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Discuss: Best General Use Focal Length for APS-C: 50-60 or 30-35?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Hawkman, Aug 20, 2014.

  1. Hawkman

    Hawkman TalkEmount Top Veteran

    940
    Sep 10, 2013
    Virginia, USA
    Steve
    I thought I would open up a general discussion on the topic of lens focal length selection for prime lenses. And here's the question I pose to you all:


    For your APS-C camera, which prime focal length range do you prefer for general, all-around, walk-about use, the 30-35mm range (equivalent to the the 45-55 "normal" on Full-Frame), or the 50-55mm range (equivalent to the 75-85 "portrait" on Full-Frame), or perhaps something wider like 24, 20 or 16? In other words, if you had to choose just one prime lens to go out with in your bag, which would it be?


    I ask this because I have begun to seriously consider adding an autofocus, native prime lens to my collection. While I have now built up a decent set of legacy Minolta manual lenses, manual focus has definite drawbacks in certain circumstances, particularly in family and friends gatherings and action-oriented circumstances. I can admit that I'm just not confident enough in my focusing skills to rely on manual lenses in those situations. While I have the kit SEL18-55 and SEL 55-210 to provide autofocus capability across a wide range of focal lengths for most situations, they are not very "fast" lenses and falter noticeably in indoor, low-light circumstances. So I'm looking at getting a "faster" prime for these and other situations. I am currently leaning toward the SEL50F18 due to (1) its wide max aperture, (2) its OSS capability, and (3) its relatively low cost - cost does matter to me right now. On sale now at US$250, it seems hard to beat. But I also wonder if something like the Sigma 30mm f/2.8 would be a better choice for its wider view, even though it is a stop slower and lacks OSS - on sale at US$170, it is an unbeatable value for sure.
     
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  2. jai

    jai TalkEmount Top Veteran

    589
    Feb 4, 2013
    I only have 1 autofocus lens i regularly use, and I use it in situations like the ones you are describing.

    It's always awkward when I am with family or friends and somebody says, give me your camera I will take one of you guys! Uh, no... no you won't be able to use this lens.

    And the lens I have is the Sony 35mm F1.8. It's a fantastic lens, super small and light which is a nice contrast to big heavy legacy lenses.

    I think if you get a 50mm (on APSC) it will be great for taking intimate portraits of just 1 or 2 people. But if you want the flexibility to take a photo of a group of friends around a table, I think you are definitely going to wish you had something wider.

    The Sigma doesn't have OSS like the Sony, but really, you should still be able to hand hold at shutter speeds of 1/40 or 1/50. At shutters speeds slower than that people are going to move around in the photo anyway.
     
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  3. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran

    876
    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    Jeff
    I have the Sigma 30mm and while sharp (and cheap and small - all good things) it is a bit slow as you say.

    For the way I shoot, a "normal" prime would be more of a priority than portrait telephoto. Don't get me wrong - I've been warming to the latter - but I've been warming to the former even more.

    So that would leave the SEL35 or the Touit 32mm, neither of which are particularly cheap, but hopefully you can bide your time and wait for the right deal?

    Happy hunting!
     
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  4. Electric Shepherd

    Electric Shepherd TalkEmount Regular

    103
    May 12, 2012
    Leicestershire, U.K.
    Ben
    The Sigma 30mm 2.8 is the lens that spends most time on my Nex 6, if I had to choose only one lens it would be that one.
     
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  5. WoodWorks

    WoodWorks Super Moderator

    Dec 12, 2012
    Ashland, OR, USA
    David
    I tend to lean toward the wide side, so for me a 24ish (on an APS-C camera) lens would be my desert island prime.
     
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  6. quezra

    quezra TalkEmount Top Veteran

    916
    Aug 22, 2012
    To me the debate would really be between a wide angle (I would say 19-24mm on APS-C) and a "normal" (28-35mm on APS-C) prime. The former is good for street and general versatility, the "normal" prime is good for what I've seen called "environmental portraits". Personally, I find the latter my most used lens (I was hooked on the 35/1.8 OSS before I moved to FF, where I then became hooked on the Zeiss 55/1.8). But my primary use is family shots (and my daughter specifically), so I can definitely see the preference for a wider lens for just general photography. 50-60mm on APS-C is much too specialized (the dedicated "portrait" lens) to be a general purpose lens, I've found.
     
  7. José De Bardi

    José De Bardi Assistant in Virtue

    Aug 31, 2013
    Dorset, UK
    José
    I'd go with the SEL35F18 if you can afford it, or if not, the Sigma 30. More and more I find myself leaning towards wider angles, though my SEL16F28 is a little too wide for general walk about. Maybe look at the SEL20F28? I would prefer more like a 24-25 I think but there isn't one!
     
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  8. quezra

    quezra TalkEmount Top Veteran

    916
    Aug 22, 2012
    Aside from the Zeiss 24/1.8...
     
  9. José De Bardi

    José De Bardi Assistant in Virtue

    Aug 31, 2013
    Dorset, UK
    José
    Ah true. I'd discounted it due to super high cost.
     
