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Author Topic: prime focal length choices  (Read 6642 times)

sturdiva

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prime focal length choices
« on: August 27, 2013, 11:20:03 AM »
I'm looking to get a few primes, and wondered if others could provide some info on why they chose the focal lengths they own.

For example, I'm considering the two following combinations:  24, 50, 135   or    35, 85.

Anyone with preferences of one of these combinations over the other? (I'm less interested in specific lenses (E.g. 24 f/1.4 vs. 24 f/2.8 IS), but the focal lengths themselves.

I'm shotting with a 5d3, and mostly interested in the primes for portraiture and events.
« Last Edit: August 27, 2013, 11:33:31 AM by sturdiva »
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prime focal length choices
« on: August 27, 2013, 11:20:03 AM »

Skirball

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Re: prime focal length choices
« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2013, 11:27:51 AM »
Well, those are pretty much the 5 classic fixed FLs for lenses.  Kind of hard to offer advice without knowing what camera (sensor) you're shooting, and what you shoot.  Even then, it's completely subjective.  Obviously the 24/50/135 gives you more options, and wider and longer FLs.  But you could certainly get by with a 35/85.  Just a discussion on 85 vs 135 could go for pages.  Ultimately it comes down to personal preference.

sturdiva

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Re: prime focal length choices
« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2013, 11:35:25 AM »
Sorry, I've modified the original post. I'm shooting with a 5d3 and mostly looking at the primes for indoor event shooting and environmental portraiture. I've got a 24-70 and 70-200, so I have all of these focal lengths covered, I'm looking at the primes for low light capabilities and shallower dof.
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neuroanatomist

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Re: prime focal length choices
« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2013, 11:39:52 AM »
As statted, it really comes down to personal preference.  For example, I prefer 35mm to 24mm for a fast, wide prime.

I've got a 24-70 and 70-200, so I have all of these focal lengths covered

Ok, so set your 24-70mm to 24mm, 35mm, and 50mm, and your 70-200mm to 85mm and 135mm for a while at each focal length, and play around.  See what fits your needs best. 

Personally, I went with the 35L, 85L II, and 135L (the classic 'holy trinity' of fast primes). 
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Re: prime focal length choices
« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2013, 11:45:26 AM »
I like the 35, 50 and 85.  The 24 is a little too wide for how I would use it for environmental portraiture so, it's the 35 for me.  85 handles a bit easier than 135 indoors.  A lot of people skip the 50 prime because all the AF lenses have flaws (50 f/1.4, 50 f/1.8, f/1.2).

sturdiva

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Re: prime focal length choices
« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2013, 11:47:25 AM »

Ok, so set your 24-70mm to 24mm, 35mm, and 50mm, and your 70-200mm to 85mm and 135mm for a while at each focal length, and play around.  See what fits your needs best. 


Good idea (feel slightly silly not thinking of that).  I had gone through my lightroom catalog looking for most used focal lengths, but that really seemed to only lead me towards the extreme ends of my zooms (24, 70, and 200).
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neuroanatomist

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Re: prime focal length choices
« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2013, 12:11:08 PM »

Ok, so set your 24-70mm to 24mm, 35mm, and 50mm, and your 70-200mm to 85mm and 135mm for a while at each focal length, and play around.  See what fits your needs best. 


Good idea (feel slightly silly not thinking of that).  I had gone through my lightroom catalog looking for most used focal lengths, but that really seemed to only lead me towards the extreme ends of my zooms (24, 70, and 200).

Yeah, that's common for zooms.  The other problem with that is you are probably not considering any cropping you had done on those images.  The reason I picked 35mm over 24mm was after using a 24-105L set to each for a while, and processing the images, I found myself leaving the 35mm images alone but cropping almost all of the 24mm images.  EXIF would still have told me I had a lot of keepers at 24mm, of course. 
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Re: prime focal length choices
« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2013, 12:11:08 PM »

Skirball

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Re: prime focal length choices
« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2013, 12:31:37 PM »
I know you said you just wanted to consider focal lengths, not specific lenses, but ultimately it comes down to purchasing lenses.  As most agree, the focal lengths are somewhat subjective as to what works best for you, but lens options and costs aren’t.  The 135 is pretty limited, but options for an 85 prime are quite large and varied, from the quirky 85/1.2, to the cheap 85/1.8, to options in between like Sigma’s 1.4.  If you’re having a hard time deciding let the options help you, as I don’t think you’ll find any concrete decisions in the focal length.  Besides perhaps, that the 85 will be more forgiving in low light than the 135/2 considering the wider aperture and shorter FL.

