2.20.2013

What lens makes your eye happy? What's your "desert island" lens?


Count me in as a 150mm user on a medium format camera or an 85-90mm user on 35mm format or a 60mm user on a APS-C camera. When I have one of those optics on the camera everything just falls right into place. Stick an ultra-wide angle on my camera and I just kind of fall apart. But I know that everyone is different. I am curious to know exactly which focal length gets your motor running......and why. Can someone explain to me the charm of the 14mm (on full frame) focal length? What's the deal with the 28mm? Personally hate that focal length more than any other.

Can you please leave a comment and tell me what lens makes your photography tick? Today, zoom lenses don't count. Let's see if you can commit to single focal length...










83 comments:

Bold Photography said...

It's not a surprise, but 135mm does the trick for me...

Kirk Tuck said...

I saw that coming. On what format? Why?

Schrag said...

I used to think if I had only one lens it'd be something like a 28 or 35mm, but as time goes on I'm leaning towards a 40 or 50mm standard - I think with a 'longer' lens I am focused to rely on the structure of the composition more than the dynamics. But at the same time, it still allows for environmental context, which is something I'd struggle with using your favoured short telephotos. I sometimes shoot a rolleicord with a 75mm xenar and rarely want anything wider or longer. It also helps that I think the lens renders things in a lovely way, especially people @ f/5.6.

Kirk Tuck said...

"...I think the lens renders things in a lovely way, especially people @ f/5.6" I love to read thoughts like this.

CHASE said...

Digging the way my 85 is drawing faces on APS format at the moment

bythewei said...

100mm on my 503CW.

Close enough to give you that tight crop and gives you the proximity to engage with your subject. 150mm is a great focal length but it's too much of a distance to bond with my subject.

FM said...

Sigh… I have often had the really weird experience of really enjoying shooting with a particular focal length only to be severely disappointed with the results. And then, sure enough, I will get something really pleasing from a focal length that I "hate". The 28 has surpised me in that regard a few times. In the end, a 21 and 24 always seem to be lots of fun with good results.

Jeff Montgomery said...

I would say the lens that sees the most like my eye is a 70-200mm on a FF Nikon. I have the 2.8 version and I love it although I probably could go to the F4 version now that I can shoot at 4000iso.

Anonymous said...

I'm very fond of the 135mm on my Mamiya TLR, and the slightly longer than normal works well for me in just about every format I use.

Anonymous said...

For 135 FF format, film/Digital: a 35 for color and a 28 for B+W. For MF B+W an 80.

-salty

Ken Brakebill said...

My desert island lens would be the Leitz 60mm f2.8 Macro-Elmarit-R, the best and overall most useful lens I have owned (30 years ago...) It is slightly longer than normal, flat field, flare resistant, built-in lens shade, has beautiful rendering and contrast, and can focus to 1:2. What's not to like?

Paul Perton said...

Zeiss 25mm f2.8 Biogon (on a Sony NEX-7). Fab.

Robin Wong said...

I am on the same page with you Kirk !! Longer (medium tele) focal lengths work for me, my absolute favourite is the Oly 50mm F2. Yes, I fall apart with wide angle too.

Anonymous said...

As a landscape guy, I tend toward a 21 mm lens with a 35 mm camera, and 45 mm with my Pentax 6x7. These lenses are wide enough to - sharply - include significant foreground objects leading the viewer into a deep, wide background. I like that kind of shot.

Wolfgang Lonien said...

Like Robin, the Oly 50mm macro. What else? It loves people, it loves bugs, and it's sharper than those grass leaves which cut your fingers.

That said, if it really was a *desert* island (like in "Lost"?), I'd try to cheat and bring a wider lens as well. Maybe even a 28mm.

Michael Ferron said...

Me? 35mm for walk around, general, scenic. 85-100mm for candids, isolation and abstract.

Tim Auger said...

28mm on APS-C. The perfect single-lens solution on a trip. 18mm or wider on APS-C is less useful than people often think. Wide-angle lenses shouldn't be called 'wide-angle lenses'. They should be called 'foreground lenses'. That's why they are so difficult to use well, and why so many shots taken with them (the forums are full of them) are so dreary, with compositional voids in the middle. Longer lenses are great if you happen to find the shot, but are frustrating on their own.

MichaƂ Gaworski said...

35mm on full frame. Wide but not to wide, corners are not stretched, photos have this as-i-was-there perspective. You have to get close to what you want to picture. Sometimes I use also 50mm and 85mm but 35 is on my camera 90% of time.

