Choosing a Prime lens you’ll use.

I kind of look at the conundrum of ‘what’s the next lens for me’ like I look at my choice in ice-cream. There are hundreds of flavours and whilst I like to experiment and try new things, the reality is, if I’m going to invest heavily in one flavour, I want to be damn sure I’m not going to get sick of it.

You may or may not know but for the past couple of years I’ve worked for a major camera brand in both a training and sales capacity. This brand is one that I really love and I can’t express how much respect I have for the innovation that goes into their camera system. One of the perks of the job is that it gives you full access to pretty much any gear you want/need/desire/crave/lust over/dream of… you get the point. But having all of this access lead me to a realisation: of all the lenses I had access to, there were only 1 or 2 that made it out of the bag on a regular occasion. Not all of us have the luxury of anything, anytime so how do you choose your next prime lens when trial and error isn’t an option? Wouldn’t it be great if we could actually know for sure that the lens we are about to buy is one we will use constantly? Cue Lightroom (or similar).

Being a cataloging and sorting tool as well as a processing tool, Lightroom has the ability to show you a long long list of all of the focal lengths that you’ve used to take your photos, along with the number of shots you’ve taken at this focal length.


A Prime Lens is a lens that doesn’t have a zoom. It’s a fixed focal length and generally has a significantly faster aperture than a zoom lens giving it better low light performance & better blurry backgrounds. In addition they are normally significantly sharper than zoom lenses.

Olympus 25mm f/1.8 (my favourite Prime!)

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How to choose!

I’m going to use the example of someone (me) who has purchased an Olympus OM-D camera with the 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens (a personal favourite zoom). You’re wondering what to buy next as a fast prime lens.

1 . I make a collection of my favourite photos in Lightroom (I’m going to use my Cities & People collection).

2. Select it and click where is says ‘No Filter’ in the top right of the photo grid

3. Select Camera Info

4. Look at the column ‘Focal Length’ and you will see all of the focal lengths you’ve used and how many photos at that particular length.

For my example of what length I use on the 12-40mm the most it looks like:
Winner: 12mm is the winner with 255 of 485 photo
Second: 40mm at 53 of 485 shots
Third: 15mm with 23 of 485 shots

So looking at this information it is clear that my personal style of shooting prefers the 12mm length and this is likely going to be my first preference for a shiny new prime. Now this isn’t an exact science as it’s more looking at your past habits rather than future aspirations but as someone who had access to everything but found themselves always using the same 2-3 lenses, it’s a pretty good place to start.

If you don’t have Lightroom don’t stress, you can right click each image and select ‘Properties’ on a PC or ‘Get info’ on a mac. The focal length is listed in the pop-up window. This option obviously takes a lot longer so I would likely only test my top 20 fav shots to save time.

So when all is said and done I encourage you to try this little test next time you are looking to buy a prime lens. It’s got a lot more science than ‘my mate told me’ and will help to shape a kit that reflects your shooting style, without adding ‘filler’ unused lenses to your kit.

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