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I recently purchased a Canon EOS 77D (which offers an APS-C sensor) with a Canon 70-200mm f/4. Now, I am looking to purchase a prime lens.

My research suggests a choice between the Canon 50mm f/1.4 and the Tamron 35mm f/1.8 - But I do not know which one to purchase.

The lens would be used mainly for photographs of dogs, portraits, and close ups of dogs; my main priorities in lenses are sharpness and bokeh.

Which one would fit my profile best?

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    "Ive researched but i cant find a definite answer": this is because there isn't a definitive answer. One is a 35mm lens, one is a 50mm lens. They have different strengths, you (and only you) can work out which one is right for you. – Philip Kendall Sep 23 '18 at 9:24
  • Yes ,sorry, thats what i meant. I cant find a definite answer as to which one would be right for me. I like the 50mm but ive seen on an APS-C sensor camera it isnt the same as on a full frame and that the 35mm would be similar to a 50mm on an APS-C camera – Caitlin Wolff Sep 23 '18 at 9:31
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    We can answer "Which focal length on a crop camera is approximately equivalent to 50mm on a full frame camera?" We still can't answer which one is "better" or which one is "right for you". – Philip Kendall Sep 23 '18 at 9:54
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    Can you rent them to try them out? – osullic Sep 23 '18 at 10:43
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    What about a 50mm f/1.8? – Eric Shain Sep 24 '18 at 19:57
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Since the choice of lens is highly subjective, we can’t tell you definitively which to pick. Instead, I’ll offer a suggestion about how to make the decision yourself.

Each lens has many variables that can be evaluated only with the specific lens: sharpness, bokeh, speed, physical dimension, weight, etc. But one thing you can test quite generically is framing.

A 50mm lens will give you tighter framing than a 35mm lens.

Before moving to (crop-sensor) digital, my go-to lens was a nifty-fifty on a film camera. On the digital camera, it felt very uncomfortable. 35mm felt a lot better. After learning about the difference between crop sensor and full frame, this made a lot more sense.

Dig out your old kit lens or get a cheap 18-55mm kit lens second hand. Then zoom it to 35mm and look through the viewfinder, maybe even take a few snaps. Then repeat with 50mm. This would give you a sense of which you prefer.

After that, treat the zoom as just a zoom and do a just-for-fun photo shoot. Then collect your photos and see what focal length your favourite shots were set at.

This should give you a good idea of which lens to go for.

Note on sharpness and bokeh: lens reviews on the internet cover these extensively. In picking the 2 lens options, your research should have already covered both aspects.

If you still find it hard to decide, I suggest going for the 35mm lens. Your existing 70-200mm shouldn’t be too far off the 50mm prime, so the 35mm prime will give you a more ‘different’ feel to the zoom lens.

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    I like the advice of getting a second-hand kit lens. (Canon's) kit lenses are quite good, and they are cheap, so it probably isn't the worst thing to do. – flolilo Sep 23 '18 at 13:40
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    Just don't get one of the early, pre-IS 18-55mm kit lenses from Canon. They tended to have a lot of copy-to-copy inconsistency. Some of them were OK, other copies of the same lens could be absolutely horrible. From the EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS (introduced in 2007) on, the QC was much better than with the previous EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 (2004) and EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 II (2006). – Michael C Sep 23 '18 at 23:28
  • Also note that while the f1.4 one is expensive the Canon 50mm f1/8 is a very-very affordable lens, so even if you go with the Tamron 35 you could easily also add in the cheaper 50mm one – SztupY Sep 23 '18 at 23:54
  • @flolilolilo Yes, I found the 18-55mm kit lens to be clearer and sharper than the couple of 50mm f1.8 lenses I tried on my crop-sensor Canon DSLR. – Lawrence Sep 24 '18 at 0:45
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To rephrase Philip's comment:

The choice of lens is a personal one. Personally, I do not like the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM on APS-C, because shooting at (APS-C) 50mm is uncomfortable to me and I do not like the perspective, color rendition, bokeh, and sharpness it offers me. However, this does not tell you anything useful at all.

Bokeh is a highly subjective matter, while sharpness is a matter of both the copy of the lens you get and scientific measurements. For the first one, you will need sample photos that come close to what you plan to do with the lens (or your own samples), for the second one, a database will do.

