Reasons Why I Love the 50mm Equivalent Lens

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





Bust Stop


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


Distortion Control

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 !


  1. Hi Robin, I am not a street photographer (yet!) so applaud your nerve to get as close as you do. Personally, I'd start off with the Olympus 75mm so I could be a loooong way away from people *grin*.

    1. Hello Peter !!
      75mm is a wonderful lens !! Of course for street portraits, longer lens will give better results. The flattering perspective and compressed background surely added to the dramatic feel.
      Nonetheless, street photography also needs to have the location (or elements from the environment) to be established in the shot. Including a bit more side subjects will make the shot more interesting, eg a cat passing by, or that nice graffiti in the background. The Olympus 75mm would be too restrictive for this kind of shots.
      I would want one 75mm F1.8 too !!

  2. Strange, I actually prefer the '35mm' equivalent on my aps-c camera. With 50 or 35 I kept finding myself backing away to fill the frame, with 24mm lens on I am 'right' more often than not, only moving forward or back on odd occasions.

    1. Hey DaveP,
      Of course it is an individual preference. If you can live with the exaggerated perspective (head bigger than body) kind of photos with the wider lenses like 35mm or 24mm, it should not be a problem.

  3. The DT35 is a real gem, a wonderful single lens for walk-around. This is one place where 4/3rds mount is lacking, with only the cheap and mediocre 25/2.8 pancake or the rare and expensive (and very, very good) PanaLeica 25/1.4 Summilux-D, there's no reasonable and good normal.

    I'd also recommend tracking down a cheap Minolta 24/2.8, it can make a nice pair with the 50/1.8 for days where you want a little more range than the DT35 can handle. When I had my A33, my standard setup with it was either the DT35 or the pair of the Minolta 24/2.8 and the Sony 50/1.4 (which isn't as good as the DT50/1.8, I've owned both). I also had the 85/2.8 SAM as my tele option and usually carried it along with whichever kit I was carrying that day. The 85/2.8 SAM is even better than the 35, by far the best value lens in A mount (note I regard the 35 very highly, so saying the 85 is better is a major endorsement)

    I really do need to get the E 35/1.8 OSS for my NEX-7, reports say it's just as good as the A mount one.

    1. Thanks for the kind suggestions mawz. I am eyeing on the Minolta 24 F2.8 !! Do tell me more about it if you do not mind.
      The E-Mount 35mm F1.8 seems to be a lot more expensive than the original A-mount DSLR one. Surely the inclusion of IS on the lens should not have raised the cost that much !! I was recommending it to a friend, and while I was checking the official pricing, it is almost twice as much as my A mount 35mm !!

    2. The Minolta 24/2.8 is a pretty classic 24, sharp in the centre but not at the edges wide open on film, it does pretty well even wide open on APS-C sensors. Gorgeous colour, as is typical for Minolta lenses, but it doesn't have the microcontrast of the Sony designs. Be ready for a different look from the DT35/1.8 and DT50/1.8

      As to the 35's, the E mount 35 also gets a metal barrel & mount and a better focus ring & focus motor including DMF support for focus over-ride. Between that and IS you've got the price difference (and that's the same price difference between the A mount and E mount 50/1.8's as well, although in that case the E mount one is better optically)

  4. Hello Robin,

    great pictures, as usual. I'm using a OM-D with a Pana 1.4/25 for a while
    and love the natural look and small FOD. The Pana 1.7/20 i like a bit more,
    because of it's size and the look of the pictures. Together with the Oly
    1.8/45 it's my favorite combo.

    I think 24mm is sometimes also a nice thing for the streets, but the angle
    of the 20mm Pana is more like a allrounder in my eyes.

    Greetings from Germany Frank

    1. Hey Frank,
      thanks for the feedback !! Having both 20mm and 25mm, those are great lenses for OM-D. You cannot go wrong with that combo.

  5. There is a reason the 50mm was THE lens that shipped back in the day. Pretty much all the film cameras came with 50mm 1.8 lenses. Great set of images. Kudos!

    1. Hey Pabst,
      Thanks for the kind words!! The 50mm seems to fit my frames just right !! I am sure it is the same with popular opinion !

  6. Slices of a simple life almost unimaginable where I live in the USA. I love the laundry shot - my favorite I think from the group. Wonderful images as always.

    BTW, unrelated to this post, but here is my favorite food shot with the 25mm CCTV - you commented on shooting food. Pretty much straight from the camera here.

    1. Thanks for the kind comments, and surely thanks for sharing the food image, there is in interesting characteristic to that photo that I do not know now to describe ! Very pleasing indeed, unique to the 25mm cctv lens.

