The 50mm prime, A.K.A the nifty fifty, a lens that many photographers would say is a must-have – but why? Perhaps it’s the fact that it is a lens with endless attributes, be it the insanely wide apertures of 1.8, 1.4 or 1.2, the crisp sharp focus or the fact that it’s a very affordable lens (or at least it can be).
I’ve had my nifty fifty for a of couple years now so I think I am in a good position to offer a well balanced opinion of it. I have the Canon EF 50mm 1.8 Lens currently £97.99 on Amazon – which may not seem cheap to some, but anyone into lenses will know that this is crazy crazy cheap, just for comparison, the Sigma art 50mm 1.4 is around £600. First of all, and from the price comparison it will probably be clear – this isn’t the best lens out there, in terms of build quality or glass. Paying less than £100 for any lens means it’s not going to be the best, but if you realise that, you’ll quickly fall in love with this lens.
This is a small lens, only 160g, a lens that you can put in your pocket for a trip out, a flight or a bike ride, you don’t need some fancy camera bag, just a pocket. Which also makes it the perfect lens to travel with, it won’t attract any unwanted attention, it won’t take up much space in your bag, it’s not going to be the end of the world if you lose it or it gets damaged, and it can take a huge variety of shots.
With such wide apertures, these lenses are excellent at isolating a subject from the background which instantly makes them amazing lenses for portraits. With such a large aperture you need to be careful though, especially with your subject close up as the depth of focus is so shallow it’s easy to miss what you’re trying to focus on (which should be the eyes for portraits as it produces a connection with your subject).
A portrait from a trip to the Lakes a couple of years ago
Another great use of the 50mm is animals, albeit not for wild animals (well at least not most wild animals) as a 50mm focal length is far from ideal for wild animals. But for pets and domesticated animals, it is a fantastic lens, isolating your subject and giving some super sharp images.
Unfortunately not my dog, but beautiful all the same
Not my horse either, but still beautiful
Finally, landscapes, although it’s a prime lens, which requires a bit more thought in respect to composition, it can give some beautiful landscape images, just pushing the f number up to around 9(ish) gives much better settings for landscape shots.
One of my favourite shots I've taken with the 50mm
A landscape shot from the same Lakes trip as the portrait
So overall, I do think that the reputation of being a 'must-have' lens that the 50mm has is very well deserved and I will definitely be using it a lot in the near future.
Thanks for reading,