When would you use a 50mm lens?

A 50mm prime lens (also called a fixed focal length lens) is a must-have piece of equipment for anyone starting out in photography. It’s versatile, affordable and great for shooting all types of photos. In this blog, I will outline the benefits of a 50mm lens and why you should invest in one.

Many of the leading camera manufacturers have different types of 50mm lenses, but the one I recommend is the basic, entry-level 50mm F1.8 lens. This will give you a noticeable upgrade in image quality over kit lenses and standard zoom lenses. Canon and Nikon both produce 50mm lenses and they are the cheapest in their lens ranges.

It doesn’t matter if you shoot Canon, Nikon, Sony or any other camera brand, the fact is, every photographer should own a 50mm lens! The amazing thing about a 50mm prime lens is that it’s incredibly versatile! It is the most popular among portrait photographers, wedding professionals, and street/documentary artists. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.

This 50mm prime lens has so many perks that it’s easy to see why most professionals reach for this lens first. It’s not too wide, or too long, meaning you can use it in cramped spaces (like a studio, or narrow street), or back up to get those killer wide shots of buildings and landscapes.

Do you notice that despite having a DSLR, your images kind of look like ‘snaps’? Well, maybe it’s time you tried a 50 mm prime lens. You may ask what is a 50 mm lens good for?. In this article, we are going to run through what a 50 mm standard lens is, and how it is awesome.

50MM Lens Importance

You’ve got yourself a good DSLR or mirrorless camera, which probably came with a zoom kit lens.

And while that lens is great for learning the ropes, at some point, you’ll want to invest in a higher-quality lens that gets you sharper images (and challenges you to learn more about utilising your camera and lens to take better photos).

The question is, what lens should be the first one you buy? Ask a lot of photographers, and they’ll say a 50mm lens.

Why You Need a 50MM Lens

The 50mm fixed focal length is a very versatile range. This is especially true when used on full-frame camera bodies like the full-frame D800 or the full-frame Mark III. In a full-frame camera, the 50mm yields a “normal” perspective and field of view similar to what we see from our very own eyes, which make it a great lens for photojournalists.

It’s for this reason that on my most recent trip to Paris and Italy it was one of the 2 lenses I took with me, for a whole 10 days! It’s a great “walk-around” lens, but also can be great for portraits too.

On a wedding day, it is also great for getting ready shots, especially when we have to shoot at 1.4 to help blur out messy getting ready rooms! The compression that you get really starts to be apparent with this lens, which is really great considering the price. At wide apertures, you can get that creamy blur that makes photos look high end!

Another HUGE perk is that this lens is known for being great in low light scenarios! This comes in handy during low light indoor settings or after the sun has gone down on a portrait shoot!

Some types of photography where you can easily use a 50mm lens: Portraits, Weddings, Documentary/Lifestyle, Street Photography, Travel, Newborn, Studio Photography, and Landscapes! Choosing the right wedding photographer in Melbourne to capture every moment on your wedding day.

They’re Inexpensive

For most of us, the budget is going to be the primary concern when it comes to buying photography gear.

Fortunately, there are plenty of 50mm lens options that won’t break the bank. A great place to start is with a 50mm f/1.8 lens. These are available for just about every brand of camera, including Canon and Nikon, and if you buy used, you save even more money. Speaking of buying used, you can find higher-end 50mm lenses, like a 50mm f/1.4 or a 50mm f/1.2 for a great price too. In fact, with such large apertures, these are among the best 50mm lenses you can buy. That means you can get even more bang for your buck and add a top-notch lens to your camera bag without breaking the bank.

They’re Small

When would you use a 50mm lens?

The kit lens that came with your camera isn’t exactly huge, but many 50mm lenses are much more compact than even the kit lens. That compactness is nice for situations in which you can’t really wield a large lens. Street photography comes to mind as a great situation for a 50mm lens because it allows you to move amongst the crowd with greater ease. Many 50mm lenses are also lightweight, especially the f/1.8 version. The faster 50mm lenses like the f/1.2 and f/1.4 are heavier because of their construction, but even so, they are still pretty svelte and allow you to maneuver your camera with great ease.

They’re Sharp

The great thing about prime lenses like the 50mm is that they have fewer internal elements than a zoom lens. With fewer elements inside the lens, that means that they can take photos that are sharper and clearer. If you were to compare an image taken with a 50mm lens side-by-side with an image taken with a kit zoom lens, you’d see a marked difference in the sharpness. For example, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART lens shown above is one of the sharpest lenses available today. Granted, it’s a higher-end, more expensive 50mm lens, but even entry-level 50mm lenses like the Canon 50mm f/1.8 II offer excellent sharpness.

