If you’re ready to buy your first prime lens, you might be wondering, is a 35mm or a 50mm better? Fortunately, it’s hard to go wrong with either lens, so as long as you choose one of them to add to your bag, you’ll be in good shape. Let’s explore the differences between these lenses so you can decide which one is best for you.
All About 35mm Lenses
With a 35mm lens, you get a wide-angle view (if you’re shooting with a full frame camera, anyway) that avoids the distortion you get with much wider lenses, like 12mm or 24mm primes. With that wide-but-not-too-wide angle of view (which is around 55 degrees), you can capture a lot of the scene around the subject. So, if you’re taking a portrait, you can include some of the surroundings in the shot for a nice environmental-type portrait.
Likewise, the 35mm focal length is perfect for taking photos in tight spaces because you can put the wide-angle view to use. All that means that a 35mm lens is perfect for things like street photography or travel photography, in which you need a lens that has a small form factor but can be put to use for a variety of tasks like portraiture, street scenes, and landscapes. Besides, of any lens out there, the 35mm focal length most closely resembles what we see with our own two eyes. That means that images taken with a 35mm lens will look natural and even comforting because of that familiarity.
All About 50mm Lenses
One of the most popular lenses is far and away the 50mm option. With a much narrower field of view than a 35mm lens (about 40 degrees), 50mm lenses offer a more intimate look at the subject and allow you to isolate details in a scene more readily. That also means that this lens is not as well-suited for taking photos in tight spaces.
However, the trade-off is that you have more reach with that extra 15mm of focal length. Since it’s a narrower lens, the 50mm is great for framing up portraits, particularly upper-body and headshots. With the longer focal length, you don’t have to be as close to the model as you have to be with a 35mm lens, which can help them relax in front of the camera. Additionally, 50mm lenses typically produce better background blur, which is an important element for portraiture as well. With the additional compression of the longer 50mm focal length, portraits taken with this lens are more flattering with less distortion than their 35mm counterparts.
But this lens isn’t just for portraits - it’s a good option for landscape photography too. Instead of the wider view of a 35mm lens, a 50mm lens allows you to frame elements out of the shot, which is advantageous when you want to focus the viewer’s attention on one part of the scene. This is especially true when a 50mm lens is used on a crop sensor camera, as the effective focal length is closer to the 75 or 80mm range.
Which Lens is Right for You?
If you want a lens that can be used in a variety of different situations, the 35mm is the more versatile of the two. Likewise, the 35mm option gets you a wider view of landscapes that photographers tend to like. On the other hand, if you want a lens that allows you to create more intimate shots - particularly portraits - the 50mm option might be better for you. Of these two lenses, the 50mm does a better job of separating the background from the subject, so there are more creative possibilities there for portraiture.
Additionally, 50mm lenses tend to be less expensive, which makes them a better choice for budget-minded buyers. But as noted earlier, it’s hard to go wrong with either of these lenses, so either way, you’ll be investing in a great lens that will help you create better shots.