The Most Versatile Focal Length: Why You Need a 35mm Prime in Your Kit
FULL DISCLOSURE: This article is a sponsored post. We partnered with Tamron to create this piece highlighting the visual amazingness of the new Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD Lens. You can read our FULL REVIEW of the lens over HERE, but in short, it’s a stunning piece of glass that reminded us why we love the versatile 35mm focal length.
Choosing the right lens is not only key to capturing appealing images, but also to effectively conveying your artistic vision. Despite a sea of options at your disposal, you won’t always have the right lens for the job. You might be new to the craft and can only afford one lens to start. You may be going on a trip and don’t have room for more than a couple of lenses. Or you might be backpacking through the wilderness and cannot afford to carry extra weight.
In cases like these, you need to pick gear based on versatility. The natural choice is a zoom lens, but in our humblest opinion, adding a 35mm prime lens to your kit is a fantastic option. Not only does this particular focal length closely mirror the naked eye’s field-of-view, but 35mm primes are often affordable and compact with faster apertures, sharper optics, and minimal distortion compared to similarily priced zoom lenses. And, in our humblest opinion, 35mm is the most versatile focal length of any prime lens because it’s perfect for almost every photography genre. From street and event photography to weddings, landscapes, portraits, and travel, a 35mm prime can do almost everything.
In other words, why shoot with your slow zoom kit lens when you can grab a sharper, faster, ultra-versatile 35mm prime?
The new Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD (Model F045) is one of our favorite 35mm primes to debut in the last year because it’s sharp, contrasty, colorful, and renders a creamy bokeh that rivals our most beloved prime lenses of all time. It’s available in both Canon EF and Nikon F mount variations, which means you use it with dozens of Canon and Nikon DSLRs or Canon and Nikon’s new mirrorless cameras with the appropriate adapters. Paired here with the mirrorless Nikon Z6 via the FTZ Adapter, the Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD is perfect lens to show off why you need a 35mm prime lens in your kit.
35MM STREET PHOTOGRAPHY
The 35mm focal length is many photographers’ go-to lens for street photography. Design-wise, 35mm prime lenses tend to be smaller, more compact and, by extension, more inconspicuous and less intimidating than telephoto lenses. They’re perfect, therefore, for discretely taking photos of street scenes, especially ones that include people in them.
Of course, that’s not the only reason. As we mentioned earlier, they tout a field of view that’s very similar to a human eye’s field-of-view, which means you can take snaps without spending too much time setting up.
In fact, while shooting with the Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD in the streets of Hollywood, we found this specific detail to be crucial when contending with the ever-changing street scenes. Being able to quickly capture those fleeting moments as we see them with our own eyes is, after all, essential. And, because it is wide enough, it allows us to capture more in our frame.
Getting minimal distortion and a bit of a cinematic effect in our street shots are just bonuses.
While obtaining a shallow depth-of-field with a 35mm lens requires getting closer to your subject than shooting with 50mm or 85mm lenses, 35mm primes still make great portrait lenses. And, like most primes, you get a larger maximum aperture than with your typical zoom lenses. In the case of the Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD, it’s capable of letting in FOUR TIMES more light than an F/2.8 lens and is a half-stop faster than the Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8, which renders ultra-smooth backgrounds, making your portrait subjects really pop!
Perhaps our favorite part of using a 35mm as a portrait lens is that it’s versatile enough to take captivating close-up shots AND half or full body shots where you capture your subject in their environments.
The small amount of perspective distortion, which can make your subjects appear slightly larger, works in your favor as well if you know how to take advantage. Get too close, and your subject might end up with an abnormally large nose or forehead, but take a half-step back and you’ll come home with some compelling portraits.
Whether you’re exploring vibrant cities, visiting famous landmarks, or immersing in epic experiences, you can capture practically all your of travel memories with only a 35mm lens. And with most of these lenses boasting a minimum focusing distance of less than a foot, you can also get in tight and capture the smaller, more intricate details from your trip – that heaping bowl of bun cha you enjoyed in Vietnam, perhaps, or that really cool door knocker you noticed at that old mansion you visited.
This means that you can get away with just one lens for a whole trip, allowing you to pack light. And, because most 35mm prime lenses are compact anyway, they’re easy to pack away in your carry on or personal item and hardly a burden to carry with you in your explorations.
Take the Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD; we found it easy to put away between shots and, in use, it weighs less than two pounds, which balanced our Nikon Z6 perfectly. And because it has a minimum focusing distance of 0.3m, we were able to get up close and personal with any small details that caught our attention.
As an extra treat, it’s got a moisture-resistant construction so we know we can take it with us, rain or shine.
Architectural photographers often gravitate to wide-angle lenses to embrace those focal lengths’ inherent distortion and exaggerated lines and curves. But a 35mm prime will give you a wide field-of-view with minimal distortion, which is great for many situations where you want a life-like POV or perhaps an artistic crop of a unique building.
We relied on the Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD to capture the delicate details of The Getty and the elaborate aspects of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. And it goes without saying that we loved the results.
Yes, a wider lens could make these architectural wonders look even more epic and herculean, but highlighting the features and individual attributes that make them unique is equally as important. And, a 35mm lens really helps with that.
Photographers naturally gravitate towards wide-angle and telephoto lenses for landscapes, opting to stuff as much into each frame as possible. Yet, when you’re shooting at focal lengths wider than 35mm, you’ll often find that your subject is too small to be distinct in your framing. And telephoto lenses are amazing but often big and bulky.
35mm primes work wonders for landscapes where you want to give your shots a natural point-of-view. As you might have already noticed, we love taking photos of the details as much as we do wide vistas. The 35mm focal length allows us to balance foreground and far-off elements while helping us find unique framing.
The beauty of 35mm, compared to a telephoto lens, is that it lets you hone in on the marquee feature of a particular scene – the tallest mountain peak, a little red cabin, that winding road a little ways away – without alienating its environment, which is also essential if you want your photograph to tell a story.
And unlike a telephoto lens, 35mm primes won’t take up your whole pack and weigh you down, which is especially helpful when you’re plans involved trekking uphill to shoot that awesome view.
Not only that, but we found that shooting landscapes with a 35mm also trains you to get creative with your shots. Utilizing the Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD to take landscape photos around Los Angeles, working around field-of-view forced us to leave our comfort zone to make our landscape images look more dynamic. In a lot of ways, the lens helped us get away from the stereotypical landscape shots and do something different.
At the end of the day, you can make almost any shooting scenario with almost any lens. But if you’re looking to blend value and compact form factor with crispy imagery and versatility, it’s hard to beat a 35mm prime. And this new Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 is well worth your consideration as the specific 35mm prime you want to add to your bag.