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  • Writer's pictureAndrei Mihalache

Five reasons a 50mm prime is worth its weight in gold

Updated: Nov 28, 2021

Big windows reflected in those big eyes - makes my heart melt

You have probably heard of a 50mm lens, or the "nifty fifty" as it is often referred to, right?

They call it that or a "normal lens", for what it's worth - because its field of view on a full frame camera is similar to our natural field of view with the naked eye. But what is it that makes a "normal lens" so special?

Let's get right into it!

1. It forces you to zoom and frame "with your feet"

This lens - like all other "primes" or "fixed focal length" lenses - does not have any sort of zoom. If you want to get a closer shot of anything, you move closer. I find that primes are great for stimulating one's creativity and artistic vision as it forces you to get closer or farther away and that changes your perspective in both the literal sense a figuratively speaking. On the plus side, a typical 50mm lens weighs next to nothing, so walking around shouldn't be too taxing. The two shots above were shot from about two meters away for the first one and less than half a meter for the second one, at f/3.5 and f/2 respectively.

2. Wide aperture - great for low light photography

Low light portrait with the Canon 50mm f/1.2 L
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L - ISO 4000, f/1.4, 1/160s

If you are like most people, you will want to take some photos in low light situations - at a restaurant, at home at night, at or after sunset at the beach etc. There are so many times when having that f/1.8, f/1.4 or even f/1.2 (if you don't mind spending a lot of money for it) will really make the difference and allow you to get great or at least decent usable photos in situations that would otherwise be hopeless. If I were to have shot this photo with a kit lens, 18-55, f/3.5-5.6, it would have been shot at f/5.6 and that would have forced me to use either ISO 64.000 or a 1/10s exposure time - resulting in either a much noisier shot or a most likely blurry photo respectively.

3. Very shallow depth of field

Beach portrait with the Canon 50mm f/1.2
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L - ISO 100, f/2, 1/8000s

A wide aperture means that you can get things behind and in front of your subject of choice very much out of focus - you can be the king /queen - of Bokeh. It also forces you to be much more careful with your focus, as it becomes easier to have even your subject out of focus, which leads to even more growth and development on your part - happy days. Another advantage of this is that your portraits become more impacting as the subject is separated from the background.

4. Versatility galore

I've seen this lens being used as the ONLY lens of a wedding photographer. I've used it to shoot portraits, weddings, food, landscapes, commercial architecture - just about any genre of photography will find a use for this lens. It's definitely a big step up from a kit lens - even a premium one like the 24-105 f/4 and such, and in a professional's bag it will always find a place as a 50mm f/1.4 weighs next to nothing and takes just as much space. Even my 50mm f/1.2 is much lighter than my 35mm f/1.4 or 85mm f/1.2.

5. Most 50mm lenses are budget friendly

While there are some notable exceptions to this rule (the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L, the Sigma Art 50 mm f/1.4 or the Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4), most 50mm lenses are inexpensive - by that I mean in the range of 100 to 350 USD new. If you're not a professional and you want to have a nice quality lens and not have to break the bank to get it, definitely go for a 50mm prime lens. The quality/price ratio is incredible as well, as these lenses are rather simple designs which in turn means great optical quality at most apertures, little to no distortion, little chromatic aberration etc.

Most of these photos, specifically those of my son, were taken in Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Others were taken in The Grand Velas Riviera Maya and Cozumel Palace in Cozumel.

Bellow you can find links to some of the most popular 50mm lenses on the market. Keep in mind that I receive no commissions from neither the camera brands nor the retailer that I link to. They are just the go-to places, brands and retailers, that I use when I need something:


Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM - Best price/quality ratio, cheap, very light, built out of plastic - 160 grams

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM - Best balance in terms of build quality, AF speed and price - 290 grams

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM - Best build quality, best optical quality - expensive and much heavier than the other two options - 580 grams


Sony Mirrorless:


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