Lens focal length selection

The choice of the lens for the photographer is even more important than the choice of the camera. In this overview you will find a description of focal lengths from 14mm to 300mm... Each focal length has its own specifics, this must be taken into account when choosing a lens. I think you need to start with a whale lens. You can even with a zoom like 18-135, and only then come to the choice of more specialized optics. This is an individual and creative process.

The optimal focal length depends on:

  • genre of filming
  • filming locations
  • specifics of work
  • creative vision of every photographer

All this can be determined only by having some experience in photography. Below I will share my observations. All information concerns work with full shot... If you have a crop sensor, multiply the focal length numbers by one and a half.

Fish eye

photo on corporate fisheye

The frame from above is taken on the lens Samyang 8mm t3.8... This lens provides full frame coverage on a crop camera and a circle with black edges on full frame... The angle of view is 180 degrees diagonal. Frames, correctly made with fish-eye, look mesmerizing. The feature of this focal length (come in from 4mm to 15mm) in that it has a very narrow scope. Fisheye is a lens with the widest possible viewing angle, but without any distortion correction. As a result, we have rounded lines that should be straight, and a very specific perspective. Take this lens with you for a few bright shots. It is difficult to use it for a long time.

14mm

interior photography at 14mm

Focal length lens 14mm is also very specific. This concerns the geometry of the resulting image. The slightest incorrect tilt of the camera will cause severe distortion. This is especially felt when interior photography... In nature, the horizon easily collapses. The angle of view is very wide - you need to understand if you need it. It has advantages: you can, for example, remove the entire interior of the car from the inside; in any confined space you will not have problems with the viewing angle; outdoors, you can make interesting panoramas with a voluminous foreground. Shooting portraits at this focal length can only be done very carefully and in full height. In general, you need to be extremely thoughtful to shoot people with a lens with such a focal length. This, however, applies to any shooting - here you need to think before taking a shot. A 14mm lens is not an everyday tool.

24mm

interior photography at 24mm

24mm - fairly wide angle. When working with a wide-angle lens, you always need to think about what should and should not be in the frame. This focal length is easier to work with. It does not distort space so much and is more in line with ordinary perception. 24mm is very comfortable to shoot indoors. Taking over the entire room will not be a problem. At the same time, geometric distortions are much less pronounced. This is a convenient focal length, you can travel with it (which I would not recommend doing with only 14mm), shoot a reportage inside small rooms, and take landscape shots. For portraits, the 24mm lens is, again, of little use.

28mm

the beauty of croatia

28mm - one of the very convenient focal lengths on a full frame (which corresponds to 18mm on a crop matrix). It is very easy to frame a frame with a 28mm lens. This angle is quite wide. You never have to go back with him. At the same time, geometric distortions are felt weakly. Of course, you shouldn't place people in the corners of the frame at such a focal point. But shooting at 24mm is more difficult due to the specific perspective. 28mm gives a very comfortable viewing angle. I personally have the feeling that this focal length corresponds to the visual perception of the surrounding space. Therefore, such a lens is convenient for shooting general scenes. But this is definitely not a portrait lens (even with a large aperture).

35mm

night photo session in kiev

35mm full frame is no longer felt as a wide angle. This is one of the standard focal lengths. It is convenient for various reporting. Fix 35mm can completely replace zoom 24-70mm for reporting purposes. Suitable for half-length portraits. If you shoot closer, it will cause distortion on the subject's face - primarily in the form of an elongated nose. 35mm is still a wide angle. For facial portraits, use 85mm or more. At 35mm, you can also shoot outdoors or outdoors portraits if you want to capture the atmosphere of the shooting location. This focal length maintains a balance between the emphasis on the person and the surrounding area. 35mm is convenient for shooting group portraits (at graduations, eg). It's wide enough not to back off too far, and at the same time, people around the edges of the frame won't suffer from perspective distortion. Also with this focal point it is very good to work in interior studio... For nature photography, I personally don't like this focal point. This angle is not wide enough to make a multi-faceted landscape, and at the same time, this is not a telephoto lens that allows you to emphasize details or beautifully compress perspective.

50mm

creative photo session in Kiev

50mm and 35mm are related focal lengths. You still shouldn't shoot large face portraits at 50mm (in principle, you can, but I wouldn't do it). On it, as well as on 35mm, it is good to make half-length portraits. In general, I would say that this is a genre focal length. Having a 50mm fix, it's nice to shoot small scenes with several people. It allows you to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of what is happening, being at an acceptable distance. Also 50mm, in my opinion, is not bad for landscapes. But here you already need to think about how far to move from the subject. This angle is not wide at all, but still quite comfortable. No wonder 35mm and 50mm are often used as staffs. When shooting indoors, 50mm can often cause inconvenience due to the desire to move away. This is not always possible. Indoors, it's okay for them to take close-ups of people, but they can't rent the whole room.

70mm

photo session in the studio for women

I use seventy millimeters on the lens Canon 24-70 f2.8L when filming in the studio. 70mm is good for portraits. In general, I will say that the focal length of a portrait lens is within 70-200mm (although this does not mean that you need to buy such a lens, but more on that in a separate article). The 70mm distance is still very convenient for product photography. This is where telephoto territory begins.