  10. Poki

    Poki TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 30, 2011
    Austria
    I agree, everything longer than 35mm on APS-C is too limiting for carrying it as only prime. For me, it'd depend on the situation For trips where I expect to shoot more landscape, architectural and scenic stuff I'd go with my 24mm lens. For street shooting, some (environmental) protraiture or most kinds of events I'd go with a 35mm lens.

    Yeah, but it's worth it. It's a super sweet lens with the best focus ring I've ever used (including focus rings of very well regarded manual lenses).
     
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  11. José De Bardi

    José De Bardi Assistant in Virtue

    Aug 31, 2013
    Dorset, UK
    José
    I don't doubt it's awesome, but the OP (and I!) have a budget constraint. One day maybe!
     
  12. HabsFan

    HabsFan TalkEmount Veteran

    258
    Apr 10, 2013
    Ontario, CAN
    50mm to me is OK on APS-C but I would not want that to be my only lens. Right now, the 35 1.8 is my everyday lens. Pretty good for just about anything. I would actually prefer something a bit wider like the 24mm zeiss for an everyday lens but it's too expensive and a bit on the large size. I mostly shoot indoors so even the 35mm can get a little tight at times too.

    If I could have my ideal lens, it would probably be a pancake in the 22-28mm range, f2 or faster.
     
  13. Hawkman

    Hawkman TalkEmount Top Veteran

    940
    Sep 10, 2013
    Virginia, USA
    Steve
    Thanks all for the comments... keep 'em coming! This is just the kind of discussion and feedback I was hoping to engender.

    It appears that so far the consensus is towards the 30-35 range. I count, informally of course, 6 total "votes" for 30-35 (2 for the Sigma 30, 3 for the Sony 35, and 2 half votes for 35 from Jose' and Poki), Zero votes for 50-60, 1 & 1/2 vote for 24mm (the 1/2 from Poki), and 1/2 vote for 20mm (from Jose').

    So, does anyone really like the "portrait" lengths of 50-60mm? Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?

    (EDIT: Added HabsFan's vote for 35... or should that be for 24? ;) )
     
  14. Poki

    Poki TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 30, 2011
    Austria
    50mm on APS-C is a great focal length - it's just not the most versatile as the only focal length you have with you. A combination of a 24 and a 50mm lens, for example, is very attractive.
     
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  15. WoodWorks

    WoodWorks Super Moderator

    Dec 12, 2012
    Ashland, OR, USA
    David
    Oh, I "like" that focal length just fine. But it's not a length that I find very versatile. I can usually get closer to a subject, but backing up, especially indoors, isn't always possible. So if I had to limit myself to one lens, a "portrait" length wouldn't be my first choice.
     
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  16. Hawkman

    Hawkman TalkEmount Top Veteran

    940
    Sep 10, 2013
    Virginia, USA
    Steve
    While I am indeed budget constrained (aren't we all... just some more than others), I am genuinely interested in everyone's focal length preferences for primes beyond just my own expressed needs. I know that we each have our own styles and preferences that differ from each other and I'm interested to see what everyone prefers w/r/t prime lens selection regardless of budget or a particular lens model. While I am very interested in advice to meet my needs, I was really hoping to open up a wide ranging discussion on focal lengths here.

    So far, so good... So please keep the ideas coming.
     
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  17. Hawkman

    Hawkman TalkEmount Top Veteran

    940
    Sep 10, 2013
    Virginia, USA
    Steve
    Those are great comments. I wonder how, for my own needs, the presence of the SEL 18-55 in my bag changes the equation? In good lighting situations it opens up the focal length range from wide to portrait.

    If I were to change the question to something like, "What one native autofocus prime would you choose to go along with a kit zoom?", would that affect everyone's answers?
     
  18. José De Bardi

    José De Bardi Assistant in Virtue

    Aug 31, 2013
    Dorset, UK
    José
    I spent a week on holiday with the 16-50 and 35 and was very happy. At the 16 end the zoom is at its fastest so still very usable in less than bright light. Made for the perfect light weight walk about kit.
     
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  19. Bimjo

    Bimjo Super Moderator

    Oct 28, 2011
    Washington State
    Jim
    Digital Photographic Truth #27: You can always crop a shot from a wide angle lens to get a narrower field of view, bit you can never make a shot from a normal angle lens look wider.

    Digital Photographic Truth #27a: Unless you stitch shots or use Panoramic mode on the camera.

    For a walk-around prime on aps-c I'd go with a 24. I could live with a 28, but 24 would be better. For interior stuff I'd probably go even wider because you could still crop if needed for outdoor stuff.
     
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  20. shaolin95

    shaolin95 TalkEmount Top Veteran

    942
    Jul 3, 2013
    This is so true and the reason I am planning to get a sel50 for when I needed someone else to take a picture of me and my wife and not having to provide a crash course in manual lenses lol
     
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