Why a 50mm Lens is the Best Lens in Your Camera Bag

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The “nifty fifty” is probably the most popular lens for photography.


Well, it has a ton of virtues, not the least of which is that they can be found on the cheap (the f/1.8 versions, anyway) and it’s an incredibly versatile focal length.

In fact, ask any seasoned photographer what the first lens you should buy is, and I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of them will say a 50mm lens.

With that in mind, let me explain a few reasons why a 50mm lens is the best one you can buy.

It’s Small

Nifty fifty lenses are petite with a small form factor and a weight that’s typically just a handful of ounces.

That’s great for a couple of reasons.

First, the lighter the lens, the less weight you have to carry and the less weight you have to bring to your eye each time you want to take a photo.

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Secondly, smaller lenses are certainly less conspicuous, so if you’re doing a little street photography, people won’t notice your little nifty fifty as much as they will a huge 300mm telephoto lens.

And since it’s so easily portable, there’s no excuse for leaving your camera at home. The more you shoot, the better the photographer you will be!

Learn More:

  • The Top 3 Lenses You Need to Buy

It’s Inexpensive

Most photographers have a 50mm lens in their camera bag, usually the cheaper f/1.8 version that you can pick up for about $150 brand new.

But if I can pass on a tip, there are crazy deals on used 50mm f/1.4 and f/1.2 lenses that are being sold by other photographers just like you. As a matter of fact, see for yourself.

So, rather than spending $1,300 on a brand-new f/1.2, see what deals you can find on used ones!

Low Light? No Problem!

Even the inexpensive f/1.8 version of the 50mm lens is great in low-light shooting conditions.

That’s because compared to a kit lens, which usually maxes out at f/5.6, you get eight times as much light coming into the lens.

That means you can compensate for low light much more easily by simply opening the aperture.

That also means that you can get high-quality low-light photos without boosting the ISO as high for cleaner results. You can shoot with faster shutter speeds in low-light situations, too, making the 50mm lens an ideal choice for low-light photography.

Learn More:

  • Nikon’s Best All-Purpose Lenses

It’s Sharp

Prime lenses are usually sharper than zoom lenses. There’s a couple of reasons for this, including the fact that prime lenses have less moving parts and they have fewer glass elements through which light has to travel.

Without as much stuff inside, the integrity of the light passing through the lens remains intact, resulting in sharper photos.

What’s more, the wider aperture values that 50mm lenses offer means you can use a faster shutter speed to avoid camera shake while still getting a well-exposed image.

It’s Versatile

Perhaps the greatest virtue of a 50mm lens is that it’s incredibly versatile, as Adam from First Man Photography points out in the video above.

You can use it on a full frame camera or a crop sensor camera (where it behaves more like a short telephoto lens).

You can use a 50mm lens for portraiture, landscapes, street photography, and you can even reverse mount it on your camera for macro photography.

It’s a focal length that’s not so long that you feel like the images you take are claustrophobic, but it’s not so short that you feel like the image has too much detail in it, either.

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In other words, it’s a perfect focal length for a beginner photographer that needs something that can serve multiple purposes.

Now, I understand that regardless of how popular this lens is, many of you simply don’t use it enough to justify keeping it.

So to you, I recommend selling your 50mm lens to someone who would enjoy it so you can take the cash you get and buy some glass you’ll use.

There are plenty of places to sell your unneeded camera gear, but I recommend Lensfinder.Post your lens for sale today. 

Learn More:

  • How to Buy and Sell Used Lenses

50mm Lenses Produce Great Bokeh

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There’s something special about 50mm lenses on an artistic front as well.

Prime lenses in general usually produce better bokeh than zoom lenses.

That’s especially true as you move into higher maximum apertures like f/1.8, f/1.4, and f/1.2.

So, when you’re out shooting photos and you want a nice, blurry background or lights that twinkle in blurry goodness, a 50mm lens is just what you want.

It’s Just a Great Learning Tool

A 50mm lens is simply a great tool for learning about photography.

As I noted earlier, you can use a 50mm lens for all manner and type of subjects.

But because it’s a prime lens, you don’t have a zoom to rely on to frame up different types.

That means you have to “zoom with your feet” and learn how to frame images by moving around to get the shot you want.

What’s more, since you’re limited to a fixed focal length, you have to think a little more purposefully about the composition of the shot before you fire the shutter.

Taking a little extra time to consider the composition, framing, perspective, and so forth will only improve your images!

Learn More:

  • The Top Canon Lenses You Need in Your Bag

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