Why Is 35mm the Standard for Lenses?

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A standard lens in photography sits between wide-angle and zoom lenses. With several prime lenses out there, why is 35mm the standard for lenses? We’re going to look at the factors why photographers consider the 35mm as the benchmark amidst a plethora of all-purpose lenses.

Why Is 35mm the Standard for Lenses?

The 35mm is the standard for lenses because its focal range provides an angle of view close to the human eye’s perspective. Its depth of field and sharpness make it a fast general-purpose lens for shooting portraits and landscapes, as well as street, product, commercial, and event photos.

The debate for the standard lens may be a never-ending one. However, for now, let’s see why the 35mm remains to be the standard for several photography niches.

Origin of the 35mm as the Standard Lens

The standard size for a film camera is 135mm, which measures 35mm in width. The 35mm has a similar field of view to the human eye, which is why it became the standard for helping photographers and viewers look at images in a natural way.

A 35mm lens and a lego of a camera on display

Some photographers consider the 50mm as the standard lens. However, since the film or sensor size influences the angle of view, the focal range of the 35mm became a photographer’s more realistic way of projecting the actual perspective of scenes.

Kinds of Photography for 35mm Lens

The 35mm is a prime lens for photography, and this category serves as the standard for many photographers. While the preference for a normal lens varies on the user, there are particular aspects of why the 35mm rules as the standard lens.

Landscape Photography

A standard lens has a focal range that roughly matches the camera sensor. For example, a 35mm on a full-frame camera like a Nikon D810, produces an angle of view of around 43mm, which is still broader than 50mm.

This gives you more space to include background and foreground elements while avoiding image distortion. As a result, the 35mm becomes a reliable lens for landscape photography.

Portraits

As opposed to the compressed effect of zoom lenses for headshots, the 35mm would be a good standard lens if you usually shoot half-body or full-body portraits.

Whether it’s a candid or posed photo, the 35mm creates a pleasing bokeh, helping you focus on the subject instead of the distracting background or foreground elements.

Event Photos

A 35mm prime lens often comes with big aperture values, making it among the fastest lenses to freeze motion for event photography. Whether it’s a corporate event with lots of people walking, or a wedding where people gather in groups, the 35mm is fast enough to focus on movements while producing a shallow depth of field.

Product and Commercial Shoots 

When photographing products or food, you’ll want to capture the size and texture as accurately as possible. The 35mm is also a standard lens for product shoots because its medium-range focal length prevents image distortion.

In addition, its wide maximum aperture lets you focus on the item to highlight details. Likewise, the aperture supports different lighting setups to create various effects for product photography.

Street Photography

While the 35mm isn’t the smallest lens available, it still comes close to a compact and lightweight lens. Its size isn’t as obtrusive as wide-angle, zoom, or telephoto lenses, which are physically apparent as you point towards subjects.

In effect, the 35mm becomes a walkaround lens for regular photo walks and long travels. However, note that the 35mm would be more prominent in size if you prefer wider apertures.

A 35mm lens being held with a blur landscape background

Benefits of the 35mm Standard Lens

After hitting a $4.28 billion market value last year, the camera lens market continues to produce lenses with varying focal ranges, features, and unique traits. However, the 35mm continues to be the standard lens for many photographers because of several benefits.

  • Simple optics: The 35mm limits chromatic aberrations and vignetting since it has fewer aspherical elements than wide-angle and zoom lenses.
  • Camera sensor effect: Crop-sensor cameras crop the frame by 1.6. Hence, if you attach a 35mm lens on a crop-sensor camera, the perspective looks more like 50mm. With a 35mm lens, you achieve the middle ground between 35mm and 50mm. 
  • Close focus: While it isn’t a zoom lens, the 35mm can focus closer to the subject. In this way, you can show details of an image, especially when adding context to the main subject.
  • Enhances composition techniques: Since standard lenses like the 35mm have fixed focal ranges, they challenge you to think of how to best angle a camera. The same goes whether you need to get closer or move far away from the subject.

Conclusion

The 35mm is the standard for lenses because its focal length creates a field of view that’s almost similar to the human eye’s perspective. Its versatility, fast focusing, and beautiful depth of field enable you to take different kinds of photos with creative compositions.

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.