Which lens to use when?

Discussion in 'Digital Discussion & Q&A' started by Newbie29, Apr 10, 2008.

  1. Newbie29

    Newbie29 TPF Noob!

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    When would you use a 50mm F/1.4 lens and when would you use an 85mm F/1.8 lens? Are they both much the same? Are there situations where you would use one over the other? I'm relatively new to the world of digital photography - I own a Canon 30D SLR with three lenses - the 50mm, 85mm and a 17-85 zoom lens. I like taking photos of families and children - not that I have had much experience at this!
     
  2. Yahoozy

    Yahoozy TPF Noob!

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    pretty much use the 50 for general stuff and the 85 for when you want to get in closer
    as for the 17-85 use that for when you want more wide angle (obviously) but also when you just want more versatility (IE not a fixed focal length)
     
  3. taracor

    taracor TPF Noob!

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    Yep, the 50 and 85 have a pretty noticeable focal length difference, I mean 85 is almost double the 50, so the 50 would be for general stuff. There is a reason why it is such a popular lens. 85 would be for things you can't walk close enough to, things that you need a closer view of. I would probably use one during sporting events, or where there is a limit to how close you can get to the action, and that limit is not enough. Sometimes you either can't get close enough to something or just don't want to disturb anything.
     
  4. PaulBennett

    PaulBennett TPF Noob!

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    For portrait work, the 85mm will subtly flatten the nose and is generally preferred (even 105mm) for a more flattering image. For landscape work the 50mm will produce an image where object distances appears much like the eye perceives...which is why it was often called a 'normal' lens.
     
  5. Newbie29

    Newbie29 TPF Noob!

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    So, the 85mm is probably better for portrait work? Is it true that the 85mm is better for outdoor portrait work and the 50mm for indoors?
     
  6. patrickt

    patrickt TPF Noob!

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    There is no spiffy quick answer. Your question wasn't specific to portraits. That's just one area. Wider angle has the same effect as moving back farther from whatever you're photographer and longer angle has the same effect as walking forward. Primes are sharp and fast and zooms are sharp, slower, but darned convenient.

    Since I don't want to be changing lenses every two or three shots, I tend to use my primes on shoots where the shots will be similar. A few days ago I took photos of a baby being held by every woman in the family and I used my 50mm and it worked fine. For street scenes I frequently use my 35mm.

    For strolling and targets of opportunity, I almost always have a zoom on my camera.

    For portraits I usually use my 50mm. That puts you fairly close but not too close. If I want a candid portrait I will sometimes use my 100mm so I have more distance and the person is less aware of me and the camera.
     
  7. eminart

    eminart TPF Noob!

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    As a newbie myself, I highly recommend the book "Understaning Exposure" by Bryan Peterson. It doesn't deal specifically with which lenses to use, but it will give you a good foundation to make that decision yourself.

    I already knew a lot of the stuff in the book, but he explains it in such a way that it's much clearer in my head now. I don't have to think quite as hard as I did before. It's a great book and can be had for less than $20 on amazon.
     
  8. D-50

    D-50 TPF Noob!

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    Use those lenses whenever you feel it appropriate, there is no rule that says 50mm areonly to be used here. In general a wide lens such as your 17mm will exagerate facial features while a longer lens will flatten them so take this into account when choosing a lens. Y
     
  9. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Yeh.. people are right... longer focal length "brings things closer".

    BUT

    The most often over-looked decision making choice in regards to focal length is composition...

    ...how it expands or compresses distances and space.

    ... how it affects DOF

    ... how it can either tell a story or focus on a particular subject matter.


    Focal length wasn't mearly a magnification... Photographers choose focal length very carefully much like a painter choosing a size paint brush.

    To the OP, there is no real answer as you can't put a rule or formula to creativity. Try both lenses out in different ways and experiment. You'll known when to use what through your own creativity. I've seen wonderful portraits from mild wide angle lenses... I've seen wonderful stories told through the glass of a telephoto.



    You want to get closer???? Use Your Feet and Walk Up Closer To the Subject
     
  10. +1 to PaulBennett and usayit.
     

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