35mm Vs 50mm in Street Photography: Which Lens is Right for You?

With so many options available in the market, picking the right kind of lens is like picking a needle from a haystack!

Do you shoot with a 35mm or a 50mm?  This is a raging debate in the street photography community. It’s hard to get definitive information on this topic because opinions are so strong.

However, this article will sort out all those information alongside giving you. This article compares the technical aspects, pros, and cons of 35mm vs 50mm in street photography.

What is the Best Lens for Street Photography?

Street photography is a genre of photography that captures candid moments in public places. It focuses on everyday life and regular people caught in random situations.

For all the kinds of lenses available, different kinds serve different purposes in this genre.

  • Fisheye Lens: Lenses with a broad field of view, ranging from 6mm to 16mm. This is the best for purely creative shots in the street.
  • Wide-Angle Lens: Wide-angle lenses with focal lengths ranging from 14mm to 35mm. Ideal for shots in narrow alleys or from rooftops.
  • Macro Lens: Lenses with focal lengths ranging from 28mm to 200mm, which are used to get up close and personal with a subject. Best for photographing tiny signs and symbols in the street.
  • Standard Lens: Lenses having a focal length of 45mm to 60mm and little distortion. Suitable lens for a wide variety of purposes. In fact, this is the best one.
  • Telephoto Lens: Lenses with a focal length ranging from 85mm to 400mm; not needed for street photography at all!

For all these lenses, there are only two categories – zoom lenses and prime lenses. Zoom lenses will have a variable focal length, while prime lenses’ focal length is fixed. Today, we’ll be comparing 35mm vs 50mm prime lenses for street photography.

The common census is that 35mm is an all-rounder while 50mm is a bit better for close-ups. 50mm typically has a higher maximum aperture, whereas 35mm has a lower minimum aperture (when it comes to all lenses in general, it’s important to know how aperture affects your photos). To know more about the nitty-gritty of these two lenses, keep reading on!

35mm vs 50mm: Which Lens is Right For You?

Just like the debate of the best Canon lenses vs the best Nikon lenses; the 35mm vs 50mm lens debate continues to go on in most parts of the photography world.

There are plenty of good arguments for each side. In fact, it’s possible that one person’s favorite lens could be another person’s worst nightmare. So which is the right one for you?

Using a 35mm Lens for Street Photography

A 35mm lens is a staple for a working street photographer. A quick and portable prime lens, it sets the stage for quality photographs with its wide aperture, shallow depth of field, and relatively fast shutter speed.

Shooting with a 35mm lens forces you to get close to your subject and helps you build confidence as you explore the art of street photography. Let’s discuss the primary functions of a 35mm lens.

  • Versatility – The 35mm lens is a lens that may be used in a variety of situations. It can be used to capture a vast scope of camera shots and perspectives.

    It’s wide enough to catch background details while also being tight enough to photograph more intimate pictures like portraiture. The focal length gives you an approximately 54.4 degrees FOV (field-of-view).
  • Portability – A smaller mm equals a smaller lens in terms of size. This makes a 35mm lens incredibly portable, making it ideal for vacation photography or guerilla filming situations when you need to carry stuff and acquire photos quickly.
  • Low-light usability – The aperture of the 35mm lens is rather large. When light is low, a bigger aperture enables more light into the camera, allowing it to optimize its potential. This is a huge deal.

    In the fall and winter, the sun sets about 5 p.m., and every street photographer knows the beauty of night photography.

Using a 50mm Lens for Street Photography

The goal is to be invisible so that you can capture candid moments of life on the street. That’s why 50mm lenses (known as the nifty-fifty in the photography community) tend to be the go-to lens for street photography enthusiasts.

A 50mm lens focuses on people, and there’s nothing else (except backgrounds) in your photo. Let’s understand all of these in detail.

  • Subject Isolation – Pedestrians, automobiles, visitors, animals, and a variety of other activities take place on the streets. It’s simple to capture a whole scene with a wide-angle lens, but it’s more difficult to isolate a single subject.

    When you use a 50mm lens, the field of view is limited (approximately 39.6 degrees), so your subject is typically isolated in the middle of the commotion of everyday life.

    While you may get similar results with a wider lens by going closer to your subject, it may feel as though you are invading their personal space. Shooting with a 50mm lens allows you to isolate your subject in the frame while keeping a respectable distance between you and them.
  • Great Depth of Field – The depth of field can be adjusted on any lens, but DOF on a 50mm lens is considerably easier to manipulate than a wider lens. Most 50mm lenses have a big f/1.8 or f/1.4 aperture, which allows you to capture sharp subjects and attractive background blur even while keeping back from the scene.

    This minor alteration could be the difference between a good shot and a terrific one.
  • Familiarity – The 50mm lens comes very close to the human eye’s primary focal plane (but not the entire FOV of human eyes). When we focus on a subject, even though the elements outside our focus zone are still visible, our brain focuses more on the elements within a sharp FOV. This primary focal plane of the eyes corresponds closely to the entire FOV of the 50mm lens.

