35mm vs 50mm

35mm vs 50mm

You’ve bought a camera and are looking for your first prime lens? Having googled, you see that there are two main lenses - 35mm vs 50mm. You’ve got two very similar but different choices. What are the characteristics that would make it a match for you?

33mm-vs-55mm-comparison-in-photo-genres

best 35 mm lens

Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art

I recommend this universal 35mm lens for people who have Canon or Nikon. While this is an expensive lens, you're getting phenomenal image quality and build.

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best 35 mm lens

Sigma 50mm f1.4 EX DG HSM

This is the best choice for portrait photographers. The focus is amazing, artistic bokeh, and the look it gives from RAW, unedited shots is smooth and pleasing.

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 Look at the photos below. You may see the difference between these 2 focal lengths. I have chosen portrait photography, as this genre shows the 50mm vs 35mm competition more vividly.

35mm vs 50mm for portrait photography

Taken by Nikon AI-S 35mm f/1.4 and Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM

As you can see, 35mm captures more of the scene and is suitable for full-length and waist portraits. 50mm will take shoulder-length photos without distortion and with noticeably creamy bokeh. You can also use a 50mm lens to capture more scene, but you need to step back. To understand the difference between 35mm and 50mm, I suggest you reading this article and you’ll find answers to all the questions that may interest you.

Crop vs Full Frame

crop vs full frame

It makes no sense to make 35mm vs 50mm comparison, if we are talking about different sensor types. Different cameras have different sensor sizes. A full frame is simply a camera sensor of the same size as a 35mm film. Depending on the full frame or crop sensor, the lenses will act as a different focal length because of the difference in sensor size.

If you want to buy the best full frame camera for taking high-quality photos, look though my list of 10 cheapest full frame cameras for beginners.
 

If you have a 50mm lens, the glass is 50mm from the sensor. But in a camera with a crop sensor, for example, Canon T5i, the crop factor is 1.6. Thus, if you have a 50mm lens on a 1.6 crop sensor, your effective focal length will be 50×1.6, which will give you 80mm, and 35mm will give you 56mm, respectively.

Therefore, the difference of crop sensor is more than obvious - 50mm (80mm) is a classic portrait lens, with a narrow viewing angle, and 35mm (56mm) is a regular one, suitable for most situations. But when it comes to a full-frame camera, there are some questions, as 35mm is not wide enough to give strong perspective distortion, so it is suitable for the same situations as the 50mm model. But what’s the point of 35 vs 50mm rivalry, and why some photographers shoot only with 35mm, and others with 50mm lenses?

35mm Prime Lens

35mm prime lens

Photo taken by Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG ART

35mm lenses are great for photographers, who want to capture a wider angle, but without strong distortion. They are ideal for wedding and street photographers, photojournalists, landscape shooters and travelers.

35mm lens has approximately the same “vision” as the human eye, so the picture you get with it is realistic and with the correct perspective. It is often used in filming, as it gives viewers the natural image. Technically, a 35mm lens is considered a wide-angle lens, although it is placed at the very edge of this group. Its viewing angle and aperture ration, which is often large, allows photographers to use the lens in hard-to-reach places and in low light conditions.

35mm for Portrait Photography

portrait photo sample 35mm lens

Photo by Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art

Portrait photography is most often an emotion, and to evoke this emotion, you need to make contact with a person. Being 30 feet away from your model and evoke certain emotions is quite difficult, as this is the main minus of 35mm portrait lenses, as well as 50 mm model. The 35mm lens makes you get closer to the subject, which enhances true emotions. Therefore, it seems to me that this is the best choice for a street photographer, since the emotions and natural look of the image in this genre are the main things.

If you’re looking for a new lens, view more about the best lens for portraits for any camera brand and budget.
 

The second plus in favor of 35mm lens portraits is the possibility to tell a bit more story. For example, you are shooting a girl sitting by the window. 50mm will capture the girl, a part of the table and the window, while 35mm will show you part of the room, the view outside the window and things on the table, which will add details and atmosphere to the image. The interplay of the subject and the environment is a huge plus of this lens.

