It's been a while since I told anyone how much I love the Nikon 35mm lens. There's a Sigma 35mm that also gets very high praise. Perhaps some even better than the Nikon. However, I'm still quite happy with this little prime.
Working With The F/1.4 Prime Lens
I didn't know how much I would enjoy this lens when I bought it, but it's been a great companion. For others like me who enjoy shooting at Walt Disney World, it's nearly perfect by itself for most of the scenes. 35mm seems to be the right focal length to push in on your subject and still have a good environment behind it.
Here's an example.
The short focal length makes it easy to hand hold in low light, and the wide f/1.4 aperture lets you suck up more of that light.
Of course, you aren't going to get outstanding bokeh separation from a short focal length, as you can see above. At least, not with an environmental shot. However, that changes dramatically when you push in really close, like with this gargoyle below:
How To Use The Nikon 35mm Lens
Why bother with a prime lens when you have the same focal length covered with a zoom? Most people will tell you that it's because of the wider aperture. In some cases, that's true. You want the bokeh or you need the low light support. That's what I first thought while using this lens, taking it out only on occasion.
I've since decided that, while not entirely wrong, there's more to shooting with the Nikon 35mm lens than just bokeh or grabbing more light. It's an exercise in creative composition.
If you ever heard the saying, “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”, then try applying that logic to your photography. Put a limit on yourself. Venture out and just shoot at one focal length for a day. Don't bring another lens.
It's kind of hard to try this exercise with a zoom lens. The temptation is too great to quickly change the focal length and get a shot. However, getting a shot isn't the point of the exercise.
First, you learn to work your compositions differently when you're limited to a single focal length. From that experience, you force your creative mind to work outside of your comfort zone. With some patience and practice, you realize that you have other creative options that you may not experience if you zoom all the time.
Second, it forces you to let some shots go. Maybe you can't get close enough. Even better, maybe you realize the shot just isn't that good. I've found myself taking shots with a zoom lens that ultimately weren't worth having. Prime lenses can help you become more selective about your shots, which in turn helps you realize a good shot when you see one.
No more spray and pray or zooming until it hurts. Playing with a short prime like the Nikon 35mm lens can enhance your critical thinking skills while you're out shooting.
Give it a try.