Let’s delve into some of the key differences between 24mm vs. 35mm and determine which one is right for your particular situation. Whether you shoot stills or video, you will find useful insights and recommendations in this article.
Ask any seasoned pro photographer how wide their most useful wide prime lens is, and they’ll likely say 24 or 35mm.
That’s because both focal lengths offer terrific versatility and optical quality. They also encourage best practices such as good composition.
Below you’ll also find our honest top picks for the best prime lenses in the 24mm and 35mm focal lengths. Towards the end, we’ll answer some of the most common questions on those particular focal lengths.
24mm vs 35mm Lenses – Our Honest Picks
35mm Lenses Staff Picks
Why 24mm and 35mm camera lenses are so popular
The versatility, small weight, and low cost all contribute to the popularity of both 24mm and 35mm primes. Additionally, these fixed lenses are typically sharper than the extreme ends of most zoom lenses.
For the traveling photographer or street ninja, there are added benefits to shooting wide primes:
Working with only one lens reduces the bulk and worry of dragging around multiple pieces of heavy, expensive glass.
The weight of your lenses is definitely something to bear in mind when looking for a budget camera for traveling with.
By not changing lenses throughout the day, there is less risk of getting dust and grime on the sensor. The mount gets zero wear, too.
Lastly, a compact lens, in particular on a smaller body, appears much less threatening. It allows for blending into the scene and doing your thing without making people feel uncomfortable.
Why Use a 24mm Lens
Low Light Capabilities
A 24mm lens often has a reasonably large maximum aperture of f/2.8. Combined with a short minimum focal distance, this can enable beautiful bokeh and background separation.
Of course, the large aperture lets plenty of light in, too.
Flexibility in Composition
Since you can (in most scenes) use your legs to get closer to the subject, the 24mm focal length provides enormous freedom in composing the shot. That’s why 24mm is a stellar choice for a walkaround prime.
It can handle anything from street photography and portraits — to landscapes, pet photography, product shots, and even semi-macro. You can always crop tight, especially if capturing in high resolution.
Why Use a 35mm Lens
The Wide Angle Sweet Spot
While 24mm can, at times, be almost too wide, 35mm is often just the right focal length. It usually provides little to no distortion and lets in even more light than a 24mm lens.
While f/1.2 is available, f/1.4 and f/1.8 are quite common maximum apertures in the world of 35mm primes.
Shallow Depth of Field
A 35mm lens provides slightly more compression than a 24mm. This means a shallower depth of field for that smooth, bokehlicious background, particularly at larger apertures.
The visual aesthetic of shallow DOF is generally pleasing to behold. It also leads the eye towards the subject in focus – by separating it from the background.
Comparing 24mm vs 35mm Lenses
Both focal lengths are excellent, practical choices for versatility and optical performance – especially relative to their cost. Both 24 and 35mm tend to inspire composing the right way; by moving around the scene.
24mm lenses are typically slightly smaller in size and weight. A prime example of this is the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM. The pancake format is unbelievably tiny, yet the lens delivers crisp and high contrast image quality.
Although the gap between the two focal lengths is not that great, the subtle difference could be the deciding factor when picking up the right wide prime for the job. For the budding photographer, the 35mm is usually the more versatile and useful choice.
Although, for a complete novice, we would recommend grabbing a 50mm as their first lens.
If in doubt, have a look either in person at the store – or on Flickr. On the latter, you can search for any focal length, maker, and even aperture. This should provide a good idea of what you can expect before throwing your hard-earned cash at a new lens.
Why Not Use a 24mm Lens for Street Photography?
The 24mm focal width could seem optimal on the surface. In practice, though, it often proves too wide, resulting in having to crop in post. Solution? Zoom in with your legs, or simply shoot with a 35mm, 50mm, or higher.
With that out of the way, shooting street at 24mm can have its advantages. Namely, it encourages getting up close and personal.
This way, personal interaction could be inevitable – leading to rapport and getting access to otherwise unattainable photos. It also provides a chance to share your Instagram handle or business card.
What Unique Trait Makes the 35mm Lens so Popular?
It’s actually a combination — shallow DOF, traditional 35mm look, versatility, and impressive light-gathering ability. On a crop sensor camera, 35mm is equivalent to 50mm on a full-frame.
The 35 is basically the one lens to bring along on an abandoned island. It’s a super all-rounder that will look amazing on your IG grid. You may even get featured on the best curated IG feeds more often!
Which Prime Lens is Essential for Every Photographer?
That depends on whether you’re shooting full-frame or crop sensor, what you shoot, as well as your personal preference. In our experience, 35mm is the most useful focal length overall.
Albeit, not by a large margin. Ultimately, the choice of 35mm vs. 24mm depends on personal taste and priorities.
If we had to pick just one wide prime lens, a 35mm wide prime would be the one. However, it might be smart to get both a 24mm and a 35mm if you’re serious about photography.
Glass retains its value well and can mostly be sold at little to no loss. Pre-owned, manual vintage lenses represent the best bang for your buck, particularly for still subjects and videography.
Modern products like the Sigma ART line and newer Tamron lenses are comparatively more costly and bulky. In turn, they are available for any current system and produce utterly stunning results.