50mm vs 85mm Lens – Which One Do You Need?

Choosing the right lens is not the easiest, and finding lenses with too many numbers on them is the weirdest thing ever. This is especially true if you are beginning your career as a photographer like me, which I also walkthrough.

Despite being confusing at first, it can also be quite a fun time since you will no longer need to search for things once you become a professional.

Many lenses are available, and they have various focal lengths that differ from each other. It can be quite difficult for some people to understand what each lens is capable of and what it is mainly used for.

In this article, I will compare two lenses: the 85mm lens and the 50mm lens. We will discuss how each lens is different from one another, why you might need both lenses, and which one is better for certain scenarios.

85mm Lens Vs 50mm Lens

We’ll compare these two lenses, which might help you to select the better one according to your preferences.

Difference between 85mm and 50mm lens

85mm lens50 mm lens
Using an 85mm lens will allow you to set your subject apart from the background.Using a 50mm lens will create an aesthetically pleasing blurred background, making your subject stand out from the background.
The 85mm lens focuses much faster and is more suitable for video recordingVideos cannot be taken with a 50mm lens because it takes too long to focus.
An 85mm lens will give you a more dramatic effect because you can isolate the subject from the background.For close-up photos of moving subjects, the 50mm lens allows you to get close without scaring your subject.
Bokeh effects are best achieved with an 85mm lens, though aperture size and distance to your subject are also significant factors.With a 50mm lens, you can get closer to your subject without appearing too conspicuous. This lens is ideal for taking pictures of people or other moving objects.
Quick difference b/w 85mm vs 50mm lens

85mm lens

A camera lens with an 85mm focal length is an 85mm lens. Mostly I have used it for portraiture since it gives a positive view of the human face. With an 85mm lens, the photographer can stand further away from the subject while taking a close-up picture. 

Why use it?

It is, therefore, ideal for candid or environmental portraits. 85mm lenses are relatively long telephoto lenses commonly used for images.

Using a long focal length, Being a photographer, you will gain a fair amount of distance from the subject. Aside from this, he can fill the frame with his subject. This lens typically has a large maximum aperture, allowing for a shallow field depth and a nice bokeh effect.

Composition 

The 85mm lens can create subpar backgrounds that will be washed out by background blur, especially for close-up shots. For portraits and street photos where the subject fills the frame, at this point, especially wide open with an 85mm lens, you cannot notice the background.

Background does not have to be ignored completely; however, in a full-frame shot, the experience is still quite blurred, while with a 50mm lens, the background is quite sharp. 

Even with a full-frame shot at f/2, the scene is still quite blurry. This means that the subject is still quite independent. So, you can make a lot of compromises.

Aperture and Depth of Field

The background will significantly blur when this lens is wide open. With an f/1.4 lens, you should be careful when shooting wide open, especially if taking a portrait. In this case, your field of focus is roughly 1 cm. Your photograph will be soft or improperly focused if your emphasis varies.

If you miss focusing on the eye and the camera focuses on the nose, the vision will be completely distorted. You can mitigate this by closing your aperture to somewhere between f/2 and f/2.8. Doing so will double or triple your field of focus, drastically increasing your chances of getting a sharp picture.

Pros

  • The ability to reach a long distance (magnification of 1.6x)
  • An ultra-natural depth of field
  •  Videos Look Great with it
  • There will be no distortion at all
  • A Great Bokeh Effect is Delivered. 
  • The Background is Controllable
  • The lens has a fast aperture.

Cons

  • Lenses with 85mm focal lengths are large and heavy
  • The price is high
  • An easily-occurring chromatic aberration
  • The best ones aren’t the ones with moving subjects

50 mm lens

A 50 mm lens is a camera lens with a focal length of 50 mm. This lens is often used by photographers who want to capture images with a wide field of view. A 50 mm lens is a camera lens with a field of view of about 50 degrees.

Why use it?

A 50 mm lens is commonly used for various photography genres, including portraits, landscape, and street photography. This focal length is also known as the “nifty fifty” because it is affordable and provides good image quality.

