Almost all professional photographers have used a 50mm lens at some time in their lives – and many of them still regularly use their 50mm lens.
Because 50mm lenses are incredibly versatile. They can capture great photos in tons of situations, and they also offer a lot of amazing benefits. I use a 50mm lens myself all the timeand in this article, I share my top reasons for doing 50mm photography.
So if you are about to buy a 50mm lens Where you just want to know if 50mm photography is a good idea, then keep reading!
1. 50mm lenses offer impressive close-up capabilities
No, a 50mm lens doesn’t offer true macro focus, but it can get you closer to your subject. Most standard 50mm lenses provide enough magnification to capture beautiful flower photos, insect images, still life photos, etc.
And with f/1.8 or even f/1.4 maximum apertures, you can open your lens wide to create beautiful background bokeh. That’s how I captured this following image (look at those pretty blurry roses!):
Pro Tip: If you do decide to shoot at f/1.8 or f/1.8, I recommend focusing manually. This way you can identify the exact part of the image you want sharp, while the rest is blurred into oblivion. Make sense ?
And if you want to get even closer in focus with your 50mm lens, you can always try extension tubes, close-up filters, or use the reverse lens macro technique.
2. 50mm lenses are incredibly cheap (but the quality is great!)
Most lenses, especially the latest mirrorless lenses from Canon, Nikon and Sony, cost a pretty penny. You can expect to pay upwards of $500 for every lens you buy, and if you go with wide aperture lenses, you’ll pay a lot After.
The exception, however, is the humble 50mm lens. Have you looked at the latest 50mm f/1.8 prices? At the time of writing:
And despite the low prices, these lenses are impressively capable. You’ll get decently sharp photos, especially when shooting at f/2.8 and below, not to mention all the other benefits of 50mm photography I talk about throughout this article!
One caveat: while 50mm f/1.8 lenses tend to be incredibly cheap, you’ll pay more for 50mm f/1.4 and 50mm f/1.2 lenses. But many shooters, especially beginners, don’t really need these lenses; in my experience, they will be perfectly happy with an excellent 50mm f/1.8 model.
3. 50mm lenses are great for portraits
Finding the right lens for portrait photography can be tricky. On the one hand, you want to get that close perspective and nice background blur, but on the other hand, you want to be able to include the subject’s entire body in the frame.
A 50mm lens offers the best of both worlds.
At 50mm you can create beautiful background bokeh and capture reasonably tight portraits.
But you can too take a few steps back and take full body (and even group!) shots.
And 50mm is also the perfect focal length for candid portraits. You won’t be so close to the action that you scare your subjects, but you won’t be so far away that you lose a sense of intimacy.
I use my 50mm lens all the time to photograph my children; here my goal is to capture natural moments, not create posed portraits. The 50mm focal length gives me plenty of leeway to capture the wider scene, but I don’t have to get closer (and risk ruining the moment!) like I do with my 35mm lens.
50mm lenses also help you avoid perspective distortion, that age-old enemy of portrait photographers. Wider lenses tend to elongate limbs and facial features that are closer to the camera, which may seem very unflattering – while 50mm lenses provide a more natural perspective.
4. 50mm lenses are great for low-light photography
As I mentioned above, 50mm lenses tend to have a maximum aperture of at least f/1.8 (and more expensive versions widen to f/1.4 or even f/ 1,2).
Such a wide maximum aperture has a few benefits, including improved background blur and stunning shallow depth of field effects – but the biggest benefit for many photographers is improved low-light prowess.
You see, the wider the lens aperture, the more light it lets in and the better it can handle low-light scenes. Specifically, a wide maximum aperture will allow you to create a bright, detailed display at night and indoors. without forcing you to reduce the shutter speed to a ridiculous level or increase your ISO to noise-inducing heights.
Here are some scenarios where a 50mm lens can save your life:
- When shooting candid portraits indoors
- When shooting on city streets at night
- When shooting night events
- When filming concerts and indoor productions
Note that I’m talking about portable photography. It’s possible to work with any lens in low light if you have a sturdy tripod, but the grip offers much greater flexibility, especially if you want to shoot at a fast pace. Also, even if you have a tripod, you’ll need a reasonably fast shutter speed to capture moving subjects.
Will you be able to hold or photograph moving subjects in total darkness? No, but as long as you have some sort of lighting nearby, like a streetlight, you’ll be fine!
5. 50mm lenses are very portable
Here’s the final reason I love 50mm lenses:
They are incredibly small and they are lightweight, so you can take one just about anywhere with no problem.
For example, you can fit a 50mm lens in a small camera bag and still have plenty of room for cameras, accessories and other lenses. You can also mount a 50mm lens on your camera, then carry it around when you go out with your kids, take a street photography walk, and more.
Many travel photographers keep a 50mm lens as their primary lens, and many street photographers use a 50mm lens almost exclusively (including famous street shooters like Henri Cartier-Bresson!).
You can also shoot in some public spaces (like sports stadiums) with a 50mm lens, whereas a long zoom lens might keep you out. And if you like to take long walks or hikes, a 50mm lens won’t start looking like a brick after a few hours.
Conclusion: The 50mm lens is the most discreet and travel-ready lens you can buy. If you want a lens for on-foot photography, plan to travel frequently, or just like the idea of keeping a barely noticeable lens on your camera, then this is a great choice!
50mm Photography: Final Words
Now that you have finished this article, you know why I am a huge fan of 50 mm lenses.
And if you’re ready to buy your own 50mm lens for travel photography, portrait photography, street photography, or just about anything else, here are a few of our favorites:
Which 50mm lens are you considering buying? What are you planning to photograph? Share your opinion in the comments below!