As I look around the web and read some of the photography forums, I see quite a few photographers who are thinking about adding a 50mm lens to their collection.
To me this is a little bit funny to hear, but only because when I got into photography, they didn’t have kits where the camera came with a zoom lens. I bought my Nikon FM2 body and a manual focus 50mm f1.4, and like many a beginning photographer back in the day, that’s what I cut my teeth on.
My 50mm of choice today is the Nikon 50mm f1.8D, although recently Nikon came out with the AF-S 50mm f/1.8G, which has much faster, silent wave autofocus. Both are lighter than the f/1.4 versions, although if want that extra half stop, Nikon has the 50mm f/1.4D and the more expensive AF-S 50mm f/1.4G. Canon also has a 50mm f1.8 lens and a 50mm f/1.4 as well.
It’s true that since the 50 shows the world in a similar perspective and angle of view as the human eye, it often gets the reputation as being ‘the boring lens.’ I’ve certainly gone through periods of time when I didn’t use my 50mm very often, but over the years I’ve come to love it. I find it to be an invaluable lens for shooting a wide variety of outdoor photography subject matter.
One thing to note- if you’re using a Nikon crop sensor DX camera body, then the 50 will effectively become a fast 75mm lens on those cameras. In order to preserve the ‘normal’ view on that type of camera, you’ll want to consider the Nikon 35mm f1.8 lens.
The 50 is great for shooting landscapes, because as I mentioned above, it pretty much shows what you see. It allows you do look at a scene, decide what you like about it and capture it as you perceive it with your own eyes. You don’t have to worry about trying to think about what the subject will look like when you crop with a telephoto or expand the perspective and depth of field with a wide angle. You simply slap that puppy on the front of your camera and shoot, because you already know what it’s going to look like.
People and Travel
It gives excellent results whether you’re shooting portraiture for paying clients or grabbing shots of your friends just for fun.
It’s also extremely fast, which makes it awesome for low light and inside photography. With speeds in the neighborhood of f.1, it can really come in handy when you find most of your other lenses unusable due to diminishing light.
And combined with the fact that it’s very small, light and compact, the 50 makes an awesome travel photography lens, so don’t leave it at home the next time you go on a trip. Either make room for it in your bag or leave something else behind- you won’t regret it.
The 50 is not always the best lens at medium and long distances. It simply can’t bring the subject in, and when shooting subjects that are far away, it tends to produce rather amateur looking imagery.
However, but if you are able to get close enough, you can take advantage of that shallow depth of field and get pretty creative with your subjects.
Shooting in tight, you’ll have the same soft background effect as if you were shooting with a telephoto, only you can tackle subjects that are much closer than nmost teles can handle.
The 50 can focus on subjects that are about as close as one foot away, and with depth of field diminishing the closer you get, you can really create some dramatic, stylized imagery.
So take that 50mm lens out and give it some much needed attention. Chances are, you’ll the two of you will soon fall in love again, make some stunning photos and live happily every after.
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