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I'm new to photography. I got a Nikon D3100 with the 18-55 kit lens.

I was looking to buy a f/1.8 prime lens, and I found two options:

  • AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G
  • AF-S DX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G

How should I go for choosing one or the other?

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A lot of people wonder the same thing, and if you search for 35mm 50mm you'll find several questions from people making the same or similar decisions, although none of them just ask outright about these two exactly. –  mattdm Feb 5 '12 at 13:36
As @mattdm points out, there are several answers to this already. Please do a search before you ask the question. –  Johan Karlsson Feb 5 '12 at 14:36
I couldn't find one that's an exact match, actually. –  mattdm Feb 5 '12 at 14:56
I actually did a comparison of these two in my answer here. But the question was not an exact match. –  Johan Karlsson Feb 5 '12 at 15:25

3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The question here doesn't — or shouldn't — come down to what we prefer, but rather what you want to use it for. These lenses (because of their different focal length) have a significantly different angle of view, which means that they serve different purposes. Eventually, you may find that you want both.

On your APS-C Nikon, the 50mm lens acts as a short portrait lens. It's kind of awkward for most anything else, but is just about perfect for taking head-and-shoulders portraits. I say awkward because it's not enough "reach" to pick out details like a longer telephoto lens, but is narrow enough that it's difficult to frame indoor scenes. That doesn't mean you can't use it more generally, of course.

The wider 35mm acts as a normal lens — it gives a comfortable and versatile field of view that doesn't feel either wide-angle or telephoto. For that reason, if you're just going to pick one of the two, this is probably going to be your best bet. But it depends on what you're looking for — a portrait lens may be just what you need.

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Absolutely agree with your description of the 50mm on a crop sensor as awkward especially indoors. –  Jody Feb 5 '12 at 15:24
Good answer! You should focus on what you should use the lens for, not which is better. Both of these are good quality lenses. They are very cheap considering what you get. So please decide what you should use them for. –  Johan Karlsson Feb 5 '12 at 15:28
You guessed right, but what if he really wanted an answer to his question and not one you made up? He should edit his post, and then get this answer, or he will never do it. –  Aki Feb 5 '12 at 20:41
@Aki: you mean what if the question were intended to be a survey of other user's preferences? Such things are generally discouraged on Stack Exchange. I think it's better to give a generally-helpful answer that can apply to everyone than the alternative, which is to close the question as "not constructive". –  mattdm Feb 5 '12 at 21:54
@mattdm: No offense, you did the right thing. But it would have been better to wait until his question is corrected, it is indeed not constructive. Now he won't edit his question and it may be a little misleading later on. –  Aki Feb 5 '12 at 22:06

I prefer the 35mm. I actually have the d3100 and upgraded to the nikkor 35mm f/1.8 a few months ago.

I will get the 50mm however, but use it only for portraiture (not the best, but still cheap, fast and compact).

As an exercise try to shoot all day at 35mm with your kit lens. And then 50mm. You will know for sure what you need.

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+1 for the advice on trying both 35mm and 50mm with the kit lens. –  Miroslav Bajtoš May 13 '12 at 17:34

Basically, this will depend on your needs as a photographer. I guess you should first figure that out. Anyway, both lenses are perfect for portrait and landscape photography. Both have motors (so they are perfect for your D3100). Because of the f1.8 aperture, both are good in low-light conditions. If I have a D3100 camera or any DX format camera, I would just flip a coin to decide--both lenses are okay on a DX format camera. But, if I have a Nikon FX format or full frame camera, I will definitely get the NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G lens. Well, actually, if I have a FX format camera I'll just get the NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D lens. It is cheaper and is as powerful as the other 50mm lenses. The 35mm lens is not very compatible with a FX format camera.

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