50mm 1.4 or 35 mm 1.4?

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by kristine_herman, Nov 21, 2013.

  1. I am in the market to get a new lens and I'm caught between getting the Canon 50mm 1.4 or the 35mm 1.4.
    Right not I have the 50mm 1.8 and a Tamron 28- 75 mm lens with my Canon 5D.
    I'm wanting a portrait lens but since I have the 50 mm 1.8 I'm wondering if it worth it to upgrade or go for the 35mm.
  2. "...I'm wanting a portrait lens..." - Get the 85/1.8
  3. it


    35L is an amazing lens. If I only had one, that would be it. But we are all different, obviously.
    davecaz likes this.
  4. Agree with Bob, look at the 85/1.8.
  5. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "Right [now] I have the 50mm 1.8 and a Tamron 28- 75 mm lens with my Canon 5D.
    I'm wanting a portrait lens but since I have the 50 mm 1.8 I'm wondering if it worth it to upgrade or go for the 35mm."​
    If I were in your position, I would buy the EF 135F/2 L USM.
    I don't think that one buys "a Portrait Lens", but rather one buys an addition to one's lens' kit, to enhance and diversify one's capacity to make Portrait Photographs. You have a good quality F/2.8 zoom and that will cover the 35mm and also close to the 85mm Focal Lengths. Buying the 135/2L opens another vista of Portraiture to you.
    However, you might have posed the question because you are definitive and concrete in your SELECTION of FOCAL LENGTHS for your Portraiture Work. That is to say that you have chosen only to use 35mm or 50mm: in this case the 35/1.4 is my recommendation and I agree with Ian, in his summary of it. The 50/1.4 offers little gain to the 50/1.8 that you already have.
    REF: (For Portraits I use the: 35/1.4; 35/2; 50/1.4; 50/2.5; 85/1.8 and 135/2 and also other lenses).
  6. it


    I do portraits full time and use the 35L, 85L, 135L combo. All amazing lenses, but the 35L is better all round for me as it's extremely versatile. 85/1.8 is amazing for the price.
  7. Why not consider the 35/2IS? I just swapped my 35/1.4 for one. You lose 1 stop but gain 3 stops of IS and the quality is excellent. The 35/1.4 is great though, but big and bulky.
  8. 35mm would be a rather unusual (to say the least) choice for a portrait lens. (To forestall the inevitable come-backs, yes, it is possible to make portraits with wide angle lenses. No, it is not a typical choice.)
    The primarily advantage of large aperture lenses for portraits is arguably their larger apertures and the possibility of producing nicer out off focus backgrounds. To get this you give the up the flexibility of variable focal length that your zoom affords. This means several things are very important:
    1. Make sure that you decide first what focal length you need. Buying on price or lens reputation won't help you much if those factors point you towards a lens that doesn't have the focal length you need for your intended photography.
    2. Determine whether you really need the largest possible apertures for your portraits or not. We hear the "common wisdom" that you need the largest possible aperture so frequently that we start to accept that idea uncritically. But in reality, most portraits are not shot at f/1.2 or f/1.4 - while a narrower DOF can often be useful, the extremely narrow DOF of those apertures can also be problematic, and it is not quite necessary to shoot at the very largest aperture to get a nice background. You can do that by using a longer focal length and by moving your subject forward from the background, for example.
    I wonder what shortcomings you have actually encountered in your previous portrait shooting (as opposed to shortcomings that you imagine or speculate about) using the zoom lens that you have or using the f/1.8 50mm lens? Looking at that question in a cold, hard way can help you with your decision. At this point, given the nature of your question I suspect that you might be going more on what you imagine you might need/want to buy than on what you have discovered you actually need.
    For portraits, to be honest, the fine 50mm f/1.4 would perhaps be only marginally better than what you have. While a 35mm f/14 is a fine lens, it is a very unusual choice for what we usually think of when we say "portrait lens," as it is wide angle - this can be an interesting special effect, but it is a not the typical way to create flattering portraits. It is also a very expensive lens and duplicates a focal length you already cover with your zoom. If you need something a bit longer and want to try a prime, the f/1.8 85mm lens is inexpensive and of fine quality and there is also a 100mm f/2 non-L lens that works well.
    As always, keep your focus (pun intended) on the photography rather than the gear acquisition.
    Take care,
  9. For traditional style portrait photography the 85mm is a no brainer. You could spend big bucks on the 35mm f/1.4L but, in my opinion, you need the skill to use it for portraits as it's a completely different way of working and you have to look for shots out of the norm... not just the usual head and shoulders pics. Look at Ian's shots above as an example of what I mean.
  10. I haven't been very happy with the 50 1.4. Focus is the main issue, as it tends to not keep up in moving shots.
    Jonathan Holt
  11. it