Beyond that, 50mm lenses often have better colour rendition and less chromatic aberration than kit lenses, so you not only get sharper photos but ones with more accurate colours too.

They’re Versatile

A 50mm lens is such a great addition to your camera bag because it’s a versatile piece of glass. Start the day by taking landscape photos at sunrise. Move to your backyard in the late morning to take photos of the kids. Head to the city in the afternoon for architecture photos. The point is that it is a great walk around or travel lens because it can help you photograph anything from your dog to mountains to macro subjects and everything in between. When it comes to adding accessories to your camera bag that pack a punch, it’s hard to beat a 50mm lens.

They Work on Full Frame and Crop Sensor Cameras

Another aspect of the versatility of 50mm lenses is that many of them work on both full-frame and crop sensor cameras. For example, if you started out shooting with a Canon T3i and decide to upgrade to a Canon EOS 6D, you don’t have to buy a new lens. Better still, many camera manufacturers continue to use the same lens mount as they develop new cameras, so if you’re a Canon shooter and you buy a lens in 2017, there’s a very good chance that the same lens will work on whatever cameras Canon comes out within the years to come. By and large, the same goes for Nikon, Sony, and other camera manufacturers.

They’re Great for Low-Light Shooting

If you really want to expand your photographic capabilities, a 50mm lens will allow you to do so because they’re great for taking photos when lighting is low. With maximum apertures of f/2 and larger, 50mm lenses can collect a lot of light. With all that light coming into the lens, that means you can take photos in low lighting without triggering the flash.

Since the light from the flash is typically on the harsh and bright side, the fact that you often don’t need a flash with a 50mm lens means you can get more natural-looking shots. It might not sound like much but consider this. A 50mm f/1.8 lets in eight times as much light as a typical kit lens with a maximum aperture of f/5.6 on the zoom end. Just think of all the things you can photograph in low lighting with eight times as much light-collecting power!

They’re Fast

A related feature that’s nice about 50mm lenses is that with such a large maximum aperture, you can use much faster shutter speeds. That means that you can shoot handheld in much dimmer lighting than you can with a kit lens by virtue of all that light coming into the 50mm lens. What’s more, you can avoid using higher ISOs too.

With lower ISO values, your images will have less digital noise, which helps you get even sharper images, even when the lighting isn’t all that great. What’s not to like about that? We have the best wedding photographer in Yarra Valley to capture your beautiful moments on your wedding day.

They’re a Nice Focal Length

If you use a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera, the angle of view you get closely resembles what we see with our own eyes. That means your photos have a more natural look to them that’s pleasing to view. It’s also advantageous for beginner photographers because as you look through your camera’s viewfinder, you’ll see the scene in a familiar way, and that will help you compose a better shot. Granted, most beginner photographers don’t shoot with a full-frame camera. But 50mm lenses offer something for shooters with a crop sensor camera too. If you have a Nikon D7200 like the one shown above, the crop factor of 1.5x will make a 50mm lens act like a 75mm lens. At that effective focal length, the lens is in the short telephoto range, so you can more easily fill the frame with your subject from a greater distance away.

Nice Bokeh

Prime lenses like the 50mm have yet another benefit that improves the quality of your photos – nice bokeh. Bokeh refers to the quality of the blurriness of the background of a photo. At 50mm, you can get gorgeously blurry backgrounds that are nicely shaped for a wonderful creative effect. Better still, you get that effect right there in-camera, so you don’t have to spend a bunch of time trying to do it in Photoshop after the fact!

They Help You Be More Creative

Perhaps best of all, 50mm lenses are an excellent learning tool. Because it’s a fixed focal length, you can’t just turn a zoom ring to frame up a different view of a subject. Instead, you have to use your feet, move around, and work a little harder to frame the shot as you like. What’s more, as was mentioned above, it’s a versatile lens, so you can try all sorts of photography pursuits without ever having to switch lenses. In other words, a prime lens like the 50mm makes you think more purposefully about how you compose your photos. That, in turn, helps you grow as a photographer because you constantly have to work to get the shot you want.

