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  1. #1
    david b's Avatar
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    I know this is a silly, elementary question but I have to settle a bet.

    What lens in 35mm format, gives a perspective closest to the human eye?
    Is it a 50mm lens, 35mm lens or something else?

  2. #2
    lee
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    I have always heard that the 35 mm lens is the one closest to the human eye.

    lee\c

  3. #3
    Leon's Avatar
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    i have always heard that 35mm (on SLR) is roughly the human eye perspective, but that isnt really the case .... I was reading some photo book - cant remember which one now - which talks about this at some length. Essentially it said that we have an almost 180 deg field of vision (try looking forward, with your fingers about a foot infront of your eyes, then mover them slowly following a semicircle movement towards your ears, you'll be amazed at how far they go before they dissappear out of sight) and extremely shallow DOF with incredible macro and telephoto focusing abilities - all changing and processing at split seconds. No lens will ever be able to replicate that.

  4. #4

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    I'm going to buck the trend here and say the perceptual equivalent of human vision is best approximated by a slightly long lens ...maybe 80mm?

    As has been said, the degree of critical sharp focus of the eyes is very narrow and that's why they always flit about to create a collective focused impression of a scene. But there's a limit to the the degree we shift the eyes before the natural inclination is to move the head. I think that (disinclination to move the head) defines the distance from which we normally view photos and, for me, translates into a slightly long perspective of the actual scene.

  5. #5

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    I don't mean to sound patronizing if you already know this, but a lot of people don't.

    There is no lens that gives a perspective closest to the human eye. It's not focal length that determines perspective, but rather the distance from the lens to the subject. From whatever distance you are, changing focal length only crops the picture (ie. the angle of view changes). That being said, photographers typically are at certain distances from certain given subjects. The best example is a portrait of someone. The most natural perspective for a head shot from a good working distance is from an 85mm lens to 105mm lens (for a head to a head-and-shoulders shot). For this reason, 85mm has long been called "the lens of natural perspective". If you use a 35mm or even a 50mm lens for the same exact same shot, you will have to be closer to the head, and because you are closer, there will be apparent distortion (because the lens is closer to the nose than it is to the ears, and the closer you get, the more that difference is emphasized by the lens). But if you stay at the same distance, you get exactly the same perspective (the proportions of the head) as with the 85mm lens, except now the head shot becomes a head and torso shot (you have in effect just "cropped" the picture differently).

    On the other hand, for many urban or cityscape shots, a 35mm might give the most "natural" perspective. In this case, most of the subject is farther away than someone's head in a portrait would be. Human vision typically has a very wide field of vision (roughly comparable to wider than a 28mm lens even), but, our actual focus is much more limited. Even though we see wide, we concentrate roughly on what an 85mm lens would see - hence, once again, "the lens of natural perspective".

    The easiest way to illustrate this concept of distance determining perspective and focal length determining cropping is to use a zoom that goes from wide (28mm) to long. Stand at a given point, focus on medium distant subject, and vary the focal length. You will see that this does not change the perspective at all (the size relationship between objects that are not on the same plane). It only crops the picture more as you go up in focal length. This is because your distance to the subject has not changed.

  6. #6

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    This Question cannot be answered with a simple focal length.

    Fist of all: the visual field is an individual characteristic which varies from human to human. The outer visual field goes to ~95° whereas the inner visual field is limited by the nose to ~55°. The lower visual field is also larger than the upper: 70° vs. 60°. Sharp vision, however, is limited to a very small angle: less than 8°

    The corena of the eye has ~43 dioptry, the lens 19-33 dioptry, depending on where you focus. The optical system results in 65 dioptry for a normal sighted and infinity. This equals a focal length of ~15mm. The size of the yellow spot (~2mm) can be viewed as the “film format size” of the human eye. This calculates to 7-8° angle of view, corresponding to a focal length of more than 300mm for 35mm-film(!)

    Human vision, however, is not determined by the characteristics of the eye alone. The brain does a lot of “image processing” to enhance the poor performance of the human eye - compared to a photographic lens. A scene is usually “scanned” by the eyes and “stiched” in the brain.

    Apart from that: a rule like “35mm focal length for 35mm film gives a perspective closest to the human vision” can only be valid (if at all) for a certain print size and a certain viewing distance.

  7. #7

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    63mm

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    I once read an interesting article comparing focal length to typical architecture paintings which found that most paintings approximated the field of view of a 105mm lens. While this has nothing to do with the actual perspective it does indicate how we tend to look at things.
    John Harvey
    Colorado Springs, CO
    harveyje@usa.net

  9. #9
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    Many year ago, I saw an article in a magazine where they had returned to several sites in Europe that had been painted by artists. They brought the paintings and tried to choose a lens that matched the perspective and the size relationships between foreground, middle distance and far objects in the paintings. The results were surprising to me. They found that a 135mm lens consistantly matched the perspectives observed in the paintings. Of course, this wouldn't give anywhere near the angle of view of a pair of human eyes. (unless you have severe tunnel vision )

    Since reading that, I have wondered whether a 135mm lens on a larger format camera would give both the perspective and the approximate angle of the human eye.
    That is called grain. It is supposed to be there.
    =Neal W.=

  10. #10
    Juraj Kovacik's Avatar
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    for me 50 mm looks more "naturaly" then 35 ar 80. but it's only about feeling

    jk

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