Please note that:

Sharpness is the most overrated aspect of lens performance. Lens sharpness seems like it ought to be related to making sharp photos, but it isn't.

© Ken Rockwell, emphasis mine.

That said, let us look at the list of things you like to do with it:


photographs of dogs:

Three quick shots of my mother's dogs

This is a collage of photos of my mother's dogs. They were taken in a bit of a hurry, as my mother wanted me to take them at the spot in our garden. All of the photos were made with my EOS 5D Mark III and the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM, as there was no time to time to switch between primes. All of the photos are uncropped

  • The upper left one was shot at 92mm @ f/5.6
  • The upper right one at 60mm @ f/5.6
  • The lower one at 58mm @ f/4.5

As far as I remember, the dogs did not care for the camera too much, but that might have been due to the distance I kept, as close-ups would have needed more time to prepare.

All of them clearly show problems with background separation, which was mostly due to lack of space in the garden.

If we are talking about doggy-sports, a sports lens (e.g. your 70-200mm f/4) would probably be better suited than a wide to normal prime lens.


portraits:

Again, we would need to know which kind of portraits you want to do.

As questions regarding portrait lenses have been answered here before, I would recommend you to read some of the questions, especially Which focal-length lens is usually used for portrait photography, and why?, which offers some examples of focal lengths for different kinds of portrait photography.


close ups of dogs:

My mother's late dog

Again, a personal example - It's my mother's late dog from before. This is the closest to a close-up that I ever got. It was shot with my EOS 5D Mark III and a Tamron SP AF 70-300mm 4.0-5.6 Di VC USD, set at 154mm @f/8. Again, this was a hasty shot.

As far as I can recall, I first tried to get the shot done with my Canon EF 100mm 2.8 L Macro IS USM, but failed miserably because the dog was far too distracted by the relatively close camera and I really had to get this shot in a hurry.


Conclusion:

None. Your profile might require multiple lenses, not only one.

If you already have a zoom lens, simply go to your photo collection, search for the photos you like the most, get their focal length out of the EXIF metadata - and buy a lens that offers this focal length.

If you start from scratch, it might be best to rent a choice of lenses first to find out which one you like the most. Or perhaps buy a used kit lens to find out, as Lawrence suggests.

As to bokeh: That will depend on the lens, too. As it is a subjective matter, you will have to look for photos made with the lenses in question and/or make your own to properly judge this.

One piece of personal advice, though: If you are not sure about buying the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM, then an EF 50mm f/1.8 (STM) might be a good choice, as its performance-price ratio is better and it often has a better re-sell value.

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    Ken Rockwell by his own admission is often full of it — he likens his own site to The Onion — but the article you link (while exercising a bit of hyperbole for effect) is one of the cases where he is spot on. – mattdm Sep 23 '18 at 13:47
  • @mattdm Of course it is a hyperbole, but one that is well at place with people being obsessed about 200% crops of 24MP+ photographs. – flolilo Sep 23 '18 at 14:01
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    Honestly, I wish he would change the statement about his site being a hoax and clearly note which articles are meant to be entirely silly (the stuff about saturation has got to be a put-on, right?). The whole disclaimer seems like an excuse not for satire but for not needing to ever make corrections or admit mistakes. I guess that seems to have worked for him for decades so there's little incentive, but it's a shame because it makes it hard for me to recommend the good stuff. – mattdm Sep 23 '18 at 14:06
  • @mattdm That's why my go-to site - whenever possible - is Bryan's. Less fun to read, a little more of a "Canon-promoter" feeling, but I never felt like one of his statements ever contradicted my personal experience. – flolilo Sep 23 '18 at 14:23
  • I use an EF 50mm f/1.4 that I've had for quite a few years. But if it broke and I needed to replace it, I would not hesitate to buy the EF 50mm f/1.8 STM rather than another 50/1.4. Both do what I need in a 50mm prime and one is 1/3 the price of the other. The 50/1.8 STM might be just a tad better optically than the 50/1.4, and all of the many non-optical issues that left the EF 50mm f/1.8 II lacking are well addressed with the STM. – Michael C Sep 23 '18 at 23:34
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For portrait the 35mm is likely too short, you will get exaggerated noses. A sharp lens is required to get the hairs. So far my best dog portrait shot was done with the Canon 100mm macro.

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