Can someone share a history or origin of why 35mm FL was the "chosen one" in the first place?

Started Jul 25, 2013 | Discussions thread
blue_skies Forum Pro • Posts: 11,532
Re: Can someone share a history or origin of why 35mm FL was the "chosen one" in the first place?

smallLebowski wrote:

I mean it's very versatile FL, but did they test it initially at the beginning era of photography and came to a conclusion that this FL suits best for starters or there was some other interesting story? Would like to hear that. Thank you.

P.S. I guess different brands had different perspective on best FL maybe?

Many film formats have been attempted in the past, the 110, 120 and 135 became popular, as a trade-off of quality and cost, both in film and equipment. The 110 (half-format) lacked IQ, but the 135mm format became very popular by professionals and enthusiasts. The 120 (and 220) formats was mainly for professionals (and professional equipment).

As some have mentioned, on 135 (or 35mm_ film-based cameras, the 50mm became the 'standard', or 'normal' prime lens.

Technically, it is a tad narrow to be 'standard' or 'normal', but 50 sounds better than 44, especially in Asian languages.

Manufacturers released early cameras with different 'standard' lenses, ranging from 42mm to 58mm on the 35mm format. On 35mm format, anything wider than 35 was considered wide angle, and longer than 80mm was considered tele lens.

For those that have both the Sigma 30 and the Sony 3 on their Nex camera, you can see the difference between the 45mm FF equivalent FOV (Sigma 30) and the 50mm FF equivalent view (SEL35). It does not seem like much, but many will find the Sigma view easier to work with, until you want people shots. Then it feels too wide.

Generally, the industry pretty much standardized on 50mm (nifty fifty) which became the normal reference view on 135 (or 35mm) film.

Given the standard '2x' zoom ratio of preferred lenses, the typical lenses one would add would be 25mm and 100mm, which have migrated to 28mm and 85mm, mostly due to certain successes of early lens designs (cost/size/IQ/quality tradeoff).

My initial prime lenses were just that: 28/2.8, 50/1.4 and 100/2.8. (OM).

The 35mm lens, for 135 (or 35mm) film, was not a popular FL in the beginning. But for fixed-lens cameras, neither the 50mm, nor the 28mm, FL was a fitting one: the 50mm was 'common' but not 'practical', as the FOV is often too narrow, and the 28mm was too wide for many shots (headshots, people shots, etc.). The 35mm angle slid in between these two and can be found on early fixed-lens cameras.

Today you see a repeat with the 24mm on APS-C digital cameras - essentially the same view as the 35mm FL on 135 film cameras (X100, RX1, etc.). Many Nex owners love their 24mm Zeiss lens, which was given special attention for the FL, for the same reasons. If you have to live with only one lens, the 24mm (35mm on 135 film) is the most practical one.

But if you can have two lenses, than you'll find two prevalent groups: 28 & 50 versus 24 & 35. In APS-C terms these are 20 & 35 and 16 & 24 respectively. It mostly reflects the photographer's style. If you like to get close, you'd prefer the wider FOV, otherwise the standard FOV. This remains a personal preference.

Of course, on APS-C, you can now get 12, 16, 20, 24, 30, 35, 50 (on Nex), add in legacy/SLR lenses at 28, 85, 100, so any FL can be mastered.

The 35mm/135 (or 24mm/APS-C) is a tricky FL, as geometric distortion is already present: e.g. you'll find it hard to 'tile' your photographs unless you create a large overlap area. With 50mm/135 (or 35mm/APS-C), you can align your pictures at the edge and have no distortion present.

Another, perhaps silly, point: in early days, day-light was needed for most successful photographs, which means outdoor shooting, and usually longer distances to subjects, i.e. favoring a longer FL for more 'perfect' photographs.

Today, with the high-ISO camera ratings, indoor photography has become popular as well. Indoors, a 50mm/135 is just too narrow, and the 35mm/135 (24/APS-C) is a lot more practical to use, if a fast lens. This also has shifted the bias towards wider angle lenses.

But wider angle lenses make everything smaller, or add distortion if you get up closer. That was true then, and is still true now. For some therefore, 28mm/APS-C is the cut-off, and not 24/APS-C.

On APS-C, I find the 50mm FL: SEL35 (or the Sigma 30) to be the most 'forgiving' FL. The SEL50 is a nice FL if you have the distance, and the SEL24 is great for indoors, groups, and 'wider' view, such as architecture or landscape, but is not as dramatics as e.g. a 20mm or wider lens would be.

There is a reason the kit lenses span from 18 (or 16) to 50mm on APS-C, [28 (or 24) to 75 on 135 film], it is just the range you'll take most pictures at...

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