50mm, 35mm or 28mm – which is the best street photography lens?

Dec 7, 2016

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

50mm, 35mm or 28mm – which is the best street photography lens?

Dec 7, 2016

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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28-35-50-mm

What is the best lens for street photography? There are many articles and discussions on this topic, and every photographer has their own suggestion and a personal favorite. In the new Kai Wong’s video (a.k.a. Digital rev Kai) , you can see all three of these lenses compared in the streets of Hong Kong. So, what’s the judgement?

50mm

Most street photographers swear by a 50mm lens. This lens has a ton of advantages, and it really is a must-have for street photography. For most people, it is the first prime lens they buy after a kit lens. It was also my first prime after a cheap 18-55mm, and I am very much in love with it to this day. It’s also a great entry lens for street photography.

One of the advantages of 50mm lenses is not related with the quality of the images they can produce. It’s the price. There are expensive models, of course, but you can find a decent “fifty” at a $100 price. It’s a very good deal for a lens like this.

By using a 50mm with a full-frame body, what you see is what you shoot. It allows you to snap a photo the moment you see something interesting, without having to come closer to the subject or move further away. This lens doesn’t require you to get too close, which is good for the shy street photographers. Shyness is not really a desirable trait of street photographers though, but we can forgive that to the beginners.

kai50mm

Another great thing about a 50mm lens is that it’s very flattering for people shots. The proportions of the human body look just right. If you are a fan of shallow depth of field, again, 50mm is the way to go.

While there certainly are many advantages, there are some limitations of a 50mm. First of all, you may often find yourself against the wall, with no place to move further. If you want to create a bit wider frame, the 50mm can make it impossible. It’s especially the case if you use a crop body, since the focal length here equals 75mm on a full-frame camera.

What’s also negative about this lens is that it can make everything too tight in a frame. It doesn’t leave room for more context. And this is precisely where a 35mm steps onto the scene.

35mm

35mm is sort of a golden mean between a 50mm and a 28mm. It is only a bit wider than the 50mm, which means that you can capture the same scenes you would with the 50mm, but you only need to get a bit closer. This can be a good practice for breaking the barrier and interacting with people when taking the shot. At the same time, if you need a slightly wider angle and want to capture more details, a 35mm is ideal for this purpose. It allows you to include more details and put your subject in a broader context. All this together makes 35mm a great travel lens. If you use a crop body, 35mm is what a 50mm is for a full-frame camera.

kai35mm

Although the angle of a 35mm is wider, it still doesn’t have too strong distortion, and it is on the very edge of making people look a bit strange. Keep in mind, though, that you won’t get a shallow depth of field as you would with a 50mm.

28mm

A 28mm is definitely not a usual choice of street photographers. Most people think it’s too wide for street photography and they rarely use it. But don’t discard it yet, because it can give surprisingly interesting results.

If you want to photograph people with a 28mm, you will have to get close. Really close. If you don’t have a problem with such interaction – good. You’ll get very interesting portraits of strangers. The 28mm creates a bit of wide-angle distortion, but just enough to make the photos a bit quirky.

kai28mm

With this lens, you will be able to capture a whole lot of details and place your subject in a very broad context. As Kai says, “this lens is on the very edge of what is usable and versatile for street photography.”

The wide frame has its disadvantages, though. Although you can include a lot of details and context into the photos, you will sometimes struggle to keep the background tidy. Another thing that adds to this is the fact that a 28mm doesn’t provide you with shallow depth of field. Still, this lens can give you a unique perspective and help you create some interesting street shots.

YouTube video

What’s your choice of lens (or lenses) for street photography? Did you change your preferences over the years? Any tips or tricks you would suggest? We’d like to hear your thoughts.

[50mm vs 35mm vs 28mm – Best Street Photography Lens via Reddit]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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20 responses to “50mm, 35mm or 28mm – which is the best street photography lens?”

  1. Duane Emmerson Avatar
    Duane Emmerson

    Depends what camera you mount it on Full frame or APS-C. I could use all 3, again depends on what you want to achieve.

  2. NICOLAI BÖNIG FOTOGRAFIE Avatar
    NICOLAI BÖNIG FOTOGRAFIE

    Would love to see a 28mm Sigma Art for full frame cameras!

  3. Tyler Darden Avatar
    Tyler Darden

    24mm f1.4 on full frame camera!

  4. Wing Wong Avatar
    Wing Wong

    Hmm.. 35/1.4, 85/1.4, and 135/1.8 for me. A 50/1.4 is so close to the 35 that i don’t include it. The 85 and 135 both give reach and nice bokeh/subject isolation.

  5. Michele M. Ferrario Avatar
    Michele M. Ferrario

    200mm for shy Street photographer

    1. Dunja Đuđić Avatar
      Dunja Đuđić

      That’s me. :D

      1. David Hovie Avatar
        David Hovie

        You probably will look like a Creeper xD

  6. Jeff Ridout Avatar
    Jeff Ridout

    600 for creepin

    1. Rizki Wahyudi Avatar
      Rizki Wahyudi

      LOL

  7. Kryn Sporry Avatar
    Kryn Sporry

    The one you have is the best…

    1. Dunja Đuđić Avatar
      Dunja Đuđić

      Well said. ;)

  8. Ronnie Bautista Avatar
    Ronnie Bautista

    I would say the one that best suits your style… if you like shooting people go with the 50.. if you like capturing more of a scene go wider..

  9. reginald Avatar
    reginald

    well you can´t tell me what is the best lens for me…. so much is sure.

  10. jdizzl Avatar
    jdizzl

    I started shooting with a fixed lens rangefinder with a 35mm (my dad’s former camera) when I was a teenager in the 90s. So I guess it is what I am used to. When I first got a DSLR, I didn’t know much about camera lengths (I just picked up and shot photos, wasn’t a gear head) I went for the 50mm because it was the cheaper/popular/recommended choice. Never got used to it, and sold it after 3 months trying to use it. I actually can’t stand it. It feels like I’m shooting with blinders on. I particularly hate it when shooting in a tight busy city like New York or Philadelphia. I like 35 for street/travel/most landscapes … then jump to 85 if I know I’m going to shoot people to create a dreamy background. If I were adding primes, I’d get the 24 and 135 but I don’t use those focal lengths enough to warrant them. The 35 is better shooting at dusk due to wider focal length, and gets less blurred shots due to it’s larger DOF, something to consider…

  11. Riccardo R Avatar
    Riccardo R

    I’d always go for a 35!

  12. Sean Bodin Images Avatar
    Sean Bodin Images

    28mm ;O)

  13. Mark Avatar
    Mark

    I see all these “Best lens for street photography, but very seldom see the 40mm pancake lens mentioned. It’s right there between the 35 and 50, small, and inexpensive. I pulled my 40 out this weekend and was reminded how good it is for street photography.

  14. George Philip Avatar
    George Philip

    I use the Meyer Görlitz 30mm, for me a nice alternative between 28 and 35

  15. Jadotch Avatar
    Jadotch

    28 mm is definitely my favorite focal length and often don’t take out any other lens.

  16. jdizzl Avatar
    jdizzl

    I use two… Fast 35 1.4 or 40 2.8 pancake for me…depending on time of day or how inconspicuous I want to be. 50 is too tight, 28 too wide… I could get by with those if shooting TWO bodies, but as one lens, no.