Primes or zooms: what are photographers buying more of?

primes vs zooms
(Image credit: James Artaius)

Primes or zooms – which should you buy? It's a longstanding question among photographers, with advice always varying depending on whom is dispensing it. 

As far as which lenses photographers actually do buy, though, we now know the answer: primes are outselling zooms… but by the skin of their teeth. 

• If you're asking what is a prime lens, let us explain! 

That's according to a breakdown of the bestselling lenses of 2023 so far, provided to us by B&H Photo. It reveals that, of the 53 top-selling optics across 6 different camera mounts, 27 were prime lenses and 26 were zooms. We have to admit, a split that even came as quite a surprise to us.  

Looking into the most popular lenses of each type, perhaps unsurprisingly, the nifty fifty (or its equivalents in cropped sensor formats) is still the most popular prime, as everybody needs a 50mm lens. And when it comes to zooms, the trusty 24-70mm trinity (or, again, its equivalents) remains the lens most commonly picked up. 

You can check out all the lens breakdowns by clicking the names of the mounts in the shortcuts bar above.

Best sellers of 2023: Canon EF

1) Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
2) Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
3) Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art
4) Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary
5) Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM
6) Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art
7) Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM
8) Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM
9) Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM

Best sellers of 2023: Sony E

1) Sony FE 20-70mm f/4 G
2) Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II
3) Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary
4) Sony FE PZ 16-35mm f/4 G
5) Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 GM
6) Sony FE 50mm f/1.8
7) Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD
8) Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art
9) Tamron 17-70mm f/2.8 Di III-A VC RXD
10) Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS

Best sellers of 2023: Micro Four Thirds

1) OM System M.Zuiko Digital ED 90mm f/3.5 Macro IS Pro
2) Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 Asph
3) Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f/5-6.3 IS
4) Panasonic Lumix G X Vario PZ 45-175mm f/4-5.6 Asph Power OIS
5) Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 II Asph Power OIS

Best sellers of 2023: Canon RF

1) Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM
2) Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8 L IS USM
3) Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1 L IS USM
4) Canon RF 16mm f/2.8 STM
5) Canon RF 100-400mm f/5.6-8 IS USM
6) Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM
7) Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8 L IS USM
8) Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM
9) Canon RF 100mm f/2.8 L Macro IS USM
10) Canon RF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM

Best sellers of 2023: Fujifilm X

1) Viltrox 75mm f/1.2 AF
2) Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 DC DN Contemporary
3) Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 R LM WR
4) Viltrox AF 13mm f/1.4 XF
5) Fujifilm XF 33mm f/1.4 R LM WR
6) Fujifilm XF 18mm f/1.4 R LM WR
7) Fujifilm XF 23mm f/2 R WR (Black)
8) Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 R WR
9) TTartisan 27mm f/2.8
10) Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary

Best sellers of 2023: Nikon Z

1) Nikon Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.2 S
2) Nikon Nikkor Z 26mm f/2.8
3) Nikon Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S
4) Nikon Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S
5) Nikon Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S Macro
6) Nikon Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S
7) Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2
8) Nikon Nikkor Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S
9) Nikon Nikkor Z 14-30mm f/4 S

If you enjoyed this article, check out the best 50mm lenses across all brands. You might also want to browse the best Canon lenses, best Sony lenses, best Micro Four Thirds lenses, best Fujifilm lenses and best Nikon lenses.

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James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients like Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photo and lighting tutorials, as well as industry news, rumors and analysis for publications like Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and talks at The Photography Show. He also serves as a judge for the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.