After debating the old age 50mm vs 35mm, I have opted to go for a 35mm.

I have a Nikon D3200 with a Yongnuo Flash, and just acquired a Nikon SB-600.

I shoot two things: clubs/nightlife and weddings as a secondary or favor (I don't want to suicide myself by being a primary, I've read everyone's comment to those who did venture into primary shooting ill-equipped).

As anyone knows - 35mm means I got my cardio since I lose the zoom and must approach the subject. In cramped places (nightclubs) this might be an issue. However the pictures are nice.

I have been reading up on recommended wedding photography lenses. While I did not purchase a 50mm as recommended - the 35mm is versatile enough that I managed to get some worthy shots.

I want to up my game now and it looks like the 85mm would be a nice bump (average pricing of 450-500 for the lens)

From what I've read, however, about what it is used for - I cannot get enough examples or see the difference between the 35mm and the 85mm as an end result or something that the 35mm couldn't do.

In articles that faced off 50mm vs 35mm, they would show a 50mm picture and the 35mm crop zone that shrank. I need an explanation similar to something like that as to why having an the 85mm as worth the investment (in comparison to getting a 24-70mm where I gain sharpness and zoom.)

Note: I tend to shoot in manual.

Please go easy on the photography lingo - even though I've had explained what the aperture and focal numbers are and what ISO and exposure do to a photo, nothing beats spacing and image comparison to actually show what you mean.

Thank you in advance.

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    The 50-35 debate is regarding to a full-frame sensor. On your crop sensor camera those are actually 75mm and 52.5mm -- very different focal lengths! That means the 85 is like a 127.5mm on your camera. In other words, I think you should reassess based on those focal lengths. – Dan Wolfgang Nov 7 '14 at 12:56
  • @DanWolfgang please explain more about assessing it according to focal lenghts – azngunit81 Nov 7 '14 at 13:10
  • To achieve 35, 50, and 85mm focal lengths on a crop camera, you would want to use a 24mm, 35mm, and 60mm lens (or close to those options). – Dan Wolfgang Nov 7 '14 at 13:33
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    @DanWolfgang so in other words the 35mm I am using effectively is a 50mm instead due to my crop sensor camera being a DX – azngunit81 Nov 7 '14 at 13:38
  • Yes, that's correct. – Dan Wolfgang Nov 7 '14 at 13:41

You have a bit of an odd case as shooting a night club vs shooting a wedding are pretty widely juxtaposed in terms of need.

For a night club, you are shooting in a cramped area without much room for clear lines of sight. You are up close and personal with the subjects you are shooting and need a good wide angle lens. The feeling of a club means you don't even necessarily need the most rectilinear lens as the slight wrapping feeling of a wide angle lens can make someone feel more engaged in the energy of the club, though a highly rectilinear wide angle works fine too.

For a wedding on the other hand, you want to be out of the way. You often can't get up close and personal as you would be in the way to do so. A wide angle lens has very limited usage. An 85mm lens on the other hand gives you some reach, especially on a crop body. You can be further back, you get flatter facial structures that don't make noses look overly large. It's too narrow for group portraits on a crop body, and marginal for large group portraits on a FF, but is wonderful for both candid (torso) and portrait (torso or full body) shots of the couple and can be used pretty well for head and shoulder shots on a crop.

On weddings, I shoot FF and my 24-70 lens is normally hanging out around 50mm, which is about what your 35mm does on your crop. During the ceremony and special dances, I normally have the 70-200 camped out on my camera and it is normally between 125 and 200. The 85 will hit the shorter end of this range for you. It is still a little short for some shots, but should help you a lot with covering those longer shots.

So, to summarize, the 85mm lens will allow you to get shots from further away while flattening images so that facial features don't seem to protrude as much. The 35mm allows you to shoot up closer and get more people in the frame at the same distance, but results in facial features poking out more. With a crop body, your 35mm is really a standard lens due to the crop factor and your 85mm is like a relatively short telephoto lens.


Unless the nightclub is empty, I can't see that an 85mm lens will help you - or a 50mm for that matter. On your (crop sensor) camera, even 35mm is marginal for nightclub shooting. I recommend you audition a wider lens, something like a 17-55mm or 12-24mm zoom for flexibility, as these are far more common for this kind of photography. Some suggestions are here: http://www.nightclubphotographytips.info/p/nightclub-photography-tips-lens.html

  • thanks for the zoom lenses recommendation. No input about wedding photos? – azngunit81 Nov 7 '14 at 11:52
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    Whoops - sorry! The 85mm would be wonderful for picking out details and isolating subjects, provided you have enough space. It's not a lens you use in a very small room though! But it gets back to personal preference, or what your goal is as a second shooter - maybe details are all you need. With two camera bodies, I could imagine using an 85mm and something wide. If I had only had an 85 and a 35 I'd personally find it limiting. If not a wide prime, then a 17-55 f/2.8 or other fast mid-range zoom is more flexible, even though it overlaps with what you have, and is slower as well. – duffle Nov 7 '14 at 13:45
  • Tks for the explanation - what is your point of view of Roman's suggestion for a 11-16mm Tokina or a nikon 12-24mm – azngunit81 Nov 7 '14 at 14:08
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    I have the 11-16 f/2.8 for a crop body and it's a great lens but it seems a little uncompromising for this application. At 11mm, it's exceptionally wide, but at 16mm it's still extremely wide which is great for landscapes or astrophotography. However, something that goes to around 24mm feels just a little more suited to shots of people, I think. Do you have the chance to test out some lenses on your camera, either in a store or at a camera club perhaps? – duffle Nov 7 '14 at 14:18
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    @duffle just to extend a bit your comment: 11-16 is a wideangle lens only 12-24 lenses can be used as a standard lens on its 'long end' as well. So I think that f/2.8 is better that f/4 and 11mm is significantly wider than 12 but 24mm is much-much more handy and universal for me and I still stuck for it. I think I will not be as happy with 11-16mm. – Roman Matveev Nov 7 '14 at 15:32