35mm for Landscape Photography

landscape photo sample 35mm lens

Photo by Canon 35mm f/2

Trying to figure out 35mm vs 50mm difference, you should understand that 33mm lens is much wider, so it can function as a wide angle lens when you need it. The 35mm model becomes even more helpful during the journey, because it gives you the opportunity to shift from shooting a portrait to a landscape without changing the lens, and it will cope with that task perfectly.

If you’re going to take architecture or interior photography, read more about the best lenses for real estate photography you may buy for wide angle property photos.
 

You won’t take a landscape photo similar to those you get with 20mm lenses, but still agree that it's nice to have the opportunity to take pictures in this genre without buying a wide-angle lens specifically for this purpose.

35mm for Product Photography

product photo sample 35mm lens

Photo by Sony 35mm f/1.8

I know that most product photos are taken using zoom lenses, since they are more versatile and convenient for this photography type, but 35mm will produce rather decent pictures even in this genre. 35mm lens is wide enough to allow you to shoot, for example, still-lifes or photos with lots of objects and details.

Looking for a good lens for apparel or jewelry photography, look though my list of the best lenses for product photography for any product and at affordable price.
 

Besides, 35mm is great for tabletop photography, as you will not need to climb high above the table because of the narrow viewing angle. I know some food photographers who shoot a lot with 35mm lenses, mostly because of the lens speed that their working zoom cannot give, but only shooting with natural light.

35mm for Group Photography

group photo sample 35mm lens

Photo by Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art

Group photos are a must-have at any wedding or other events. At such a photo session, you need to “fit” several people into a frame. The number may vary from 4 to 50 people. Professional wedding photographers buy wide-angle lenses especially for such occasions, but 35mm will be enough if you have little space in your bag. After visiting many forums, I learned that there are some photographers who managed to photograph 70 people with a 35mm lens, and many, in general, call 35mm the best focal length for group photos.

Don’t know what lens to have at a wedding photoshoot? Read more about the most universal lenses for wedding photography you can buy for group, portrait, and even macro photos.
 

Thus, for group shooting, the winner of 35mm vs 50mm contest is obvious. The problem of shorter focal lengths, even 28mm, is distortions. Therefore, objects placed far from the center will be slightly enlarged compared to those in the center. However, for 35mm this will not be a problem.

Recommended 35mm lenses

Though, most manufacturers produce 50mm lenses and the number of 35mm model is much lower, you can still find a reliable one. I chose two 35mm lenses at a different budget, as well as my favorite lens with this focal length.

Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art

sigma 35mm 1.4 art

 
 

Very high resolution, low distortion and chromatic aberration, beautiful, three-dimensional pattern - all this is available at a reasonable price. Among the disadvantages of Sigma AF 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens is the absence of dust and moisture protection, which can limit your possibilities in harsh reportage shooting conditions.

Frankly speaking, these lenses with fixed focal lengths are not initially designed for this purpose. They are aimed at the highest possible optical quality and artistic beauty of the image. That’s why, the lineup of the corresponding optics was called “Art”.

Canon 35mm f/1.4L II USM

canon 35mm 1.4

 
 

This 35mm lens belongs to the line of professional optics and differs from the rest with its technically perfect design. This is a sharp, exceptionally fast and accurate autofocus, which produces beautiful, professional images.

The high degree of protection deserves special praise. This is really a lens designed for use in difficult conditions. Photojournalists, photographers, shooting sports and wedding events will surely like it. The main disadvantages are heavy vignetting and average flash resistance.

Nikon 35mm f/1.8 G ED

Nikon 35mm 1.8G

 
 

Nikkor 35mm follows in the footsteps of Nikon's f/1.8 budget line of lenses. Its sharpness, micro-contrast, color rendition and other optical qualities are very impressive for such a price, which makes it another “great addition” to the already powerful Nikkor lens line. Judging by the tests, its sharpness is very high, surpassing Nikkor f/1.4G and Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art lenses with a maximum center output.

