Starter Series: 35mm vs 50mm


When starting out in photography, you might not have access to the best lenses. If you're lucky enough to jump into this with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, more power to you. But for the rest of us, we might start from a more humble origin, in the form of kit lenses. Nothing is wrong with them, they're a great place to learn about the limitations of your equipment and how the exposure triangle of ISO, f-stop and shutter speed work together, especially when those values are constantly changing due to the lens. 

There may come a time where you want a lens that gives you a little more control. That's where we come to two options for lenses, the 35mm and the 50mm. They both hover around $200 new, depending on brand/condition, and if you decide to opt for the f/1.8 variant over the more expensive f/1.4 counterpart. When I hit a wall shooting due to the lenses I had on hand, I opted for the 35mm f/1.8. I was shooting more cityscapes and wanted the extra view it offered vs the 50mm, which would be better for focusing on people from what I had experienced so far at that point. 


You really can't go wrong with either option, but here's why you should consider adding them to your kit when starting out: 

- F/1.8 Aputure - With Great Bokeh Comes Great Responsibility

I almost hate myself for using Uncle Ben's refried quote here, but there's truth behind it, so bear with me. At f/1.8, you can flood your sensor with light, giving you freedom to shoot in situations you might not normally (garages come to mind), but it requires much more control to make sure you're getting your subject in focus. Missing the mark with the aperture that wide open is the difference between great depth of field and not getting the shot. 

- Affordable

At the $200 mark, you're getting a lens that gives you clean, fast shots, and can teach you so much. How to stay on your feet to do in versus relying on zooming in, and the power of being in full control of your aperture when the lens isn't deciding it for you.  

- Lightweight Powerhouse

Small prime lenses, lenses that have a fixed focal length, are fantastic for walking around with.  The light weight and small size make it easy to walk around casually with, without announcing to the world you have a huge piece of glass in front of your camera.

If you're just starting out, I hope this info can help you in figuring out what your next lens will be to add to your kit. Either one will be a great addition, but consider what you're trying to shoot more of to decide on the 35mm or the 50mm. 

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