35mm vs 50mm Street Photography [Discussed the Overall Comparison]

Settle with this first – No doubt, as far as street photography is concerned, 35mm and 50mm are the best shots you’ve got. Some photographers even believe it’s possible to milk out the effect of both when you use them hand in hand.

The focus today, however, is on which of them outperforms the other in certain areas of street photography, with a special interest in how focal lengths work in street photography.

35mm and 50mm street photography lenses are prime lenses that enable you to capture moments that you ordinarily won’t be able to with a cumbersome lens. While 35mm lenses are wide enough to accommodate multiple subjects, many photographers believe the 50mm lens needs to be handed its props when it comes to portrait photography.

In this post, we will be digging into the peculiarities of both lenses, what makes them stand out, and areas where one lens outperforms the other. Of course, we won’t also be in a hurry to leave out comments about blurry lines. Keep reading!

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35mm vs 50mm Street Photography (Actual Differences)

Keeping in mind that the 35mm and 50mm lenses are great for street photography, we would now examine the outcome of both when used for the same purpose, which of course, is to capture scenes from the street.

So, we’ll begin with the 35mm. Here we’ll see why it could be an ideal street photography lens rather than the 50mm alternative.

01. 35mm Lens

Some users of the 50mm lenses have complained that they often miss focus when shooting in street scenery. The 35mm lens has this under control, as the 3 factors that control focus are all within its reach. These three factors are the subject’s distance from the camera, what you set your lens aperture at, and the lens’s focal length.

With a 50mm lens, you’d notice that on a crop sensor camera, you’re either zoomed in too much or too tight in indoor situations. Besides that, when you try to take a picture of someone, they tend to seem too close to the camera, making it difficult for the camera to autofocus.

This could be that they are within the minimum focusing distance of the lens. In most cases, it may be hard for your 50mm lens to focus close enough to get a complete hold of the subject. This may end up leaving the issue out of focus. A 35 mm lens affords you closer focus than a 50mm lens. Also, with a broader field view, you get a deeper depth regarding the field.

More versatility

You may have experienced a situation where with a 50mm lens, you can’t move back far enough to capture everything you want to be in the photo. The 50mm lens is tagged as a standard lens. It isn’t wide, and it’s not very zoomed in. It has characteristics similar to that of the human eye.

When fixed to a crop sensor camera, the case is different, as what you get as a field of view is now inches closer to what’s synonymous with an 85mm lens. So in this regard, the 35mm lens defeats the 50 mm in that it’s much more similar to a 24mm wide-angle lens. The advantage of this?

You can shoot wide landscapes and move in to change your subjects while at the same time still shooting portraits.

More revealing photos

35mm lenses make you stand about 50ft away from the subject and still feel a connection with the person. The 50mm lens can sometimes seem a little tight and difficult to control. It’s possible to isolate your subjects, but the question is, do you still have a clear view of them.

Typically, the 35mm forces the photographer to draw closer to the subject, to learn them well, and get into their bubble. This makes you more relaxed while creating a less tense photo.

02. 50mm lens

Now let’s look at some features that make the 50mm lens stand out in its own right and make it more preferable to the 35mm.

Better isolation if your subject

Streets are often flooded with activities: vehicles, animals, tourists, and pedestrians.

If you’re shooting with a lens with a wide angle, you can capture a wider scenery, but with a single subject of interest, it is difficult to capture. This is where the 50mm lens fair’s better than the 35mm.

When you use a 50mm lens, you get a more constrained field of view. This make your subject insulated from the midst of chaos and the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

You can capture fast motion.

This is very much debatable, as many people agree fast action can be captured with just any lens, provided you get a fast shutter speed. But again, the 50mm lens proves it can get to the sweet spot.

With plenty of light and great autofocus, anyone can capture any action with any lens, but in a street setting, you have to give it to the 50mm lens.

A wide aperture of f/1.8 or f/1.4 can offer you a shutter speed of 1/1000s or 1/500 seconds in most lighting, which is more than enough for stopping movement and removing motion blur.

The focal length of the midrange number is also for zooming in on one subject while at the same time not interfering with the motion you intend to capture. If you desire more reach, you can fix your 50mm lens to a crop-sensor camera. This would even bring you closer to all the action.

This is lacking in a 35mm lens as you can’t effectively capture the live actions of street performers as you can with a 50mm lens.

You’re offered a unique perspective.

You can stand on top of a four-story parking garage and shoot straight down to get a great shot of pathway lights. The 50mm has this unique perspective, making it seem like it was precisely built for street photography. With the 50mm lens, you can transform ordinary scenes into interesting photos that ignite the imagination.

When Should You Shoot with a 50mm Lens?

The good thing about 50mm lenses is that regardless of your photography, you most likely would find a 50mm useful. A 50mm lens may seem useless only when you’re so distant from your subject that you’d need a telephoto lens to capture it. So tagging from low-light situations to landscape to nighttime and portrait, a 50mm lens works well as an all-purpose lens.

