Normal Human Perspective

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david b

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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?
 

lee

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

lee\c
 

Leon

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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.
 

Poco

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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.
 

pierre

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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.
 

Thilo Schmid

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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.
 

harveyje

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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.
 

Flotsam

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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 :blink: )

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.
 

bjorke

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Simple, dopey rule of thumb:
  • 50mm - one eye open
  • 35mm both eyesopen
I spent a couple of weeks years ago training myself to know the lens field "naturally" -- that is, to look at something without finder or camera and think "from here that part of my visual field fits an 85mm" (or alternatively, "to get this shot with the lens I have mounted, I'll need to stand over... there").

It wasn't hard, and is a skill that has stuck and served me well. Kind of like musical pitch training, I guess.
 
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It depends with lense your focusing through. at the time That is the closest to your human eye the lenses left in your camera are further and the ones left at homes are the firthest from the human eye. unless someone at home is standing closer to those lenses than you are to yours.
 

fingel

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This post made me think about the lenses I find my self using most of the time and it was interesting to me. For 35mm I tend to use the 85mm the most, for medium format I use the 80mm, and for 4x5 I use the 105mm or 135mm most. I just thought it was interesting that the larger my film format gets, the wider my lens choice gets, but that they stay between the 80mm to 135mm range for the most part.

Does anyone else find themself doing this when switching between film formats?

Neal, I think you might be on to something. :smile:
 

BobF

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fingel - I tend to much the same as you (85mm on 35, 105mm on 6x6, and 125mm on 4x5). I have always felt that I do it because of what I mostly shoot with each format. More people with 35mm and more scenics with 4x5. The 105mm on 6x6 just cause it is my best lens in that format.

Bob
 

Flotsam

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Fingel,
That really is an interesting observation.
 

clay

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I've always heard it said that the 50-60mm lens (all 35mm format) approximates the part of vision that you mentally 'focus' or concentrate on, the 35mm lens approximates what you just 'see' in a glance, and the 21-24mm is about what your visual field will cover with peripheral vision. Personally, if you held a gun to my head and told me I could have only one lens (and my wife would probably reward you for this) I would carry a fast 35mm lens.
 
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BobF said:
fingel - I tend to much the same as you (85mm on 35, 105mm on 6x6, and 125mm on 4x5). I have always felt that I do it because of what I mostly shoot with each format. More people with 35mm and more scenics with 4x5. The 105mm on 6x6 just cause it is my best lens in that format.

Bob

So there's someone else like this! Actually, I think this is probably how it is for a lot of people. On 35mm, I sort of noodle between 50mm and 85mm. On 645 it's 80mm. 6x7, it's 180mm. 4x5, it's 210mm. 8x10, it's 240mm. Each lens just seems to be most appropriate to how I use and see with each particular format. I'll go ahead and take this as further indication that there is no one particiular focal length lens that corresponds most to human vision. Others have provided plenty of scientific-type evidence. The subjective evidence is just as compelling, though. My ultimate conclusion? It doesn't matter! Exactly what you wanted to hear, I'm sure! XD
 

Donald Miller

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I've always found so called "normal" lenses to be boring as well. My preferred lens was 35 mm when I used 35 mm. It was 50 mm with 645. It is 120 with 4X5 and 210 with 8X10. There was a time that I went to the short telephoto route but that only lasted a short while.
 

Tom Hoskinson

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I find a 55mm on the 6x12 format "about right."
 

victor

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i think that any one will give here a very good argument why this or that focal is normal or normal to him, and that is fine.
we should not forget, that though many scientific reasons can be found for calling one or other focal normal - in practice - the normality is or mental disposition. almost every lense which is not extrimly wide or extrimly long will give some character of "normality".
 

benjiboy

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Lenses and the human eye

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

lee\c
I believe the nearest photographic lens to render natural perspective ( a standard lens for 35mm) would have a focal length of about 45mm, the diagonal measurement of the 24x36 dimentions of a 35mm negative.
 

Gerald Koch

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According to an article that I read the closest approximation to the perspective seen by the human eye is achieved by Minox 8x11 format cameras.
 
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Per a previous poster... for portraiture an Hispanic would find the 28mm "normal" while an Asian may find it to be a 200mm :smile: It's all about personal space (all said in good humour... hmm, I think my personal portraiture lens perspective lies in the 85mm range)
 
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