Nikon 35mm f/1.8G VS. Nikon 50mm f/1.8G... Which One? I recently purchased the Nikon D3100, with the 18-55mm Kit lens. A few days later, I also purchased the 55-300mm lens, as it was recommended by many as a "good, first, second lens." I am relatively new to DSLR photography, but I have the basics down, and I'm shooting great images. I am now looking for a third lens, for more versatility. I am struggling to decide between the new Nikon 50mm f/1.8G and the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G.
the 35mm 1.8g is a great lens, ultra sharp, very good indoors in tight spots when you dont have room to move back to fill the frame. BUT, the 50mm 1.8g lens is better for this reason and this reason only, BOKEH! i love the bokeh on the 50mm 1.8g, it's far superior to the bokeh the 35mm 1.8g produces. the reason for that is mostly due to the longer focal length, from what i understand. and the difference between the 35mm and 50mm focal length isnt significant when shooting, dont let those other comments scare you. both work well indoors. yes the 50mm is longer but it's still very very usable. i've shot with the 50mm 1.8g and loved it, i'm currently saving up for it now (tight tight budget damnit!). i own the 35mm 1.8g and i love that lens too. but if i could only have one i'd take the 50mm 1.8g becuase of its superior bokeh. if you like shallow depth of field/bokeh shots, get it, you wont be dissappointed.
UPDATE 9-21-11: finally saved up and got the nikon 50mm 1.8g. as i initially said, the bokeh is superior on the 50mm lens, hands down. but in hindsight i'm leaning more towards the 35mm lens as the "one" lens to have of the two. after using both lenses for gatherings/parties i found the 50mm lens to be just a bit too long, whereas the 35mm lens was wider and allowed me to more easily capture what i was trying to. i still love my 50mm lens and dont regret buying it, as i use it more when i'm trying to accentuate bokeh. but in the time i've had the two i definitely grab the 35mm more for day to day or general photos. the 50mm comes out more when i'm trying to be more creative with my depth of field and want the superior bokeh.
Since you have a DX camera both the lenses will have a 1.5x crop factor making the 35mm 1.8G around 52mm which would be considered a "normal" lens. The 50mm 1.8G would actually be 75mm. The 35mm will be a great lens for everyday photography, and allow for more room to move around while shooting inside. The 50mm would be a great portrait lens, but might have you up against the wall in order to get a group shot indoors. Another thing to keep in mind is that the 50mm 1.8G is a FX lens, so if you ever upgrade to a full frame Nikon, you'll be able to use it.
It really is personal preference and what you are going to be shooting. Take your kit lens and set it to 35mm for a few hours and shoot with that. Then do the same at 50mm and see what is more comfortable for you. Both lenses are a great value and you can't go wrong either way. I for one opted for the 35mm.
I have both the 35 1.8G and the 50 1.4D. I find that I reach for the 35 more for the reasons Corey mentioned although I get excellent shots with both lenses. The reviews suggest that the the new 50G produces better color and contrast than the D lenses, so that might change the ratio some, but there's no doubt that 35mm gives a broader field of view (FOV) than 50mm on DX (and FX) cameras.
Do note that Corey's explanation is a simplification. The characteristics of a lens do not change between DX and FX. The only thing that changes is the portion of the lens used. The DX uses just the center portion of a lens designed for full frame (FX) cameras, whereas the FX uses the entire lens. If you put a DX lens such as the 35G onto an FX (full frame) camera, a shot at F/1.8 will show a huge dark area (vignetting) around the shot.
The implications are that the 35G is not a "normal-range" lens. It simply provides a normal-range FOV. The 35G is a (slightly) wide angle lens that tends to exaggerate features that are closer to the lens. Most noticeably, portrait shots tend to be less flattering making noses appear bigger than our eyes see them (and ears can appear smaller). The effect is readily apparent in ultra-wide shots--take a shot of someone at 18mm with your kit lens with just their head filling the frame--, but is still noticeable at 35mm. This reason is why most professionals use 85mm-150mm for portrait shots.
Note that the "big nose" effect is not huge at 35mm; and it is just a bit better at 50mm. However, discriminating photographers do notice it.
Gatorowl: Any lens that "provides a normal-range FOV" *is* a "normal" lens for that particular format. That's all "normal" means, a lens that produces a normal field of view for the format.
On a DX camera like the D3100, a 35mm lens is equal in field of view to about a 53mm lens on a full-frame camera, i.e. one in which the sensor is the same size as a full frame from a 35mm film camera. That has traditionally been considered about "normal" for 35mm SLRs, which usually came with a 50 or 55mm lens. The idea of "normal" however is highly arbitrary, and the exact focal length is not at all critical. On most other formats in fact a slightly wider angle was regarded as "normal."
Most people will like the 35mm lens for all-purpose use on the D3100 or any other DX camera. The 50mm lens (equivalent to 75mm lens on a full-frame camera) most users would find a little tight for all-around use, yet probably not tight enough to be ideal for portraiture. As you say, most professionals prefer a lens of 85mm or longer for portraiture -- mostly longer, and that's with full frame cameras, not DX cameras. So on a DX camera the 50mm is a slightly awkward focal length, too long for all-around use but not quite long enough for portraiture.
The D3100 owner who's looking for a fast, fixed focal length "normal" lens will almost certainly be best served by the 35mm f/1.8G, which you yourself prefer. It does not produce a wide angle at all on that camera.
I think that we are talking around each other and don't disagree about any substantive facts. Your point is about semantics. My point is about the optical characteristics of the lenses, the physics of shooting with different glass on cameras with different sensor sizes.
