Today's topic: the greatest lens I ever bought. No, it’s not the most expensive lens I’ve ever purchased, and it’s not the sharpest lens I’ve ever purchased, but for the money, I can honestly say it is the greatest lens I’ve added to my kit.
Behold, the Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM AKA the “nifty fifty.”
Why is this the greatest lens I’ve ever purchased? A couple of reasons. It comes down to value and it comes down to focal length.
First, let’s talk about value. You can pick up this lens new for only $125.00, and the image quality, for that price, is insane.
So, as you can see, for a hundred dollar lens, you can get some surprisingly great stuff. So ifyou spent a ton of money upgrading your camera body, and don’t have much of a budget left to get a really high-end piece of glass, like an L-series Canon lens, or a G Master Sony lens, this little guy is a great alternative.
So let’s talk about the other reason why this is such a great lens, and that’s the focal length.
If you’re just starting out in photography or videography, this lens is probably one of the first things you want to pick up, for a couple of reasons.
The 50mm focal length is the closest thing to what the human eye sees in terms of field of view. Actually I think it’s closer to 48 point something something, but anyway. So if you’re just starting out, learning how to shoot at 50mm can be really helpful. If you need something to be larger or smaller in your composition, you have to physically move your body and get closer or further away. So, once you master shooting at 50mm, then you can move on to other things like wide angles or telephoto angles and learn how those things can affect your image and your composition and so on.
Depth of Field
Another reason this lens should be on of the first things you pick up is it’s shallow depth of field. You may hear that discussed a lot in photography forums and guides, and essentially what it is referring to is how how blurry is your background? The “faster” the lens is, or, in other words, how much light can this lens gather and let in, affects how blurry I can make the background. So if you have a lens with a “low” f-stop rating, in this case f/1.8, which is relatively low, you can really blur out that background, and that can make for more epic and cinematic shots. If you just bought your first DSLR and you’ve got the kit lens that came with it, chances are it’s more in the f/3.5 or slower range, so something at 1.8 is going to make a big difference when it comes to depth of field.
The final point I want to make about why this should be one of the first lenses you purchase if you’re just getting started in photography or videography, is that a 50mm focal length is very versatile. Wide angles (anything less than 35mm) are great for landscape photos, but you probably wouldn’t want to use them on portrait shots, because they could give you some unwanted distortion. Telephoto angles are great for getting up close to some wildlife without being too close physically, but you probably woulnd’t want to use them for some street photography when you’re maybe trying to be somewhat incognito.
So a 50mm focal length is a great choice for not only portraits, but street and landscape photography. On top of that, the Nifty 50 is lightweight and fairly fast at focusing. Not in my case because I’m using it on a Sony a7S II with an adapter, but if you’re on a Canon, it’ll be super quick.
So that’s it, but just a fair warning, the nifty fifty is a bit of a gateway drug to wanting some higher end, more expensive zooms and primes!