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DSLR Prime Lens: 24mm vs 35 mm vs 50mm vs 85mm

If you own a DSLR or are interested in photography, you must have come across the term ‘Prime Lens’. People seem to be going crazy over them, but what exactly is a prime lens?

A prime lens is a fixed focal length (also called FFL) lens. This means that unlike regular zoom lenses, you can’t change the focal length to zoom in or zoom out. The photographer have to move around to get the required composition.

Prime lenses often have large apertures ranging between f1.2 to f2.8. This makes prime lenses inherently better than zoom lenses as you get a more shallow depth of field (the background blur that you see in photos), better low light performance, and better overall image quality.

Since the aperture on these lenses is generally quite large, they get more light in. That means you can shoot on a lower ISO in low light conditions hence reducing noise (or image grain). Also, these lenses often tend to have very less focal distances, which means you can get close to your subject and still have it in focus.

As mentioned above, prime lenses are fixed in focal length and hence, there are different prime lenses of different focal lengths available for various purposes. In this post, we go over four of the most common types or prime lenses and help you decide which one to choose when.

Note: For this article, we’ll be taking only Canon lenses into account, but the information holds for all lenses regardless of brand.

Also read: Cinematography 101: How to record cinematic footage from your DSLR?

24mm 

The Canon 24mm ‘pancake’

The 24mm is a prime wide-angle lens that can pack a lot of pixels into a single frame. What you get is a rectilinear wide-angle image, it just happens to be coming from a prime lens.

The main advantage to using this lens, apart from the wide aperture, is its focal length only. While you give up a little bit of that depth of field as compared to 35, 50 and 85mm lenses, you gain in portability and the image size.

This lens is a lifesaver if you happen to be shooting in constraints and indoors and still want the depth of field or clarity or perhaps the cinematic look if you’re shooting video.

Just like any other prime lens, this lens also comes in many variants. The Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM, coming in at about INR 8k is a good example of a 24mm prime that doesn’t break the bank. While you can get wider apertures than that, the lenses are going to be way more bulky, heavy and expensive.

35mm

Moving on to a slightly more narrower lens. The 35mm fits in the sweet spot between the 50mm being too narrow and the 24mm being too wide.

The main advantage the 35mm provides over the 24mm is that it is still able to give somewhat of a wide angle view in an f/2 aperture. That is, without the lens being super bulky or expensive. You can pick a 35mm f/2.0 lens by Yongnuo for your Canon DSLR for about INR 7k on Amazon straight away.

The 35mm makes for an excellent lens for both indoor and outdoor photography. The wider aperture also provides for outstanding low light performance. All in all, a solid choice for any photographer/videographer alike.

Also read: Optical image stabilisation vs Digital image stabilisation

50mm

DSLR Prime Lens: 24mm vs 35 mm vs 50mm vs 85mmThe 50mm is perhaps the most commonly known and used prime lens by professionals and amateurs alike. At 50mm, the lens is quite narrow and provides for a kind of zoomed in image. The main advantages here are the portability, price and the f/1.8 aperture.

You can use the 50mm for pretty much every type of photography. It is an extremely versatile lens that can be adapted to any situation and style. You also get extremely cinematic looking footage with it.

The 50mm (also known as the Nifty Fifty) is quite a fast lens for the price you pay. That f/1.8 aperture gives you amazing bokeh; you get the insane low light performance and amazing overall image quality.

The 50mm prime f/1.8 by Yongnuo for Canon is available on Amazon for about INR 4.4k as compared to Canon’s 50mm f/1.8 EF-S STM which is double the price at INR 8k. There are several other third-party sellers available as well.

Note that there is an f/1.4 variant also available, but it’s significantly more expensive.

85mm

This one’s going to be a bit heavy. The 85mm is the priciest lens on this list, and for a good reason. At this focal length, you get a medium telephoto lens with an f/1.8 aperture. The 85mm is similar to the 50mm in every way except for the focal length.

If you’re shooting outdoors, this is your lens of choice. You get telephoto, wide aperture, fantastic image clarity and some nice bokeh. This is also known as a portrait lens for its ability to be able to capture more extended subjects.

Canon’s offering of the 85mm f/1.8 USM on Amazon is at INR 29k. Quite on the pricy side, but the lens is well worth its price.

Also read: DSLR vs Mirrorless camera: Which one to choose in 2019?

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