  7. First of all very nice set of images, specially the portrait. The 35mm on your sony is very very decent, if not very sharp! I find the 50mm on an APS-C sensor on my canon i.e 85mm equivalent on a full frame a bit tight indoors. Nevertheless its wonderful when shooting outdoors. Sometimes I keep my focal length fixed to 35mm on my kit zoom lens to mimic a 35mm prime and I really like this focal length... Looking for a nice 35mm prime for my canon now. I really enjoy shooting prime! It makes things simpler for me as I do have to worry about zoooming in and out on the lens! I guess the 35mm is the way to go for walk around prime, wider means more distortion.

    1. I could not agree more Johan, having a 35mm prime on a APS-C camera is quite important, as it gives close to 50mm perspective. Surely it would be more flexible and allows more versatile framing, especially when you need wider coverage.
      Thanks for the kind words !

  8. Hi Robin, the 50 mm is also my standard lens on my E30 (25mm f1.4) I like the coverage of the focal lengh. But since the E30 now getting heavy, so I now use my EP2 more and more, and while debating I going to get the Lumix 25mm f1.4 or the new Olympus 17mm f1.8. A very good deal from Sigma for the m4/3 19mm and 30mm so right now I need to learn to shoot these focal lengths from scratch........ Happy shooting and your pictures are always, very human being..... excellent shots.

    Francis - From Toronto

    1. Hello Francis,
      Wow, you have both the Panasonic 25mm F1.4 for both the 4/3 DSLR and micro 4/3 versions !! What are your thoughts? Is the micro 4/3 version better?
      Indeed even Sigma has released quite a few interesting prime lenses ! Surely those add plenty of flexibility to shooting without adding much weight to the camera bag, and those Sigmas are cheap, yet sharp !

    2. Hi Robin, I don't have the m4/3 version of the 25mm f1.4, just debating if I should have it. Right now, I just got the Sigma 19mm and 30mm (USD199 for both, the deal that I can't resist) so I will get use to this two focal length.
      By the way, these two lenses are very sharp in wide open, and for this price it is a bargain, you should have them too.
      Although, I don't have the m4/3 25mm, however from various information, 4/3 and m4/3 are almost the same, just the 4/3 a tad better, but only you can find the different when you do a 100% crop.

      Francis from Toronto

  9. Hi Robin, I'm most comfortable with 50mm like you. I must say though that I have not really tried 28mm or 35mm much. My favourite lens on FF is 50mm (I had a 50mm f/1.4 and a 50mm f/2.5 Macro) and currently on m4/3 my favourite is the Pana-Leica 25mm f/1.4. I agree with all your reasoning specially the one about being natural. I think Ming prefers 28mm and he also doesn't quite bond with 35mm (he sold a very popular Leica lens a 35mm f/1.4 and everyone wondered why) but I think that has something to do with his style. It's all about preference/choice and it all boils down to what we are comfortable with.

    Love the Religious and Burn photos above. Cheers!

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  11. You are just that good!

  12. Great thoughts on what happens to be my own favorite field of view - the classic 50. It's more flexible than many who were raised on zooms would think. I think your selection of photos in this post demonstrates that perfectly. There's a British photographer, Bret, who shoots weddings with a just 50mm Leica Noct on a full frame body and captures quite a distinctive look. I'm not gutsy enough to shoot an entire wedding with a single prime (although I've thought about it).

    Anyway, great photos. I particularly like the portrait at the top. Beautiful!

  13. Great images as usual - especially the Robinesque portraits!

  14. That first shot is bursting with detail - you can look at every line in that man's face and imagine a story to go with it. Portraits of old people really do benefit from a nice sharp lens.

    I'm thinking about my next purchase right now. I already have the short end (M. Zuiko 12/2.0) and long end (M. Zuiko 45/1.8) covered, but I don't have a "standard" prime. Am trying to decide between the 17/1.8 (which a lot of people think is not that great), the 20/1.7 (very sharp but slow to focus) and the 25/1.4 (might be the best option, but expensive in Malaysia).

    Decisions decisions ...

    Any thoughts, Robin? I know you've tried the 25 and the 17.


  15. I completely agree with you. 50mm is by far my favourite focal length, and it is due to the fact that I too 'see' most often with the focal length in mind. It works for portraits, landscape and whatever else might come up in between. Best of all, 50mm lenses (I shoot a full frame camera) are small, fast and very sharp. My EF 50mm f/1.4 is almost always mounted to my 5D.

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