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85mm vs 50mm Lens: What’s The Difference?

Choosing the right lens isn’t the easiest thing to do and finding lenses that have too many numbers on them is the weirdest thing ever. Especially if you are at the beginning of your photography career.

However, even though it is confusing it is one of the most interesting times ever because once you become a professional you don’t have to search for things anymore unless something else is discovered.

Lenses are a lot in number and their focal lengths all differ from one another. To someone, it is a pretty hard job considering realizing what each lens is good for and what it is mostly used for.

In this article, you will find some important information and a small “battle” between the famous 85mm and 50mm lenses.

Let’s see what are their differences and why not the similarities!

85mm and 50mm Lens/Overview

Even though in this article we are comparing these two lenses, you will notice that these ones are the ones that first come to the mind of different photographers since they are the most commonly used lenses.

The 85mm lens is considered a long telephoto lens meanwhile the 50mm one is considered a wide-angle standard lens.

Both of the lenses, without any exception, are used during portrait photography and street photography and they are very much alike, but still, since I’ve prepared this article for you there of course are many differences.

The main difference that I would like to share right now with you is the price. You will definitely notice that an 85mm lens costs definitely more than a 50mm and the difference is quite big.

85mm Lens

Just as mentioned at the beginning, an 85mm lens is a long telephoto one and what deserves to be mentioned is that when you shoot any picture with this focal length the subject is magnified by about 1.6x all depending on the original size. It doesn’t matter if the subject is a person or a simple thing that may have caught your eye.

An 85mm lens is one of those perfect lenses that is used during portrait photography! 85mm lenses are also known for the amazing bokeh effect. If you don’t know what bokeh is, its job is to make the background fully blurry while the subject is completely seen clearly. If you cannot understand what it is I would recommend you check out my article regarding some of the greatest lenses for the Bokeh Effect in which you will find some informational content. However, Bokeh is not our thing right now.

Pros of an 85mm Lens

There are some amazing things that an 85mm lens can achieve and I’ve decided to tell to you!

  • Achieves a Long Reach (Magnification of 1.6x)
  • Super Natural Depth of Field
  • They Are Great for Videos
  • No Distortion of Any Kind
  • They Deliver A Great Bokeh Effect and You Have Control Over the Background
  • It is a Fast Lens

Cons of an 85mm Lens

Everything has its ups and downs, advantages and disadvantages, and pros and cons. Here is what may be considered a con for an 85mm lens:

  • 85mm Lenses Are A Bit Large and Heavy
  • Definitely Pricey
  • Chromatic Aberration Can Occur Easily
  • Not the Best Ones With Moving Subjects

When to Use an 85mm Lens?

Well, I wouldn’t like to repeat myself on and on but I would really like to mention again that it is more than obvious that an 85mm lens is used during portraitures and I assure you that it is one that is used by any professional photographer that may cross your mind. It is also used in fashion photography, and in landscape photography but only if you have in mind a particular thing that will be the subject of your photograph.

50mm Lens

Differing from the 85mm lens, a 50mm one is known as a wide-angle standard lens, and based on its “standards” it is a lens that is used on different occasions. Since in the 85mm lens we had a magnification going one, in a 50mm lens you will deal with a reduction of 50% of the natural size of the subject that you are taking a picture of.

A 50mm lens is a perfect lens for street photography! It is all based on what you are capturing and even though I mentioned that there is a reduction, the scene that you would capture during street photography will include definitely everything that should be included.

Pros of a 50mm Lens

  • Lightweight and Small – More Portable
  • Natural Depth of Field
  • You Can Easily Shoot Wide Scenes and It Offers a Wider Angle
  • Super Sharpness
  • More Budget Friendly

Cons of a 50mm Lens

  • You Should Get Closer to the Subject
  • Not so Good Bokeh Effect
  • Not Too Fast

When to Use a 50mm Lens?

Besides shooting with a 50mm lens in the streets, you should also use a 50mm lens at weddings in order to shoot those great emotions that the bride and the groom own. With it, you will capture more scenes of the background and it definitely shows the most important things (once you capture them, though). I mentioned that the 50mm lens is a sharp one, right? Well, that sharpness makes it a useful lens for landscape photography as well, and also you can find 50mm lenses in food and product photography too.

Final Words

Lenses are definitely cool, aren’t they? Who wouldn’t want the best lens that one can think of and use it in any kind and any type of photography? Besides that, you know that lenses are important, and without one your camera is not able to capture anything else besides a huge light in which you cannot see anything else.

As you can notice, the 85mm lenses and 50mm lenses are very much alike and very different as well. Is one better than the other? I don’t really think so, even though for example one is better at a type of photography and one at another one.

85mm lenses and 50mm lenses are both the greatest focal lengths in lenses that you can find, and when I say that you should be more than sure that they definitely are.

I hope this article helped you clear your ideas based on 85mm and 50mm lenses! Enjoy!

Michael Fortin