If you’re fond of this camera brand, I recommend you reading about the best Nikon lenses for weddings you can buy having any budget.
 

Autofocus performance and accuracy are also impressive even when shooting in low light. Despite all the pros, this lens has some weak points that become noticeable if we are talking about 35mm street photography. Its vignetting levels are quite high, and chromatic aberrations tend to be rather strong. The biggest drawback, in my opinion, is its work with bokeh, which may look improper.

50mm Prime Lens

50mm prime lens

Photo taken by Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM

Classic 50mm has been the standard for photographers for a long time. It is believed that the 50mm size roughly corresponds to what the human eye sees, although this is a controversial saying. Usually, this is the next lens that I recommend to people when they want to upgrade their 18-55 mm lens.

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Since a 50mm lens is slightly longer, you will see a bit better depth of field than in 35mm prime lens photos, as well as better bokeh or background blur. There are many professionals who still photograph a lot with 50mm so it has definitely stood the test of time. This lens is considered universal and is suitable for most scenes.

50mm also has disadvantages - photographing in a small room is fatal to you, as this is the case when a 35mm lens will be very useful. Choose 50mm lens if you aren’t sure that you will be engaged in 35mm lens photography and will need a wider model, but don’t want to be limited to a longer lens.

50mm for Portrait Photography

portrait photo sample 50mm lens

Photo by Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM

50mm lenses for portrait photography are really good if you take a shoulder-length portrait and photograph somebody more distant. In the case of close-up portraits, you need a longer lens, as the 50mm will begin to distort the subject when shooting closer. It seems that 35mm is more versatile. In fact, it is, but if we are talking about shooting, where you need to show only the person, without drawing the viewer's attention to the background and the surroundings, as a 35mm lens will only disturb you.

If you’re going to take family events and parties, I recommend you buying one of the following lenses for family portraits that are affordable and efficient for beginners.
 

I would call 50mm a more “isolating” lens for portraits, as opposed to 35mm. For this reason, 50mm is not suitable for street photography, unlike 35mm, but for portraits it is great.

50mm for Landscape Photography

landscape photo sample 50mm lens

Photo by Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM

I am sure that many people shake their heads disapprovingly when they hear about 50mm prime lens landscape photography. But believe that it is really possible. With this lens, you cannot rely on distortion typical a wide-angle lens or beautiful compression you get with a telephoto lens. All you can do is to fill the frame with something interesting. This focal length shows the “correct” picture, namely, the landscape that you see in reality, close enough to see the details, but wide enough to feel the entire picture.

50mm for Product Photography

product photo sample 50mm lens

Photo by Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM

If you open most articles with tips on choosing a fixed lens for product photography, you are likely to read about the lenses from 50mm to 100mm. It is important that such a lens will give you a vision of the scene with the object as it really is, and the distortion of objects will be minimal, as even the 35mm lenses have it.

For this reason, such a lens will not capture a wide scene with all the details like a 35mm lens does, but will be narrower. But this is exactly what you need for photographing a small number of things, and product photography is most often a photo of 1-2 objects in a frame.

50mm for Group Photography

group photo sample 50mm lens

Photo by Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM

If we are talking about photographs of 2-3 people in full length, then 50mm lens will fully cope with such task, as well as with the shooting shoulder-length portraits of 5 people. To photograph a larger group, you can do with a 50mm lens, but you’ll need really lots of space.

View more about what Nikon portrait lens to choose to take detailed and high-resolution photos in poor and good light.
 

For example, I once took a group shot of 10 people indoors and was very limited in space, so I had to literally lean the camera against the opposite wall. Therefore, my recommendation is that you can realize 50mm lens photography ideas for small groups in almost any circumstances; for bigger groups, you need a large room or free space outside.

