35mm f/1.4 or 50mm f/1.4 for indoor low lighting portraits?

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Senior Member
Jul 22, 2003
Hi all.

Deciding between the Canon 35mm f/1.4 or the 50mm f/1.4 for indoor low lighting situations when you want to take candids and portraiture, for example in a restaurant setting. This is the case because I find the 24-70mm too heavy sometimes, and would like to carry a prime around sometimes for ease.

Since the main part of this question is applicable to DSLR users of all systems, I decided to post it here instead of in Canon thread.

Firstly, would you rather shoot at 35mm or 50mm, when focusing on 1 to 3 individuals? With the 1.4x-1.6x crop factor on all the non-high end DSLRs, 35mm would be about 50mm equivilent. I find myself shooting between 35mm and 50mm most of the times, thus I can't decide.

Secondly, I chose the f/1.4 versions because I'd like the extra versitility. Would the L on the 35mm f/1.4 make it of much higher optical quality than the non-L 50mm f/1.4? Would there be a significant visual quality difference, espically on a DSLR? Or if not looking at the speed of the lens, how would you rate their optical qualities in relation to the 35mm f/2 (non-USM) and the 50mm f1.8.

Would appreciate all comments, thanks :D


Senior Member
Mar 3, 2004
From the examples I have seen, i just have to say that f1.4 really is paper-thin in DOF and you gotta be careful esp when taking tightly cropped portions of the faces. You may find that one eye is blurred while the other is in focus if the face is slanting. So you gotta be aware of what you will be getting first.


Senior Member
Jun 18, 2003
Singapore, Bedok
If it's a group photo, and they are already posing (ie not 'caught' or candid), it's better to use flash; you'd need the DOF. Remember to switch the WB if you're switching between ambient and flash. Wedding receptions are VERY yellow.

For candids i'd suggest the 50/1.4 or 85/1.8, depending on how tight you like and how close you want to go. Stick to one or two person candids.

The 35/1.4L is reputedly an awesome lens, but i suspect more than half the cost goes into its corner sharpness wide open, and it's really wasted on a crop factor dSLR. The 35/2 is also know as a 'forgotten gem' - supposed to be very sharp, though if you already have a 2.8 zoom covering 35mm, then it might be unnecc to get an f2. It's troublesome to change lens for just a one stop advantage when an ISO shift will do.

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