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Why or how as photographers, do we migrate to a certain lens focal length?

Hulyss Bowman

Active member
I start this thread in Nikon because... we love Nikon :)

My personal experience is pretty simple. I migrated to certain lens focal once I stopped listening/reading others,especially photographers. When I started seriously I was avid of advices and was focused only on French forums where pedantry is so high that I decided to never participate to any French forums any-more. The basic advices was "never shoot portrait with lenses under 85 mm..." blabliblabla ... You see what I mean.

So I started to be my own master by empiricism and guess what ? I shoot portraits only with 50mm and 180mm. Of course at the start I bought some 85mm but I was never comfortable with. Something is missing in this semi long focal. I fear the same for the 105 but if I buy the 105 it will be essentially for the performances, not the focal.

And I NEVER used something wider than 50mm. If the next Nikon camera is what I expect I will need to invest in new lenses, the good lenses, and probably my first 35 mm lens ever.
 
V

Vivek

Guest
At the moment it is 35mm for me as i mostly use the Sony RX1R II.
 

rayyan

Well-known member
When I bought my first camera, a Asahi Pentax Spotmatic, it came with the Super Takumar 50/1.4. I used this before it got stolen.

Then I bought a Nikon Photomic. It came with a 50/1.4

I bought a Nikon 70/70s/80/200/300/700 and I used a 50/1.4 with all of them.

I bought. Nikon Df, a little more than a year ago.

Lo and behold, it came with a 50/1.8

When the next Nikon comes out, and I can afford it, I have the 50/1.4s ready.

I never evolved into a 50mm. It has stayed with me all the time.

Just like my grand daughter and the Nikon 50mm.

 

Petrochemist

New member
I don't think I do migrate to particular focal lengths at all.
Well at airshows I often find I want more reach than my longest AF lens an manage at least for a lot of the show - the auto gyro tends to have me reducing focal length considerably.
If I have a zoom fitted whilst out for a walk quite a few of the shots will probably be towards the ends of the zoom range.
For landscapes I use a wide range of focal lengths but wider ones would dominate.
With macro most of the time I use focal lengths between 28 & 100mm but might occasionally use lenses both wider or longer.
I don't do a lot of portraiture, when I do space restraints limit the use of long lenses so 75 to 135 would probably cover most of it though I also play with the distortions from my fish-eye - the kids seem to love that.

In the past year I've used a lens giving me more than 1000mm equivalent FOV and another that gives me a full 360° view. I wouldn't claim to have shot everything in between (I don't have anything between 360° & 180°) but in everyday usage with my APSC DSLR it seems my most limiting gap in coverage is between 17mm (on the fisheye) & 18mm on the kit lens.The FOV of the 17mm being about 1.4x that of the 18mm. The Sigma 10-20 might fill the gap nicely but Santa has many more pressing priorities at the moment!
 

algrove

Well-known member
Nice thread.

I seldom use the lens that many say is the standard or 50mm lens. I mainly chose the composition first and let that decide the lens I want to use.

For street I use the 35 most often. Then again at times the 24 or 28 and the 90.

For landscape I often first go to the 18 or 21. But at times I want compression so I like the 70 or 90 or even longer if needed
 
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docmoore

Subscriber and Workshop Member
Just like my grand daughter and the Nikon 50mm.

A stunning portrait ... tone and subject are just sublime.

I do think you would love the Nikon 50 1.2 MF ... the Nocti 58 is wonderful but the 50 1.2
stands with the best.

Bob
 

Steen

Senior Subscriber Member

(...) For landscape I often first go to the 18 or 21. But at times I want compression so I like the 70 or 90 or even longer if needed

+ 1 for the perspective compression in some landscapes :thumbup:

here's an 85mm example (I have shown this one before)



©lick for actual pixels


© • Nikon D610 • AF-S Nikkor 1.8/85mm G • 1/160 sec. at f/8 ISO 100 • Capture NX-D
 

rayyan

Well-known member
Thanks a bunch folks. Mighty nice of you :salute:

I just happen to see better with the 50mm. Landscapes, street, close-ups, people
...mean everything. But I do envy all of you for your versatility in using the other fls.

Bob, I shall certainly investigate the possibilities of the 50/1.2.
Nikon makes the Df. Hype it as the ' camera ' to use mf, ai and ai-s lenses. Then cripple it with a.6 viewfinder. And field unchangeable focus screens. Unbelievable:loco:

Thanks for the generous comment.

Season's greetings to you all.
 

Jack

Sr. Administrator
Staff member
My current goto set is 24/50/85 -- and perhaps somewhat paradoxically, it works well for me with street, travel or landscape. My current UW is the 18 AF; my current medium tele is the 180 AF, and I have the 200-500 for the rare occasion I feel motivated to do wildlife.