    85mm is great for headshot type portraits. 35/1.4 is amazing for showing the environment, the setting. It's a completely different tool, but to say it's "unusual" or "not typical" would be refuted by thousands of pro portrait photographers who use it on a daily basis.
    There is no such thing as a "portrait lens".
  12. My 135 used to largely sit on the shelf. Could only use for head&shoulders indoors. An 85 f1.8 or 100 f2 would have been more useful and half the price too.
  13. I agree with Ian. Portrait is just an artistic representation of a person. This should not mean that it's just a photo of a body/person but can include some kind of environment describing that person.
    Anyway, the price difference between 50 f1.4 and 35mm f1.4 is huge. How about 35mm f2 and 50mm f1.4?
  14. I also shoot Tamron lenses with my Canon 5D2. I use the Tamron 28-75 F2.8, Tamron 24-70 F2.8 VC and the Tamron 70-300 F4-5.6 VC. I also own a Canon 85 1.2L 28 1.8 and 501.8 and Sigma 70-200 F2.8
    Out of all of those lenses my absolute favorite for portrait work is the Tamron 70-300 VC. I very seldom shoot portaits wide open as focusing becomes too difficult and I often use some sort of studio lighting or flash anyway.
    But for the $399 I spent on the Tamron 70-300 VC it is absolutely the best lens I have ever purchased for the money. I have compared it side by side to my Canon 85 1.2L and they are very similar. The Canon and Tamron look completely different but it depends on what look you are going for. My second favorite lens is the Tamron 24-70 F2.8 VC but the price goes way up on that lens.
    But, I really love the 70-300 for head-shots especially when doing makeup or hair work. You don't really need a super sharp or super shallow DOP for portrait work. IMOP.
    For the money this lens is just incredible. The VC alone is worth the cost of this lens, the build qualty is great and 6 year warranty.
  15. One of the most useful posts I have came across. Lots and lots of common sense. Thank you very much Dan! This is my first post on this forum, logged in especially to thank you! Be well
  16. I was extremely dissatisfied with all 3 copies I owned of the EF 50/1.4. I replaced my 50/1.8 with the 1st because I wanted FTM focus (especially necessary at the time due to low light wedding receptions and weddings) 1) it was largely unusable at f1.4 - f2.0 - the contrast was so low that it made images seem washed out. No way to get crisp shots at those apertures on any of my copies. 2) I owned 3 of them. Guess why. AF failure. One just quit (FTM focus still worked, thank gawd) the other locked up tight (as in you couldn't physically move the focus ring)... The 3rd one I sold when the Sigma 50/1.4 EX DG HSM came out. That was a vast improvement. I could shoot WO and get crisp sharp portraits. The edges were horrendous (on FF), but this was of minimal impact due to framing and subject position. As a portraiture choice it was a vast improvement over the EF50/1.4. I've also used the new Sigma 50/1.4A several times now though, and, despite the cost, it blows everything else (including the 50/1.2L and my old (now) Sig 50/1.4 HSM) out of the water.

    In a nutshell, if you decide on a 50, the EF 50/1.4 is about the worst lens on the market (IMO). If you've the budget (and arm strength ;) ) go for the new Sigma 50/1.4 A. The EF 85/1.8 is also very good, and the of course the 35/1.4L is a legend.
  17. I may be unusual in this regard, but I think the best option is a 90-100mm macro lens. They don't offer f1.4 or f1.8. That's the only disadvantage but, as others have said, you almost never use those apertures anyway, in real world use. On the plus side, they are razor sharp from f2.8 on, they're in the "normal" portrait focal length range, and they bring a whole new set of capabilities to the table.

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