Rohith Thumati said...

I see fairly 'narrowly' too. Wide angle just doesn't work for me. To me, my 25mm f1.4 Panasonic lens (same angle of view as a 50mm on a 35mm camera) is wide angle. That lens + the Olympus 45mm f1.8 and Olympus 60mm f2.8 make a great prime trifecta for me.

I think I'm with you, Kirk: I'd probably go with a classic portrait lens - in my case, the Olympus 45mm f/1.8, since that's what I have - if I could only have 1 lens. It just fits my mind's eye better than any other prime lens I could choose. I do a lot of landscapes with it too (anyone who tells you that landscapes can't be done with a telephoto lens doesn't know the first thing about composition).

But if I could have 2, that Panasonic 25mm f1.4 would be the second choice.

Mark Davidson said...

I lived for years with a 35 mm f2 Nikkor on my Nikkormat. It gave me smooth images with the angle of view that included just enough to make my point but not so much to say "Look at me, I am a super wide angle lens."

Karlen Mkrtchyan said...

I have 35 1.4, 50 1.2 and 85 1.2L II. Nothing makes me happy as 85 on 5dIII. Even I'm with 70-200 I am in that range.

Lanthus Clark said...

35mm on crop frame, 50mm on full frame... yeah, I know, boring right?! But it works for me!

Claire said...

This is tough, and easy at the same time. My heart says any fast 50mm on APS-C (75mm FF equivalent). That's what I truly love and feel natural with for close portraits. Now, I recently (about a year ago) started shooting 50mm FF equivalent (35 on APS-C) and it made me things a bit differently, made me be able to include a bit background for more environmental portraits, or portraits including several subjects. So while my heart says 50mm, my head says 35mm (both on APS-C). Then again, my all time favorite lens is the much underrated Sigma EX 70-200/2.8 HSM Macro. What a lovely beast.

Andy said...

35mm equivalents, which at the moment is best represented by the 23mm lens on my X100. It just seems so comfortable. 28mm-e is a little too wide, and 50mm-e is a bit tight.

On the other hand, I've felt a yearning for something significantly longer to accompany it, but I'm not sure about exact focal length. I'd love a Fuji X-E1 with 50-200mm lens, so I could get a feel for what'd scratch my telephoto itch. The only tele lens I have now is a Pentax 50–135mm f/2.8, and an old and now unreliable K10D to put it on, which is hardly convenient to tote around. I've been spoiled by my X100's electronic viewfinder too.

Anonymous said...

I make most of my photos with the 50mm Summicron on my M9, simple and effective.

RubyT said...

77 on APS-C. If I weren't sometimes indoors I'd shoot my FA 77 all the time.

Anonymous said...

28mm is nice because it gives you wide field of view, and yet it doesn't ruin perspective. That is why i like that focal length. 24 is also nice, but not that much.

My focal lenght everything around standard (80 on hassy, 50 on ff and 35 on crop) , when i shoot people and 28mm on ff, when i don't. :-)

Noons said...

Hmmm.... It's a mixed bag for me. Mostly driven by the lens itself, rather than the format. I tend to reuse larger format lenses on smaller sensors, digital or film.
I must mention an old friend: the CZJena Sonnar MC180/2.8. Which I got with a P6 mount and with adapters for the 645, the D200 and the EM5 (which looks like a tick on the side of a bull when mounted on it!). Love everything about it, except may be the weight...
Absolutely last resort,single lens in a desert island, no others allowed?
The CV50/1.1 Nokton M-mount, still my top lens for portraits - mounted on the EM5 with an adapter.
There are others, but these two are in the "my precious" class.

Biro said...

Back during the film era, I gravitated toward 35mm, although I survived for literally years with a lone Rokkor-X 50mm,f/2.0 on my first Minolta SLR in the mid-1970s. But with the advent of digital and micro four thirds, I came into posession of the Lumix 20mm f/1.7. That's when I discovered that 40mm (in 35mm terms) was perfect for me. It's at this focal length that the lens literally disappears for me. 40mm is considered close to the ideal "normal" field of view. But I would describe it more as the most "natural" field of view for me. It's not just the angle of vision. It's the near-absence of any visual compression or distortion. And yet isolation of my aubject is still easy if I want it. 50mm offers this as well but is just a bit too tight for me taste. Of course, I don't own many lenses that give me exactly 40mm. So I get by pretty well with anything that operates in the 28-50mm range. On a final note, image rendering is something I consider to be related more precisely to the lens being used rather than field of vision. While I am always aware of it, operating at a given focal length isn't always going to give me what I want in that department.

