Before I switched to Fujifilm I was a Canon EOS user. My favorite camera was the EOS 5D Mark II and my favorite lens the 85mm f/1.8. I liked that lens because it was ideal for portraits, and for close-ups revealing details.
When I switched to Fujifilm I expected the Fujinon 56mm f/1.2 lens, the closest equivalent (on an APS-C crop sensor camera) to the 85mm, to become my new favorite. It’s a great lens, especially for portraiture. But, to my surprise, the humble 35mm f/1.4 lens, bundled with the X-Pro 1, has become my new favorite.
At first I was a little puzzled as to why. With Canon I owned a 50mm lens, and while I tried to use it in practice, it didn’t get used much. It was more of an experimental lens – I used it with extension tubes, and reversed for experimental close-up and macro photography. Occasionally I used it while out shooting, but always ended up preferring either the 85mm (short telephoto) or a wide-angle.
So what happened with the 35mm f/1.4 lens (which has the same angle-of-view, and is a normal lens for an APS-C camera)? I think, a number of things happened.
- The 35mm suits the X-T1, the camera I use most of the time, very well. The camera feels well balanced, and is light enough to carry around all day.
- This camera and lens combination is ideal for taking candid photos of people, without being too far away (losing the sense of intimacy and closeness) or having to get too close to fill the frame (where I would be getting close enough to bother people). People may notice me with it, but they don’t seem to be worried by it.
- It’s an ideal focal length for environmental portraiture. I used it the 35mm lens a lot during a recent trip to China, where I had a lot of fun photographing people. It allows me to capture a scene with people in it, without revealing too much (always a danger with wide-angle lenses) or too little (as can happen with short telephotos).
These two photos are great examples.
Another thing I like about the 35mm lens, is that it focuses quite close to the subject, allowing me to move in close for detail shots without having to use a close-up lens or extension rings. The 85mm lens that I used with my Canon camera didn’t focus quite so closely, and I had to use a 500D close-up lens (filter) with it for close-up photography. Here’s an example.
One of the benefits of a mirrorless camera system, with an APS-C sensor, is that the lenses are smaller and lighter than those made for camera systems with full-frame models. The 35mm lens is small (it’s only 55 mm long) and light (it only weighs 187 grams, 6.5 ounces). Compare those dimensions to a 35mm f/1.4 lens made for a full-frame camera and you’ll see what I mean (Canon’s 35mm f/1.4 is 20.46 oz., or 580 grams).
That wide aperture comes in very useful when shooting in low light, or if you want to use a wide aperture for creative effect. This lens gives me the best of two worlds – small size and wide aperture. This photo, taken at f/1.4, ISO 6400, shows how useful a wide aperture is in low light.
Another benefit of this lens is that I can take photos that aren’t affected by converging verticals. With wide-angles, even moderate ones, any slight tilt of the camera results in converging verticals. Vertical lines are crooked rather than straight. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes I prefer the straightness and order, imposed by the 35mm lens. This candid photo shows the point – with a 35mm lens it was easy to frame the photo and make sure the pillar (and the other verticals) were straight.
The focal length also works very well when I shoot in the square format. There is something a little magical about the results, and I have been using it a lot for that lately. Here is a photo I took recently in Spain.
Have you used the Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 lens? Or indeed any other normal or standard lens? Let us know what you like, or dislike, about these lenses in the comments. It will be interesting to hear what you think.
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