Is a 50mm Lens Good for Street Photography?

The 50mm lens allows you to focus more on the main subject, features, and expressions without worrying much about distracting details. Is your target a sleek-looking lady with cropped blonde hair who is submerged in rowdy Manhattan?

A 50mm lens would do the right kind of justice you want by bringing out the fine details while, at the same time, not sacrificing it for the lushness in the rowdy background.

This is a great advantage for people nervous about taking pictures on the street, as they don’t have to get so close to capturing their subject. The autofocusing feature of the 50mm lens also makes this very easy.

50mm lenses are also very fast. So, if you’re looking at freezing some motion, you can open your aperture, as you can use them at quick shutter speeds. The aperture is also great for spicing your picture with a bokeh effect.

What Focal Length is Best for Street Photography?

This is the bottom of the popular debate between 35mm and 50mm lenses. With wide angles being advantageous for prime lenses, it’s safe to say that it’s a safe bet for starters if they stick with a focal length between 28 – 35mm.

This allows them more space to experiment and try angles until they can work their expertise or confidence to take more close-up shots. You can also try wider field views with the 24mm lens or even raise your game to 50mm.

So the best focal length for street photography is up to you and what kind of project you’re working on. With this, it’s safe to say there is no such thing as the best focal length for street photography.

Is 35mm or 50mm Better for Portraits?

While it’s very easy for many people to pick the 50mm lens as the better option for portrait photography, many difficulties are accompanied by dismissing the 35mm. Certain styles you may be looking at in your portraiture that the 35mm lens could bring.

The interesting thing about the 34mm lens is that its focal length mimics our eyes when it is used on a full-frame camera. This may mean, for many people, a more familiar and natural portrait. Another great thing about the 35mm lens is that the model can be fitted into the context of the background.

This means that the picture is not overwhelmingly zoomed-in, providing a big view of the face of the model. Besides this, a large 35mm lens aperture allows you to capture scintillating bokeh in the picture’s background.

With a nicely blurred background, the model stands distinct from the background, helping the viewers to concentrate on the model. The 50mm lens, on the other hand, is not outdone by the 35mm lens; it can offer you both half and full-body portraits.

Like the 35mm, the 50mm lens offers you an overall view of your surroundings but has a more focal length. Some people prefer the 35mm lens to the 50mm one because of the distortion of taking close-up pictures with a 50mm lens. The nose and face of the subject usually appear larger in close-up portraits when you use the 50mm lens.

Hence, choosing between the 35mm lens and the 50mm one now boils down to what you want to do with the lens. Another thing to consider is the kind of portraiture you want to make. Suppose you want an environment-focused kind of portrait with fuller scenery to immerse the subject in. So for close-up, it’s the better lens.

On the other hand, if you want to achieve a portrait that seems intimate, with the model taking up most of the frame in a half or full-body picture, a 50mm lens is the way to go.

Should I Get a 50mm if I Have a 35mm?

As buttressed earlier, depending on your needs, you may or may not need to get a 50 mm lens if you already own a 35mm lens. It would help if you considered certain things while getting an additional 50mm lens.

The first is that if you’re looking at capturing a landscape picture, your best shot isn’t a 50mm lens. It would help if you stuck with your 35mm version. So with less wide scenery, what are you deciding on? It’s your call.

Another reason you might not need a 50mm lens is that if you’re doing more indoor photography, with the wider field of view the 35mm offers, choosing to get an additional 50mm for this purpose would be needless.

However, in addition to all that a 35mm lens offers, you may want to spice up your game with low-light shooting. The 50mm lens can surely collect more light than the 35mm, hence a good reason why you need it. Overall, a perfect blend of both lenses makes for a great shoot.

Top Questions (FAQs)

Do I need a UV filter for my lenses?

The UV filters have pros and cons, which is why their use is still very much debatable. They offer good protection against dust as well as fingerprints of the user.

The bad side is that it may cause the image quality of your photos to drop when you put them over your lens.

As a starter, what DSLR should I buy?

Let’s begin by saying most brands are great; hence, it boils down to price and how much you can afford. A good advice to avoid getting a bad product is to visit the shop and check out what they have.

Here, you can practically see what the ISOs look like in pictures. If the price matches your budget, you’re good to go.

How much do tripods cost?

Most tripods cost more than $100 and are often within reach of your maximum budget. They are great investments for those who want to take photography as a professional career.

However, be careful, as anything pegged at less than $50 may be ingenuine and cost you extra money to upgrade.

My Final Words

So, having compared the 35mm lens and the 50mm, which would you go for? Hold on, don’t answer that yet.

Have you considered every factor leading up to your choice? Let this article guide your decision.

We have laid out in a very clear manner the benefits of both lenses and where they outperform each other. Make your choice based on which is a priority to you. Cheers!