85mm

photo session in the mariinsky park

85mmis, in my opinion, the ideal distance for portraits. Not 135mm, but 85mm. It is at this distance that it is convenient to work with the model. It allows you to stand at a distance of 2-3 meters from a person. Firstly, it is convenient in terms of communication with the model. Secondly, if you shoot a portrait in the park at something like 135mm or 200mm, then there will be a distance of 5-6 meters between you and the model. Random people will already be walking between you and the model, which is extremely inconvenient. If you are shooting at 85mm, it will be easier for outsiders to walk behind you. If you shoot the model at 50mm, you have to stand very close to it (about a meter, maybe less), which can cause discomfort for the model. And, of course, the fast 85mm lens will give good background blur, which is important for portrait photography. At 85mm people can be filmed indoors. You can also shoot landscapes if you want. This is a short telephoto lens - it provides compression of space and is convenient to use. At 85mm, relatively slow shutter speeds can be used (up to 1/80). Longer focal lengths in this regard become much more whimsical.

135mm

photo session in the reeds

135mm - the angle is less versatile compared to 85mm. You can't turn around with him in the room. And on the street, it requires more space. Some might say that compared to 85mm, 135mm is just a couple more steps back. This is the case if you are shooting in a deserted area. For portrait photography in the forest, it is very convenient. However, in the forest you can shoot anything at all :) But if you shoot in the city, you will always feel the need to keep your distance from the model. First of all, because of outside pedestrians, as I already wrote above. Secondly, 85mm is much more convenient to frame the frame. The advantage of 135mm is that it blurs the background more and gives more space compression. How important this is can only be judged subjectively. 135mm requires significantly shorter shutter speeds (I would not recommend setting less than 1/200 without a stabilizer). Important nuance: 135mm is on the border, after which strangers will not notice that you are filming them. It is difficult to shoot a person at 85mm without her noticing you. 135mm already gives you enough distance from your subject to ignore you.

200mm

cute girl photo

200mm is a correspondingly even more specific angle. For lenses from 50mm, the rule applies: the longer the focal length, the narrower the scope of its application. What can you shoot at 200mm? You can still shoot portraits. Advantage of 200mm in very nice bokeh and strong background compression. This focal is very good at isolating the subject by separating it from the background. Usability is another matter. At 200mm, you can already shoot sports and wildlife. Excerpts should be very short, hands not trembling. A lens with a focal length of 200mm or more must have a stabilizer, otherwise you will be very uncomfortable. Alternatively, use a tripod or monopod, but this also does not add convenience.

300mm

photo on tair 300mm 4.5

300mm Is already a very specific focal length. The main purpose of these lenses is for sports and wildlife photography. I personally bought a Tair 33V 300mm 4.5 lens for testing. Shooting a portrait on such a focal point is torture. Communication with the model is exclusively by gestures. To prevent the picture from shaking, a tripod is required. To compose the frame, you need to run 3-4 meters back / forward / right / left. It's another matter if you are filming someone who does not know about it. In this regard, 300mm is quite appropriate.

Video test of various focal lengths:

In this review, I shared my impressions of working mainly with prime lenses from 14 to 300mm. You can buy high-quality zooms like 24-70 or 70-200, or you can do it exclusively with fixes. Selecting zoom or fix - separate topic... This material gives an idea of ​​the different focal lengths, which should help determine the choice of optimal optics.

On that website (http://dofsimulator.net/en/) you can play around with different focal lengths and see how they convey perspective.

Useful articles:

The philosophy of using prime lenses.

I previously did comparative tests prime lenses. Now I want to talk more about the sensations and perception of shooting with the use of such optics.

Higher contrast, richer and more vivid colors, beautiful bokeh, small weight and size are the clear advantages of prime lenses. But that's not all…

The inability to change the focal length in such optics is usually considered an inconvenience that you have to put up with for a better picture. Zoom lenses seem to be more convenient and multifunctional due to greater flexibility in building the composition of the frame. But this is actually deceiving. For example, when shooting indoors, you can get by with fixing 28mm or 35mm, and shoot whatever you want by zooming in or out from your subject.

After shooting with a zoom lens, try to see at what focal length you took most of the frames. Most often, the range is quite narrow. And the lack of zoom is easily compensated for by nimble feet.

The disadvantage of a variable focal lens is that it makes the photographer lazy.... A person does not need to move. The zoom will do everything for him.

If you have a fix in your hands, you need to immediately imagine the frame of the future frame even before looking through the viewfinder. Seeing in the imagination, which thus develops and trains, the future frame, you move to take a more comfortable position and do deliberate snapshot. And here is the key idea! Using prime lenses makes the whole process of shooting more deliberate and balanced. When working with a model on street photo shoot, I see a plus in the fact that you don't need to think about zooming. The frame is perceived as a picture with a fixed frame. Over time, this frame already appears in the head instantly. Thoughts are already focused exclusively on working with the model and choosing a good background. If you have a zoom, you will always be tempted to try twisting the zoom ring, which in fact only distracts from the creative process.

There are situations when zooms are irreplaceable and there is simply no alternative. These are situations when you are in a dense crowd of people, or there is a barrier between you and the subject that you cannot get around. For example, filming concerts... It is simply impossible to move in the crowd to make the shot better. Therefore, a zoom like 70-200 is just optimal. You can remove everything for one fix of course (85mm or 135mm), but then you have to spend a lot of time doing the subsequent cropping on the computer. But this is a specific task. In most situations, fixes can handle all the tasks a photographer faces. As a rule, there are always 7-10% of scenes when a different focal length is desperately needed and you may not have time to change optics. But this sacrifice is worth it.

As for framing and versatility ... here reportageshot exclusively at 35mm. A little post-processing and we end up with a very wide angle and close-ups and medium ones.

Read the continuation of this article in the following material: The philosophy of using prime lenses. Part 2.

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