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50mm Prime Lenses Vs Zoom Lenses

Every single lens is split into two groups; zoom lenses and prime lenses. No matter if you are using a wide-angle, standard or telephoto lens, they either have a fixed focal length or they don’t.

A prime lens is one with a fixed focal length. A zoom lens has an array of different focal lengths.

When first starting out in photography, having the flexibility of zoom can be very helpful and feels a lot safer, but it also has many disadvantages:

  • Usually poor image quality (not very sharp and poor distortion characteristics)
  • Very slow, in the aperture range of f/4 –f/5.6. Just forget about low-light and indoor photography!
  • Slow aperture. You won’t get a lot of separation of your subject from your background.
  • The only good thing about a kit zoom is its optical range. In essence, you get a modest wide-angle with a normal 50mm lens and a moderate telephoto lens all-in-one.

As you build your confidence as a photographer at least one prime lens should be in your camera bag. I think the 50mm prime lens is the obvious choice.

The Nifty Fifty – The 50mm f/1.8 Lens

When would you use a 50mm lens?

The 50mm ‘nifty fifty’ lens gives the most flexibility to your photography and is probably the easiest focal length to frame well. Many professionals would choose one of the 50mm lenses if it was the only lens they could carry.

The 50mm prime lenses are probably the most useful and complete all-round lenses you could buy. Before the advent of zooms, most cameras were fitted with 50mm lenses.

A 50mm prime lens (also called a fixed focal length lens) is a must-have piece of equipment for anyone starting out in photography. It’s versatile, affordable and great for shooting all types of photos. In this blog, I will outline the benefits of a 50mm lens and why you should invest in one.

Many of the leading camera manufacturers have different types of 50mm lenses, but the one I recommend is the basic, entry-level 50mm F1.8 lens. This will give you a noticeable upgrade in image quality over kit lenses and standard zoom lenses. Canon and Nikon both produce 50mm lenses and they are the cheapest in their lens ranges.

Advantages of a 50mm lens

  • On a full-frame digital camera, a 50mm lens offers a similar field of vision to our own eyes, meaning you have the ability to shoot what you see. However, when you begin to use fixed focal length lenses (such as a 50mm lens), you might have difficulty fitting every element of the composition into the image. Using 50mm will require you to think creatively about your composition and will help to improve your composition technique.
  • 50mm lenses can produce high-quality photos which can often rival the quality of much more expensive professional-grade lenses. Compare a 50mm lens to a typical standard zoom lens and you will see a sharper, higher-contrast image with the 50mm lens.
  • A 50mm lens is small, light and easy to carry. This allows you to have a very compact setup (especially if you are using a small digital camera), which is ideal for travel and street photography.
  • 50mm lenses are fast lenses with a fast maximum aperture. The most basic 50mm lenses are typically F1.8 – a very wide aperture. This means they are great for low-light photography (e.g. low-light portraiture or indoor shooting) as they allow more light into the camera’s sensor. In fact, a 50mm lens allows approximately five times the amount of light into the camera’s sensor than a consumer-grade zoom lens. This enables the use of lower ISOs and faster shutter speeds so you can freeze motion and eliminate camera shake.
  • The high speed and wide aperture of a 50mm lens can also provide a shallow depth of field. This gives you a huge creative scope to blur out backgrounds and focus attention on your main subject. 50mm lenses also give attractive out-of-focus highlights (also known as bokeh). Combining the shallow depth of field with a pleasing bokeh can result in some very professional-looking photos.

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The 50mm Prime is the Most Versatile Lens

On a full-frame camera, the field of view of your trusty 50mm prime lens looks very similar to how we see with the human eye.

If you put your open hands at the side of your head like side blinders, the edge of your hands is the limit to the frame on a 50mm lens. The magnification is literally the same. So what you see is what you get with the 50mm photography. What this means is…

It’s a Great Portrait Lens

An outdoor portrait of a young man taken with a 50mm lens

With the beautiful shallow depth of field, you can get fantastic, naturally lit portraits that will look more like the professional images you see on the web.

If you are a portrait photographer, here are some tips for taking interesting portraits.

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It Works with Landscapes

You can also use your 50mm for tighter framed landscapes; you don’t always want a wide-angle for this type of shot.

At f1.4, backgrounds become pure abstract shape and colour. This helps you become more adventurous with your composition. 

Great for Street Photography

50mm prime lenses are also great for street photography lenses. Since the field of view mimics our eye it’s a great lens to learn street photography with. And with the wide aperture, you will be able to shoot in streetlight!