Kirk Tuck said...

Welcome to the slightly longer than normal brotherhood.

Kirk Tuck said...

classic and time honored.

Sandy Rothberg said...

My best work has always been with the 38mm Biogon on 2 1/4 square. The lens, the camera (the Hasselblad S/W)just fit. I have made some wonderful images with the 20 on the OMD and the 45 lives on my GX1. But my desert island gear would be the Super Wide loaded with Verachrome Pan.

AdamR said...

My 50/1.8 AI Nikkor. It just feels right and works well on film, DX digital, or on MFT with an adapter. I think I like how it handles more than how it renders an image. The aperture clicks in with just the right amount of force, the focus ring is stiff enough to not move accidentally but still loose enough to roll with one finger, its got enough heft that I know it will handle whatever I throw at it, but is small enough to slip into a pocket if I ever take it off a camera. Its OOF areas aren't as smooth as my 105 and it doesn't focus as close as my 55 Micro, but if I were going to be stuck with only one lens for the rest of my life it is the one I would want. Even if I didn't have a camera, I'd want to have this lens just to hold it every now and then and rack the focus in and out and feel the clicks of the aperture ring.

Adam

Andrea Costa said...

In the last 11 months, almost exclusively an old Pentacon manual focus 28mm, that on my G3 it's a 56mm FoV equivalent - the camera really disappear in front of my eyes and the process of shooting becames an almost unconscious one...

Gingerbaker said...

My desert island lens would be a zoom. Sorry, Kirk - I wrote this reply and only then saw your proviso against zooms. Please feel free to delete this reply. :)

Kirk, you do a lot of portrait work, so perhaps I can see where you are coming from. You like a good portrait focal length. I do some of that too, but also some landscape, some event, some...

When I hear folks saying that one focal length is THE focal length for them, I sorta want to scream. It's like hearing four hundred dpreview-ians insist that the best landscape lens is "xx" mm. What about all the gorgeous landscapes I have seen that happened to use ("xx") times (10) focal length? Why would a portrait photographer use one focal length for one shape of face, and different focal length for another shape of face?

There is no ideal focal length. There are only focal lengths that happen to be ideal for particular arrangements of foreground, midground, and background elements and how you want them to relate to one another.

For me, at least, the whole concept of training oneself to see the world the way that our different focal length lenses see the world is half the fun. What I could never figure out is the idea that old-school types at photography academies would insist that first year students would be relegated to one prime lens only for the first year... And then give them a lens normal to their camera! What is the profound learning experience produced by using a focal length that sees the world exactly like you do yourself?

Give me the zoom, and let me try to best celebrate the beauty that surrounds me not only as it presents to my eyes, or as it presents to only one particular focal length, but rather as it might be best presented in all its elements.

Well, I will say this: If I had to choose one prime lens for all my artistic work, it probably would not be a normal lens. Normal is great for documentary stuff... but there is no magic to it for me. Focal lengths close to normal, but a little wider, like 40mm on full-frame, have a slightly surreal feel that is, for me, just wonderful for a lot of work that has a human element or scale to it.

Anonymous said...

I like to pretend I am a Life magazine photographer circa 1953 and for me the 24mm end of my 24-70 on APS-C allows me to create one-frame movies; the focal length gets the main subject large enough in the frame to be dominant while still admitting enough background to tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end.

But for sheer gorgeousness, I would have to say the Nikkor 135DC F/2 portrait lens is the cat's meow.

Andrea Costa said...

For the last 11 months, almost exclusively an old Pentacon 28mm manual focus lens, that on my G3 give me a 56mm full-frame FoV equivalent. With this, the camera become almost transparent to me, and the process of shooting almost subconscious...

JEB said...

My first 105mm Nikkor—for rangefinder S2—sold me on this focal length. With the SLR versions it became for a while my "Normal Lens". The attraction was that the coverage seemed exactly what I saw; more specifically, what I paid attention to.

