Now that I have lenses with three different focal lengths, I did a little experiment to see how the same picture would turn out using my different lenses: the 35mm 1.8, the 50mm 1.8, and the 85mm 1.8.

If you're wondering what a focal length is, there's a really technical explanation here.  I have no idea what all the jargon means. :)  But in simple terms, the focal length of your lens affects how magnified everything looks when you look through the viewfinder.  A longer focal length like the 85mm will make everything look much closer to you than a shorter focal length like the 35mm.  The three lenses I own don't zoom.  They are prime lenses so if I need to "zoom in", I need to physically move closer to what I'm photographing.

For my highly technical experiment, I grabbed the cutest, non-mobile subject I could find (Timmy), stood in the same spot that I marked with a dog toy, and took a picture of him with each lens.  For each picture, you'll notice changes in two areas: how much of Timmy and his surroundings are in view and the amount of bokeh (background blur) in each photo.  Aperture is not the only thing that affects bokeh.  Your focal length does too!  The longer the focal length (so the more "zoomed in" you are), the more blur you will have.  (Note: I kept my aperture the same for each photo so that the only thing affecting bokeh was the focal length.)

The Results!

~ 35mm ~
35mm, f/2.8, 1/250, ISO 100

~ 50mm ~
50mm, f/2.8, 1/250, ISO 100

~ 85mm ~
85mm, f/2.8, 1/320, ISO 100

As you can see, the longer the focal length, the more zoomed in everything looks even though I stood in the same spot for each picture.  Also, the bokeh got more and more blurry as the focal length increased.
If you're wondering what my favorite lens to shoot with is, the 35mm wins for indoor use.  The 35mm is SO sharp even at 1.8.  I find that I generally don't have enough room to shoot with the 50mm and the 85mm in my house.  For outside, the 50mm is my go-to lens for almost everything, but I love the 85mm for a nice portrait shot (for people who can actually stay still unlike my wiggly kiddos!).  

What is your favorite focal length to shoot with?


Tammy says:
at: June 23, 2011 at 7:40 AM said...

Great info!!! Thanks so much.

Stacy @ Delighting in the Days says:
at: June 24, 2011 at 2:10 PM said...

These are such great tutorials! I'm so glad you are taking the time to write them!

~ Kristen J. ~ says:
at: July 5, 2011 at 3:11 PM said...

LOVE my 50 prime...but would also LOVE to get an 85 now...thanks to you! =)

~ Kristen J. ~ says:
at: July 5, 2011 at 3:12 PM said...

I absolutley LOVE my 50 prime...but now am really wanting to get an 85 thanks to you! =)

~ Kristen J. ~ says:
at: July 5, 2011 at 3:13 PM said...

Oh, and I love his face in the middle one!

Our Family for His Glory says:
at: July 9, 2011 at 2:11 PM said...

I just was thinking of you & wanted to pop over & say hello!! Timmy is so cute in those pictures & getting so big!! I hope all is well for you & your family!

Leticia says:
at: August 6, 2011 at 8:25 AM said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I ran across your blog while trying to figure out whether to add a 35mm or 85mm to my 50. This is exactly what I was looking for...a visual and not all the mumbo jumbo technical that makes my head swim in confussion! :) Thanks again! ~Leticia, another homschooling, photog loving mom of five boys. :D

Homeschooling Momtographer says:
at: August 7, 2011 at 1:44 PM said...

Leticia - I know! One of the reasons why I posted it was because I kept searching for a visual comparison when I was trying to decide. :)

So which lens did you go for??
~Catherine :)

Leticia says:
at: August 8, 2011 at 5:19 AM said...

Catherine, I've got the 35mm 1.8 coming in the mail this week! Yippee! Don't know if you checked my blog out or not, but I'm all about newborn/baby photography and my space inside is very tight. I love close ups and have to continually tell myself to back up and get the whole thing, but my 50 was not wide enough and backing me into the wall. So I'm excited to be getting the 35, but the 85 is very much still on my wish list! :)

Here is my business fb page if you care to check it out.!/pages/Leticias-Photography/133935026667569

Have a great day! ~Leticia

Maryvel Friesen says:
at: July 24, 2012 at 3:49 PM said...

EXACTLY what I was looking for! Thank you so much!