    Thus, if you want to capture a shot just as your eyes focus on it, the 50mm will bring the most accuracy to your envisioned frame (without having to move closer or farther!).

35mm lens vs 50mm lens – Comparison Chart

Trait35mm lens50mm lens
Versatility & AdaptabilityIncredibly versatile but does require movement for close-upsPerfect for close-ups but does require movement for wider shots
PortabilityLightweight and portableLight, but not lighter than 35mm
Low-Light UsabilityExcellent in low lightGood in low light, but might not fare well in very dark situations
Depth of FieldShallow depth of field usable in most applicationsVery shallow depth of field, usable especially for portraits

35mm or 50mm lens – Which one is right for you?

There are a lot of aspects to consider when making a choice between the 35mm and 50mm lens. As you have seen in the article, there are distinct advantages to using both lenses.

The choice can be tough, but it is worth it as they can both be used in various situations.

The 35mm lens is used more by professionals because of its ability to be taken on long journeys due to its small size and portability. You may not feel comfortable carrying a 50mm lens with you in your purse, which is why it is better for those who don’t plan on moving around too much with the lens.

For a street photographer, 35mm is a good option because it allows you to capture photos without drawing attention from your subjects. You want to capture candid moments with your subjects unaware of the fact that they are being photographed.

But in most cases, it will probably depend on your typical subject matter. If you mostly shoot portraits, then a 50mm should work well for you – especially because of its close focusing capabilities.

In the end, it will almost always come down to personal preference. The best lens for you ultimately depends on your needs as a photographer. 

Recommended 35mm and 50mm Lenses for Street Photography

When looking for a lens, it’s important to differentiate the focal length, aperture/f-stop, low light performance, sharpness, bokeh, and price. But which should you choose? It can be challenging to pick between the many different options available across different brands, so we’ve narrowed them down into two options.

1. AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 G

AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G is a lightweight, compact prime lens that is compact and environmentally friendly. It has an f/1.8 maximum aperture, a fast AF-S motor, and precision edging so you can create clear images from the outstanding center to the edges of the frame.

If you’re looking for a lens that delivers sharp resolution and creamy bokeh in a small package, you’ve found it.

The focal length is ideal for street photography, landscapes, snapshots, and portraits – where you want to get close to your subject. With a minimum focusing distance of just 0.298m (11.7″), it’s also perfect for shooting flowers and other close-up subjects.

With a 35mm focal length, this lens has the classic wide-angle perspective and uses 52mm filters. More and more hobbyists have enjoyed its ease of use, wide-open depth of field for environmental portraiture, and its ability to capture crisp pictures in low light conditions.


  • Affordable price ($180)
  • Take photos in low light without flash!
  • Very lightweight (200 g)
  • Narrow aperture for sharp shots (f/22)
  • Take great images at any skill level


  • Could be better for portraits
  • Creates a bit of barrel distortion

The AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G delivers far more than you’d expect from a lens of this size and price – environmentally friendly design, superior sharpness, natural color reproduction, and lightweight construction that’s perfect for travel.

2. AF-S NIKKOR 50mm F1.4G

The AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G delivers precise color rendition with smooth backgrounds. It creates superior color reproduction and incredibly smooth natural background blur (bokeh). 

This lens has a super-wide maximum aperture of f1.4 and Nikon’s unique rounded 9-blade diaphragm. The AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G delivers superior image quality that makes it well suited for portraiture, landscape, or any general photography requiring sharp details, rich color, and low contrast.

It supports FX-format cameras and 35mm film cameras as well as DX-format cameras. It is compatible with the AF-S type, which means it can be used with any Nikon DSLR cameras manufactured since 1977 equipped with an integral AF motor such as D4, D3X, and D700.


  • Shoots gorgeous portraits
  • Relatively lightweight (280g)
  • High maximum aperture for bokeh shots (f/1.4)
  • Takes photos in low light
  • Good minimum focus distance (1.5ft), for shooting without interrupting subjects


  • High Price Tag ($380)
  • At the maximum aperture (f/1.4), the focus zone isn’t that sharp

AF-S NIKKOR 50mm F1.8G offers photographers the classic 50mm field of view. It’s a versatile, affordable lens with a large maximum aperture and an ultra-fast autofocus motor that provides a consistent, responsive performance with virtually no wait time between you pressing the shutter and the picture being taken.

Final Verdict

Finally, this wraps up the debate on 35mm vs 50mm in street photography! Each lens has its own distinct strengths and weaknesses, so these two are best thought of as complementary for different genres in street photography.

If small size is a priority, go with the 35mm. For the ability to capture stunning portraits, consider the 50mm. 

Whatever you decide, you can’t go wrong choosing either one of these lenses for your street photography kit!

Author: Amy Grace

Amy Grace, a devotee writer of Clipping Path Studio, has long experience in the commercial photography field. Merging competency and skill in her profession, she has nailed the task up to the mark and has helped a lot of entrepreneurs create their brands. Aside from photography, Amy is involved in photo retouching work as well. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram.

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