Is a 1.8 or 2.2 Aperture Better?

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Aperture is a crucial element in photography because it influences exposure, depth of field, and sharpness. It’s ideal to use larger apertures when shooting, so is a 1.8 or 2.2 aperture better? Whether you’re choosing a lens or practicing taking photos, we’re exploring which wide aperture is superior.

Is a 1.8 or 2.2 Aperture Better?

When shooting at the same distance, the f/1.8 aperture is better if you prefer more light coming through, a shallower depth of field, and subject isolation. Meanwhile, f/2.2 is more suitable if you need less light, a deeper depth of field, and increased focus area. 

While f/1.8 and f/2.2 are both wide apertures that provide bright exposures, they still have varying effects in certain shooting conditions. So let’s first understand how these two f-stop values work to see how you can use them appropriately. 

F/1.8 vs F/2.2: A Battle of Wide Apertures

Aperture helps you control how much light you want to let in, and consequently, control the depth of field. The lower the f-stop, the broader the aperture value. Thus, f/1.8 is better than f/2.2 when you want more light to enter the camera and lens sensors.

A close up shot of a camera shuter with a light reflection

However, without even using a flash, both f/1.8 and f/2.2 are good for low-light conditions, especially when both are potential maximum aperture values for lenses. 

They are also great for highlighting a subject’s details, although f/1.8 would be better than f/2.2 if you want to get the most details out of an image. Here’s a simple way for you to remember:

  • f/1.8: bigger aperture value and a wider opening = more light reaching the sensor = shallow depth of field
  • f/2.2: smaller aperture value and narrower opening = less light hitting the sensor = deep depth of field

Photography Situations Where 1.8 Aperture Is Better

One of the things where f/1.8 outshines f/2.2 is bokeh, a photography effect where you blur out the lights to transform them into a creamy out-of-focus background. This is easier to achieve using lenses with wider openings, like f/1.8.

If your shooting style involves putting less of a photo within focus, you can shoot at f/1.8 to get enough depth of field, especially for nearby subjects. This is particularly helpful when you prefer to keep the center subject sharp while blurring the foreground and background.

Photography Situations Where 2.2 Aperture Is Better

Being in the same wide-aperture group as f/1.8, f/2.2 almost share the same abilities. However, between the two, f/2.2 is slightly narrower than f/1.8, which means less light would reach the sensor.

Despite that, f/2.2 is better than f/1.8 in situations where you need to increase the focus area since its diameter produces a deeper depth of field. It’s also excellent for low-light environments where you want more even sharpness across the frame, you can adjust the lighting easily.

Types of Photos Where You Can Use 1.8 and 2.2 Apertures

It’s common to use big f-stop values because you would most likely want to gather as much light as possible. However, such apertures still have limitations. Thus, take time to experiment between f/1.8 and f/2.2 to see how they work.

  • Portraits: Using f/1.8 for portraits can be a bit challenging, especially for close-ups, since the depth of field may blur out some facial features. Depending on the background, you may choose f/2.2 for increased subject focus.
  • Landscapes: Narrower apertures are suitable for landscape photography. Since f/2.2 is smaller than f/1.8, it can spread even sharpness from foreground to background.
  • Outdoor: For general outdoor photography, like when you’re traveling or just hanging out, the goal is to capture as much available light as possible. Depending on your desired sharpness and background blur, you can switch between f/1.8 and f/2.2.
  • Action: Whether it’s for an event or the motion of people, you need a fast lens to capture movement. This would come from a wide aperture like f/1.8, which can collect lots of light and let you use fast shutter speeds.
A camera lens being held with an open camera shutter

The global photography services market sees a 10.6% growth rate this year. This includes planning, developing, and creating equipment with various ways of recording light. As manufacturers produce lenses with powerful maximum apertures, you should know whether 1.8 or 2.2 would be better for your photography style.

Conclusion

F/1.8 and f/2.2 are both wide apertures. However, 1.8 has a bigger opening, making it much better for bringing in lots of light for a shallower depth of field. Meanwhile, 2.2 is suitable when you want less light yet a more extensive focal area.

Kaitlin Cooper is an active professional wedding and portrait photographer in San Diego, California at Kaitlin Cooper Photography. She is also a contributor to many large publications, including Bridal GuideBustlePixpaWith Joy, and Hello Giggles.