Camera Lenses

35mm vs 50mm – 7 Reasons The 35mm Lens is BETTER

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Written By Nate Torres

Asking a photographer the question, “35mm vs. 50mm lens” might open a can of worms you didn’t mean to open.

However, the question of carrying a 35mm vs. 50mm camera lens can be broken down, quantified, and dealt with when you distill the facts.

However, depending on the kind of lens (or lenses) you carry are dependent on what you’re trying to accomplish as a photographer.

However, if you really do want to stage a 35mm lens vs 50mm lens battle, we have a simple answer for you.

When comparing the two, we think you should go with the 35mm lens vs. the 50mm lens.

We’ll outline exactly why.

This is a helpful guide discussing reasons why the 35mm lens is better than the 50mm lens.

We’ll be covering the following topics (click on a bullet point to jump to that section):

35mm vs 50mm Lens

1. The 35mm Captures a Wider Frame

35mm vs. 50mm lens: a battle of widths

To put it simply, a 35 mm camera lens captures a larger part of what is in front of the camera.

If you’re a photographer trying to capture a moment, then the wider the better.

2. The 35mm Lens Will Have Minimal Distortion

Even better, a 35 mm will offer you a much wider angle without the amount of distortion you’d find in a 50 mm lens.

While it’s true that you could pull back from your subject with a 50 mm lens you’d still be dealing with distortion at the edges of your photographs.

3. A 35mm Lens Is Similar to the Human Eye

35mm vs. 50mm lens: beauty is in the eye of the viewfinder

While a standard 50 mm is a great lens under certain conditions, the 35 mm lens is a much more natural way to capture your subject, especially if you’re shooting a wedding or a portrait session on the street.

What your 35 mm lens captures will be very similar to how you see your subject, so framing, composition, and capturing those lightning-in-a-bottle moments become much easier when your personal field of view is similar to your camera’s.

4. A Wide-Angle & Large Aperture Work Well in Low Light

35mm vs. 50mm lens: large and in charge

While there are much wider lenses on the market, 35mm is still considered to be a “wide-angle” in the industry.

Because of the wide-angle and large aperture, your camera will let in more light faster.

This allows the lens to perform well even in low-light scenarios.

Capturing organic moments is much easier when dealing with natural lighting.

Yet, sometimes performance in low light is too poor for that to be the reality.

A 35 mm lens is a great asset to low-light, natural shooting.

5. The 35 mm Lens Allows You to Get Closer to the Action

35mm vs. 50mm lens: there is no such thing as too close

If you’re a portrait photographer, then you should be well-acquainted with the 35 mm lens because of the intimacy it provides you.

No one wants to have to stand feet away from their model even if a 50 mm can capture your subject in startling detail.

6. The 35mm Lens Allows You to Capture Images with More Emotion

The truth is, portrait photography is all about feeling.

Much of the time, to capture that feeling you need to get in close.

The 35 mm is wide enough that you can get right up to your subject, get personal, and hopefully capture something magical.

7. 35mm Lens is a Versatile Way to Shoot

35mm vs 50mm lens: jack of all trades

Some of us aren’t relegated purely to portrait or landscape photography.

Sometimes we do both and sometimes we do them at the same time.

However, if you’re using a true wide-angle lens for shooting a landscape then you’d be hard-pressed to turn that around on a subject and get a satisfactory effect—a super-wide lens like the 20 mm captures a lot but forgoes a lot of detail in the process.

Along the same vein, a 50 mm lens is a possible lens for close-ups but would fail miserably to try and convey the vastness of a landscape.

Luckily, the 35 mm lens sits comfortably in between both.

It functions well for landscape shooting and portrait photography.

In the hands of a professional, it can even pass as a go-to lens for the kind of pure, simple, and nomadic shooting many photographers can only dream of.

To further explore the benefits of a 35mm lens, we also recommend this video by Brandon Cole:

The One Lens ALL Photographers Should Own?

The Best 35mm Lenses

A good lens is not a cheap one.

Think of your camera as the home you build for yourself.

Without furniture and appliances, it’s pretty useless.

Your camera lenses fill that void and give your camera the ability to harness its power.

The better the lens, the more versatility you’ll have as a photographer.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Lens

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II

You can never go wrong with buying a Canon lens.

The company doesn’t just produce reliable cameras—they make some of the best glass on the market.

The relatively new Canon EF 35mm is a stellar camera lens. It’s fundamentally high-end yet intuitive as far as lenses go.

If you want sheer, expensive power that isn’t challenging to wield, then this is your lens.