AF 85mm f/1.8D lens is one of my favorite for outdoors shooting. However I'm using Nikon D7000 so it will be 85/1.8G in your case to keep autofocus. I think you will be pretty happy with this lens for the wedding photography. I'd say I'm taking about 50% of my pics with 85mm (I also own Tokina 12-24mm f/4 and Nikon 35mm f/1.8).

Nevertheless you spoke about using 85mm in the nightclub - I'd say you have to be very skilled with focus and motion blur issues. And you will probably not be able to use flash. At least aimed forward from a camera. In the nightclub I'd better use 35mm lens you already own or buy wide-angle lens like 12-24mm (as @duffle recomended you) or 11-16mm which has a bit better lowlight performance (f/2.8 all the way through).

Some pics taken with Nikkor AF85mm f/1.8D:


enter image description here

Additionally to illustrate how wideangle lens work - take a look at this picture:

enter image description here

And this picture of a crowd:

enter image description here

You can also try to Google with crowd shot wide angle and have a lot of fun with those images. They looks weird but they are interesting!

  • would the 12-24mm be good for weddings also and in what situations? Do you own one yourself? tks for your input – azngunit81 Nov 7 '14 at 11:51
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    Wideangle lens is a tricky thing. It makes human face actually not really beautiful (if the face is not in the center of a frame - it becomes distorted if it is in center it will make nose looks bigger). If you make a photo of a crowd - wideangle lens is a very handy thing and I know at least one wedding photographer using them a lot (mywed.ru/photographer/view/profile/yurikim). So I'd suggest to play around with wide angle. I'm really love it as it gives me the look human eye will never see. I add a wideangle pic in my answer to give you an imagination what I'm talking about. – Roman Matveev Nov 7 '14 at 12:47
  • Thanks Roman, your added wide-angle suggestion helps me get some perspective. into what is possible. Got any crowd shot with your 12-24mm? – azngunit81 Nov 7 '14 at 13:13
  • FYI: this link has a mouse over to compare with a nikon 12-24mm which helps a lot in terms of explanation: kenrockwell.com/tokina/11-16mm.htm – azngunit81 Nov 7 '14 at 13:18
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    @azngunit81 answer updated! – Roman Matveev Nov 7 '14 at 14:22

The 85mm is a longer lens, so it gets you more reach, a flatter field curvature/less distortion, and probably more background blur than you'd get with a 35mm lens. However, your working distance will need to increase, so for smaller spaces it may not be as good a fit as a 35mm, especially on a crop body, and the longer distance and lack of VR means it'll be harder to use in low light, because you'll need faster shutter speeds to mitigate camera shake blur.

However, there is one other difference between the Nikkor AF-S 85/1.8 and 35/1.8, which is that the 85/1.8 is an FX lens, and the 35/1.8 is a DX lens. If you ever move to a full frame body in the future (D600/700/800), the 85/1.8 will still be very useful and a great portrait length, while the 35/1.8 will cause you to lose the advantages of the full-frame sensor because the camera will be cropping the image down to the coverage of the lens.


For low-light photography, for moving subjects, where you want full-body coverage in frame, (which is your primary use - in night clubs) then a 24mm on a crop-sensor camera (which is your D3200) would be my recommendation.

It's wide enough to get full body in frame at distances from ~10-12ft.

The fixed focal length / prime lens will allow wide aperture so you can isolate your subject from the crowd. Using any sort of consumer-priced zoom will limit you to f/3.5, which won't strongly isolate your subject with nice bokeh in the background/foreground.

These are your options for 24mm primes under $700. The Bower and Rokinon look like your best bets.

  • tks for the input. yes I was considering 24mm in the upcoming year OR a Tokina 11-16 – azngunit81 Dec 31 '14 at 19:19
  • I have a Tokina 11-16. It's a great lens and ultra-wide, but keep in mind it has lots of perspective distortion. Everything not in the center, say 50%, of frame will be noticeably "stretched". People at the left/right edges of frame will seem abnormally wide. Also, if the lens isn't shot perfectly level, the distortion is further exaggerated. Example shots – Baker Jan 1 '15 at 18:41
  • so the 24mm prime would be a better choice over the 11-16? – azngunit81 Jan 1 '15 at 18:44
  • I personally think so. If you focused purely on large crowd shots and never one to three people as the main subject, the 11-16 would be fine. Otherwise, I would suggest the 24mm, which gives you the flexibility of a bit of both. – Baker Jan 1 '15 at 22:28

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