What is the perfect focal length for street photography, 28mm or 35mm?
Street photographers have had a multitude of excellent lenses from many different systems to choose from over the years. Two of the most common lenses available for this are the 28mm and 35mm lenses, often the preferred tool of many. But, which one is the best?
The answer is, as is often the case in photography, “it depends”. Coming from street photographer and YouTuber Doriyan Coleman, he takes a look at the 28mm focal length and 35mm focal length and how they affected his street photography.
Much of what he talks about depends on your comfort level as a photographer. The wider the lens, the closer you need to be to your subjects, and sometimes that means with a 28mm lens you’re really invading someone’s personal space, whereas with a 35mm it’s may not be the case. Coleman explains how you can easily overlay a scene with a 28mm lens, but that also makes it difficult to compose. He noted that he often crops himself on the wider images shot with a 35mm, as such a wide lens can be difficult to create with sharp compositions, let alone when you go 7mm wider. Also, if you’re in an area that isn’t a densely populated city, it can be very difficult to get interesting backgrounds and compositions with such a wide focal length. There’s also some value in having a lens where people might not notice you versus a lens where they definitely will, depending on what you’re looking for.
We know where I stand on the issue. For me, 40mm is that “Goldilocks” focal length, whether that’s achieved through an equivalent focal length on a Micro Four Thirds camera (via Panasonic’s excellent lens Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 II ASPH. lens or on a full frame with something like the sadly abandoned Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM lens). I’ve forced myself over the years to love my 50mm, but it’s just a little too tight, even on a full frame body.
Coleman doesn’t make a solid recommendation, because for each person, lens selection is a very personal choice. Which lens do you prefer to use for street photography? Leave your thoughts and photos in the comments below.