The Ole 50mm lens & I’m back

Hello again,

Been a very long time since I’ve been here. Sorry. Been busy learning blog writing on my other blog site: www.tonysphotographicblog.blogspot.com.

And, been busy taking photos and teaching workshops.

Almost forgot that I had started this blog too. So, I’m back, learning some more about WordPress, as Blogger is much easier to work with, but not as flexible. Stay tuned for more posts and updates.

For now, here’s a bit about 50mm lens.

So, Lets talk about that 50mm “only” lens.

For those that have been shooting for awhile, that great little 50mm you once used may have been relegated to the bottom of your camera bag to collect dust, while your more glamorous telephotos, wide angle and other zoom lenses now have all the fun.

Those of you new to DSLR photography probably figure you don’t need a 50mm, after all, your new camera came with an 18-55mm – “Won’t that work?”

Long answer short – Yes, but, No!  That “kit lens” is generally a great starter lens, but you’ll soon find that you’ll need to upgrade it… Soon. Look for one or two of the better quality zoom lens, but also consider a 50mm prime lens too – Just for the fun and challenge.

This once popular tool, which came as the “standard lens” for a new 35mm SLR “back in the day”, has now been completely displaced by those inexpensive, distortion-prone mid-range zooms with slow-as-molasses focus, which are now standard stock on most new DSLR’s. I blame the folks in the Marketing Dept. for that.

But at least that mid-range zoom has gotten better and is a great start for your venture into the world of DSLR photography. Keep practicing and learning more.

The 50mm dilemma – They’re not long enough for some scenes, nor wide enough for others. Not being able to zoom makes them more challenging to use. Then, why bother?   For most modern day digital photographers, spoiled with zooms, the thought of using, much less buying, a  50mm “only” lens is all but forgotten.

Here’s why you should consider either digging yours out or buying one.

Not only are they excellent for hand-held photography in low-light conditions, but as most have a much wider aperture than many zooms, this allows for excellent selective focus and shallow depth-of-field shots. When stopped down, you can also render a scene tack sharp from front to back.

And, since most prime lens have superior glass, images taken with the 50mm “only” lens exhibit superb sharpness and contrast found only in the more expensive pro-level zooms. Add in features such as low distortion, compact size and lightweight – Maybe you’ll start to appreciate the value and utility of the standard 50mm “only”.

Don’t worry about whether the 50mm lens you have is of the f/1.8, f/1.4, f/1.2 flavor, or, even  the one I have, the Macro f2.5. They’re all great. Most are autofocus but you’ll work with manual focus often too. Actually, the Macro versions may be more versatile, as a Macro and a standard 50mm.

I’ve got my eye on one of those f1.4’s though. The f1.2’s may allow twice as much light, faster low-light shutter speeds, shallower depth-of-field & nicer bokeh than f1.4, but – all at a much steeper price.

The angle-of-view of a 50mm lens is about 46-degree (on a full-frame sensor, slightly less on an APC sensor), which is very close to what we see with our naked eye. The problem for most photographers is – 1) it’s not wide enough to capture a large group. 2) it’s too wide for the inside of confined spaces or 3) not powerful enough to bring those distant objects into acceptable image size.

Yeah, so. Work with it!

Knowing the limits of what this focal length can or cannot do to your pictures will lead to better training of your “photographer’s eye”.

The 50mm Shuffle:

While many will dismiss the 50mm focal length as being “compositionally challenged – This is where the extra work/challenge comes in – You have to move yourself (while looking thru the viewfinder) in order to get the desired results. If your subject is too far away, you just shuffle your feet to get closer to the scene. If the space between you and the subject is too tight to include everything into the frame, then you have to shuffle your feet backwards a bit in order to fit everything in.

I know it can seem tough, I’ve been there myself. But that’s part of the fun!

So dig out your old 50mm or go find one to purchase. I found mine on Craigslist for under $80 (make sure you bring your camera to test used ones).

Next time you leave for a “photo-walk” – Take only your 50mm, you may surprise yourself.

Look to my Flickr site to see an example of some of my fun.

Thanks again for visiting.

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About masterofmadness

Semi-pro photographer & musician. Co-own a photo gallery with a digital photo-lab in a small tourist town, on an island in the Pacific NW of USA. I also teach and ongoing series of workshops in photography, Photoshop and Apple computers. I shoot mostly landscapes, in the mountains - Giving me a great excuse to go climb them. I also do a lot of fine art, macros and abstracts.
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