What Is 28mm Lens Good For

By | 20/10/2022
Hanoi, 2017
Hanoi, 2017 / Shot on Ricoh GR 2 at 28mm

Dear friend,

Every bit of early on 2017, my only camera is the Ricoh GR II, which has a fixed-focal 28mm lens.

I wanted to share my personal experiences shooting with a 28mm lens, later on shooting with a 35mm lens for almost six years.

1. I all the same recommend 35mm for most street photographers

Lansing, 2013 (shot on Leica MP + 35mm f/2 + Kodak Portra 400 film)

Commencement of all, I all the same recollect that a 35mm “full-frame equivalent” focal length is ideal for most street photographers. Why? Apparently the human heart sees around a 40mm perspective. Shooting 35mm gives usa a little more wideness than our natural perspective. I started off shooting street photography on a 50mm “total-frame equivalent” focal length (copying Henri Cartier-Bresson), but I found that in today’due south globe, 50mm is just as well tight and restrictive.

My theory is that the earth and streets were less crowded dorsum in the days of Henri Cartier-Bresson, and so a 50mm suited him for almost of his needs. And also when Henri Cartier-Bresson traveled to India (very crowded place) he shot nigh everything on a 35mm lens.

Shooting with a 28mm lens on a point-and-shoot camera is practically the same as shooting 35mm on a photographic camera with a viewfinder.


Well, when I’thousand shooting with a point and shoot camera, I extend my arms closer to my discipline. Therefore I tin can get closer to my subject with a 28mm lens, merely past extending my arm.

However when I’m shooting with a camera with a viewfinder, I need to bring up the camera directly to my face up. Therefore, I need to stand much closer to my subject field when shooting street photography with a 35mm lens.

2. Why did I commencement shooting 28mm?

Hanoi, 2016 eric kim street photography hanoi
Hanoi, 2016 (Shot on Ricoh GR Ii at 28mm)

For a long time, I kept my Ricoh GR II’due south function 2 button (fn2) to 28mm/35mm ingather mode. Which means, every time I clicked the ‘fn2’ button, the camera would ingather into a 35mm indicate-of-view.

I did this considering I was so used to the 35mm focal length, and constitute information technology a lot more than natural than shooting 28mm (the native focal length for the Ricoh GR II).

However I started to notice that the 35mm cropped focal length was
also close
for near of my photos. I wasn’t quite sure why this was the case. And in one case once again I figured it out— it is because I extended my arm when shooting street photography.

Therefore I started to embrace the normal 28mm focal length, and I’ve been having a lot of fun.

iii. The claiming of shooting 28mm in street photography

eric kim street photography tokyo-0000545
Tokyo, 2016 (Ricoh GR II + 28mm)

To start off, the 28mm is more challenging in street photography. Because you need to get closer to your subject, in club to fill the frame, and in gild for you to take less clutter on the edges of the frame.

I know for myself, I love a lot of the street photos from history shot on a wide-bending lens (around a 28mm lens). I beloved the broad-bending photos shot past Josef Koudelka in his ‘Gypsies’ book (shot on a film SLR and a 25mm lens), also as the edgy dynamic street photos of Garry Winogrand (who shot on a 28mm lens). I am also a big fan of Charlie Kirk’s photos, who shot all his work on a movie rangefinder and 28mm lens.

I recall one of the best means to
colorlessness in your photography is to constantly challenge yourself.

When I first started to shoot 28mm — it was very unnatural. I got a lot of baloney on the edges of the frame, which I wasn’t used to.

eric-kim-street-photography-portrait-ricohgr-2015-nyc-laughing-lady-5thave laughing lady
NYC, 2015 / Ricoh GR Ii

Non only that, only 28mm forced me to shoot really close to my subjects. I mean, really close. All of my street portraits as of late have been shot at 28mm, in macro style on the Ricoh GR 2, in P fashion, with the flash. The camera was probably xx centimeters away from the subjects when I shot those photos.

For typical ‘candid’ street photography, I recommend shooting at least one arm length abroad from your field of study, to have a dynamic, edgy, and interesting street photograph (at 28mm). That is usually .seven meters (also happens to be the minimum-focusing distance of the Leica and many rangefinders).

4. 28mm gives you more than depth in your street photography

Tokyo, 2016 (Ricoh GR II)

Ane of the biggest benefits of shooting with a 28mm lens is that you become more than depth of field. Meaning, more of your photos are abrupt and in-focus.

