First of all, I want to clarify that when I say ‘35mm’ I mean 35mm in its final result, in cameras with APSC format this translates to a 23mm and in M4 / 3 it will be a 17mm.
If you have to use a single fixed lens (not mandatory but always a good idea) there are two major rivals, the 35mm and the 50mm. They are two focal lengths that are widely used by documentary photographers, photojournalists, street photographers, etc. however, in this article I am going to give you 5 reasons as to why the 35mm focal is the best focal.
1. It’s angular but a standard.
It is not angular enough to distort the image but it gives you that extra field of view that allows you to contextualise the photo. It is neither very closed nor very open and that makes it very versatile, serving for landscapes and for environmental portraits alike.
2. They are usually small, light and fast.
If we are talking about street or travel photography, weight and comfort are things to consider. The versatile 35mm allows you to spend the entire day taking photos without it taking a toll on your back and shoulders. Furthermore, as it is a fixed lens there’s a strong chance that it will have a wide aperture, meaning you’ll be able to use a low ISO for a greater amount of time and therefore maintain good image quality.
3. More depth of field.
Although in many cases it is practical to have a fast lens, shooting at f/2 or f/1.4 at all times is not necessarily the best option. By closing the aperture and getting more depth of field you can create more complex and rich compositions that will make your photography much more interesting. With a 35mm you will always have more depth of field than with longer focal lengths. It’s a matter of physics. This is important because using a 35mm (vs. a 50mm for example) will allow you to focus (pun intended 😉 more on the composition and less on the autofocus.
4. It forces you to get close.
As Robert Capa said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.” With the 35mm you’ll have to be much closer to the scene than with longer focal lengths and this will make your images convey much more: The viewer will feel like they are part of the scene giving your story much more power and charisma.
5. Consistency in your work.
By using a fixed lens your photos will gain coherence and over time this will make your body of work more interesting and pleasant to your viewers. In addition to being consistent, your stories will have more rhythm and strength. If you look at the great masters of street or documentary photography you will see almost all of them use one or two fixed lenses and that is why their work, regardless of where they shoot, is more recognisable.
So there you have it, these are my five reasons why the 35mm focal is the best. Next week I’ll give you another five reasons as to why the 50mm is the best focal. 😉
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