Reading a piece on Greg Toland's photography on "Citizen Kane", it made sense that the "wide-angle" effects he achieved were due to his choice of a 25mm. lens, rather than the customary 50mm. Of course! 25mm. is definitely a wide-angle lens. Then the penny dropped; Motion Picture format was what we would have called half-frame. The customary 50mm. lens would have been equivalent to our 100mm. This perspective is what we been "trained" to see in Motion Pictures. The "extreme wide-angle" in Kane was our 50mm. perspective— plus the increased depth of focus of a small f-stop in 25mm focal length. ( He supplemented this with split-diopter attachments.

Carlo Santin said...

50mm of FF or 35mm on APS-C, more or less the same thing. I guess I've just gotten so used to looking at the world that way, it's become like my default setting for taking photos. I must confess to not being very comfortable with longer focal lengths. I'm pretty comfortable up to about 85mm on FF, then not so much beyond that. So a 50mm 1.8 I find to be a lens I can do a lot with.

Jacques said...

My "deal breaker" is the 50mm on Full Frame (35mm equivalent)... Just as it was on film thousand years ago ! Sure, I'm a sucker for 85mm, but all thing considered, getting older, I tend to add more "context" then before. I tried 35mm (the Street thinghy) but I tend to crop it back to an apparent 50mm frame.
I even tried a one week travel with only the 50mm... I didn't regret it, even if a 85mm or a 105mm could have been handy too.
I have remarked that people who have been using 80mm on 120 format (square or near square) tend to stay at a 85mm viewpoint on 35mm (135 film), not so because of the field of view but because of some sort of perspective results (not the same "flatness"). Plus having more details on the 120 negative, you tend to "zoom in" when back on 135...

I agree with you on the WA "syndrome" :-) ! have the feeling it's a TV News culture that spread into peoples' way of seeing things. The "get everything in the frame" is sometimes a necessity on quick videos, but seldom in still pictures ! And a few seconds of keystoning doesn't really matter on a dozen of minutes of documentary, but on a wall sized print, it really seems weird !

Juha Ylitalo said...

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro or Olympus 60mm f/2.8 Macro would work nicely.
It would give me plenty of things to explore from desert island.

Jim said...

I primarily use zoom lenses. Looking at the stats on focal length in Lightroom though I find that the highest numbers of photos are at the 28-30mm or 135mm points. These are for an APS-C sensor. Why? I frame the image with the zoom and suspect that the clusters at the ends reflect the number of times that the framing fell at the extremes and forced me to move in or step back. When shooting film with a prime lens I often found that I'd spot something but when I stepped in or back to get the framing I wanted, the shift in perspective resulted in a different view than the one that first attracted me, thus the fondness for zoom lenses. They allow me to capture that first impression.

Brad Calkins said...

I'm partial to my Olympus 75mm. Aside from being lovely for portraits, it is made of metal - amazing how that adds a bit of zing to a lens and makes you want to use it...

I'm not terribly fond of wide lenses either, though I use them all the time with my kids doing sports.

John Krumm said...

Indoors, it has to be the little Panasonic 20mm 1.7 on my EM5. 40mm equivalent seems like a good perspective for family shots. Outdoors, the one prime I use, and almost always love using is my Zuiko 50f2 macro. Not always for macro either... I really like it for general nature shots. Lovely draw to it, what I guess you call micro-contrast.

Tom Barry said...

My lens choices are driven by subject, so I rule nothing out. That said, I like the size and feel of fast primes and, when possible, somewhere between slight wide angle and portrait length. I guess I just don't like distortion.

Mike said...

I love 100mm on full frame. It adds a dash of pleasing compression to faces in portraits, but still looks completely natural. For waist-up or head & shoulders, it's a my ideal perfect focal length, and a world better than something like a 50mm.

However, I am looking at the 180mm macro for tighter portraits of the face.

Ray said...

I don’t have the skills or experience to answer your question in a meaningful way but I’ll share this: When I return from a vacation or even a weekend trip and use Exposure Plot (http://www.cpr.demon.nl/prog_plotf.html) I always find that 30% of my pictures were taken at 16 or 18 mm depending on what zoom lens I’ve been using on my APS/C camera. I think if I could conjure up my own perfect lens it would be a 12 – 36 mm zoom.

Blogging Photographer said...

For portraits my Nikon 135 DC f2 on a D3. I love using this at f2 - where it is in focus it picks out the area chosen on your subject and then just blurs everything else away to nothing. Fantastic. For full length portraits you have to step back a bit.

Now a second choice. My Panasonic 14-45 on my OMD EM5. Small light and usable everywhere.

Dean said...