I think bokeh (shooting broad-open, having the blurry groundwork) is ane of the most overrated things in photography. It doesn’t take skill to take a photograph at f/ane.four and to simply blur out the groundwork. I think a peachy street photograph should accept an interesting subject and an interesting groundwork. Frequently (myself included) over-emphasize the subject in street photography, and condone the background. Shooting at f/8-f/xvi allows u.s.a. to have both the bailiwick and groundwork in-focus.

Shooting at f/8 with a 28mm lens means almost everything is in focus. Which is more challenging and hard. Because if y’all have a cluttered or distracting background, your photos won’t work.

Therefore information technology is a constant trip the light fantastic betwixt having a clear foreground, subject field, while having an interesting (however non over-cluttered) background.

5. Shoot head-on with a 28mm lens in street photography

NYC, 2016 (Ricoh GR II)

Furthermore, shooting with a 28mm lens ways that you have to shoot quite head-on to your subjects. If y’all shoot at 28mm from the side, the photos lack intimacy, and a dynamic energy. Therefore if you are shooting candid street photography (without permission) with a 28mm lens— substantially you need to virtually bump into people (caput on) if you want to make dynamic images.

half dozen. Pre-focus to 1.2 meters

Tokyo, 2016 (Ricoh GR II)

If yous are going to pre-focus and shoot street photography with a 28mm lens, I recommend 1.ii meters (nearly 2 arm lengths away) being a skilful default altitude. And if you shoot in discontinuity-priority mode at f/viii, at ISO 1600, you are pretty much guaranteed to get most of your frame sharp and in-focus.

As for me, on the Ricoh GR II (to keep things simple) I only shoot in “P” style (program mode, which automatically chooses your discontinuity and shutter speed), use center-point autofocus, and ISO 1600. Considering the Ricoh GR II has a 28mm focal length, nigh everything is always in focus. And because it is an APS-C crop sensor, I get i.6x the depth of field (compared to a full-frame photographic camera).

7. Just doesn’t 28mm brand people look ugly?

Tokyo, 2016

For me, I am not interested in taking flattering, model/studio portraits of people, with ‘creamy bokeh’ in the groundwork, for people to upload to Facebook. Rather, I am looking to make dynamic, engaging, and unusual photos that testify the soul of my field of study.

I’ve found that 28mm exaggerates facial features, and body parts. And I feel that shows more personality and soul in my subjects, than but shooting my subject with a DSLR and a telephoto lens, shot wide-open.

viii. Shoot from a depression angle with a 28mm lens to achieve the ‘superman issue’

Tokyo, 2016 (Ricoh GR Two, macro fashion focus on shoe)

I besides like shooting with a 28mm lens from a low angle, because it makes people look ‘larger than life.’ They call this the ‘superman effect’ — that information technology makes people wait taller, and their legs longer. This is what makes Tom Cruise (who is very short) look very tall in movies. And it also makes women’s legs look longer and sexier (if you’re shooting model photography).

Conversely — if you shoot with a 28mm lens or a wide-angle lens from a very high perspective looking down, you make people look smaller than usual. A good example is to see Eamon Doyle’southward piece of work.

9. Focus on the edges of your frame


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Tokyo, 2016 (Ricoh GR 2 / shot through clear umbrella with wink)

A practical tip of shooting 28mm — endeavour to get clean edges in your frame. Don’t focus on framing your photos by looking in the center of the frame. Rather, be obsessed with having good composition on the edges of your frame.

Don’t seek to have random poles, white garbage bags, or distracting faces on the edges of your frame.

Non only that, only if you’re photographing shapes like circles, rectangles, square, or triangles — brand sure the edges of your frame don’t cut off the edges of the shapes.

x. ‘Work the scene’ past shooting a lot of the same scene

Hanoi, 2016 (Ricoh GR Ii / Note the all-time photograph was the last photo)

Another tip — when shooting street photography with a 28mm lens, you lot’re non sure what you’re going to go until
you lot’ve shot the photograph. Therefore, learn how to ‘piece of work the scene’ and take a lot of photos of your subject.

Shoot crouching down, taking a step left, a step right. Take a step closer. Tippy-toe and shoot from a higher bending. Alternate between horizontal and vertical. ‘Work the scene’, and then when you go home, choose your best photos.

eleven. Get closer

Kyoto, 2016 (Ricoh GR Ii)

With a 28mm lens, you demand to get actually close to make adept street photographs. Therefore, when in doubt, take a pace closer.

