Street photography is a popular genre among photographers, but choosing the right lens can be challenging. Two common options for street photography are the 50mm and 85mm lenses. Understanding the differences between these two focal lengths can help you make an informed decision when capturing street scenes. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of each lens and discuss factors to consider when deciding between them.
What is the difference between a 50mm and 85mm lens?
Before diving into the advantages and disadvantages of these lenses, it’s important to understand the focal length. The focal length of a lens determines its angle of view and magnification. A 50mm lens is considered a standard or normal lens, providing a field of view that closely resembles what the human eye sees. On the other hand, an 85mm lens is considered a short telephoto lens, offering a narrower field of view and greater magnification compared to the 50mm lens.
Choosing the right lens for street photography
When it comes to street photography, the choice between a 50mm and 85mm lens depends on your shooting style and preferences. The wider field of view provided by the 50mm lens allows you to capture more of the street scene, making it suitable for environmental portraits and candid moments. On the other hand, the 85mm lens provides greater subject isolation and compression, which can be beneficial for capturing intimate portraits or isolating specific elements in the frame.
Considering the portrait photography aspect
While both lenses can be used for street photography, they excel in different areas. The 50mm lens is often favored by street photographers due to its versatility and ability to capture the context of the surroundings. It is also a popular choice for portrait photography, as it allows for a comfortable shooting distance and a natural perspective. On the other hand, the 85mm lens is commonly used by portrait photographers as it provides a more flattering perspective and allows for greater subject-background separation.
Pros and cons of using a 50mm lens for street photography
Advantages of using a 50mm lens
The 50mm lens offers several advantages for street photography. Firstly, its wider field of view allows you to include more elements in your frame, telling a more comprehensive story of the street scene. Additionally, its smaller size and lighter weight make it a more portable and inconspicuous option, allowing you to blend in with the environment and capture candid moments without drawing too much attention. Lastly, its wider aperture options, such as f/1.8, make it suitable for low-light situations, enabling you to shoot in various lighting conditions.
Disadvantages of using a 50mm lens
While the 50mm lens has its advantages, it also has some limitations. The wider field of view can sometimes result in a lack of subject isolation, especially in busy street scenes where there are many distractions. Additionally, the wider perspective may not always be ideal for capturing intimate portraits or isolating specific elements in the frame. Lastly, the lack of telephoto capabilities means you might not be able to get as close to your subjects as you would with an 85mm lens.
Benefits of using an 85mm lens for portraits
Creating beautiful background blur
One of the main advantages of using an 85mm lens for portraits is the ability to create a beautiful background blur, also known as bokeh. The longer focal length and wider aperture options, such as f/1.8, allow for a shallow depth of field and creamy background blur, effectively separating your subject from the surroundings and creating a more visually pleasing image.
Getting closer to the subject
Another benefit of the 85mm lens is the ability to get closer to your subject while maintaining a comfortable shooting distance. This can be particularly useful when photographing people in crowded street scenes, allowing you to capture their expressions and emotions without intruding on their personal space. The 85mm lens also provides a more flattering perspective for portraiture, minimizing distortion and emphasizing facial features.
Factors to consider when deciding between a 50mm and 85mm lens
Focal length and field of view
The focal length of a lens affects the field of view and magnification. The 50mm lens offers a wider field of view, capturing more of the scene, while the 85mm lens has a narrower field of view, allowing for greater subject magnification and background compression.
Aperture and depth of field
Aperture plays a crucial role in determining the depth of field. Both lenses offer wide aperture options, but the 85mm lens, with its longer focal length, allows for even shallower depth of field and more pronounced background blur.
Differences in compression and perspective
The longer focal length of the 85mm lens provides greater compression and a more flattering perspective for portraits. It allows you to separate the subject from the background more effectively and produces a more pleasing and professional look.
Using zoom lenses for street photography
Exploring the advantages of zoom lenses
While prime lenses like the 50mm and 85mm are often favored for street photography due to their image quality and wide aperture options, zoom lenses can also be a viable option. Zoom lenses offer the flexibility of multiple focal lengths in a single lens, allowing you to adapt quickly to changing situations without the need to switch lenses.
Understanding the limitations of zoom lenses
However, zoom lenses generally have smaller maximum apertures compared to prime lenses, limiting their ability to create a shallow depth of field and background blur. Additionally, zoom lenses tend to be larger and heavier, making them less inconspicuous and potentially drawing more attention in street photography scenarios.
Q: What is the difference between a 50mm and 85mm lens for street photography?
A: The difference between a 50mm and 85mm lens for street photography lies in the focal length. A 50mm lens is wider and captures a wider field of view, while an 85mm lens is more zoomed in and captures a narrower field of view.
Q: Which lens is better for portrait photography, 50mm or 85mm?
A: Both the 50mm and 85mm lenses are commonly used for portrait photography. However, the 85mm lens is often preferred for portraits due to its longer focal length and better compression, resulting in a more flattering and professional-looking image.
Q: Can I use a 35mm lens for street photography instead of a 50mm or 85mm?
A: Yes, you can definitely use a 35mm lens for street photography. While it has a wider field of view compared to the 50mm or 85mm lenses, it allows you to capture more of the surroundings and can be great for storytelling in street photography.
Q: Which lens is better for street photography, 50mm or 85mm?
A: The choice between a 50mm and 85mm lens for street photography depends on your personal preference and shooting style. The 50mm lens is often favored for its versatility, while the 85mm lens allows you to capture unique and intimate moments from a distance.
Q: Does the 85mm lens perform better in low light compared to the 50mm lens?
A: Both the 50mm and 85mm lenses can perform well in low light situations. However, due to its larger aperture, the 85mm lens may have a slight advantage in capturing images in low light conditions.
Q: Can I use a 50mm or 85mm lens for street photography if I only want to shoot with one lens?
A: Yes, both the 50mm and 85mm lenses can be great options for shooting street photography with just one lens. If you prefer a wider field of view and the ability to capture more context in your images, then the 50mm lens is a good choice. On the other hand, if you want to shoot from a distance and focus on the subject, the 85mm lens would be a better option.
Q: Are the 50mm and 85mm lenses suitable for shooting street photography with a Nikon camera?
A: Yes, both the 50mm and 85mm lenses are compatible with Nikon cameras and can be used for street photography.
Q: What are some tips for street photography with an 85mm lens?
A: Some tips for street photography with an 85mm lens are: – Find interesting backgrounds to complement your subjects. – Use a faster shutter speed to freeze the motion. – Keep a comfortable distance from your subjects for candid moments. – Experiment with different compositions to create unique perspectives. – Consider using manual focus or pre-focusing to ensure sharpness.
Q: Can I use the 85mm lens for other types of photography besides street photography?
A: Yes, the 85mm lens is a versatile lens that can be used for various types of photography, such as portrait photography, real estate photography, and more. Its longer focal length and great bokeh make it a popular choice for capturing stunning portraits.
Q: Which lens is a better choice for capturing a full-body shot, 50mm or 85mm?
A: The 85mm lens is often the preferred choice for capturing full-body shots due to its longer focal length, which allows you to stand farther away from your subject while still maintaining a good composition. However, the 50mm lens can also be used effectively for full-body shots depending on your shooting style and the desired look.
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