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35mm vs 50mm

edited January 2016 Posted in » Nikon D5300 Forum
I'm looking to buy a prime lens. Would you recommend the 35mm f/1.8 or 50mm f/1.8 for the first lens?


  • edited January 2016
    That's a difficult question, and partly a matter of taste.

    If you are now using the 18-55mm or another zoom that covers both focal lengths, you should keep an eye on which lengths you seem to gravitate toward.

    The two are pretty much equal in optical quality, but the 50mm will give slightly better out-of focus blur for portraits and the like when it's wide open.

    Shallow depth of field is determined by both distance and focal length. Imagine that you have each lens, and intend to take a picture of a subject in which the subject is the same size in both. To get the same subject size at the same aperture, the longer focal length of the 50mm is partially cancelled out by the closer distance of the 35mm, but not quite.

    In addition, you will see a difference in the relative dimension of background objects. The longer focal length will make background objects larger in relation to the subject. That often helps to make them appear more abstract, and less distracting. For a quick and dirty comparison, here is a shot I did with a 35mm and a 50mm. Both are at f/2.8 (because that's what my 35,, goes to), so there is less background blur than you'd get at f/1.8. You can see, though, the difference in depth of field and also in perspective.

    So for portraits, the longer lens wins by a hair. For more depth of field, as general scenes might call for, the 35mm wins by a hair.

    You can crop an image that's a bit too wide, but cannot do the opposite. The 35mm will be a bit more forgiving. If you're expecting to go to FX format any time in the near future, the 50mm is a full format lens, while the 35mm is strictly DX.

    Strictly for my own self, when I switch to a prime, I usually will head more toward 35mm than to 50mm, but they're both good.

  • edited January 2016
    Thank You for the information. The pictures look like the 50mm might be a little bit sharper than the 35mm. I'm not quite sure which one to go with yet, but I appreciate the information.
  • edited January 2016
    Don't base sharpness on the images in that picture. That was taken rather sloppily with a 35mm f/2.8 PC preset manual lens, and a 50mm f/2 AI manual lens. In the case of the AF 1.8 lenses, both are admirably sharp (as are the ones I used, if I took greater care!). I think for all intents and purposes both the lenses you are contemplating are about equal, which in this case means both very sharp and well behaved.
  • edited January 2016
    If I set my 18-140mm lens at 52mm to duplicate 32mm, and 75mm to duplicate the 50mm, would that be sufficient for me to compare what they both look like?
  • edited January 2016
    You should set your 18-140mm lens at 35mm and 50mm to duplicate the primes of those focal lengths.

    Do not confuse the "equivalent" with the actual length. All lenses are measured by their true focal length, not their effective length. The 50mm setting on the 18-140mmm will be the same focal length as the 50mm lens. If you put your 18-140mm on a full frame camera, it would still be an 18-140mm (though it would probably have dark corners).

    We tend to speak of focal lengths in terms of what focal length gives an equivalent field of view in full frame, or FX format, but that is just a convenience, and really, it's just an arbitrary standard.
  • How will you get that aperture of prime lens using 18-140mm?
  • You won't get the aperture, only an idea of which angle of view suits your style better. The premise here is that the original poster wants a prime, but is unsure of which focal length to get.

    Either of the fast prime lenses in question will give you a better aperture range with better "bokeh" and better low light performance than the zoom, and probably slightly better behavior with relation to flare and contrast. The 18-140 is very sharp so it's unlikely there will be an appreciable difference there, but it also has fairly high distortion so a prime will probably be better for things that have straight lines and edges.
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