Why is prime lens good for travel photography? So you spot a picturesque scene while you are out and about, and you take out your mirrorless or DSLR camera, with a prime lens in it, take a few steps towards or away from the object, shoot, and voila! - sharp images with fewer aberrations. That is the power of prime lenses right there, fast apertures, bokeh effect, and crisp details.
Prime lenses are great for travel photography. It takes a bit of physical movement and creativity to get fantastic shots.
What is a prime lens?
A prime lens is a lens that allows you to shoot at a single focal length. These types of lenses have no zoom feature, unlike kit lenses. But that is where they are advantageous. Manufacturers of kit lenses have to worry about optimizing various features, ultimately leading to not so good image qualities. On the contrary, prime lenses put all their resources into shooting quality images.
Prime lens restriction inspires creativity. Since you can't go wide or long as with Kit lenses, you have to put more thought into it and decide what to exclude and include in the photos. You can only zoom by taking a few steps away or towards the subject of your photography.
You are going to enjoy this physical movement; not only is it a physical exercise but also mentally stimulating. It gets the juices flowing, leading to great photography skills.
And that's what makes prime lenses great for travel photography. Not only are you going to enjoy using them, but you will also get much better results than with Kit lenses.
But not all prime lenses are equal. Manufactures produce prime lenses at various focal lengths. For full frames digital cameras and 35mm films, prime lenses can be put into the following categories based on their focal lengths:
- Ultra-wide: 12-21mm
- Wide: 24-35mm
- Standard: 50mm
- Portrait: 80mm
- Telephoto: 135mm
- Super Telephoto: 200-500mm
For most photography enthusiasts, when the time to ditch zoom lenses for prime lenses comes, that means getting the 50mm; and for various good reasons.
Most people only progress to a 35mm prime lens later, after giving the standard 50mm lens a try. But which is the best prime lens for traveling?
35mm vs 50mm lens for travel
A 35mm lens is considered a wide-angle lens, and although it is right at the edge of this definition, it will still allow you to capture a broad field of view than a 50mm lens courtesy of a wide aperture. It can be used in both full-frame and crop sensor cameras.
On the contrary, a 50mm lens is a standard focal length lens for getting a field of view closer to that of the human eye. it is great for capturing portraits of people too
On the whole, the 35mm lens is the best for travel photography.
Sure, the 50mm lens is a longer lens with a better depth of field than what you get with the 35mm lens, which means a better bokeh effect or dreamy out of focus backgrounds. But it doesn't give you a wide look and is much zoomed-in, thus limiting the number of shots you can take in tight spaces and non-traditional portrait environments. On the other hand, a 35mm lens works great for both landscape and portrait views. Advantages of 35mm prime lenses include:
1. Familiar field of view
35mm lenses are excellent for landscapes. See, the angle of view isn't too much as with 24mm lenses, and neither is it too narrow as with 50mm lenses. 35mm lenses closely mimic what the human eye does, capturing scenes with a familiar and much more realistic perspective.
2. Big aperture to capture blurry background
35mm lenses have also got big apertures. A large maximum aperture on your DSLR or mirrorless camera means pretty wide shots with fantastic depth of field. A large aperture also makes it easy to get blurry backgrounds in your photos. Not that all images with blurry backgrounds are the best but depending on how you use it, it can make the subjects of your photos stand out.
3. Can shoot in unideal conditions
Another advantage of 35mm lenses is the ability to take photos in poor lighting conditions without compromising shutter speed. Simply open the lens to f/2 or even f/1.4, and it will collect the light needed to capture superb low-light portraits using fast shutter speeds.
4. Small and easy to carry
35mm lenses are also compact, making it easier to capture stunning portraits while holding your camera. The last thing you want is a massive, heavy lens on your camera when it comes to travel photography. 35mm lenses are small and compact, making them great for travel photography.
5. A perfect compromise between standard and wide-angle
50mm is thought to be the rough estimate of the scope the human eye captures; that is, however, debatable. While a 50mm lens excels in many things, it's not great for capturing portraits in tight spaces.
A 35mm lens, on the other hand, is versatile. Mount it on a full-frame camera for landscape views or on a crop sensor camera for portrait views.
Full frame cameras vs. cropped sensor cameras
Camera sensors matter. Different cameras have unique sensors. They determine how close or far you have to stand from the subject. A full-frame camera sensor is equal in size to a 35mm film, while crop sensors are relatively smaller.
Since lens focal length measurements are based on a 35mm field of view, a full camera sensor doesn't alter the effective focal length. On the other hand, crop sensor lenses alter the focal length. For example, a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera sensor means your zoom is 50mm, but on a 1.5 crop factor, it is 75mm.
Cons of 35mm prime lenses
The only cons of a 35mm lens are that you need to get closer to the action to capture portraits, and there's the risk of losing compression such that the background appears far because of a wide field of view. Another disadvantage is that shorter lenses are less flattering.
Ultimately, you want a compact, versatile lens for travel photography to capture great portraits. Our favorite prime lens for traveling is the 35mm. It boasts of a big aperture with a scope that closely mimics that of the human eye resulting in a familiar view. It is small and comfortable to carry lens and versatile to boot. It produces fantastic photos in both full-frame and cropped sensor cameras.
Have you tried the 35mm prime lens for travel photography? Feel free to share your experiences, looking forward to reading your comments!