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Old September 29th 05, 08:17 AM
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The use of "prime lens" for "fixed focal length lens" appears
to originate in cinema where the need for a handy term
for a non-zoom lens was felt long before such a term was
needed in still photography. As a handy bit of slang, it
has much to recommend it: it is easy to say and quickly
understood. As a technical term, it has two major difficulties:
the word "prime" has little connection to what is meant,
and there was a prior use of the term in which the word
"prime" actually made sense.

OK, fair enough. You make a valid point, but in the case of "prime
lens", given the definition of the word, I don't think it's nescessarily
incorrect or ambiguous. Shortening complex expressions is just how
language works. Just a few other slang photographic terms I could think
of would be "film", or "sensor", or "flash", or even "lens". Everyone
knows what these terms mean, although none of them is strictly correct
or complete.

If you start referring to zooms as "prime" you're just going
to make yourself sound stupid.

No, because you would always also be using an additional term
such as "supplementary lens" or "teleconverter" which would
supply the context which would make the meaning clear.

Perhaps my comments were a bit harsh. I just took offense to the
suggestion that it was ignorant to use the widely accepted and
understood term "prime lens". It seemed clear that the Nostrobino was
just being undully pedantic and argumentative, and his comments added
nothing to the thread.

Whatever you think it meant originally, is not what it means now.

You know, sometimes words have two meanings.

Most of us can live with slang terminology and standard technical
terminology without getting particularly confused. Slang terminology
can be very handy: I'm not going to stop saying "Hypo" when I know
that fixer is actually thiosulphate. It isn't very likely that someone
will think I mean the actual chemical "sodium hyposulphite" AKA
"sodium hydrosulphite" which is AFAIK not used in photography.
But it is still good to distinguish between slang and proper technical
language. If I ordered "sodium hyposulphite" from a chemical supplier
who served dyers it is just possible I might get the wrong chemical.

As an Australian I certainly have no problem with slang ;-) Mind you
when I'm writing things for an international audience I'm careful to
avoid terms that will confuse people in other parts of the world. If I
wrote the way I would typically talk to other Aussies then a lot of
people wouldn't know what I was talking about. I hardly think though
that "prime lens" is one of those confusing obscure slang expressions.
Everyone knows what it means.