This blog is not about gear. Every once in a while, I will make an exception and the 50mm f1.8 lens is one of those times. This lens, sometimes called the Nifty Fifty, is a must for most photographers. Why should you run out and buy a nifty fifty if you don’t already own one?
1. It’s a prime lens. Your camera almost certainly came with a zoom lens. The standard “kit” lens that comes with entry level Canon and Nikon cameras is an 18-55mm lens, which means you can stand in one spot and make things seem closer or further away just by adjusting the focal length (zooming in or out). You can’t do that with a prime lens. The Nifty Fifty, for example, is set at a 50mm focal length. If you want to fill more of the frame with your subject you need to physically move the camera closer to the subject to do that. While this sounds like a disadvantage, it brings a huge advantage: prime lenses are usually sharper and deliver better quality images because the lens doesn’t have to move around. It’s easier to build, so you get more bang for your buck.
2. It’s great in low light. Without getting too much into the technical aspects, the aperture of this lens (f1.8) means that it can let a lot of light in. That means that the lens is great in low light situations, like the above shot I took at the fairly dimly lit Dinosaur BBQ. It’s the only lens I use on Christmas morning, and it’s usually the lens I turn to when I am shooting food.
3. As much as photography isn’t about gear, and you can take great photos with any camera, sometimes something new helps to boost creativity. It’s a kick in the pants to go out and experiment. A new lens can give you a different view of things you see every day. And because you can’t zoom in and out with this lens, you have to find other ways of getting the shot you want.
4. Dreamy bokeh. This is one of the fun things about this lens. Because it is capable of opening up the aperture to f1.8, you can get really lovely effects in the blurred background (or foreground).
5. It’s inexpensive. With a lot of camera gear, you really do get what you pay for. The 50mm f1.8 lens is an exception. Currently, you can pick up a nifty fifty for between $100 and $125 and it’s sharper than the lens that came with your camera.
Do you have a Nifty Fifty lens, and do you love it as much as I love mine?