What Is the Difference Between a 35mm Lens and a 50mm Lens?

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Time will come when you would outgrow a kit lens, and this is a great chance to try 35mm or 50mm lenses. However, what is the difference between a 35mm lens and a 50mm lens? While both are prime lenses, they still have distinctions that could affect your photography style.

What Is the Difference Between a 35mm Lens and a 50mm Lens?

The main difference between a 35mm and a 50mm lens is the field of view. A 35mm prime lens produces a 54.4-degree angle of view, which is significantly wider than the 50mm’s 40-degree field of view.

Despite both the 35mm and 50mm falling under the prime lens category, their difference in the field of view results in various effects.

Camera with a 35mm lens

35mm Prime Lens vs 50mm Prime Lens

Both lenses are suitable for low light shooting because they usually come with broader aperture values. This is why photographers consider prime lenses as ‘fast lenses’. However, their difference in the angle of view also means varying uses in photography.

A 35mm lens has a fixed focal length of 35mm, giving you a closer perspective on the subject than the 50mm. This focal length is closest to using a wide-angle lens minus the distortion. Hence, the 35mm lens works great in tight spaces, events, and group shots. 

Meanwhile, the nifty-fifty has a fixed 50mm focal length. It allows you to stand a little further away from the subject, providing you with a better depth of field than a 35mm. Considered the standard prime lens, the 50mm is perfect for portrait, street, and product photography.

When to Use a 35mm Lens

The global interchangeable lens market anticipates a 2.6% growth from 2021 to 2029. If you’re using an interchangeable lens camera, you may want to consider the following uses of a 35mm lens.

Getting a Wider Field of View

The broader angle of view of a 35mm lens enables you to fit more of the scene or subjects in a single frame. In effect, you can provide context on the subject as you get to include more background and foreground details. This is ideal when you’re shooting:

  • Landscapes: Whether for interiors, architectural shots, or nature photos, the angle of view captures the whole scene without distorting the subjects.
  • Group shots: A wider lens is a must when photographing many people because this helps ensure sharpness across the entire frame.
  • Events: Whether it’s a wedding, concert, or corporate event, a 35mm lens enables you to zoom in and step back using your feet in tight spaces.

Increasing Image Sharpness and Focus

The broader the angle of view, the deeper the depth of field. Thus, the more your shot will be in focus. Besides, focus depends on the subject’s distance from the camera, lens aperture, and lens focal length.

35mm and 50mm camera lens

With the perspective of a 35mm lens, you can focus closer to the subject to create a greater depth of field. For this reason, it would be better to use a 35mm lens when you want candid photos of fast-moving subjects like people dancing, capturing sports events, or children running around the house.

Minimizing Distortion

A 35mm lens isn’t quite exactly a wide-angle lens, yet it’s the closest to using a wide-angle view while still maintaining a prime perspective. Hence, you can shoot as wide as you can without making curvy lines or unnaturally stretched shapes.

Improving Autofocus

The wide angle of view and a fast aperture are the advantages of a 35mm lens. If you need help focusing, these two features work together to ensure the lens is fast enough to gather lots of light, helping the lens focus automatically.

When to Use a 50mm Lens

Lenses are continuously evolving to accommodate the needs of the photography market. This prompts an expected $6.19 billion lens market value by 2026. Among the key players would be the 50mm lens, which has several strengths that can improve your photography.

Bringing Subjects Closer

All hail the nifty-fifty, which brings subjects a bit closer as opposed to the 35mm that puts the scene at a slight distance. Even if you can’t zoom in the lens barrel because of the fixed focal length, it is much easier to zoom in physically using a 50mm lens.

  • Street: A 50mm lens allows you to capture the scene as you see in real life. With a wide aperture, you can also shoot with streetlights.
  • Close-up: This lens would be better to use if you don’t want much clutter or prefer a tighter shot for your subjects.
  • Product: A 50mm would be more efficient if you need to shoot several products in a single frame, whether for flat lay or direct shooting.
50mm lens

Mimicking the Eye’s Field of Field

The 50mm focal length is relatively close to how our eyes see the real world. In some cases, it’s also similar to the human eye’s ability to filter scenes in peripheral vision.

This is why a 50mm lens can be more flattering than 35mm, as you won’t get edge distortion even as you get close to the subjects or scene. While challenging, this enhances your creativity and composition techniques.

Isolating the Subject

Another great thing about a 50mm lens is that you can shoot at its widest aperture while creating a soft and cinematic-like separation between the subject and its surroundings. The shallower depth of field produces a beautiful background blur.

If you are a portrait photographer, this allows you to isolate the subject from the background, helping the viewer see the essential elements of a photo quickly.

Having a More Compact Setup

A 50mm will be a better option than a 35mm if you prefer a more lightweight setup. In addition, because it has fewer aspherical elements than a 35mm lens, it tends to have a more compact body construction. This makes the 50mm a walkaround lens for traveling and documentary shoots.

Conclusion

A 35mm prime lens has a broader field of view than a 50mm lens. Nevertheless, each has its benefits and disadvantages. Make sure to consider what kinds of photos you want to shoot, so you can decide which type of prime lens is ideal for your situation.

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.