Prime or fixed focal length lenses in general are cheaper and for the price can give much clearer and sharper images over Telephoto / Zoom lenses in certain price ranges. With prime lenses construction prices are less expensive due to less lens glass being required and a basic construction compared to Telephoto lenses and a higher quality lens can be used.
Some pros and cons for a prime lens:
- Cheaper price and higher quality for that price.
- Sharper and clearer images.
- Lighter weight and smaller size.
- Have to move more to get the composition want.
Some pros and cons for a zoom / telephoto lens:
- Ability to zoom in and out for composition.
- Ideal for photographing wildlife from a safe distance without disturbing the wildlife.
- One lens covers a variety of situations.
- Heavier in weight.
- Poorer quality images (with cheaper models).
Goes without saying that if can afford the more expensive telephoto lenses you will get very good images. My most used lens is the Canon F/1.8 50mm lens, otherwise known as the nifty fifty. This was also the only lens out of the 3 I purchased for my old Canon 500D that worked with my Canon 5D MK III.
My next favourite lens was the Canon 10-22mm which I loved for doing landscape and city photos, sadly this wasn’t compatible with the 5D. When buying lenses try think of future upgrades, if starting out with a cropped sensor and upgrading to a full size sensor your current lenses may not work. It’s possible to go the other way though so if can buy lenses that are for a full sized sensor camera that fits your cropped sensor camera, then that is a better option. Always check if the lens will fit your current and possible future cameras to save expenses down the track.
Hopefully this gives the basic differences between fixed and telephoto lenses to those starting out in photography.