28mm & 35mm, do they mean anything or are they just numbers?


28mm & 35mm – These two focal lengths had been one of the most searched items on the net. Same says the 35mm is better for portrait, close-up type of photography, some says the 28mm is wider can include a lot more background while capturing your desired subject(s). While they both hold the truth, and more can be listed on and on. I’d like to explain what they really mean in my photography.

As a user of both, all I care for is how my photo is going to turn out. Whether it’s a beautiful landscape scenery or an interesting-looking stranger, all we care for is the details and ways to capture the image. It can be the lighting, perspective, height elevation and other aesthetic properties. Either you’re stuck with a focal length or always deciding which to go for. Of course all the statement above are based on my own experience.

The location you shoot photo in plays an important role to deciding which focal length you accustomed to. That is, in my case; streets of Hong Kong are narrow. That 7mm difference translates to about 2 human footsteps difference on subjects that are let say approximately 3 meters away. I’d not argue on whether the two steps can help the shooter to become invisible. I only think about how am I going to capture the image if space is scarce in the given situation. It can be how we orient our composition (portrait/landscape), capturing full body, upper torso, or just a head shot, anything…

With 28mm, images would display a fuller, dramatic feel. More information can be captured.

With 35mm, subjects on images are more fulfilling and making subjects to be more compelling.

I think the correct use of distance (footwork) can greatly determine the outcome of our images. From my observation, 28mm is more forgiving in placement as well as composition; that encompasses height and perspective. The 35mm is a lot more prone to your adjustment in height and angle (yes, I mean bending your back, knees). In other words, it’s ALL ABOUT how the photographer adjusting their distance and positioning. To me they are just numbers, body adjustment while shooting is all I concern.

So it’s clear to me if we fail to capture images the way we want, it’s always us to blame. Not the lens, nor the camera. In order to get to know about a focal length (especially) in street photography, It’s best to shoot with one focal length even we struggle and frustrate. Personally I’d been struggling for days or weeks I don’t even remember, it’s perfectly normal even for a slow learner like me. I know i’d get there by spending more time and devotion with it. Just do not quit. Thankfully, I see fine results from time to time. The more we use, the better we get!

Besides the 35/36mm. I’m appreciating the performance at night with my X2. High ISO Images are not as rough as what comes out of the GRD. That’s a huge thumb up to my daily shoot after work.

7 thoughts on “28mm & 35mm, do they mean anything or are they just numbers?

  1. a good idea is to add a 35mm crop on a 28mm focal length camera. lets say the future large sensor GRD, if the little change of ability to blur the background does not bother people.

  2. Maybe I didn’t explain myself very clearly. What I said is exactly how the brand new Sony RX1 gets both 35mm and 50mm on its prominent FF sensor.

    1. the thing is Ricoh won’t sacrifice the reason to have a small sensor camera. I found the small sensor to be somehow practical to not blur that much background. It’s better for the snap focus to function. And even it’s misfocused, results won’t be that bad.

      I do not want to see a bigger sensor that leads to a slower focusing speed on the grd. Ricoh might be able to engineer something that works and won’t compromise on the speed 🙂

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