lenses for fashion photography

Lenses For Fashion Photography – How to Choose The Perfect One

The 35mm lenses are very much an underrated focal length. It’s because maybe all kinds of 35mm film cameras pop up when you type “35mm” into the search bars. Or maybe it’s because its longer brother, since Henri Cartier-Bresson mentioned how much he preferred the mighty 50mm, has been stealing its thunder ever. It also may be the reason because people are superstitious about odd numbered focal lengths? Who actually does know? But what I really know, some of history’s best fashion photographers have relied on the 35mm lens as their main lens of choice. And here is why.

A Flexible Working Distance

lenses for fashion photographer’s toolkit

Working distance is a very important but not often talked about concept when shooting in confined alleys or with a live model. Basically the distance between you (your camera) and the subject is called as Working distance.

Portrait and Fashion photographers don’t regularly shoot 200mm telephotos because there is a reason that standing 50 feet away would make a difficult connection with the model. Most urban studios are hardly big enough even for a 135mm not to mention. 

A typical street scene is filled with uninteresting and interesting subject matter similarly. Not only would a 14mm ultra-wide introduce a lot more distortion into the image than a 35mm or a 50mm, a wide angle will capture a lot more uninteresting objects that you don’t want and you’ll have to crop out later on.

Choosing a 35mm versus a 50mm Lens

So what’s in a 15mm difference you find? A lot apparently, in terms of design, cost and everyday use.

50mm lenses those are generally more affordable for photographers. The new $67 Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8, a high-quality 50mm can be had for next to nothing from the plastic fantastic $125 Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM to its less expensive copy and sharper. If we compare then a non-L Canon 35mm f/2 IS USM which costs $549, and even the discontinued Canon 35mm f/2 with buzzy AF motor that costs $260 usd.

I suspect the Part of the cost difference and that is due to their inherent designs. 50mm lenses are often Tessar designs from decades ago or even symmetrical Planar; whereas to be mentioned that many 35mm lenses are more complex asymmetrical Distagon or Sonnar designs with more elements. It’s harder to find inexpensive 35mm lenses which is considered the main factor.

But that shouldn’t really stop you. When only oils will do you can’t make do with acrylic paints. We suspect connoisseurs will already know why they are shopping for a 35mm, but let me lay it out for you anyway:

  • You’d wish you had a 35mm every time you’re in a tight interior space and you squish your nose against a 50mm mounted camera.
  • You’d wish you had 35mm every time. Because when you try to take full body shots of your fashion model not cropping off her shoes in a tiny New York studio.
  • You’d wish you had a 35mm every time. Because when you’re backed up all the way into traffic and you’re taking moving fashion portraits on the sidewalk.
  • You’d wish you have a 35mm every time and it’s very common when you just want to take one lens with you to any where you go.

Versatility is the key reason you take a 35mm over a 50mm that’s the reality.

The 6 Contenders

Some of the world’s best lenses ever created are 35s while it is harder to find bargains in the 35mm focal length. Interesting thing is there are a myriad of choices in the 35mm arena, particularly this is why because so many industry professional rely on it. Below are the favorite candidates to notice.

Again, the list below is geared toward the universal acceptor of lenses and just like in Choosing the Right Portrait Lens Part 1 (77mm, 85mm, 90mm) and Part 2 (135mm), the Sony A7 series.

Smartphone-Fashion-Photography

Pros:

  1. Exceptional sharpness
  2. Benchmark build quality
  3. From $450 – $1000 depending on condition but affordable
  4. Increasing resale value due to it’s popularity
  5. Compact
  6. Inexpensive to buy Leica M to Sony E adapter

Cons:

  • Only f/2.8 – Leica also has Summicrons at f/2 ($1500+) and Summiluxes at f/1.4 ($1800+)
  • Difficult to find bargains
  • Though the focus ring is a joy to use (Manual focus)
  • Some flaring issue due to older coatings

Pros:

  1. Fast, silent, and accurate AF
  2. Very compact and lightweight
  3. Very good build quality
  4. Excellent center sharpness
  5. Stunningly low distortion
  6. Affordable used prices at around $550+

Cons:

  • Only f/2.8
  • Expensive when new ($800)
  • No distance or DOF scale
  • Average bokeh
  • Smaller resale market

Pros:

  1. Very compact for a bright f/1.8 lens
  2. Sharp wide open
  3. Fabulous build quality
  4. Good bokeh despite aspherical elements
  5. Famous SMC coating
  6. Soon-to-be-released full frame Pentax DSLR so Increasing resale value

Cons:

  • High used prices ($700-900) already
  • Well known and it’s designed for film cameras could lead to corner issues
  • Antiquated screw-drive AF
  • Via Pentax K to Sony E lens adapters, No AF

Pros:

  1. Inexpensive at only $180-250
  2. Compact and lightweight
  3. Quite bright at f/2
  4. Good center sharpness
  5. Large resale market

Cons:

  • Poor bokeh
  • Average build quality
  • Since superseded by the more expensive it’s an old design but excellent Canon 35mm f/2 IS USM.

5. Minolta Rokkor 40mm f/2(The Best Kept Secret)

lenses for fashion photography in different purpose

Pros:

  1. It’s an officially licensed version of the Leica C 40mm f/2
  2. ($60!-350)Leica design but Minolta prices
  3. Exceptionally compact and small
  4. Quite bright at f/2
  5. Leica optical quality

Cons:

  • Manual focus
  • 5mm longer
  • Filter thread that is not designed for regular 39mm filters
  • As Leica-philes look down on this lens, smaller resale market

Pros:

  1. Almost flawless optically
  2. Excellent build quality
  3. Very bright f/1.4 aperture
  4. Great value at $750-900 new
  5. Usable with the LAEA-4 AF adapters as it comes in Sony Minolta mount
  6. Good resale value

Cons:

  • This thing is larger in size and very heavy in weight (665g)
  • LAEA-4 AF adapters are costly at $350 and they add to the bulk and weight of the setup (160g + 665g = 825g) on a A7 series
Fashion Photographer’s Toolkit
Photographer's Toolkit

Honorable Mentions:

Canon 35mm f/1.4 L – the 35mm benchmark for DSLRs has since been surpassed by the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art and part of Canon’s Holy Trinity of L lenses. There are many copies of it out there and It is still a great lens.

Yongnuo 35mm f/2 Lens for Canon Mount – The Yongnuo lens is an absolute bargain. To be honest it beats Canon’s original in terms of optical quality as far we know. However, it is currently unavailable as demand has stripped its supply.

Zeiss Distagon 35mm f/1.4 – Its massive 830g!!! weight (the Sony A7 is 474g) makes it an impractical 35mm lens for inconspicuous street shooting though reviews have generally favored this $1600 lens for being excellent optically. You don’t really need f/1.4 If you’re in-studio doing portrait, do you? Think that why not just buy a Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art and a LAEA-4 adapter and save yourself $350?

Canon 35mm f/2 IS USM – This will likely be one of the best bang-for-buck lenses on the list if only IS and and fast USM will work on the Sony mirrorless mount. But there is a sad news that contrast detect AF via a third-party adapter is slow and another thing is IS undoubtedly won’t work.

Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon – This modern manual focus lens is the name of love for almost all the Fashion Photographers, so much so that personally me(Author) rented one. So that we could compare and test it to the Zeiss Sonnar 35mm f/2.8. Then i concluded that actually i liked the Biogon, and even more than the Sonnar, but unfortunately, despite it being a whopping $1300-1400 new, these lenses are hardly in stock in the US.

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