Recommended 50mm Lenses

The choice of 50mm lenses seems to be endless. Each company has at least two 50mm lenses on sale, but most often, there are a lot more of them. For instance, Canon has released 7 50mm lenses, five of which are currently available on the market.

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM

sigma 50mm 1.4

 
 

Being a rather expensive model, Sigma 50mm F/1.4 HSM offers lots of cool features for such a price. For instance, you can benefit from a durable case build, which will become really helpful if you often work in difficult shooting conditions. The HSM focusing ensures excellent center sharpness at F/1.4, which makes Sigma 50mm a serious candidate for the best prime lens for travel photography title.

This lens shows impressive results when attached to full frame cameras, as the colors are accurate both at the edges and the central part of the image. I recommend this lens to those photographers, who need a wide model with great performance during handheld photographing and shooting in poor light conditions.

Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM

canon 50mm 1.2L

 
 

50mm f/1.2L is a creative lens with a unique pattern that can be used when taking half- and full-growth portraits with a very beautiful soft effect and magical bokeh. You can use it in product photography to get images with a very blurred background. Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM can create a beautiful photo out of nothing, blurring dull and uninteresting background.

If you’re a fan of this camera brand, look though my list of the best Canon wedding lenses you can buy for taking incredible bridal portraits or group photos at the ceremony.
 

Photographers like it for creative, thoughtful and accurate work with bokeh. The low focusing speed, as well as too soft images at an open aperture, make it inapplicable in reportage and any other dynamic shooting. The price paid for excellent bokeh is the visible vignetting at the open aperture and chromatic aberrations.

Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM

canon 50mm 1.8

 
 

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM can be called the perfect lens for an amateur photographer. The sharpness that this lens provides is not something that you expect from a budget class model. It is high even at the open aperture. If you slightly close the aperture, you won’t face any problems even when shooting with the most demanding cameras.

If you are planning to take baby portraits, read my overview of the best lenses for newborn photography at any price and for any camera brand.
 

Perhaps, the most controversial characteristic of this model is its bokeh: quite rigid, with contrasting highlights. Anyway, in this price category, you definitely will not be able to find a lens with better optical quality and equally extensive creative possibilities.

35mm vs 50mm or 35-50mm?

35mm vs 50 vs zoom lens

One of the most popular questions among newbies is “Why should I choose a lens with one focal length, if I can buy a zoom that covers them all and even more?”

Fixed is a lens with a fixed focal length. For example, 50mm, 35mm, etc. Zoom is a lens with a variable focal length. For example, 24-70mm, 17-55mm and others. It seems, that the wider the range of focal lengths, the more versatile the lens, and therefore better. But everything is not so simple, and both types have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Fixed focal length is a characteristic of the lens, which becomes a problem for those photographers, who like versatility. Because of the fixed focal length, any zooming in that you need to do, will have to be done with your approaching the object, but you can somehow deal with it. The biggest problem arises if you go to shoot a landscape with 50mm or even 85mm lenses. You will probably return without any successful photo.

This is also relevant for portrait genre, if you want to shoot with 20mm or less. The advantages of the fixed lens are aperture ratio and sharpness. In addition to the possibility of shooting in the worst lighting conditions, it also produces nice “bokeh”. Another obvious advantage of the fixed lenses is their size and weight. They are smaller and lighter than their “variable” brethren, which is a decisive factor for some photographers.

The biggest advantage of zoom lenses over fixed models is a variable focal length, so they are much more versatile. Thus you can have a wide-angle and portrait lens in one. Another advantage of such a lens is the focusing speed. High-aperture fixed lenses have a slower focusing speed than zoom models.

The main disadvantage is a small aperture. Zoom lenses that you most often see will have f/4 aperture, less frequent – f/2.8. You can find options with f/1.8 aperture, but only for crop cameras. The second minus is the price. A good zoom lens costs about $1000 and more, while you can find a great fixed lens for even $300.


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