Photography - Knowledge

35mm vs. 50mm: The Battle of the Lenses

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Prime lenses are a big deal in the world of photography, and for a good reason, too! They have a maximum aperture, high in quality, low in prices, and are lightweight as well! But, when you go out to buy one, you’ll be faced with one major problem: should I choose 35mm or 50mm? This “35mm vs. 50mm” debate is one that every photographer faces. It is very difficult to choose between the two, but when you know your stuff, things get a lot easier.

Prime Lenses: Steps to Choose the Perfect Prime Lens

35mm vs 50mm prime lens
Prime Lenses: The New ‘Cool’ (Source)

A prime lens comes with a fixed focal length and a large aperture that provide sharp images with a shallower depth of field. It is best suited for travel photography or 35mm prime lens photography.

Prime lenses are ones that have a single focal length. A zoom lens, on the other hand, covers a wide range of the length. The prime lenses are available in a wide range of focal lengths that range from wide-angle through the longest of telephoto lenses that can mostly be seen used by the paparazzi and the sports photographers.

Of course, zoom lenses are very popular and are sold as a primary lens kit with most of the DSLR’s. But, the prime lens does remain as the favorite lenses of a lot of photographers.

The major reasons as to why prime lenses remain so popular are:

1. Maximum Aperture

This is perhaps one of the biggest reasons as to why people choose prime lenses; the speed that the prime lenses offer is worth appreciating. This can be explained with a great example. Amongst the entire 35mm prime lens canon, the fastest ones are all prime lenses that go down to f/1.2.

On the other hand, with the zoom lenses, f/2.8 is as fast as you can achieve.

2. Price

When we talk about the construction of the prime lens, they have a very simple making. It is for this reason, that they can be somewhat inexpensive.

But, this, of course, isn’t as simple as this and the quality of the lens is dependent on a lot of factors. The price can, therefore, vary from one manufacturer to the other.

3. Quality

Typically the prime lenses are well-known for their quality and advanced optics. As they have less moving parts, manufacturers are able to focus more on the quality and the mechanism of the lenses. Also, just because we are talking about the quality, doesn’t necessarily mean that you can expect the prime lenses to deliver the best performance.

But, yes, most of the times the quality of the prime lenses are commendable.

4. Weight

As discussed above, prime lenses are rather simple lenses that have very less movable parts.

This means that in most of the cases, the prime lenses would be smaller and lighter as compared to the zoom lenses.

Buying Your First Prime Lens – 35mm or 50mm?

In the fight of 35mm vs 50mm, there is no clear winner because each is suited for different purpose and completely depends on the requirement of the user.  

Reasons to Choose a 35mm

The 35mm lens is one of the fastest wide angle lenses that you can your hands on in today’s time. This lens has, in fact, one of the best superior color renditions and creates amazing contrast images that have great depth of field when you open the aperture to the largest possible size.

Listed below are a few reasons as to why you may consider choosing the 35mm lens:

  • It’s Practically a Human Eye

35mm vs 50mm human eye
Better than Zoom (Source)

Here’s a fun fact that you should know when comparing 35mm vs. 50mm Nikon, the 35mm lens is actually the closest to the focal composition to the eye of a human.

It is for this reason that it is used quite often in movies. It provides a more realistic vantage point to the viewer to look at and enjoy.

When we talk about the lens in terms of photography, when you use a 35mm lens, it gives you the chance to get much more creative in terms of the way that you move your body around in order to capture the right composition.

  • It’s the Best Way to Shoot a Video

35mm vs 50mm video
The Perfect Package (Source)

Most people tend to purchase the Nikon 35mm lens for the sole purpose of creating video content. It is in fact considered as one of the best lenses for the purpose of videography.

The focal is just perfect, wide enough so as to ensure that there is no camera shake.

Most of the lenses that have very wide focal length make it hard to focus on the subject. But, that is not the case with the prime lenses. Also, the videos that you shoot with the prime lenses would normally have great cinematic quality when the aperture is dialed to the lowest level.

