Lenses work in a very similar way to the human eye. However, not all lenses have an angle of view that is similar to the human eye. The normal lens aims to capture a shot in a way that is most similar to how we see the world. So what is a normal lens exactly? In this article, we’ll take a look at what defines a normal lens, when and why to use one, and how it differs from other lenses.

What is a normal lens?

First, let’s define normal lens

Different types of camera lenses are defined by their focal length. This focal length has visual effects that are used in cinematography to tell a story. So what is the focal length of a normal lens and what are its effects? Let’s look at the normal lens definition to find out.

NORMAL LENS DEFINITION

What is a normal lens?

A normal lens, also called a standard lens, is a lens with a focal length between 35mm to 50mm. The focal length of standard lenses are most similar to how the human eye sees the world. Cinematographers often use normal lenses for more grounded, naturalistic cinematography. Normal lenses can vary depending on what format is being used. Normal lenses are generally equal to the length of the diagonal of a digital camera’s sensor or the film format.

What is a normal lens used for?

  • Less stylized cinematography
  • To give a shot a naturalistic look
  • Matching the perspective of the human eye

The standard lens is just one of many lens types, each with their own storytelling value. Before we get much further, take a second and download our free E-book: The Ultimate Guide to Camera Lenses. This will give you the full range of variety in camera lenses and how they each play a part.

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Normal lens uses            

Naturalism of a standard lens

There are various examples of films that have been shot entirely or almost entirely on a single standard lens. Why? Standard lenses are some of the best lens for creating a naturalistic perspective. The normal lens mm range and angle of view is most similar to the angle of view of the human eye.

In this video, cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel breaks down the simple reasons why he chose to use a normal lens for a romantic scene in the film Bohemian Rhapsody

Normal lens uses example

To recap, standard lenses are best used for shots that aim to replicate the natural perspective of the human eye. The less stylized look of a standard lens can also give a shot a sense of simplicity and rawness. But what is a normal lens better for than other types of lenses? Let’s take a look.

What is a normal lens used for?

Wide angle lens vs normal lens

Normal lenses may look more natural than wide angle lenses, but they fall short in creating varying or distorted perspectives that can be used to visually tell a story.

Wide angle lenses provide a wider angle of view than a standard lens that is great for capturing wide shots like this one from Blade Runner 2049.

Wide angle lens vs normal lens

Wide angle lens vs normal lens

Compared to a wide angle lens, what is a normal lens better at doing? Standard lenses have a narrower angle of view that can restrict what you fit within a frame, which can be tough when shooting in small spaces. 

Although they may produce tighter shots, they capture subjects in a more natural way like in this shot from Call Me By Your Name.

Wide angle lens vs normal lens example

Wide angle lens vs normal lens example

Both of these shot examples are of multiple subjects within a room. But visually they are very different. Choosing between a normal lens and wide angle lens will depend on your compositional choices.

Take a look at this comparison of the same shot taken with a wide, normal, and telephoto lens. All are interesting for their own reasons, it just depends on what you desire in your composition.

Telephoto lens vs normal lens vs wide angle

Telephoto lens vs normal lens vs wide angle

You can see that wide angle lenses are great at capturing environment and settings. The naturalistic look of a standard lens is great for compositions that focus on characters.

UP NEXT

How to use a wide angle lens?

If you are still on the fence about whether to use a normal lens or wide angle lens, you’ll need to learn more about the wide lens to make your decision. In our next article, we analyze what defines a wide angle lens and when to use one using some classic examples in film.

Up Next: Wide angle lenses →
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