A new perspective: 35mm

Over the past year and a half, I have almost exclusively shot with a digital version of the Ricoh GR. For those that are unfamiliar with this family of cameras, they are small compacts with excellent ergonomics and outstanding optics in the form of a 28mm fixed lens. As a result of daily use, I have become very familiar with the wide field of view.

Fellow street and fashion photographer Rich Fish, suggested I try something new, shooting at a focal length of 35mm. Favoured by many street photographers due to it's more natural field of view, it's a lens that I have always wanted to try but I've never owned it. The new Ricoh GR has options to crop the frame in camera to 35mm or 47mm, at the expense of losing resolution with each step. Even though I purchased the camera a few months ago, I have never found myself really testing this feature. I wanted to use the camera as it was initially designed and I like shooting wider as it allows the capture of additional details that add context to a scene.

That day, Jen and I were heading to the Metrocentre, Gateshead for a bit of shopping. With it being a bright, albeit windy Saturday, I knew that there would be no shortage of people to photograph. It was going to be ideal to experiment with the 35mm lens setup. I usually use an optical viewfinder attached to the hotshoe but as I don't have one with 35mm framelines, I went without and used the screen to frame shots.

The first thing that I noticed about the focal length was how it was possible to isolate the subject within the frame without having to get so close and risking wide angle distortion. Getting close with the 28mm isn't unusual for me and is almost a habit, so I often found myself having to take a step backwards from the scene in order to accommodate the subject matter.

Although 7mm does not sound that much, the difference it makes it vast. Whilst one of the benefits of shooting wider is that it can include more context, it's downside is that the viewer is perhaps required to spend more time dissecting the scene, figuring out the story and what the focal point is. The tighter 35mm guides the viewer to the subject more readily which helps me to convey my intention.

There were still times during the day where I would switch back to 28mm because it was better suited to the scene, but I have not included any of those images here. It might take me a while to get used to the 35mm focal length but I look forward to the challenges it brings. Perhaps I'll end up favouring the 35mm to the 28mm, who knows. I'm excited in knowing that if I ever do tire from either of those focal lengths, I'll still have the option of 47mm. Although I feel like it wouldn't have hurt to round it up to the full 50...