I have to go back (WAY back) to college days. My walk around was a 24mm and the famous Nikkor 105 f2.5. They did almost everything perfectly. I don't know that I could decide on only one, but since I like people and portraits, if it had to be one I suppose the 105. These days I use, on full frame, the 85mm 1.4 and the 135mm Defocus Control lens.

Chad Thompson said...

For my full frame cameras I really like the Voigtlander 40mm for contextual portraits and a basic walk around lens. But if I'm spending the day shooting nothing but portraits it'll be the 85mm all day - all the time. Something about that focal length just looks right. As far as wide angle and fisheye, I've owned so many and sold them soon after I bought them. For me 35mm is the widest lens I use. I keep a 20mm around out of politeness and old times sake but it's rarely seen any use.

For large format, I really love the 12" Petzval design. Something about the swirl really gets me.

Bruce Walker said...

On my APS-C Pentax, the 55mm/1.4 is my absolute favourite lens. Of course for portraits, but I manage to make it work for all kinds of stuff I shoot. It helps that it's fast and weatherproof.

Bold Photography said...

On 135 "FF". I tend to prefer "more" compression rather than "less", but what makes this lens special to me is how it renders backgrounds when focusing near the MFD - some magic happens and it's very addictive. I have not been able to move to another system because of this lens. It's attached to my camera most of the time.

Anonymous said...

I had no idea longer than normal lenses were so favored. In defense of the "a bit wider than normal" users -> 210mm for 8x10 still life. Maybe it's an issue of horizon control with the 135 format users? When using a 28, I have to watch the horizon, maybe it's a trouble some don't want to deal with? I find I use a 50 or 60 for portraits in B+W. I use a longer lens for color portraits - like a 105 (or the zoom equiv).

-salty

Daniel Evan Rodriguez said...

I have a late model 50mm Summicron-R on my R6.2. There is no situation where that lens (or any 50mm of any make/model/vintage) can't frame a great photograph. I "see" photographs everywhere when I'm in tune with a 50, which I can't say for other focal lengths I've had flings with.

Daniel Evan Rodriguez said...

A strange aside: When it comes to my APS-C Nikons, I also prefer the a 50mm. I have both the 35mm 1.8G and the 50mm 1.4G, and while conventional logic would dictate a preference for the 35mm, there is something there that I can't quite jive with. What I'm learning about myself, I think, is that my taste in lens choice has less to do with angle of view, and more to do with the a particular focal length's characteristics of rendering spacial depth.

Jim Simmons said...

I spent so many years shooting a 40mm on a Leica that when I got an SLR with a 50mm on it, that felt like a tele. Only one lens? 40mm. But for the past few years I'm shooting 165mm on Pentax 67 and 40mm on m4/3, so yeah, Kirk, I'm drifting upward into that short tele range. I'm sure it's a sign of growing sophistication. ;-)

Anonymous said...

One lens: 50mm (all of these are on full frame). Best compromise, which isn't a very good answer, but that's the problem of an "only one" exercise.

Favorite non-compromise: 85mm, same reasons as you have. Does all kinds of things well, not just portraits.

Favorite wide: 28mm. I'll disagree with you here. It's wide enough to include a bunch of context, but not so wide that it screams, "wide!".

A bunch of years ago I subscribed to National Geographic. At one point I began to notice that wider and wider shots were becoming the norm. I finally got an issue that looked to me like every single photograph was a 20mm shot. Way too much, and so much that they didn't explain the stories as well as a mix of perspectives could have.

I also do a fair amount of architectural photography. 28mm or equivalent records the feel of the space well. Too wide makes it difficult to imagine yourself in the photograph. They lack the "you-are-there" realism of more normal-length lenses.

By the way, where are you plugging in your battery charger on that desert island?

Rich F.

Rohith Thumati said...

No, there's no ideal focal length but there are focal lengths that correspond better to how one photographer sees the world. I think that's all what Kirk was getting at: how do you 'see' the world and which focal lengths do you end up using most?

If Kirk opened it up to zooms, though, what would you choose: a normal zoom (i.e., 24-70 or 24-105), or a tele zoom (70-200)? No matter what, you're cutting off a big chunk of the focal length range. Or you can go with a typically optically inferior ultra zoom lens (i.e., 28-300), but you're then making a different compromise.

By the way - I totally agree with you on that "landscape lens" point - most of my best landscape images have been taken at telephoto focal lengths. That's just how I see.

Mel said...

