Within a month since I purchased the Sony A350 alongside two lenses that came with the package I was offered, 18-70mm and 50mm F1.8, I have acquired an additional lens which was the 35mm F1.8. I knew that I would not be happy with the kit lens alone, knowing the old Sony 18-70mm was probably one of the lesser preferred kit lenses in the market. While I adore the 50mm F1.8, at that focal length being used on an APS-C sensor, I found myself needed something wider in some occasions. The Sony 35mm F1.8 was cheap, and very, very versatile for my street shooting needs. In this blog entry I shall describe how the 35mm F1.8 has become my favourite focal length, providing an equivalent 52.5mm (for goodness' sake Robin forget the number accuracy and just stick with 50mm) which has been proven in photography history to be one of the most popularly used focal lengths of all time.
All images in this entry were taken with Sony Alpha A350 and DT 35mm F1.8 lens
Natural Looking Images
The main reason why 50mm equivalent focal length has become so popular and well received was the very natural perspective that it covers. Some may argue that 35mm actually will give closer coverage as human eyes can see, but I personally find 50mm to correspond much closer to my own natural vision. Perhaps we all do not have the same eyes, but I am not an eye specialist to verify this fact. Using too wide of a lens (eg 24mm) or too long of a lens (eg 100mm) results in forced perspective, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but surely not coming out anywhere looking as natural as the 50mm.
Versatile: Can be a little bit of Wide or Tele
At 50mm, I still consider the lens to be very wide, though I know many would disagree with this. I somehow managed to find myself shooting from quite a comfortable working distance away from my street subjects, yet still can fit many other elements surrounding the main subject into the frame. I did not find myself needing to step back that much further for the wide angle framing. Perhaps I have been too used to the Olympus 50mm F2 that gave me 100mm F2 all the time on the street and suddenly using the Sony 35mm F1.8 everything seemed wider than usual.
On the other hand, the Sony 35mm F1.8 does very well for portrait shooting. I admit the longer focal length such as the Sony 50mm F1.8 would fare better in this department, but if I were to have one lens that can do both wide environmental portrait and close up head and shoulder shots, I will take the Sony 35mm F1.8 without hesitation.
Jack, Tai Foong and Joseph
Shooting at 50mm equivalent lens, both distortions (barrel and perspective) are well controlled. Surely using anything wider than the focal length (eg 28mm), you get exaggerated perspective. While the severe distortion was not a main concern for most street photographers, I do find too much distortion to be disturbing. You seldom see me complaining about this but when you do a lot of close up portrait shooting like I do, you will care about the the proportions of the human head and the natural perspective of the image. Yes, you can use the wide angle lens (eg 28mm or 24mm) and go very, very close to the person and still get away with a decent headshot. What you get is not a portrait but more like a cartoonish rendition of the man's sketch.
Shallow Depth of Field Rendering
Those who are used to shooting Full Frame cameras will find anything produced by APS-C sensor cameras or even smaller sensor based systems such as the micro 4/3 to be lacking of shallow depth of field control. Strange, really, as I never did think I needed shallower depth of field in most of my shooting. The bokeh fetish in me was well pleased with the Sony 35mm F1.8, and as you can see in the images I have shown here I have no issues creating background blur if needed. Shooting at F1.8, the lens was sufficiently sharp.
I think it all comes to individual preference, and your own shooting style that decide your lens choices. I personally find the Sony 35mm F1.8, used on my Sony A350 to be quite an important weapon.
What say you? Would you prefer a 50mm equivalent focal length, or would you go wider such as 28m and 35mm? Or perhaps longer such as 85mm or 100mm? I would love to hear your thoughts !