Since I started photography I haven’t stopped hearing about the 50mm, also known as the “nifty fifty” or the “fantastic plastic” and for good reason. It’s been in pretty much every photographer’s kit bag somewhere along the line – be it an f/1.8, f/1.4 or an f/1.2. 

Mirrorless comes into the fold

It’s been quite a pleasure to watch the development of Canon’s R Series mirrorless cameras and, having experienced these cameras myself, I can honestly say that I haven’t enjoyed a camera as much since my first 5D Mk III. Some photographers are reluctant to switch from DSLR to mirrorless because they have EF lenses but, luckily, Canon includes a free EF-mount adaptor with every R-series mirrorless camera which makes switching from one system to another so much easier.

Along with this adaptor, Canon has launched a strong variety of RF lenses that will knock your wallet and your expectations out of the park. From the incredibly new designed RF 70-200mm and the dangerously sharp RF 50mm f/1.2 through to the straight-up showboating of the RF 28-70mm f/2 (although these lenses come with a heavy price tag), they dazzle with stellar sharpness. Canon also slipped in an RF 35mm f/1.8 STM with a more humble price tag. Now, these lenses haven’t really been flying off the shelves, but I believe that they should be and here’s why:

Photograph of Sandton high-rise buildings using Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 Lens by Gunther Swart
Photograph of woman in blue dress in Menlyn Maine Pretoria using Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 Lens by Gunther Swart
Photograph of woman in blue dress in Menlyn Maine Pretoria using Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 Lens by Gunther Swart

And so do Canon EF lenses

I used to own 24-70mm and 70-200mm lenses back when EF lenses were still cool (I’m joking, they’re still cool!). I eventually traded the 24-70mm for a prime lens – to push myself, to frustrate myself and to challenge myself. The choices were 50 mm, 35mm or 24mm. 

Now the 50mm seems to be on everybody’s mind as the go-to prime – it’s not too tight like the 85mm and not too wide like the 24mm. It was just right… Well, that was until I discovered the wonderful world of the 35mm. On a full-frame camera, the 35mm offers you a more journalistic look and feel. There truly is a little more of the story around your subject when shooting portraits. A little tighter on the landscapes and cityscapes, a little more accurate to what it actually looked like when you were standing there, but most of all, it’s just such a fun lens.

It doesn’t come without its niggles as Coach Divvy would say of coaching the springboks. I had to get used to the 35mm and learn how to master it to achieve the best results. This was the challenging part I was referring to earlier. You see, when shooting portraits with a 35mm, you don’t want to get too close to your subject because of distortion, but when you keep the right distance between you and your subject the lens just absolutely pulls you in.

Photograph of Times Square in Menlyn using Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 Lens by Gunther Swart

The benefits of shooting with the RF 35mm

What I have found with the RF 35mm is that the focus is really accurate and fast in low light conditions and, along with the focusing system of the R, it is such a delight in terms of weight.

The RF 35mm weighs in at half that of the Sigma 35mm Art (and that’s not even factoring in the adaptor). Essentially, you save carrying around the weight equivalent of a small tub of margarine, making it so much lighter and easier to travel with.

A strange thing also happens when you stop storing your gear in a cupboard and start carrying it around more often – you start taking more photos! When you start taking more photos and you have to give it a little extra thought because you’re using a prime, you end up getting better at this photography thing. 

For a long time, I have been a die-hard fan of the 35mm Sigma Art series, but at half the price and half the weight, the Canon RF 35mm seems like more value for money.

Photograph of woman in black in elevator using Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 Lens by Gunther Swart

My conclusion is that if you like travelling light, challenging yourself and treating yourself to amazing results, then this lens is definitely for you.