Which lens is better, 35mm or 50mm? Here’s who wins!

Which lens is better, 35mm or 50mm?

We talk a lot about prime lenses in our everyday lives as photographers, one more question that always haunts all photographers is Which lens is better, 35mm or 50mm? And this is not always an easy question to answer. There are several reasons for someone to choose a 50mm lens rather than a 35mm lens and vice versa. 

While prime lenses are wonderful and produce sharp, impressive images, they can sin in the lack of versatility, such as having no zooming power. Even if you can’t zoom in and out, prime lenses have many benefits that I’ll discuss in this article. If you need to choose between a 35mm vs 50mm and know which lens is best, you’re in the right place. 

But before we see what the big difference is between 35mm vs 50mm lenses, we have to get two important things out of the way. What are primes lenses and what is the difference between the full-frame sensor and the cropped sensor.

What is a Prime lens?

A prime lens is simply a fixed focal length lens. People prefer prime quality lenses because they are considered sharper and with superior image quality, which is not always true. As there are fewer moving parts and glass, the image when it comes to the sensor looks sharper and purer, but of course, this depends a lot on the overall construction of the lens. 

Another great advantage of prime lenses is that they are usually faster. This means they typically have larger apertures, such as the Canon 50mm f/1.2. You can open the lens and shoot in low light, plus get a good depth of field or blurry background.

Cropped sensor vs full-frame sensor

The full-frame sensor and cropped sensor are references to the size of the camera sensor. Different cameras have different sensor sizes. A full-frame sensor, also called a full-frame sensor, simply refers to a digital camera sensor that is the same size as the 35mm film used to be. 

Depending on the full-frame sensors or cropped sensors, the lenses will act as a different focal length due to the difference in sensor size, also known as the cutting factor.

If you have a 50mm lens, the glass is 50mm from the sensor and this is effectively your zoom. But on a sensor-cropped camera, say a Canon T5i, the crop factor is 1.6x. 

Therefore, if you have a 50mm lens on a 1.6x cropped sensor, your effective focal length would be 50×1.6, providing a “zoom” equivalent to 80mm. The same situation can happen with a 35mm lens produced for full-frame sensors, 35 x 1.6 = 56mm. 

Not all brands use the same crop factor, so if you use a cropped sensor camera, APS-C, try to find out what the cutting factor of your camera is so that you can compensate for the focal length.

Advantages of a 35mm lens 

A 35mm prime lens is a great lens for various situations. I know people who use only one lens most of the time, and it’s usually a 35mm lens. Due to its wide viewing angle, it is considered by many to be the best lens for street photography. Not only by the angle of view but also by the general vibe it generates.

A great advantage of having a 35mm prime lens is the fact that it will probably have a fairly large aperture. Therefore, you still can get a good depth of field while simultaneously getting a relatively wide frame.

The 35mm lenses are great for putting creativity into action. As this lens is a lens that borders on wide angles, if you want some detail you will have to get close enough to what you are shooting. Dealing with all the distortion generated in the image by this situation will make you have to be more creative to create cool images.

Woman walking down the street while looking at cell phone - Which lens is better, 35mm or 50mm? Here's who wins!

Great 35mm lens options.

  • Nikon AF-S 35mm F1.4G Nikkor 
  • Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM
  • Sony SEL FE 35mm F1.4 Zeiss
  • Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art Lens 

The disadvantage of a 35mm lens

No matter what brand of camera or lenses you have, they all have some limitations, and that’s why we as photographers like it, and we need to have several tools available. 

One of the biggest limitations of the 35mm lens is the fact that you need to be very close to the subject in most portrait situations, i.e. close-ups. This can lead you or your subject to not-so-comfortable situations.  Something that can be easily solved with a telephoto lens, somewhere between 105mm to 300mm. 

Another weakness of a short lens is background compression, which when compared to a longer lens becomes evident how much difference this makes in a photo.

Advantages of a 50mm lens 

The Nifty Fifty, as they sometimes call them, have been a pattern for a long time. Most 35mm film cameras had a 50mm lens as standard. She is very famous for producing images that look a lot like what the human eye can see concerning viewing angles. 

Generally, it’s the next lens I recommend to people when they want a lens beyond the 18-55mm kit lens. 

Bride looking for camera on a wall of flowers - Which lens is better, 35mm or 50mm? Here's who wins!

The Canon, for example, has a 50mm f/1.8 for about $130, which is a great price for this fast lens.
Because the 50mm lens is a little longer, you’ll see a slightly better depth of field than the 35mm lens, plus a better bokeh or background blur.

Many professionals do not change their 50mm lens for virtually nothing, for me it is indispensable. One of the best things about this lens is that it allows you to stay close to objects, but without being so invasive.

Chinese with red dress on a street - Which lens is better, 35mm or 50mm? Here's who wins!

I know this sounds weird, but when you’re shooting with a very long lens and need to shoot 100 feet away, it can be impersonal. 

I’ve found that everyone is more comfortable when you get close to the subject and don’t have to yell at them.

Great 50mm lens options.

  • AF-S NIKKOR 50mm F1.8G
  • AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G
  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
  • Sony FE 50mm f/1.8
  • Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM Art

Disadvantages of a 50mm lens

The 50mm is also not a perfect lens. First of all, it doesn’t give you the broad look you might need in certain situations. So if you need to photograph a landscape maybe it’s not your best option.

Another weakness is when you can’t be that close to what you’re going to shoot, like at a wedding, for example, maybe it’ll let you down because it’s not long enough.

If you think a 50mm is not long enough, there is also a third option. The 85mm prime is a small and beautiful lens. It offers a good amount of compression, and bokeh is almost a telephoto lens. But it’s not so long that you need to pull the megaphone to communicate with who you’re shooting with. 

Which is best 35mm vs 50mm

And as always when it comes to lenses we’ve come to a standstill, because the best lens for you may not be the best lens for me, it’ll all depend on what we have to shoot. So the best thing to do is to choose the best lens for the photograph you are taking.

No matter is 35 or 50mm lenses, the most important thing is what you do with them. The main tip I can give you is to have both because they will be very useful in various situations.

Now if I had to choose just one of them he would choose the 50mm. I believe it is a little, but very little even, versatile than the 35mm.

Choosing which lens is better, 35mm or 50mm is almost an injustice because the two produce amazing photos, and it’s up to you to make the final decision thinking about how much you’ll use one or the other.

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Written by Rix Mascarenhas

Rix Mascarenhas is a photographer, videographer, and drone pilot at

Art lover, always involved with crafts, design, painting etc... As a photographer, I enjoy taking pictures and creating stories that have meaning and help people to thrive. My work is guided by the stories behind each scene that really represent the moment.

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