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What’s the Perfect Focal Length for Street Photography, 28mm or 35mm?

Street photographers have had a wealth of great lenses across many different systems to choose from over the years. Two of the most common lenses available for this are 28mm and 35mm lenses, often the preferred tool for many. But, which one is better?

The answer is, as it often is in photography, “it depends.” Coming at you from street photographer and YouTuber Doriyan Coleman, he takes a look at the 28mm focal length and the 35mm focal length and how they’ve affected his street photography.

Much of what he talks about comes down to your comfort level as a photographer. The wider the lens, the closer you have to be to your subjects, and sometimes, that means with a 28mm lens, you’re really invading someone’s personal space, whereas with a 35mm, that may not be the case. Coleman talks about how you can easily layer a scene with a 28mm lens, but that it also makes things difficult to compose. He noted that he himself often cropped in on the wider images shot with a 35mm because such an already wide lens can be hard to create clean compositions with, let alone when you’re going 7mm wider. Furthermore, if you’re in an area that’s not a densely populated city, getting interesting backgrounds and compositions can be very difficult with such a wide focal length. There’s also some value in having a lens where people might not notice you versus one where they definitely will, depending on what you’re going for.

We know where I stand on the issue. For me, 40mm is that “Goldilocks” focal length, whether that’s achieved through an equivalent focal length on a Micro Four Thirds camera (via Panasonic’s excellent Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 II ASPH. lens or on a full frame with something like the sadly discontinued Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Lens). I’ve forced myself over the years to love my 50mm, but it’s just a bit too tight, even on a full frame body.

Coleman doesn’t make a solid recommendation, because for each person, lens selection is a very personal choice. What lens do you prefer to use for street photography? Leave your thoughts and photos in the comments below.

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