  • It’s the Definition of Versatility

35mm vs 50mm versitile
The Lens That Can Do it All (Source)

Another great thing about the 35mm prime lens Nikon is the fact that it can literally be used for anything, be it portraits, landscapes, travel shots, street photography, macro photography, product photography, real estate photography or just anything else.

With the 35 mm lens, you get the opportunity to click stunning close-up images along with quite amazing wide angle shots. You would even notice several wedding photographers using these lenses for its capability to click beautiful pictures indoors and outdoors.

  • It Gets You Closer to Your Subject

35mm vs 50mm closer to subject
Up, Close, and Personal (Source)

It has truly been said that pictures speak a lot. Just by looking at someone’s pictures, you can easily tell if they were actively or passively involved with the surrounding. With zoom lenses, it is, of course, easier to click a picture as all you would need to do is zoom into the subject by standing far away and not having to get involved with the action.

However, with the 35mm lens, you would have to get into the middle of the action really so as to capture a good picture. This does mean that you would have to interact well in order to capture the emotions of the people. If you stand far off from the subject, it won’t work as the angle is wide and hence in the end photo, you wouldn’t actually have a real subject.

  • It Allows You to Capture the Environment and Subject in the Best Way

With the 35mm lens, you get to capture your subject with respect to the environment. This is also one of the other reasons as to why it is used so often in films. These lenses, allow you to tell a story.

  • 35mm Lenses for Portraiture

35mm lenses are often the best for shooting the upper 1/3rd and further away. However, it depends on the subject you want to shoot and the lighting conditions.

Disadvantages of a 35mm lens

Just as the 35mm lens has several advantages, it does have a few disadvantages as well. Listed below are a few disadvantages of a 35mm lens.

  • It is quite difficult to isolate the background with 35mm lens
  • When comparing the 35mm vs. 50mm, the 35mm lens is actually more expensive than most of the 50mm lenses
  • The 35mm lens tends to distort the subjects that are very close to the lens which means that it won’t be the ideal lens for clicking portraits.

Reasons to Choose a 50mm

The 50 mm lens is perhaps the most overlooked fixed focal length lens that is not only versatile but is affordable as well. It is, in fact, great for both beginners as well as starters. Most people, who use the 50mm lens, believe that it is a lens that you would use throughout your career as a photographer.

  • It Takes Amazing Pictures, Even In Low Light!

35mm vs 50mm low light images
Low Light, No Problem (Source)

The biggest reason as to why so many people choose the 50mm lens is because of its capability to capture great pictures even in low-light conditions. For instance, with the 50mm prime f/1.8 lens, you would get three stops more apertures as compared to the average fixed lens of a 5.6 max aperture. With three stops more aperture, we mean eight times more light.

With the wide aperture on the 50mm lens, you would be able to shoot using high shutter speeds in poorly lit areas. Oh and also, you wouldn’t have to increase the ISO of the camera which means high-quality, clearer pictures that have much lesser noise.

  • It’s the Master of the Bokeh Effect

35mm vs 50mm bokeh effect
The Beautiful Bokeh (Source)

The bokeh effect refers to the blur’s quality in an out-of-focus part of a picture. With blurry backgrounds, you can give your pictures a more professional feel. It is something that would set our pictures completely apart from pictures taken on a smartphone.

The 50mm lenses are usually fast. This means that you get the chance to capture shallow depth of field shots that has an amazing bokeh effect. 50mm lenses would be the best option for you in such situations.

  • It’s as Sharp as an Eagle’s Eye


As compared to a zoom lens, the 50mm lenses always take better and sharper photos. But, how is it possible? Well because the 50mm has lesser optical elements that are responsible for offering a clear view of the image and the camera sensor.

The 50mm is also equipped with a much more dynamic focus ring than what a telephoto has. What this means is the fact that it is more sensitive and thereby gives you the chance to fine-tune the focus in order to capture a sharp shot.

