lenses is so small that unless you’re nitpicking pixels, it’s not noticeable. As a result, we have come to the conclusion that lens sharpness is not relevant in this case, and the difference is not significant enough to choose one or the other.
Let’s move onto the last factor: bokeh. Everyone wants deep, rich bokeh in their images. If you didn’t already know this by now, “bokeh balls” appear and improve shape at larger apertures. So if you’re looking for those in your images, then the f/2.8 lens is the obvious choice. However, when stopped down, both lenses are extremely similar. The only difference would be that the f/2.8 would have better bokeh capabilities when shooting wide open because of its large aperture. Here’s a helpful tip that most photographers don’t know: if you want greater depth of field and greater bokeh, then go for a longer lens. Surprisingly enough, a wide lens with a large aperture would produce around the same depth of field as a telephoto with a smaller aperture. So if you’re looking to get the best bokeh, a better option would be to just get a lens with a longer focal length instead of choosing between the f/2.8 and f/4.0. Anyways, when it comes to bokeh, we have also come to the conclusion that both lenses are similar, so the difference is once again not significant.
Many of you will now ask, so which lens is better? It is likely that there will be a difference in price between the two lenses, with the f/2.8 more expensive than the f/4.0. However, both lenses fit different niches, so it should be obvious what the choice would be.
The f/4.0 lens should be capable of handling most situations, as the aperture is very flexible. If you’re looking to shoot in broad daylight and outdoors, then it should be the perfect lens. However, if you’re looking to shoot mostly indoors (for example, inside a gym during a basketball game), this is where the f/2.8 really shines. That full stop of light will make a difference, and it will allow you to shoot at a good shutter speed without raising your ISO too high and getting grainy images. However, if you’re not looking to shoot in these conditions, then there is no reason to get the f/2.8. Although the f/2.8 has slightly better bokeh capabilities, we’re skeptical if that really makes up for the difference in price between the two lenses, which can be up to $1000 or more depending on the lens.
As a result, the question that you should be asking is not “Which lens is better”, but “Which lens would better fulfill my style of shooting?”. Many of you might have read this article for a simple conclusion about which lens is better. However, we have made this article so that there is no definitive verdict. Both lenses are great options, and the decision should be based on what kind of photographer you are.
And overall, we stress that in the end, it’s not about the camera or the lens that dictates how good you are as a photographer. Better equipment may be slightly faster and easier to manage, but their capabilities are only fully used by a good photographer. The beauty of an image depends on the eye and mind of the artist, not his/her equipment.
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