If you had to choose one, and only one, focal length to shoot with over the next year, what would it be?
I think many people would answer ‘The Photojournalist’s Lens’ – and for good reason. 35mm is a very versatile focal length. It’s wide enough that it can be used for land/city-scapes, and long enough that it can be used for portraits (particularly ones with an environmental element).
Yet I’ve never really been a 35 FoV shooter. The lens that most speaks to me has always been… ‘The Nifty 50’.
I prefer this slightly longer focal length for portraits and stills. I can fill the frame from what feels like just-the-right distance for me, or stand back and still include some of the environment. I find the depth of field offered by a 50mm f1.4 or f1.8 usually ideal, where-as that of the 35mm often just isn’t shallow enough (all other DoF factors being equal) and the 85mm’s reach can be unwieldy when shooting in confined space.
The 50 works for ‘scapes too, highlighting a certain portion or element of the larger setting. 35mm is a good compromise, but I find myself more-often-than-not going wider (24 or 28) or going longer (50). I just don’t seem to spend much time in the middle-ground.
That’s the best way I can quantify it. But the simple truth is that the 50mm really “just feels right” to me. Comfortable. An ‘old friend’, I suppose.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that one particular focal length is de facto better than another. And of course your subject matter (portrait, street, macro, wildlife, landscape, etc.) will largely determine your preferred shooting distance and focal lengths. I’m just saying that if 3 people where each made to choose, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if each chose differently. It’s a very personal thing.
The moral of this story is that while I’ve been very happy with the Zeiss 35mm f2.8 lens on the Sony A7 (a fantastic lens!) that I am… MORE than happy… that the Zeiss 55mm f1.8 has finally been added to my camera bag. The 55 is not only the preferred focal length for me, but this particular lens is a real gem, optically speaking.
Is the 55mm the ‘Holy Grail’ of lenses (for me)? While I’m not sure about that just yet, I can say that it’s the first in a long while that again has me thinking about a ‘One Camera, One Lens’ project.
I’m looking forward to using this lens much more (did you hear me Mother Nature? Your cooperation would be most welcome) and next week I’ll share a few sample images.