Okay this has been kinda over due. Just about every time I see another photographer friend or log into facebook I feel the need to illuminate the glory that is this small unit of glass particles. I’ve always been partial to a lens thats just a little wider than our trusted standard view (50mm), but not super wide. I’ve bounced back and forth between the 24mm and 28mm as the ideal focal length for a wider angle view. But I often dismissed the easily overlooked chubby kid brother to the 28mm, the 35.
35mm bridges the gap between the distortion inducing 28 and the standard 50 … what I like to call the portrait lens that pushes a little more into the background. As a wedding shooter primarily, I often feel the need to get in close to reveal the subtlities of the moment, but then feel I isolated the subject from its environment. As much as I love the 50mm 1.4 or 85 1.4 (or 1.2’s for the canon shooters out there) for its creamy bokeh and subject-pronouncing depth of field, the lenses often remove the detail (flower) or person (flower girl, etc) from the situation. Enter the 35mm. Wide open at 1.4 we havent lost our ability to autofocus in low light or blow the background completely out of focus, but we have gained the ability to capture a distortion free portrait or group shot that shows just “a little more.”
I’m only about 3 feet away from the first groomsman here. the wall behind me prevented me from backing up any more. IS0 400 f1.8 1/250
the depth and impact is still intact with this image and the candle-lit table top in the background also gets pulled in. IS0 800 f1.4 1/80
ISO 100 f1.4 1/800
I’ve done this shot a hand full of times and always lose a groomsman if I dont have the 24mm on me. ISO 640 f2.5 1/125
ISO 400 f 2.5 1/1250
ISO 400 f1.8 1/60
Now here is an example of the 50mm vs the 35mm. the difference is subtle but you can see the ocean line and bluff get pushed a little further away, even though I am standing closer to my couple in the second photo. 50MM : ISO 100 f2.5 1/160 35mm : ISO 100 f2.5 1/60
So in short, its a great addition to the bag. Now the price tag is a whole nother animal. You could buy 9 35mm 1.8 lenses (thats right, 9) or more than one classic 35mm 1.4 (if you can handle the manual focus). Nikon hasn’t updated this lens since the original introduction of the 35mm 1.4 almost 40 years ago. Its not perfect, but when you have to open up, shoot fast, and see more it really does the trick. Fast, nano coated, and sharp as hell.
Side note, if you are a DX camera shooter, I’d probably spring for the 35mm 1.8G. The bump from 1.8 to 1.4 on an equivalent of 55mm focal distance just doesn’t quite add up to enough benefit. I hope this was helpful … feel free to leave feedback or questions on this post or on my facebook page. And to get way more info than I’m capable of processing, visit kenrockwell.com or dpreview.com. Cheers!