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How-to's Lens Reviews

Perspective from two lenses: 35mm and 85mm

Al Smith (sitney)

Keywords: lens, basics, guides, tips, nikkor, 35mm, 85mm


At this thread, a member asking the question as to "which lens to get next?" was offered many opinions. One possible answer to this recurrent question was a lens pairing with lenses a bit wider and narrower than a 50mm lens. The 35mm and 85mm combination came up as a good pair to start with. We were then all shooting film, but this applies as well to shooting digital, maybe more if on FX format.

35mm f/2D AF and 85mm f/1.8D AF Nikkors


As a long time prime lens user, I have been using lens pairs for many years, and often will add a single lens to the pair depending on what or where I will be shooting.

For those that might be interested on what you can do with a couple of lenses like the 35mm and 85mm (or any similarly spaced pair), here is an example of how to shoot the same subject with both and to get an completely different effect in perspective. 



This is not simply a matter of changing lenses, but changing lenses AND moving to play with the way the foreground and background relate to each other. The same technique can be used with a zoom, but not if you stand in one spot and zoom... you have to move. 

At right, a comparison showing how two lenses render the same subject when part of that subject is kept at the same magnification. In this case, I shot two images of this parked car, one with a 35mm lens and the other with a 85mm lens. 

For both shots, I moved to keep the side-view mirror the same scale. On the 35mm shot (bottom), the car is elongated and the background is reduced in prominence. The 85mm shot crunches the car into a more boxy shape and also compresses the car into the background, which is huge in comparison.


Click for enlargement


These shots show how versatile the simple two-lens kit can be if used with your feet, as opposed to standing in one place and changing lenses or zooming which only changes scale but not perspective. This same effect / technique can just as easily be accomplished with a zoom if you move first and then zoom to frame.

(4 Votes )

Originally written on June 24, 2010

Last updated on March 23, 2017

Al Smith Al Smith (sitney)

Rocky River, USA
Basic, 4 posts

1 comment

Scott Ebright (sebright) on January 6, 2018

For years, I shot with just these two lens lengths on my film. camera. I made thousands of images with these lenses. I have since expanded the prime lens offering in my kit as the need appeared. Since I shoot DX, a 24mm and 50mm have taken the place of my trusty 35mm and 85mm lenses for those days I want to shoot 36mm and 75mm. However, the 85mm F1.8D is still my favorite lens. Maybe the 180mm F2.8 is a close second.