Saturday, May 1, 2010

50mm f1.8

After buying a DSLR and playing about with the kit lens for a while people begin to ask the question "What should I buy next?" - at least I did.

Digital photography really is a gadget-fiend's paradise and if you are a bit geeky like me then you are in trouble. There is so many toys out there that you could go mental with choice. Camera bodies aside there are lenses, filters, remotes, tripods, monopods, SD cards, software, backpacks, flashguns and reflectors to name but a few of those toys.

My kit includes...

Nikon D90
Pansonic Lumix TZ5
Nikon 18-105mm VR f3.5-5.6
Nikon 50mm f1.8
Sigma 70-200 f2.8
Tokina 11-16mm f2.8DX
B+W ND10 filter
Hoya Circular Polariser

...and through these posts I'll tell you what I've bought and why. What I've bought might not suit you but hopefully some of my rantings might be of some use in helping you decide what to spend your pennies on. BEWARE - photography is very very addictive and can become very very expensive so try and put a great deal of thought into purchases before you spend anything. Most shops will let you try lenses etc before you buy them but you should also do some on-line research first.

Anyway, regardless of whether you use Canon, Nikon, Pentax or Sony (or any of the many other DSLR camera manufactures) most folk would probably agree that the first thing you should buy (after the camera itself) is a fixed 50mm lens. These are brilliant lenses for several reasons.

Firstly they are one of the cheapest lenses you can buy. This is of course dependant on the maximum aperture which can push the price right up e.g.

50mm f1.8 = £90
50mm f1.4 = £230
50mm f1.0 = £3000

Secondly, this is what's called a "fixed" or "prime" lens. That means it has no zoom function and keeps a constant focal length of 50mm. Your feet become the zoom and you have to move in close or walk far away to get the shot you want and that really teaches you composition. It's worth sticking this lens on for a couple of weeks and using nothing else.

Thirdly, because it has a wide aperture it lets in loads of light which means it performs well in low-light conditions. Also there is very little glass for the light to travel through which again helps make best use of the available light.

Forthly, because of the huge aperture you can get fantastic bokeh (background blur).

And finally, 50mm is equivalent to what they human eye sees and if you look through the view finder and then open the other eye you will see that objects are about the same size with both eyes. This means that shots with this lens look very "real". This is often referred to as a portrait lens probably because the results you get with it a aesthetically pleasing - perhaps on a subconscious level.

I'm sure there are several other reasons to buy this but I think most photographers will tell you that this is a great puchase and should be one of first.

PS - I also like it because it's tiny and there's always space for it in the bag!


  1. Although with crop factor on a non-full frame sensor its actually a 75mm! Unfortunately I am guilty of avoiding prime lenses until recently but the image quality from the simple setup has really pleased me and I think I will invest in a 50mm soon although the bag is getting a bit full.

  2. Hi Calum - I solved this problem buy getting the 35mm f1.8. See the post on the comparison I did between the two lenses.