In between, I have a 28, 35 and 105 that rarely get used -- but then I love the way each of them draws, so that makes me sort of :loco:. Ironically, I have three 85 primes -- also :loco:! The 85/1.4 is largeish-heavy but I love the way it renders; the 85 PCE is my "macro" of choice -- though I rarely do macro -- and lastly, the 85 Petzval renders a "legacy look" no other lens can for landscapes or studio.

In summary, I could live without the 28, 35 and 105, and may in fact sell them soon. I could also live without the 85 PCE or Petzval, and while I might get motivated sell the PCE, I'd likely keep the Petzval. Soooo, that means I could live quite happily with 18, 24, 50, 85 and 180 -- and call it a day...
 

Swissblad

Well-known member
It is odd how our perception and tastes change.... previously I was quite fond of WA i.e. <20mm.... now I find them to garrulous and prefer a medium to long tele for my landscape work.

A major part of my photography is macro, where I have gravitated to the Sigma 150mm for FX cameras and the Tamron 90mm on DX bodies.

That being said, the Nikkor 60mm macro is an awesome little lens.......I use it as a "50mm" or a small portrait lens on DX.....

Life is a muddle, ins't it.....:confused:
 

Jorgen Udvang

Subscriber Member
It is odd how our perception and tastes change.... previously I was quite fond of WA i.e. <20mm.... now I find them to garrulous and prefer a medium to long tele for my landscape work.

A major part of my photography is macro, where I have gravitated to the Sigma 150mm for FX cameras and the Tamron 90mm on DX bodies.

That being said, the Nikkor 60mm macro is an awesome little lens.......I use it as a "50mm" or a small portrait lens on DX.....

Life is a muddle, ins't it.....:confused:
For me, it's 21/50/150.

- 21mm because it's the most extreme WA that can also be used for group portraits without distorted faces and because I've had two very good 21mm lenses (OM Zuiko 21mm f/3.5 and Zeiss ZF.2 21mm f/2.8, still own both) that made me get used to that focal length.

- 50mm because that is what I "grew up with" and because a 50mm is such ha versatile lens. Portraits, close-ups with dramatic perspective, street photography... I could live with a good 50mm only.

- 130-150mm because it's a fantastic portrait length when I want to have some distance between me and the subject, or when doing street photography and not wanting my presence to disturb the image... etc.

--

Useful

- 24mm can often replace 21mm and probably will with my current system.

- 85 and 105mm, lovely focal lengths that can replace both 50 and 150mm if needed.

--

Boring:

- 28mm is useful but boring.

- 35mm is just boring.

- 180mm... not really boring, but too long for street and too short for distant subjects. I loved the Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 but struggled to find uses for it.

--

21mm can be used for portraits too, Zeiss 21mm ZF.2:



50mm, always a great choice, Nikkor 50mm f/1.2:

 

bensonga

Well-known member
I just happen to see better with the 50mm. Landscapes, street, close-ups, people
...mean everything. But I do envy all of you for your versatility in using the other fls.
I guess the same goes for me. On my 35mm systems, film or digital, I have more 50mm lenses than any other focal length. They are my most used lenses. I bought multiple Leica 50mm Summicron-R lenses because I got tired of swapping lenses whenever I used a different R body. I have 5 of them now. Same for my Nikkor 50mm lenses. In all other formats, I tend to use lenses that are very close to 50mm on FF 35.

I really love the Nikkor AIS 50 f1.2.

Happy Holidays to each of you!

Gary

D700 and AIS 50mm f1.2 at 1.2
 

Swissblad

Well-known member
Nice images Rayyan, Jørgen and Ben....


....... guess I need to get a good 50mm for our arsenal...... it's a focal length I've never really used.


:cool:
 

Shashin

Well-known member
I have done a huge majority of my work with a normal lens--the focal length being equal to the diagonal of the format (Note: 50mm is not normal for 35mm, 43mm is). I think I like working with normals because they give a natural apparent perspective in an image. It seems to be a very human perspective. It is then up to the image itself to create the magic.

But just as important as focal length, format is an important choice for me. Some formats like 3:2, I find awkward. Others, like 1:1, 2:1, 4:5, are easier.
 
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Jack

Sr. Administrator
Staff member
Re focal choices. A long time ago I read a suggestion -- I think by Linhoff if I recall correctly -- that said the best three lenses to start with are one equal to the diagonal of your format as your normal, one equal to the short side as your wide, and one equal to twice the long side for portraits. I've always found it worked well for me, and in fact I can do 90% of all my desired photography with a trio following that formula.

