Opinion: 35mm Is the Most Versatile Focal Length in Photography

The 35mm lens beats your 50mm and your 28mm lens at everything with its absolute balance on subject matter.

While I personally see the world more in 28mm, 35mm is the best when it comes to versatility with creating images. When first starting out, I was told to use 50mm. And it was wrong. It was dead wrong. I’ve grown to appreciate what 50mm can do, but I’m not a fan of it nor the marketing and cults that seem to be behind it. While I see the world in 28mm, the variety of 28mm lenses on the market right now are just not that perfect. But 35mm lenses are pretty darned great. In an ideal world, we’d have more 40mm lenses; we don’t.

The 35mm lens is capable of doing so much:

  • Portraits at a respectable distance
  • Street photography with its depth of field and faster focusing abilities
  • Food
  • Travel
  • Photojournalism
  • Certain sports where it allowa you to get up close for contact
  • Weddings
  • Landscapes
  • Every day documentation

There are tons of photographers who love the 35mm focal length and who stick by it no matter what. Part of this is in thanks to how technology has improved what what the lenses have been capable of doing since the film days. Indeed, the 35mm lenses deserves to be glued onto your camera permanently as your walkaround lens.

More importantly, I have a challenge for every photographer who either argues against this philosophy or who really loves their 35mm lens. Here it is: spend a month or a year or any extended period of time just shooting with that lens. And more than that, shoot with just that lens on a film camera. You won’t see exactly what you get, but what you’ll notice is just how much better you’ll become with that lens.