I'm not arguing with your main point that any lens that has roughly the same FOV as the FOV of a 50mm lens used with a traditional 35mm film camera can be called normal. Fine, call it what you will.
Rather, my point is that the visual characteristics of identically framed shots--with the same aperature, shutter speed, and ISO settings--made with cameras with different sensor sizes will not be identical. These differences will be most noticeable shooting portraiture. It is also the reason crop sensor--and, in the extreme P&S --cameras have narrower depths of field. These small sensor cameras use a smaller portion of a lens than do full-frame cameras, which gives the appearance of magnifying the image and expanding the DOF. Thus, in my example, the closest shot to the 50mm film shot will be FF DSLR shot.
Of course, this is a purely academic discussion and probably has no place in a beginner's discussion topic. As I said previously the 35mm is close enough to the 50mm that the different characteristics of theses lens is likely to matter only to a select few.
Gatorowl: "Normal" IS defined just by the FOV; that's all "normal" has ever meant. As I said, this is not and never has been a critical value, and "normal" has varied a great deal between formats and camera types. Traditionally "normal" has meant a focal length roughly equal to the diagonal of the negative. By that standard the 50mm lens was really a bit too long to be a "normal" on a 35 -- in the 1930s Zeiss produced a 42.5mm normal lens for their Contax, which was closer to the traditional definition, but it never became popular since by then the 50mm was established as "normal" on such cameras. On the other hand, twin-lens reflexes like the Rollei most often used a 75mm lens -- which was actually a bit too short for the 6x6cm format according to the traditional definition, but photographers liked it anyway. Later on, focal lengths for compact 35s became shorter and shorter, the old 50mm standard was ignored and forgotten for such cameras, and "normal" lenses for the 24x36 format in those cameras became 45mm, then 40mm, then 38mm and finally 35mm.
For 35mm SLRs however, the "normal" lens remained 50 or 55mm. Or to put it another way, any lens that provides a FOV of 46 degrees or so corner to corner across the film or sensor area is "normal." Anything substantially shorter and wider than that was (and is) regarded as wide angle; anything substantially longer and tighter is regarded as a long or "tele" lens. That has not changed. On a DSLR like the Nikon D3100 presently under discussion, which is in DX format, there is a lens factor of approximately 1.5 because the sensor is about that much smaller than the full 35mm format. Thus the actual focal length of the lens has to be multiplied by about 1.5 in order to provide equivalence to a full-frame 35: a 35mm lens is equal (in field of view) to about a 53mm lens on a full-frame 35, which makes it a "normal" lens to anyone who's familiar with the older film SLRs.
A 50mm lens on a D3100 on the other hand is equivalent to a 75mm lens on a full-frame 35, which is definitely NOT a normal lens. It may be preferred by some anyway, but most users would regard the much less tight 35mm lens as the more useful all-around optic.
FOV of the lens is what it's all about as far as "normal" is concerned. Your example of cropping an ultrawide zoom image has no relevance to this discussion. Of course ANY image can be cropped to a smaller FOV; that doesn't mean a short lens miraculously becomes a tele lens just because its image can be cropped. A normal lens, in general terms, is one which produces an image that looks "right" -- it doesn't have an obvious wide angle or tele lens look. I think most people used to photographic perspective would consider a 75mm (equiv.) lens to have a moderate but definite tele look.
I am using "normal" here as the term has always been used by photographers. One may PREFER a different sort of lens for general use and consider that sort his personal "normal" -- e.g., there was a sports photographer who used a 21mm lens on his 35 and considered it his "normal" because he liked the ultrawide coverage -- but few other photographers would regard a 21mm as a normal lens.
The other characteristics you mention (sharpness, bokeh, etc.) have importance in and of themselves, but have nothing to do with whether a lens is "normal" or not.
Your question is odd, as you say you are looking at prime lenses for versaility, yet prime lenses are the exact OPPOSITE of versatile. Playing along, however, the 35mm is more of an 'indoor' lens since its shorter focal length will be more 'wide angle'. Although it is debatable on a DX crop sensor how 'wide' 35 mm really is (not much).
I have a D3200 and I'm looking to get a 1.8 lens.. I'm also unsure which to get.. I have a Tamron 70-300mm US VR that I love and the only other lens I have is the kit lens.. I love bokeh and that's the primary reason I want a low F stop lens..
I'm also VERY new to photography so really just beginning.. I do know that shooting indoors even with all the lights on my pictures aren't near what they are outdoors (using the flash vs not having to use).. I generally just shoot in apperture priority at the lowest F stop I can.. Will shooting indoors with a 35 or 50 1.8 be a lot better with this lens vs the kit lens or will the flash still need to be used?
"Gatorowl: Any lens that "provides a normal-range FOV" *is* a "normal" lens for that particular format. That's all "normal" means, a lens that produces a normal field of view for the format."
Neil, I disagree with you. Normal is defined not just by the FOV but also by the characteristics of images taken with a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera. With your logic, than any lens of roughly 35mm or less--including the Sigma 8-16mm ultrawide--is a normal lens because images can be cropped to include the "normal FOV." This is patently absurd because images taken with such a lens are likely to be quite exaggerated compared to images taken with a 50mm lens.
Now, this discussion is mostly academic, and Eric is correct. These two lenses are close enough that very few observers would notice the difference. For most amateur/non-enthusiast photographers, the choice of lens should be based on other factors such as bokeh, color rendition, edge-to-edge consistency, contrast and, perhaps, sharpness.