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Re: prime focal length choices
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2013, 12:49:03 PM »
I went 24, 50, 135.

35mm not really wide enough like the 24mm and not as good for people as the 50mm.

85mm is too short when I need a tele. So 135mm...

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Re: prime focal length choices
« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2013, 02:17:01 PM »
My preference on FF is 35L - 85 1.8 - 135L.
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Ben Taylor

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Re: prime focal length choices
« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2013, 02:48:54 PM »
I'm using the 35L on my 5D3 and it's a superb lens for environmental portraits and candid shots. I'm also using the Sigma 84mm f/1.4 and while it has the ability to take incredible shots I'm thinking of trading it in for a 135mm for the extra focal length. Sometimes I find it's a little short for really effective subject isolation in busy environments (weddings / street photography for example).

As always, this is only my opinion and others may like 85mm over 135mm. I can't fault the 35mm focal length though, it's very useful for portrait work.
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Re: prime focal length choices
« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2013, 03:16:32 PM »
I have the 135 which is perfect for indoor sports such as basketball and volleyball.  It focuses fast on my 5d III, is tack sharp, and is great for some of the venues that are not lit very well.  I've also used it to shoot concerts if I'm in the first few rows of the performance.
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Re: prime focal length choices
« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2013, 03:39:20 PM »
Like most have said:  135L f2.0, 85 1.2L II, and maybe a Siggy 35 1.4 ....and a Zeiss 50mm f2.0.  Oh, and a great bargain for the price; 200 f2.8L II, this being a fast and lightweight lens (non-white) that is about the same size as the 135L. 

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Re: prime focal length choices
« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2013, 03:39:20 PM »

JonAustin

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Re: prime focal length choices
« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2013, 03:45:41 PM »
My two primes are a 50 and 100 ... seems I'm the only one to list a 100mm prime here.

I used to have an 85mm for portraiture (on FF), but I found that I was cropping most of those shots (and I never opened it up to f/1.8 ), so I sold it and bought the 100.

I use the 50 mostly when I want a small, light rig for environmental shooting, or when I want to push myself out of the comfort zone of zooms.
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sdsr

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Re: prime focal length choices
« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2013, 04:37:55 PM »
I'm looking to get a few primes, and wondered if others could provide some info on why they chose the focal lengths they own.

For example, I'm considering the two following combinations:  24, 50, 135   or    35, 85.

Anyone with preferences of one of these combinations over the other? (I'm less interested in specific lenses (E.g. 24 f/1.4 vs. 24 f/2.8 IS), but the focal lengths themselves.

I'm shotting with a 5d3, and mostly interested in the primes for portraiture and events.

If those are the two main purposes, there are still many variables - for portraits: head-shot portraits, half body, full body, individuals vs groups, how close do you like to get, etc.  For events, are you trying to capture the overall scene - e.g. a concert in a church - or a close-up of a basketball going through a hoop, how big is the event, etc.?  Depending on what you're trying to capture, you might want to expand the range of lenses you're considering to include the excellent 200mm 2.8 (unless your 70-200 is 2.8).

At present I have 28mm IS, 50 1.4, 85 1.8 (may want to replace this with 85L), 100L and 135L (plus some excellent M43 primes); have also owned, but no longer do 20mm 2.8, 28mm 1.8, 50mm 1.8, 50mm 1.5 and 200mm 2.8.  Would like to add a very wide fast prime (or zoom) for large interiors. 

You may want to surprise yourself too - some of what I own is by fortunate accident (e.g. the short-lived ridiculous Adorama discount on the 28mm IS) rather to meet some perceived need; I've sometimes ended up with a lens I've liked enough to experiment with to see what I can do with it and whether I can adapt myself to it - a rather enjoyable adventure of sorts, and one reason why primes, while more limiting in some ways, expand your horizons in others, altering how you see the world.  You may want buy, or at least rent, a lens outside your "comfort zone" and see what happens....

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Re: prime focal length choices
« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2013, 04:37:55 PM »