  • 50mm Lenses for Portraiture

50mm lenses for portraiture are beautiful for anything such as the upper quarter of a person. You can focus on a subject very closely by using a variety of 50mm macro lenses.

Disadvantages of 50mm lens

Just as the 50mm lens has several advantages, it does have a few disadvantages as well. Listed below are the top disadvantages of 50mm lens

  • When using a 50mm lens, you would have to stop the lens down if you are using the zone focusing. This would actually be even further than a 35mm lens.
  • You would be able to capture lesser background unless and until you step back further.

35mm vs. 50mm: Which Prime Lens is Better

To understand which lens is better when it comesto35mm vs. 50mm, we need to look at the differences between them first. Here, we are going to be comparing the Nikon 35mm and the Nikon 50mm.

Focal Length

35mm vs 50mm focal length
No Zoom Needed (Source)

So, the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G has a similar field of view of 52.5mm lens on a DX sensor. On the other hand, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G has a similar field of view of that of a 75mm. Both of these lenses fall into the category of normal and standard lenses depending on the kind of the sensor that they have been mounted on. For instance, when mounted on a DX sensor, the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G acts as a normal lens while the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G becomes a telephoto lens. This happens because of the field of view of the 50mm lens narrow to 75mm.


Just in case you didn’t already know, the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G is basically a DX-only lens. This means that it would only work properly when it has been mounted on a DX sensor camera. However, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G has the capability to work well with both the FX and DX sensor cameras.

Closer Focusing

The Nikon 50mm f/1.4G allows focusing up to 1.5 feet while the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G just allows close focusing up to one foot.

Maximum Aperture

The Nikon 50mm f/1.4G has a maximum aperture of f/1.4 while the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G has a maximum aperture of f/1.8. This does mean that both of the lenses are extremely fast with the only difference being that the 50mm can easily pass through a bit more light as compared to the 35mm lens.

Minimum Aperture

The Nikon 50mm f/1.4Ghas a minimum aperture of f/16 while the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G has a minimum aperture of f/22. What must be noted here is the fact that the minimum aperture of the 35mm lens wouldn’t be beneficial on a camera with a DX sensor. This is because clicking pictures at such apertures would actually degrade the quality of the image because of diffraction.


35mm vs 50mm weight
Lighter and Better (Source)

When it comes to the weight of 35mm vs. 50mm full frame, the 35mm f/1.8G is actually about 80 grams lighter than the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G that weighs 200 grams.

Size of the Filter

The Nikon 50mm has a 58mm thread for the filters while the Nikon 35mm has a 52mm filter thread.


When it comes to comparing the price of 35mm vs. 50mm, the 50mm is actually the cheapest prime lens that you can get. The 35mm is the second cheapest and is basically twice as expensive 50mm.


The Nikon 35mm is much smaller than the Nikon 50mm and is perhaps one of the reasons why so many people tend to choose it over 50mm.

35mm vs. 50mm: Choosing the Perfect one for You

chosing between 35mm vs 50mm
What’s Better? (Source)

To find the perfect prime lens for your camera, firstly pick one of your zoom lenses and set it on a focal length.

Now, what you are supposed to do is shoot in that setting for a week and instead of using the zoom on the lenses, use your feet.

Click all kinds of pictures that you possibly can and experience what it is like to use your feet. For a better experience keep clicking the pictures at different focal lengths.

Crop Sensor vs. Full Frame Sensor

Both types of camera sensors provide different focal lengths.

Note down your experience of shooting at various focal lengths. The setting that you feel is ideal is probably where you should consider starting at. That would help you to determine what prime lens you should purchase.

35mm vs 50mm conclusion
Choose What’s Best for You (Source)

So, which lens should you actually choose between 35mm vs. 50mm?

To be honest, it all depends on your personal choice. Some people prefer the 35mm while some like the 50mm better. The focal lengths of both the lenses are worth appreciating and both of them are rather versatile.

However, a few people feel that the 35mm prime lens is a bit more versatile. In the end, it all comes down to the purpose you want to use the lens for. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of both and take your decision wisely.

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