I’m getting ready to head to Patagonia soon, and on this trip I am doing something a little different. Instead of taking a few zooms, I’m taking a lot of prime fixed focal length lenses. Why you ask? My biggest reason is it forces me to ‘zoom my feet’, not zoom my lens. Don’t get me wrong, I love my zoom lenses and practically worship my 14-24mm F2.8, 24-70mm F2.8, and 70-200mm F2.8. Maybe it is my journalism roots, but I know I will get different images when I am shooting fixed. And one of my favorite lenses is the 35mm F1.4.
The 35mm is the classic street photography lens. You have to be close to your subject to get a portrait, but it shows enough of the surrounding scene to add context to the shot. There are some great choices in this lens, in particular the F1.8 and F1.4 version. The 35mm F1.8 version (talking full frame versions, FX) has excellent optical performance (read the numerous reviews online), is really light, and costs about $1000 less than the 1.4 version. But I went for the F1.4 version since this lens is a staple of my portrait work, and the build quality and extra 2/3 stop is important.
One of my favorite uses of this lens is environmental portraiture. Take a look at the image at top. Shooting at F1.4, the rock climber’s eyes are sharp, but there is beautiful blur front and back of the subject. You just can’t get this amazing bokeh with narrower aperture settings. I really like how the clouds rendered as well at F1.4.
Since I am carrying the new 20mm F1.8 to Patagonia, I’ll post a review from there on how well this lens does in the field. Spoiler alert…reviews call this lens the sharpest wide angle Nikon makes!