I have been wanting to post about this for some time now and I'm finally getting around to it. The house is quite and a good time to put some thoughts on the website. From time to time I'll get asked whats the best camera I can get for this or that? Or, Im just starting off what should I buy? How can I achieve better photos?
These are all hard questions and there is not a definitive answer for any of them. What I can say for certain is one of the cheapest and best ways to improve your photography is........... (Get close and Ill tell you a secret) Buy a 50mm Prime lens.
Lets look into the benefits of a Prime lens and for the interest of this post, the 50mm prime specifically.
1. 50mm Primes are among the cheapest prime lenses to purchase. Even some of the top of the line designs are cheaper compared to other focal lengths. This is where the term "Nifty Fifty" came from.
2. Primes allow you to achieve a narrow DOF ( Depth of Field ) which will enhance subject isolation and bring the viewers eye towards whats important in your photograph.
3. Wider F-stops like f/1.4 through f/2 allow for two advantages in addition to subject isolation. You will achieve faster shutter speeds to ensure crisp sharp images in failing light as well as lower ISO numbers which offer better noise control.
4. They are usually lighter and smaller which offer obvious benefits.
5. A 50mm focal length or focal lengths within that range offer a great combination of compression for portraits yet wide enough to go walking about and tell your story. If you look at the image above of my daughter holding onto the telescope viewer at Niagara Falls you can see the surrounding elements that are important in telling this story. You can see the binoculars, you can see the mist from the falls. The buildings and people around her. You can even see her clothing which tell you it was a nice sunny day. Had this shot been taken with an 85mm or even a higher telephoto focal length these important factors would of been left out of the image. It would be a tight portrait of a child and thats all.
6. BOKEH !!!! We all love it even if some of us have no idea what it is. We know it when we see it. Bokeh can be explained in THIS article.
The good news is pretty much every major camera manufacturer offers more then one 50mm prime. In fact most offer their high end Prime 50mm right along with a budget conscious 50mm and the results are usually close to the same. In most cases 50mm primes will offer an F/1.4 as well as an F/1.8 or F/2. Some of these prime lenses are legendary to say the least. Im not going to list them all but a few like the Leica 50mm Summicon, Minolta 58mm 1.2, Canon 50mm 1.2, Nikon's 58mm 1.4 and a few Russian Vintage lenses like the Halios offer distinctive looks that are bound to make your photography stand out.
A 50mm prime lens will teach you to frame your photographs with your feet not a zoom lens. You will probably start to even learn where you need to plant yourself for the right distance before you even take the picture. Prime lenses can teach you how to look for potential imagery.
My advice to you if your a beginning photographer and looking into making your first camera purchase. Buy a 50mm prime right away and start benefiting from these wonderful lenses. If your shooting an APS-C body be mindful that the crop factor must be taken into account so a 35mm lens on a crop body will give you your 50mm focal length.
If you happen to shoot mirrorless, well then.....as they say the worlds your oyster!!! You can pretty much adapt any 50mm lens to your camera so things just got a lot cheaper for you. Or expensive depending on if you want the really high end stuff.
Worried about your wide angle shots.....don't be. Just learn how to stitch in post.
Below I'm going to bombard you with a ton of imagery all taken using 50mm equivalent lenses. I was using everything from Fujifilm Crop sensor bodies all the way to Medium Format cameras. Some shots are even on film. Thanks for checking out the post and as always come visit my youtube channel as well as my instagram page for more blogs and images. As always I welcome questions and comments so please feel free to reach out. Im always happy to help.