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Old September 30th 05, 06:59 PM
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"Eugene" wrote in message

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.

Sure, but where's the "shortening complex expressions" in this misusage? No
amount of shortening (or even Crisco) will make "prime" out of "fixed focal

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 *is* ignorant to misuse a term which has a proper technical meaning. The
fact that the misusage is "widely accepted and understood" does not make it
less ignorant.

Examples abound. The news media commonly use "bullets" when they mean
cartridges. It's not an error that any literate shooter would make; you will
not see cartridges called "bullets" in any respectable shooting publication;
when such a publication says "bullets" it means bullets.

Likewise, "prime lens" has a specific meaning, i.e. the camera lens as
opposed to some other lens or lenticular device used with it. One does not
necessarily expect accuracy in terminology from the news media, which get a
lot of things wrong anyway. But shouldn't photographers who've been at it
for a while be reasonably literate when they talk about equipment?

It seemed clear that the Nostrobino was just being undully pedantic and
argumentative, and his comments added nothing to the thread.

Correcting a technical misusage is, I think, a useful thing to add to a
thread having to do with any sort of technology.

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

Well, everyone thinks they do, and some of us actually do. :-)