As to 43 being normal for 35, it never escaped me that BOTH Nikon and Canon make their Tilt-Shift "normals" at 45mm instead of 50; and in fact the next on either side of them are now 24 and 85, pretty well matching the formula above. I think 50/55 became the defacto "normal" simply because the little extra length flattened facial features just enough to be more flattering on casual portraits.

A point to consider is if you regularly crop your 35mm full frame aspect to 3:4 (24x32 max) or 4:5 (24x30 max), then your diagonal shortens up to about 40 and 38 respectively, and in fact the 35 becomes more of a true "normal" for those aspects...
 

Oren Grad

Member
When I started to build my first 35mm SLR outfit almost 40 years ago, I followed the advice in the mass-circulation photo magazines. My camera came with a 50. I added lenses over a few years after that as budget allowed. I bought a 28, because everybody was supposed to have a wide angle lens and 35 was said to be not wide enough. I bought a 100 because everybody was supposed to have a long focal length. I bought a 50 macro because I liked close-up work. And finally I bought an 80-200 zoom because it seemed that everybody was supposed to have an 80-200 zoom. At that point my outfit pretty much stabilized for a while. As I recall, over those years I probably used the 50 and the 28 most, the 50 macro a fair amount on special occasions, and the 100 and the 80-200 zoom not very much.

About ten years later I had the opportunity to go on a major overseas trip and had a bit of extra cash burning a hole in my pocket. I was itching to buy something to "fill a hole in my outfit", but didn't have a clear rationale for what and why. At a local dealer I looked at a 24 and a 35, and settled on the 35.

I took to the 35 like a duck to water. Practically overnight it became my "normal", and it's been that way ever since. Although I use many other focal lengths for various purposes, if budget or other circumstance forced me to cut back to only one lens, I'd keep a 35 without hesitation.

Most important lesson? Dunno... how about this: buying something for a silly reason sometimes works out for the best. :)
 

Jorgen Udvang

Subscriber Member
Re focal choices. A long time ago I read a suggestion -- I think by Linhoff if I recall correctly -- that said the best three lenses to start with are one equal to the diagonal of your format as your normal, one equal to the short side as your wide, and one equal to twice the long side for portraits. I've always found it worked well for me, and in fact I can do 90% of all my desired photography with a trio following that formula.

As to 43 being normal for 35, it never escaped me that BOTH Nikon and Canon make their Tilt-Shift "normals" at 45mm instead of 50; and in fact the next on either side of them are now 24 and 85, pretty well matching the formula above. I think 50/55 became the defacto "normal" simply because the little extra length flattened facial features just enough to be more flattering on casual portraits.

A point to consider is if you regularly crop your 35mm full frame aspect to 3:4 (24x32 max) or 4:5 (24x30 max), then your diagonal shortens up to about 40 and 38 respectively, and in fact the 35 becomes more of a true "normal" for those aspects...
Back in the day, 40mm was pretty much the standard focal length for fixed lens rangefinder cameras, and it's an interesting question why cameras with interchangeable lenses ended up with 50mm as a standard.
 

Oren Grad

Member
Back in the day, 40mm was pretty much the standard focal length for fixed lens rangefinder cameras, and it's an interesting question why cameras with interchangeable lenses ended up with 50mm as a standard.
The usual story is that 50 became the standard for 35mm full-frame because that's what Oskar Barnack put on the first Leica. But on some accounts, that focal length was already established as the standard for 35mm motion pictures - which were actually recorded in what we would today call half-frame 35!

The first SLR I got to know really well was my dad's Pentax Spotmatic, which was equipped with the 55/1.8 Super Takumar. Because of its lower price compared to the 50/1.4, that was the most commonly used "normal" lens on the Spotmatic series. There were even some 57's and 58's (e.g. Hexanon, Rokkor) on other Japanese SLRs of that era. It wasn't until years later, when I had enough experience as a photographer to have a clear understanding of my own seeing, that it sank in just how long those lenses are and how narrow a field they record.

IIRC, 40mm-ish (marked focal lengths of 38-42mm or so) didn't become the standard for compact Japanese fixed-lens rangefinder cameras until relatively late, in the 1970s. Fixed-lens Japanese RF's of the 1960s tended to have longer focal lengths, more in the mid-40mm range, while I recall that at least some from the 1950s had lenses as long as 48 or 50mm. The 1952-vintage Kodak Signet 35 that my dad handed down to me as my first serious camera has a 44mm Ektar.
 

k-hawinkler

Well-known member
Hmm, I didn't know I was supposed to do that! Didn't get the memo I guess. :facesmack:



Olympus E-M5 + LEICA DG NOCTICRON 42.5/F1.2 @ ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/320 s.
 
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