I have personally borrowed this lens from a friend and it is AMAZING. I am saving up for this lens, however, if you have the budget, I highly recommend this lens.

I personally use the Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Wide-Angle Lens which you can find further below and it is what all the images in this post are used with!

My Pros With This Lens:

  • 50% brighter than most models
  • With AC/DC adapter
  • Wide range of height options

My Cons With This Lens:

  • Higher price point

Sony 35mm F2.8 Sonnar T FE ZA

Sony 35mm F2.8

If you aren’t considering Sony the next time you consider your next DSLR camera, then now is the time.

Sony has proven time and time again to the industry that they make great cameras and great mid-range lenses.

If the name Zeiss doesn’t catch your interest, then people may wonder if you’ve been taking photos under a rock.

At the end of the day, this Sony lens is a great, inexpensive powerhouse that flaunts an extremely high-end name.

My Pros With This Lens:

  • Amazing bokeh
  • Crisp, clear images
  • Light weight
  • Prime lens

My Cons With This Lens:

  • A bit pricier but worth the investment

Nikon AF NIKKOR 1923 35mm f/2D

Nikon AF NIKKOR 1923 35mm f/2D

Both Nikon and Canon go hand-in-hand when it comes to cornering the photography industry.

However, Nikon has always skewed slightly cheaper while still providing comparable performance to Canon.

The Nikkor 1923 is no exception—it’s a mid-range lens priced that is priced a couple of hundred dollars less than its competition.

My Pros With This Lens:

  • Small
  • Well built
  • Focuses fast

My Cons With This Lens:

  • A bit soft at f2, but very nice from 2.8 on

The Best 35mm Lenses on a Budget

Sometimes you’re just starting as a photographer and just want to hit the ground running without making a huge upfront investment.

That’s understandable, although photography is not a cheap hobby!

However, there are some solid, budget-friendly 35mm lenses out there if you look hard enough.

Rokinon IO35AF-E 35mm f/2.8

Rokinon IO35AF-E 35mm f/2.8

Meant to fit Sony E cameras, this third-party lens is a great 35mm option that is a fraction of anything Sony will sell you.

It’s durable, sleek, and will perform perfectly at a much lower-than-expected investment point for a camera lens of this magnitude.

My Pros With This Lens:

  • Sharp image quality
  • Good bokeh
  • Focuses pretty much as closely as Sony version

My Cons With This Lens:

  • Not as accurate in low lighting

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Wide-Angle

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM

While not cheap by third-party standards, this quintessential Canon lens is still a great value for what you get; an extremely versatile 35mm lens that can do 100 things your 50mm can’t.

If you need a one-lens-fits-all option, then this lens is a good start.

This is the lens I personally use and I have loved it since the day I bought it because it is so versatile. All the images in this post were shot with this lens!

My Pros With This Lens:

  • Sharp image quality
  • Speed of focus
  • Light and compact

My Cons With This Lens:

  • Not the f/1.4

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G

While not as good as the aforementioned Canon lens, this 35mm lens by Nikon is truly one of the cheapest name-brand lenses on the market.

It may underperform against similar lenses, but those similar lenses are a few hundred dollars more expensive.

With this, you get what you pay for, which is affordable clarity and plenty of versatility.

My Pros With This Lens:

  • Bright aperture
  • Compact and ligh

My Cons With This Lens:

  • Some barrel distortion
  • Narrow, rough-feeling manual focus ring

Final Remarks

We hope this guide helped you gain further clarity on the differences between a 35mm and 50mm!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a big difference between 35mm and 50mm?

Yes, there is a noticeable difference between 35mm and 50mm lenses, both in terms of field of view and image distortion. A 35mm lens will have a wider field of view than a 50mm lens, and can create a more immersive and dramatic effect, while a 50mm lens will have a more natural and flattering perspective with less distortion.

Is 35mm or 50mm more versatile?

Both 35mm and 50mm lenses are versatile, but the choice of which one is more versatile depends on the photographer’s shooting style and preferences. A 35mm lens is often considered more versatile due to its wider field of view, which can be used for landscape, street, and environmental portrait photography, while a 50mm lens is often preferred for portrait and low light photography due to its natural perspective and wider aperture.

Should I get a 50mm if I have a 35mm?

Whether or not you should get a 50mm lens if you already have a 35mm lens depends on your photography needs and shooting style. If you shoot a lot of portraits or in low light situations, a 50mm lens with a wider aperture may be beneficial. However, if you primarily shoot landscapes or environmental portraits, a 35mm lens may be sufficient.