Flow Chart: Do You Need an F2.8 or an F4 Zoom Lens?

Do you need an f2.8 or an f4 zoom lens? We’re answering this in today’s Cheat Sheet.

We’re sure many of you are trying to figure out whether you should go with f2.8 or f4 zoom lenses. Folks type this into our search engine reasonably often, and it’s clear that people aren’t sure what they need. Of course, there are pros and cons to each. Do you need the extra stop of light? Do you prefer a lightweight body? What subject matter are you photographing? There are a host of essential questions one should answer when they are considering the purchase. And today’s flow chat, otherwise known as our photography cheat sheet, is designed to help you figure that out.

Editor’s Note: We’ve written about this before, but people want more!

Hobbyist or Professional?

The good news is this: if you’re a professional photographer, there are options with both variants. The same goes for hobbyist photographers. Professionals are thought to go after the f2.8 lens options most, but the truth is that option isn’t always needed. Sometimes you need a lightweight lens instead of a bigger, heavier one. Additionally, it depends on the subject matter you’re shooting and the type of camera you have. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What type of photographer are you?
  • What subject matter are you shooting?
  • How much light is there usually?
  • Are you making your own light?
  • How strong is your back?
  • How much money do you want to spend?
  • Do you want to possibly get a used lens?


So why choose an f4 lens? Portraiture, wildlife, outdoor sports, events where you can use a flash, ecotourism, and wildlife tend to be more accessible for f4 zoom lenses. Wider angle lenses are also a million times more compact than telephoto zoom lenses, but they’re also more affordable and lighter, and usually faster to focus. If you’re trying to track a surfer, an f4 lens will give you an easier time than an f2.8 lens.

“In our experience, we’ve found f2.8 lenses to be better built. Part of this is due to size and construction. Maybe it’s because they’re typically heavier, but they feel more solid. My hypothesis for this is because manufacturers know that more professional photographers will reach for a lens like this instead of an f4.”

The Honest Answer


Thankfully in the past few years, companies like Tamron have been making smaller, lighter f2.8 zoom lenses. Others are still working on it. (Personally, I prefer prime lenses.) But most folks don’t really need an f2.8 lens. If I had to choose, and was specifically looking at the Canon RF system, I’d go for the f2.8 lens options because they’re pretty lightweight, even though I like their 24-105mm f4. If I were going with Fujifilm, I’d go for their f4 zooms because I could just never warm up to the look that their f2.8 zoom lenses offers. So sometimes it can be complicated.

“When I think of professional zoom lenses, the 24-70mm, 70-200mm is a must for a “bread and butter” kit. If these two are the only lenses you have in your kit, you’ll be covered in 95% of photographic situations.”

The Essential Professional f2.8 Zoom Lenses for Every Camera System

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.