100mm for 35mm, 75mm for medium format, 210mm for large format. Zoom with my feet.

Rohith Thumati said...

Ah, but which zoom? A wide zoom (say, a 14-24 on a 35mm camera), a normal zoom (i.e., a 24-70 or 24-105), or a tele zoom (i.e., a 70-200)? You still have to make focal length compromises. Or would you make a different compromise and go with an optically inferior super zoom (i.e., 18-300 on a full frame)?

CadenceMichael said...

My eyes (or brain cells) see tele, so the prime that is on my FF body the most is the 85mm. Not only do I like to look through that lens, but the 85mm 1.8 also looks great on my D700 body. There is something to be said for a body and lens combo that not only works week, but also looks balanced. It is a pleasure to carry around.

Ravi Bindra said...

On 35mm I like the following:
24, 40, 60 macro, 85 and 105.

Sigfrid Lundberg said...

It varies. The current favourate focal length is 50mm. Next to that is 35mm. Both on full frame. Suppose that if I had to choose between the two, it would be the 35mm.

Anonymous said...

I really like wide: on FF it is 35, 28, 24. And, to answer Kirk's question: I love 28 the most because it gets me near the subject, forcing an (often fruitful) interaction, and "telling a story". It renders an imposing subject (with distortion that can be kept at a minimum) and the environment it is immersed in. In my imagination, it translates a scene I am photographing into a picture that respects the psycological impressions I have, immersing the viewer into how and why that picture has come to light, and offering many points of interest spaced along different depth planes. A multilayered reconstruction of reality where every layer can play a role, while still serving the greater interest of the subject on the foreground.
24 is extreme, but so encompassing. 35 is discreet, and yet still possesses an enticing power of narration. But 28 is just about perfect for me.
I don't like tele lenses. And while I treasure my 1.4 24 & 35, and long for a 28 1.4 (I love a gently blurred background on a wide angle shot), I almost always stop my teles down. My least used lenses are the 105/2 DC and 200/2 vr. Amazing lenses, but the creamy backgrou d just tires me very, very quickly.

Lory

Brook said...

Funny in my younger days the last thing I wanted on my camera was a 50mm. I picked up a cheap used Minolta 50mm 1.7 for my apsc and loved it. Now I have a full frame and think if I was to only have one lens. I would choose it.

Anders C. Madsen said...

It's almost heresy but...an 1960's Asahi Super-Takumar 135mm f/3.5 on my Canon EOS 1Ds MKII and I'm good to go.

Yes, I know that it is a relic, it's manual focus only, it's stop-down manual aperture only - but dang, that combo can make some beautiful and sharp images even though it is ancient by almost any standard. Stop down to f/5.6 and forget everything about flare, CA and vignetting - it's really that good.

Colors are natural, perhaps a bit muted but still with good saturation, and the contrast is perfect for use with an older camera that may lack a bit of the dynamic range of the newer models - push things slightly in post-processing and everything fall into place without sacrificing details in neither shadows nor highlights.

I'm not sure if this will show up as a link here, but I started a thread with some images from this lens/camera combo here:
http://forum.mflenses.com/i-dont-get-it-what-are-these-old-lenses-good-for-t56434.html

Peter Teoh said...

Since getting the Sony RX1 the 35mm focal length has really grown on me. I used to think it's not wide enough.

Anonymous said...

To mix it up I'm going to say that Yashica got it right when they incorporated the 80mm on their Mat-124g.

Raianerastha said...

I spent many years capturing the world through a Nikkor 105 f2.5. So now my Olympus 14-54 spends a lot of time at the 54mm (108mm efl)end.

Neal said...

I find I like to shoot wide but not too wide. 24mm on full frame, 50mm on my RB67.
then again, with the 180mm Sekor-C on my RB67 portraits are just gorgeous. that lens is almost the perfect portrait lens.. wonderful focus-falloff and tonality.

stephen said...

Favorite focal length (and format) is tied to subject. For architecture and interiors 90mm on 4/5 is an old standard. It is wide enough for most content without creating perspective distortion problems common from many perspectives with a wider lens.
Needless to say, a wider lens is often necessary. The so called equivalent of 28mm for 35 is not really equivalent because of the very different proportions. 14mm on 4/3 is pretty good. I have enjoyed your architectural details grabbed with a longer lens on your local walking tours but this technique is not very practical when more complete coverage is required. I would actually shoot most architectural exteriors and interiors with a 120 for 4/5 and a 17 for 4/3 if I could remove the walls which prevent me from putting the lens in the required position.

