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I am going on a trip to Thailand and want to visit the night markets and temples. Considering that on a cropped sensor the following focal lengths will be:

35mm - 52.5mm
50mm - 75mm

My understanding is that with a larger focal length, you have to step backwards to compose your picture better. Something that might not be possible in a night market or shopping mall.

How much do I have to step back in order to compose my picture?

Which lens is better and why?

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    Do you own a lens of either of these lengths? The best approach is always going to be try for yourself. Personally I wouldn't want anything longer than a 35mm on a cropped sensor - but would consider going shorter than that. – Kirk Broadhurst Jan 29 '16 at 20:17
  • I own a kit lens. 18-55mm.... because i have a cropped lens, is buying 35mm basically buying me a 50mm lens? – PriceCheaperton Jan 29 '16 at 20:32
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    Possible duplicate of What is a good focal length for street photography? – mattdm Jan 30 '16 at 1:03
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    A 35mm lens will be just like setting your existing zoom lens to 35mm. – mattdm Jan 30 '16 at 1:05
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You said you own an 18-55mm zoom lens. You can just set that one to 35mm and 50mm (there is a scale on the barrel that tells you what focal length your current zoom position corresponds to). That way, you can see the field of view each focal length gives you for yourself.

Even though the same focal length will give you a different field of view on differently sized sensors, the focal length itself is independent from your sensor. So setting your kit zoom lens to 35mm will have the same effect as mounting a fixed 35mm focal length lens in terms of field of view.

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How much do i have to step back in order to compose my picture?

That depends on how close you were to the subject in the first place.

Which lens is better and why?

It's really not a matter of what's better. It's just what you want.

So, yes, a 35mm lens on a camera with a 1.6x crop factor behaves about like a 50mm on a full frame camera, and 50mm is traditionally considered a "normal" lens. And a 50mm lens on the crop sensor will behave like a 80mm lens on a full frame camera. 80mm is typically considered a "portrait" lens because it lets you stand at a comfortable distance from a person and still fill the frame with their head and shoulders.

Put another way, with a 35mm lens on your crop-sensor camera and standing 10 feet from your subject, your (landscape oriented) frame will cover about 4.5 feet vertically. With a 50mm lens on your camera, and standing the same 10 feet away, you'll cover 3.2 feet vertically.

So, do you like to take photos that cover an entire scene, or do you prefer photos that are a little more intimate? Would you take a photo of a shopkeeper sitting in a doorway surrounded by crates of produce, or would you zoom in a bit and fill the frame with his aged face propped up by work-worn hands?

You won't go wrong either way, you might just have to adapt a little one way or the other by "zooming with your feet."

I am going on a trip to Thailand and will want to visit the night markets and temples.

Get both. You probably won't be going back to Thailand anytime soon. You can probably get both a 35mm f/2 and a 50mm f/1.8 for under $500. The 50mm f/1.8 from either Canon or Nikon is a well-known bargain, usually costing around $125. The 35mm costs more, especially if you get Canon's new image stabilized version, but a used non-IS version can be had for $250-300. So get both and have a great trip, and if you decide that you really don't need one or the other later you can always sell it.

Note that I'm talking about prime lenses here. The zoom lens that you have will obviously cover both focal lengths. The nice thing about the prime lenses is that they'll give you nice narrow depth of field, a sharper image, and more latitude for nighttime shots (no miracles, though).

  • I own a Nikon D3200... I was thinking of getting the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G Lens and then taking my kit lens which is: Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II that should give me a compromise of the wide angle and 52.5mm lens?? thoughts? – PriceCheaperton Jan 30 '16 at 12:43
  • I have posted a comment – PriceCheaperton Jan 30 '16 at 12:44
  • Fantastic answer @Caleb – pim Apr 28 '18 at 15:16

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