I am moving up to a full-frame DSLR and I am considering the lenses I should have in my bag. I have shot mostly with prime lenses (35mm and 50mm on APS-C) because I absolutely love the quality of the pic and I don't really mind using my leg to get more/less range.

My 35mm is an APS-C lens (DX in Nikon's world), so I am planning to just sell it. To fill the gap, I am thinking instead of getting a 28mm and maybe also a 85mm.

I am curious what the typical prime lens combo looks like for someone shooting mainly trips (landscape) and events (people). Is 28mm too wide or 85mm too narrow to be practical?

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    I'm afraid this falls under the "if there were an answer to this, companies wouldn't make so many lenses" rule. The answers aren't just subjective — they're idiosyncratic. – Please Read My Profile Nov 27 '12 at 10:09
  • A 52mm and a 75mm would roughly be equivalent field of view. So 50mm and 85mm would make sense if you are happy with your existing effective focal lengths. I personally prefer 28/50/135, but many people like 50/85 as well. It is personal preference. – dpollitt Nov 27 '12 at 20:48
  • Thanks, everyone! @dpollitt, 135mm is nice, but too pricey unfortunately, even a used one :( – pixelfreak Nov 27 '12 at 23:12

To replicate the same field of view that you are currently experiencing with your crop sensor camera, a 50mm and 85mm should do the trick.

However, IMO, I would highly suggest a 24mm for landscapes since you're already used to a not-too-wide 35mm, and it's somewhat affordable. I personally would go for the 14mm prime for landscapes, but this can be pretty expensive and can sometimes be too wide if you're not used to shooting with that type of lens.

For people shots, I would have to say the venerable 50mm would be your safest choice as it can be used for most everything else, especially general travel snaps. If you know for sure you're doing only portraits and think most of those are going to be 3/4 body shots (or tighter), that's where I say the 85mm comes into play.

For my equipment lineup (crop sensor rig), I have a 17-55 zoom, 50 and 85 f/1.8 primes. I never leave home without at least these three lenses.

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  • Thanks, ISO. I used to have 10-14mm (a DX lens) and I didn't like the distortion at all, especially when you put people in the picture, they all look weird. That's why I am afraid 24mm might be in the same category. – pixelfreak Nov 27 '12 at 19:52

The best I can offer here is: how do you feel about the field of view of the 35mm and 50mm lenses you've been using? Right now, you have a slightly narrow normal and a short portrait-range telephoto. The normal can be replaced by a standard 50mm or 55mm with barely any change in behavior (within the realm of a rounding error), and while an 85mm lens would be about 15% narrower than you are used to with your current longer lens, there aren't many other options around that focal length, so there you are — unless you want to just skip it and go up to 105mm.

On the wide end, you're in new territory since your current lenses don't cover that at all. The idea of experimenting with the kit zoom is good — or, rent or borrow a lens for a couple of weeks. 35mm is a nice, versatile wide focal length. It's almost a "second normal" — for example, it's about the FoV of the iPhone camera. It's generally regarded as too close to be flattering for portraits, but overall, the perspective feels basically natural. As you go wider than that, your images will start to give off a strong feeling of "oh! wide angle lens", and whether that fits your own style is up to you.

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  • Thanks, mattdm. I forgot to say that I also have a 18-200mm. But I rarely use it due to its weight and when I do, I have always kept it at 18mm. – pixelfreak Nov 27 '12 at 19:47
  • @pixelfreak if that's the case, sounds like a 28mm prime will suit you very nicely. – Please Read My Profile Nov 27 '12 at 20:32

If you have a kit lens / standard DX zoom for your current DSLR, tape the zoom at the wide end (18mm) and take a full day out shooting with just that lens. That will give you an idea of what 28mm will be like to live with on a full frame camera. Likewise tape the lens at the long end (55mm) and go on another trip, that will give you a simulation of an 85mm lens. Spend as much time as you can with either setup.

The standard prime focal lengths are 24mm 28mm 35mm 50mm and 85mm. However there is no 'standard' set of lenses within this group, everyone has their own preference depending on what they shoot, which is why I would advise doing the test I describe above.

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  • Thanks, Matt Grum. Good suggestion, I forgot to say that I also have an 18-200mm. And I am comfortable with 18mm. So 28mm would be great then I think. 85mm (55mm on DX), I am not so sure, I feel like I am gonna be wanting for more reach. – pixelfreak Nov 27 '12 at 19:49

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