 A 50mm lens is often used by photographers who want to capture images with a shallow depth of field. A shallow depth of field means that the image’s background will be blurry while the subject in the foreground will be in focus. This type of effect is often used to create an artistic look in an image.

Composition

A 50mm lens will make you more prone to background separation, but you can negate it if necessary.

Compared to the 85mm, the 50mm provides you with more background blur and compresses the background more when compared to the 85mm, which allows you to get away with a piece of insufficient knowledge. 

In other words, if you do not want background blur, you can blend your subject with the background or separate it from the environment via background blur.

Aperture and Depth of Field

Aperture plays an influential role in your composition with the 50mm. Wide open, it most often separates the subject from the background. However, if you stop it a bit, it behaves more like an 85mm lens.

When you stop it down to f/4 and move away from your subject around 5 meters, your background will mostly be in focus. If you are shooting a close-up portrait at f/6.3 and above, most of the background will be in focus at a distance of 4+ meters.

 However, if you were shooting at f/3.5 or smaller, the background would be pretty blurry.

Pros

  • It is lightweight and small, making it more portable
  • Depth of field as it naturally occurs
  • The camera allows you to shoot wide scenes and has a wider angle of view
  • Sharpness without compromise
  • A more budget-friendly option

Cons

  • The subject should not be approached too closely
  • An unflattering bokeh effect
  • Don’t move too fast with the aperture

Similarities between 85mm and 50mm lens

In many aspects, 85mm and 50mm lenses have many similarities, which are listed below.

  • You can create a natural depth-of-field blur with either lens to make your subject stand out from the surrounding background.
  • Despite their wide apertures of f/1.8, both lenses are excellent for low-light photography.
  • The lenses do not have optical image stabilization. However, with effective stabilization techniques, this can be compensated for. If you want to shoot static subjects, you should also use a tripod.
  • Because neither lens has a wide range of focal lengths, you must move around to frame the scene properly.
  • Both are prime lenses; you don’t have to change lenses or move your camera for different zoom capabilities – all you have to do is move back or forward to change perspective. 
  •  By limiting distracting background elements and focusing attention on the subject, the two lenses soften the background, reducing distracting elements and increasing attractiveness.

Conclusion

I hope this article has helped you understand the differences between an 85mm lens and a 50mm lens and which one might be right for you. You can find a lot of great lenses for taking photos of people, but the 50mm is a great choice for everyday photography, while the 85mm gives you more magnification so that you don’t have to get too close to your subject. Ultimately, the best lens is the one that helps you capture the images that you want to capture.

FAQs

What are 85 mm lenses good for?

The 85mm lens is an excellent lens for portrait work. The 85mm lens is characterized by the ability to isolate the subject and minimize distortion. As a result, this lens facilitates the capture of captivating, flattering portraits, headshots, and full-body pictures.

Is 50mm or 85mm better for portraits?

Due to the level of compression provided by the 85mm focal length and the fact that the lens does not distort the facial features, this focal length is ideal for portrait photography.

What is a 50mm lens best for?

In terms of the 50mm lens, it is characterized as a fast lens with a fast maximum aperture. For the most part, 50mm lenses have very wide apertures – typically F1.8 – which make them superb for low-light photography (such as portraits in low light or indoor shooting), which means that the lens allows more light to enter the camera’s sensor.

Is 50mm good for street photography?

It is possible to consider the 50mm as the ideal lens for street photography. You could consider it the perfect lens for everything else in life. It has more applications than any other focal length, which is why it is often called the “nifty fifty,” the most versatile lens.

Which one is best: 50mm or 85mm for low-light photography?

If you’re shooting in a well-lit environment, a 50mm lens will perform just as well as an 85mm lens. There is no doubt that the 85mm lens has some significant advantages when it comes to taking pictures in low lighting. The 50mm lens has an f/1.8 aperture, so it is great for low-light photography and gives you that dreamy “bokeh” effect.

Why the 85mm is better than 50mm?

Compared to a 50mm lens, an 85mm lens can cover a wider scene by standing further back from the subject than a 50mm lens. 85mm lenses can produce natural depth-of-field effects, which help the subjects stand out from the background.

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