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I've got a D3200 and two zoom lenses, 18-55 and 55-200. I want to buy my first prime lens now and I have a hard time deciding between 35 and 50mm (both 1.8g). The price difference can be ignored, as well as the other things such as dimensions, weight, filter diameter... The only things I'm concerned about are the angle of view, the sharpness, the color quality, the distorsion and the bokeh "strength".

My main fields of interests are portraits, landscapes, street photography and maybe some astrophotography (I'd really like to have some nice Milky Way photos).

The things that I am aware of:

  • I'm aware that I have the crop sensor and that 35 and 50 will actually be something like 50 and 75 (approximately).

  • Also, for the astro and landscape photos, it's clear that the shorter is the better. For the streets, I know that it depends on the space that I have and the scene that I want to capture. Maybe sometimes I will want to display the whole "story" in the frame, and sometimes I want to make some candid photos and to easily get "closer" to the subject.

The things that I have doubts about:

  • For the portraits, I have no idea if there will be a big difference between 35 and 50, i.e. how natural or how distorted will the subject look.

  • I'm also not sure about the bokeh - will the background blurriness be as good as with 50mm?

  • I have tried out 50mm once and I was amazed by the colors and the overall quality of the photos (especially after working with kit lens for a while). Is there a difference regarding these things between 35 and 50?

I know that I can take my 18-55 and try taking photos only with 35 or 50 mm and see how the things look regarding the composition and the compression. But the thing that I can't test is the image quality that I will have with the new lens. Unfortunately, in my area there are no shops which will let me test a lens before purchasing, and also there are no places where I can rent Nikon lenses (there are only Canon and Sigma).

I'd be very thankful for all your opinions :)

marked as duplicate by Michael C, mattdm, scottbb, inkista, Hueco May 1 '18 at 7:46

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    Possible duplicate: Is 35mm or 50mm better on a cropped DSLR for street photography? – Caleb Apr 30 '18 at 11:37
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    1.8g? That is really lightweight! – Rafael Apr 30 '18 at 18:04
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    "I know that I can take my 18-55 and try taking photos only with 35 or 50 mm and see how the things look regarding the composition and the compression" You are underestimating this tests. Go and take those images at 35mm and 50mm. This will answer most of your questions. Then you only add some more sharpness and some more bokeh. But if you do not go and shot you will only have an external advice and not real insight of what you like. – Rafael Apr 30 '18 at 18:11
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For portraiture on crop sensor cameras, the 50mm lens is a better choice. The ideal portrait lens in general is about two times the diagonal of the image capture - about 100mm on 35mm and full-frame digital, about 200mm on 6x7cm, etc. 50mm is a bit shorter but still effective.

I shoot full-frame and 35mm film, and I use an 85 for upper-body portraits and 105mm for head-and-shoulders portraits or tight headshots. Your 50 would be in the ballpark of the 85 for this purpose. (Note that a 50 on your camera is always a 50mm; it just has the effective perspective of about an 80mm lens on 35mm film capture.)

Both of these lenses will have excellent image quality, so try using your zoom at each of those focal lengths alone for a few hours of shooting, and see what perspective you prefer. I wouldn't have any reservations about either of these lenses. (The 35/2 Nikkor is also an excellent lens, and covers full frame, if you ever aspire to shoot film or get a full-frame digital camera.)

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For the streets, I know that it depends on the space that I have and the scene that I want to capture. Maybe sometimes I will want to display the whole "story" in the frame, and sometimes I want to make some candid photos and to easily get "closer" to the subject.

At the risk of stating the obvious, you can crop a photo taken with a 35mm to the angle of view you'd get with a 50mm. You can't uncrop. Your D3200 produces 24 mega-pixel images, so you'll still have 12 mega-pixels after cropping by a factor of 0.7 in each dimension. That's more resolution than you need for most purposes.

I'm also not sure about the bokeh - will the background blurriness be as good as with 50mm?

If you can't try the lenses yourself, the next best thing is to look at other people's photos. Two good sources for that are reviews (most lens reviews I've seen include some bokeh samples; I won't link to any specific sites because that's a bit controversial around here); and photograph sharing sites such as Flickr. In fact, a search for 35mm f/1.8 in Flickr groups turned up one group called Bokeh from Nikon Nikkor 35mm and 50mm f 1.8 G, which sounds like just what you're looking for.

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