I accept a practice of not cropping my photos in one case I’ve shot them. This practice has helped me build field of study to make meliorate compositions and framing.

So when I’m shooting street photography with a 28mm lens, I tend to however be too far away. Therefore I will take a photo, have a step closer, take a photo, take a step closer, so forth — until I tin can’t become any closer.

12. Add layers

Tokyo, 2016 (Ricoh GR II)

One of the fun things about the 28mm lens is the ability for you lot to add more layers in your photographs.

If yous want more layered street photos with the 28mm, I recommend pre-focusing to the thing furthest in the groundwork. For instance, pre-focus your camera to well-nigh 5 meters, and then intentionally try to add together stuff in the foreground, to add more depth to your photos.

13. Await for leading lines

New Orleans, 2015 (Ricoh GR II)

As well when shooting street photography on the 28mm lens, crouch down low, and put your subject area in-between skyscrapers or buildings, to give them practiced leading lines.

Leading lines act like arrows, that point directly to your subject. Which makes it easier for your viewers to identify your subject. Not only that, but it emphasizes the form and composition of your street photos.

14. Subtract from the frame

You need to think of yourself like a sculptor. A sculptor makes a statue past
from the stone.

Similarly as a street photographer, y’all want to always decrease from your frame. When yous’re shooting, actively cut abroad from the frame. Call up of how you lot tin continue to cut away from the frame, until yous are left only with what is essential.

15. Don’t always middle your subject area

Tokyo, 2016 (Ricoh GR Ii)

I tend to like to heart my subjects in my street photos; simply know that if you lot want more dynamic framing, yous shouldn’t middle your subject.

Rather, put your field of study somewhere in the left or the right side of the frame.

By putting your subject to the left or correct side of the frame, y’all create more dynamic frames. Not only that, but the benefit of shooting street photography on a 28mm lens is that yous don’t have to signal your camera directly at someone to have them exist included in the frame.

17. Avoid heart contact

SF, 2016 (Ricoh GR II)

One technique I like to practise when shooting with the 28mm lens is to take photos of someone, go along taking photos, while getting closer, and avoiding eye contact. This is one of the best ways to forbid people from thinking you took their photo.

And because the 28mm lens is and then wide, your subject field will be included in the frame even though you don’t indicate the camera directly at them.

18. 28mm lenses are usually cheaper, lighter, and smaller

Downtown LA, 2015 (Ricoh GR 2)

One of the good thing almost 28mm lenses is that they tend to exist cheaper than their 35mm and 50mm counter-parts.

Some other benefit of the 28mm lens is that it tends to exist smaller, more compact, and lighter. For example, the 28mm lens allows the Ricoh GR II to be so minor and compact. Similarly, the Fujiflm x70 also has a 28mm f/two.8 lens, which fits the Fujifilm x100T sensor in a tiny torso.

Even the Leica Q is able to achieve having a full-frame sensor in a compact body because of the 28mm focal length.

xix. Don’t buy expensive 28mm lenses

Downtown LA, 2016 (Ricoh GR II)

A practical slice of advice — if yous desire to shoot street photography on a 28mm lens, don’t purchase expensive 28mm lenses that shoot at f/1.4, f/1.8, or f/two. These “fast” 28mm lenses tend to exist too large and too heavy.

The aforementioned goes with any lens for street photography. F/2.8 is more than enough for whatsoever street photography lens. Because well-nigh of the fourth dimension when we’re shooting street photography, nosotros are going to be shooting (mostly) f/8-f/16 anyways.

20. There is no ‘best’ lens for street photography

Melbourne, 2016 (Ricoh GR 2)

There is no best street photography lens. Each person has their own style and vision.

Some of usa prefer 35mm, some adopt 28mm, and some prefer 50mm, or some prefer 200mm.

Non every shoe fits every foot. And not every lens fits every photographer.

My practical suggestion is whatsoever focal length you employ, try to stick with it for at least a year. This will help you discover the truthful essence of each focal length. You volition larn how to compose and frame much better, without bringing upwardly your camera to your eye. You will internalize the focal length, and become a better photographer— because you lot tin compose intuitively.


Learn more than:
Street Photography 101 >

Source: https://erickimphotography.com/blog/28mm/