You know when you have 2 prime lenses and only one camera? In this case do I use the 35mm or 55mm prime for portraits? How do you choose? Should you just give up and buy a single zoom lens and not ever think about this again?
The answer comes down to personal preference, but I wanted to take the opportunity to compare the 35mm to a 55mm for portraits.
Table of Contents Hide
- Warning: 35mm lens is too wide debate
- Camera Equipment For This Portrait Shoot
- Introduction to the Model
- The Painted Lens Photography Studio
- Getting down to the portraits
- Sony 35mm Portrait Gallery with Stiles
- Results with the 35mm lens
- Final Thoughts on using the 35mm Lens for Portraits
- Sony 55mm Portrait Gallery with Stiles
- Results with the 55mm lens
- Final Thoughts on using the 55mm Lens for Portraits
- And The winner is…
- My personal favorite
- Gear Mentioned In This Article
Shooting With 2 Lenses – 35mm or 55mm
In my case I didn’t have to choose. I have 2 cameras but many new photographers don’t always have this option.
Sony 35mm f1.8 Lens
Sony 55mm f1.8 Lens
Both lenses are very similar in size and weight so it can be easy to mix them up when they are in my photography bag.
Both have 1.8 apertures and the 55mm was the first professional lens I purchased when I started photography.
These two lenses stay in my bag often and I find myself switching between them for different reasons on my shoots. Let’s do a quick breakdown of the 2 lenses.
Warning: 35mm lens is too wide debate
I can already picture in my head the eye rolls from some readers at the thought of using a 35mm lens for portraits. Yes it’s technically a wide angle lens and it does cause distortion when you get too close.
But with that, it can also help you capture some great full body photos in tight areas. If you have a small studio then it might make a great option due to the wide angle.
I won’t go too deep into this debate, but I know there are people who say 35mm shouldn’t be used for portraits, and I say “my lens, my art, so my preference. There is no right or wrong answer”.
Camera Equipment For This Portrait Shoot
For this shoot, I used 2 separate cameras. I set both cameras to similar settings and used only natural light for this portrait session.
First, the Sony 35mm f1.8 was paired with the Sony a7riii mirrorless camera. During this time the Sony a7riii was my main camera but I always brought a backup with me just in case.
The second set was my Sony 55mm Zeiss f1.8 paired with my Sony a7iii camera. This is pretty much a standard for many of my quick TFP portrait shoots so I can keep file storage lower than if I was using the Sony a7riii.
Introduction to the Model
Meet Stiles. A beautiful Dallas model who answered one of my model calls for a studio test shoot. She was great to work with and took direction really well.
We communicated ahead of time to establish the mood board for this shoot. We wanted to do an indoor swimsuit shoot since the outdoor option was out of the question due to weather. It can get crazy hot in Texas during the day so we opted to shoot indoors.
The Painted Lens Photography Studio
This wasn’t my first time to the Painted lens photography studio in Dallas so I knew my way around the studio. It is a photography studio with large west facing windows and lifestyle type settings throughout the studio.
There is a large hanging bed and different furniture to help give you a variety during your shoot. This is one of my favorite places to shoot during the summer so I can get out of the heat.
Getting down to the portraits
Below you will find a gallery of 35mm portraits and 55mm portraits. Each set I used similar settings and all natural light. White balance was set to auto and no filters or other equipment was used for this shoot. Check out the galleries below.
Sony 35mm Portrait Gallery with Stiles
Results with the 35mm lens
My thoughts on using the 35mm lens for this portrait session:
- Light weight lens that is easy to carry when paired with a Sony camera
- Fast at focusing in all types of light (I didn’t shoot in lowlight but I have before with this lens)
- Great image quality and very sharp images
- Noticed some focus breathing when I was shooting towards the sun and in low contrast shots. I didn’t end up using these shots in the final selections.
- Noticeable distortion when I was too close to the model or the subject go too close to the edge of the frame. This is a common issue with wider lenses. You need to stay a few steps back and keep the subject towards the middle of the frame.
Final Thoughts on using the 35mm Lens for Portraits
Using a 35mm lens for portraits is ideal when you have limited space and need a lens that can still get you full body shots. Keep your subject in around the middle of the frame to minimize distortion.
The 35mm is perfect for lifestyle portraits and really helping bring the viewer more into the location around the model.
Sony 55mm Portrait Gallery with Stiles
Results with the 55mm lens
My thoughts on using the 55mm lens for this portrait session:
- Light weight lens that is easy to carry for long periods of time during the shoot, especially when paired with the Sony a7iii mirrorless camera.
- Tac sharp and beautiful color renders
- Beautiful bokeh when shooting closer to your subjects or shooting wide open at f1.8
- Fast focusing but I noticed it did not focus well when facing the sun and minimal contrast was involved between subject and background.
- Lots of Chromatic aberration when shooting wide open at f1.8, but this was later fixed in post editing.
Final Thoughts on using the 55mm Lens for Portraits
For close up portraits and capturing details in the eyes, the 55mm is great option. The f1.8 provides smooth and silky bokeh for subject separation and you don’t have to be far from the subject like when using a 85mm or 135mm. The 55 performed really well in this small studio and will continue to be a common lens in my camera bag.
And The winner is…
You tell me. I love both lenses and the final pics that this portrait session produced. You would need to see the final full images to really see the great quality of both lenses.
Both performed well for this shoot, and I would recommend looking at budget options for your next lenses. These would make a great choice for any photographer to have.
Currently, I believe the Sony 35mm f1.8 is less expensive than the Sony 55mm so keep this is mind when making your final choice in lenses.
My personal favorite
The 55mm is my pick! The 55mm Zeiss just has this look to it that is unmatched by many other Sony lenses. There is many reasons it is one of my favorite lenses so if you want to learn more make sure to check out the article below.
When trying to choose between a 35mm or 55mm portrait lens, you can’t really go wrong. Both focal lengths provide unique details and both will give you solid images for your portrait shoots.
Gear Mentioned In This Article
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