Nikon D3100: 35MM or 50MM?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by screensaver400, Dec 15, 2013.

  1. screensaver400 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 28, 2005
    Which one should I buy? They're both about $200, both AF-S.

    I know there's tons of discussion on this, but a lot give advice like "try the kit lens at 35mm and 50mm and see which you prefer." The thing is, I'm buying this as a gift for my sister, who already has a D3100 and doesn't know what she wants.

    So: If you had to choose one, which would it be?

    (Yes, I've done me reading, and know how 35mm with the D3100's small sensor is more of a normal lens, but I've also read this, which recommends the 50mm anyway:

  2. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Decide based on the subject. Indoors a 50mm lens is for head and shoulder shots. It will NOT work for groups of people unless your living room is 30 feet across.

    the 35mm lens does let you shoot groups of people from a reasonable distance. I thing it is the more general purpose lens

    Of the two I like the 50mm but that is because I'll do close cropped compositions. I hate clutter in my shots and even after I get close and use the longer lens I still crop most shots. Other people don't like that effect and want to get more in, the 35 can do that.

    In short the 50mm is a portrait lens, the 35mm is more of a general purpose lens.
  3. NewbieCanada macrumors 68030

    Oct 9, 2007
    Important question - since she already has a D3100, what lens(es) does she have already?
  4. screensaver400 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jan 28, 2005
    The basic kit lens--- 18-55 or similar (not sure what d3100 includes).
  5. Apple fanboy macrumors Penryn

    Apple fanboy

    Feb 21, 2012
    Behind the Lens, UK
    Usually the 18-55mm is the standard kit lens. What does she shoot pictures of? That will help decide? Or why not get her a store voucher and let her choose herself?
  6. screensaver400 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jan 28, 2005
    Yep, this was the sort of insight I needed (especially the first paragraph). 35mm it is. Thanks!
  7. madmaxmedia macrumors 68030

    Dec 17, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    35mm is definitely the safer choice, whether it's the best will depend on her.

    The Nikon 35mm f/1.8 is a fine lens, nice gift!!
  8. spice weasel macrumors 65816

    Jul 25, 2003
    I agree 100%. I have both the 50mm and 35mm f/1.8 lenses, and I've found that I rarely take the 35mm off my camera. It is my all-round lens, perfect for a variety of settings. I use it for indoor and outdoor portraits (although I don't shoot many portraits) and for most of my outdoor shots. I recently returned from Japan, where I only took this lens and a Sigma 10-20mm ultra-wide.

    The 50mm is definitely a great lens too, but I find it a bit too long on a cropped-frame body.
  9. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Many people like the shorter 35mm for portraits. It forces you up close.

    What many people forget, or new photographers don't know is that perspective is determined ENTIRELY by the subject to camera distance. beginners will frame the shot using a zoom and not even think about perspective adjustments by moving forward and back and THEN framing with the zoom. They don't even think of this first step.

    The fixed lens forces you to move forward and back to frame the shot so all head and shoulders shots have the same camera to subject distance and hence the same perspective. SO the same shot taken with a 35mm lens and a 50mm lens will look much different because you have to move in closer with the 35mm.

    The 50mm will give a more formal look and the 35mm will be more modern and engaging although maybe not as flattering to the subject...
  10. MyRomeo macrumors 6502


    Jul 22, 2010
    United Kingdom
    Seconded! I too have both the 35mm and 50mm lenses and I too rarely use anything but the 35mm now. I find it really versatile, its great for indoor, low light stuff and really sharp when you get it out in the bright lights of outdoors too.

    I also shoot with the d3100 by the way.
  11. MikeyIdaho macrumors newbie

    Oct 30, 2013
    Definitely would recommend the 35mm as a better general use lens, I have the 35mm, 50mm and 85mm 1.8g lenses and unless I'm doing portraits specifically I always have the 35mm on my body the vast majority of the time.
  12. SteinMaster macrumors 6502


    Feb 28, 2009
    Also, don't forget the Nikon D3100 is a DX format camera. So, the lenses you use are actually 1.5x's the listed focal length. For example, the 35mm lens is actually 52.5mm. If you are doing group photos and others that require a wide area of view I would go with at least a 35mm. You may want to go smaller if you really need wide angles. I have a full-frame (FX) Nikon camera and pretty much always use the 35mm indoors. I have also found that prime lenses (fixed focal length) take better photos than zoom lenses. Prime lenses also force you to physically move back and forth to frame the photo, which I think makes for a better photographer. People tend to get lazy and loose perspective when standing in one spot and just zoom to get their shot. I have a 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm prime lens in my camera bag. I also have a 105mm prime that stays at home which I use for close-up macro photography. I feel these prime lenses take much better photos than a zoom.

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