Alex said...

On my Pen, anything between 17 and 45mm I can live with.

Ron Zack said...

Originally my desert island lens was the Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8. It seemed it was impossible for me to take a bad photo with that lens. But as I've moved away from 35mm film, that poor lens hasn't been used in a year.

But now? I have both the Lumix 20mm f/1.7 and the Olympus 17mm f/2.8 pancakes for micro 4/3. Between those two, the one I would take to the desert island would be......the Olympus 17mm. Surprise!

Why that lens over it's much more famous and technically better 20mm counterpart? Because that extra 2mm makes a difference, at least to me. It's as if I see things in a 35mm full-frame perspective, and using lenses that corresponds closely to that focal length just seem to work. Makes me wonder about that Nokton 17.5mm f0.95....

I also really like my Mamiya 135mm f/4 for my 645. No, I love that lens. Of course that's the equivalent of a 90mm in the 35mm film realm....

So we have a 24, 35 & 90. Sound familiar?

But if push comes to shove, the 17mm on my EP2 is good enough for an extended stay on a desert island. I'm assuming there would be no one around to shoot portraits with the 135mm anyway....

Gregg Mack said...

If I had to choose only one single focal length, it would be the 50mm on the full-frame. Lately to me, that is the 25mm on the micro four thirds (MFT). The 45mm MFT lens is a great lens, but it seems like I am always too close to my subject to use it, and backing up isn't usually an option.

Now having said that, I do admit that I use my 12-50mm MFT zoom much more than I use my fixed 25mm MFT lens.

Russ said...

I'm a zoom guy, but I do love primes and tend toward the longer focal lengths. I'd say my favorite lens/FOV is the 45/1.8 on my E-M5. Wide angle is hard for me to "see", much like black and white. I "see" in mid-telephoto, I guess.

Braddanman said...

I almost exclusively use old lenses on my m4/3 camera. I would say that over half my shots are with my Carl Zeiss Flektogon 35mm f2.4 (in fact I have two!) so 70mm FF equivalent. It was the first manual focus lens that I bought for using on mirrorless. I bought it at a garage sale cheap and loved it immediately. So it's by accident really that I have come to use this focal legth.
I can't say whether I was lucky to find my ideal focal legth straight away or because it was all I that had in the beginning that I grew with it. I love this field of view for isolating deatails and abstract bits and bobs. Close focus is great too.

Frank Field said...

My comfortable choice is 50mm on Nikon DX or 85mm on full frame. Very comfortable working distance and angle of view suitably limits the background. When using wide angle, I find myself very uncomfortable any wider than about 24mm on Nikon DX.

Frank Field said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andreas said...

I used to like 31 on APS-C (Pentax), 35 on 1.3 crop (Leica M8) and 28 on APS-C. On "Fullframe" I loved the 40 (M-Rokkor on CLE or M6), this was my desert-island for sure.

BUT: lately I find something about the 28 on FF. I is not so wide as to distort everything, but gives a look that sucks you into the scene - if the scene has spacial depth (layes) in the firt place. You can't get this with 40. But I also noticed that focal length prefs depend on the place you are. In crowded streets, the 28 is fine, but on wider places the 40 is perfect again.

So I guess, the 40 is still the ticket to the island ;-)
The appeal of 40 have often been explained, maybe best by Mike Johnston on TOP. Actually on trips I only take the 40, which feels so liberating. And I can shoot the streets with it, but also the occasional building or landscape. Just perfect.

Simon Lawrence said...

For me it has to be my 16-35mm F2.8 FF, it is rarely off my camera.

Si

Daryl Davis said...

I fall apart with everything...

I never bonded with the normal focal length on 35mm, though I never wished for anything else on 6x6. I like longer or shorter but if forced to choose I'd go with the 45mm on my EM-5. I seem to see better on the long end.

Adam Bridge said...

Hmmm...Leica 100mm APO R f2.8...works on my EOS and NEX-7...an elegant prime that's wonderful for its macro capabilities.

Jeff said...

The 50mm on full frame 35mm is what I used mostly when I started so am used to it, moving in with my feet. My dslr zoom lens exif data shows most are around that. They don't make a 70/75mm prime, but that's what I used on my 70-210 when 50mm seemed too close. The 85, 90, 100, 135 are too compressed for me to use all the time. The 50mm makes me watch my backgrounds.