Which lens do you think is the most versatile: a professional f/2.8 zoom or a more compact but dark travel zoom? But no! “Fifty kopecks” can replace a whole scattering of “glasses” in your backpack (unless, of course, you are going to photograph birds somewhere in Madagascar). In this article, we’ll talk about how you can use a fast 50mm lens and why it’s almost the perfect next step after a whale lens.
What “fifty kopecks” will be discussed
Have you just purchased your first “fifty kopeck” or are you just thinking about which lens to buy in your photo arsenal? Make no mistake about the decision: this particular family of lenses can immediately improve the quality of your pictures if you know how to use these “glasses” correctly.
50mm lenses are also referred to as “normal” lenses, as they provide the most natural perspective, close to its perception by human vision.
In this article, a 50mm lens will refer to 50mm f/1.8 or f/1.4 on full-frame cameras and 35mm f/1.8 or f/1.4 on APS‑C, i.e. any fast “glass” with a 50mm equivalent focal length. All popular brands have such models: Canon (f/1.8, f/1.4) and Nikon (f/1.8, f/1.4), Sony (f/1.8, f/1.4) and Fujifilm (f/1.8, f/ 1.4). In general, this material will also be useful to those who work with slightly wider-angle fast lenses with EGF equal to 35 mm.
A prime is a lens with a fixed focal length. That is, unlike zoom, you will not be able to zoom in and out of the picture by simply turning the wheel: to zoom in on an object, you will have to stomp your feet. But this “inconvenience” has its positive sides.
A good prime lens can help you become a more thoughtful photographer: you will consciously choose your position, body position and camera position to get the composition and picture you want.
There are also objective advantages: ceteris paribus, fixes (especially fast ones!) Give a more beautiful image than zooms. In addition, lenses with a fixed focal length are often more compact and lighter than the zoom brothers.
3 ingredients for bokeh
Many people like photos with a soft blurred background. Perhaps you’ve been wanting to take these shots for a long time, but your kit lens (especially the 18–55mm) is simply not capable of this. So, the fast “fifty kopecks” is a real bokeh machine!
Because it has a fairly wide maximum aperture, you already have the first of three ingredients for great bokeh:
- Set your camera to aperture priority mode (or manual mode) and open the aperture to full.
- Make sure you’re photographing the subject close enough to the camera (for example, in a mountain range shot at f/1.8, you won’t have blurry clouds and distant mountains in the background).
- Check that there is some distance between the subject and the background (in particular, if a person is leaning against a wall, f / 1.8 will not “blur” the bricks).
How to maximize sharpness
If you read at least a couple of minutes on the Internet about lenses, you will surely notice that sharpness is their most discussed characteristic.
Many novice photographers who have “grown up” with a whale lens look towards large professional zooms at f / 2.8. But before you spend your savings, just take a look at the small “fifty” — it takes shots no less, if not more “sharp” than professional zoom monsters with a six-figure price tag.
One of the great things about fast fifties, especially when compared to kit lenses, is that you don’t need to close down too much to maximize sharpness.
The “sweet spot” is what photographers call the aperture value (or aperture range) at which the lens achieves maximum sharpness. On a kit lens, this is usually something around f/8 or f/11. On a fast prime, the sweet spot can be around f/2.8, f/4, or f/5.6. But (even better) your “fifty” most likely shows amazing sharpness in the center of the frame when the aperture is wide open or covered one stop from the maximum value.
Try shooting wide open at f/1.8 or f/2 (for a lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.8) to see how sharp the picture will be in the center. And if you want edge-to-edge sharpness across the frame, set it to f/4 or f/5.6.
Darkness is not a problem — shooting in low light
With a narrow maximum aperture, the biggest limitation of a kit zoom lens is its sharpness performance in low light.
On a sunny day, in this regard, you will have approximately the same results. But, when you decide to shoot late at night or indoors, the fast aperture will be ahead by two heads.
The wider the aperture is open, the more light will hit the film or sensor. You can capture your significant other by candlelight in a restaurant, take a photo of your child playing in a nursery at dusk, or take a beautiful street shot under the light of a lantern.
When leaving the house with a “fifty” after sunset, simply open the aperture more and more to maximize the amount of light passing through the lens. And if it’s already maxed out and the shutter speed starts to get slower when blurring appears, increase the ISO to compensate.
Also keep in mind that when shooting at night with a tripod, you don’t need to open the aperture all the way (unless you want to get a shallow depth of field). With a tripod, you can shoot in the sweet spot at f/4 or f/5.6 to maximize sharpness in low light.
We shoot light
To take a great photo, you don’t have to constantly carry several kilograms of lenses with you (or one lens weighing several kilograms): you don’t need to try to cover all available focal lengths from ultra wide angle to super telephoto at once.
Take a fifty-kopeck piece and try to go out with only it — you will feel how liberating such an experience can be.
Now your bag for photographic equipment will not create inconveniences in transport or on a walk, and you don’t have to constantly think about which lens is best for this particular shot.
You may feel a little unaccustomed to not being able to zoom in, but it’s worth trying to start “seeing” the world as a 50mm lens sees it (this is not difficult, because its “field of view” is very similar to a human). Visualize the frame and look for interesting scenes and objects that fit into it. This limitation can be a great creative tool!
A fast 50mm lens, when used correctly, can create truly magical shots. This “fifty kopeck” is great for portrait photography (due to the pronounced bokeh) and for working in low light — in the evening and at night, outdoors or indoors. Yes, it doesn’t have zoom or stabilization, but it’s one of the sharpest lenses you’ll ever own. It’s light, compact and will probably take your best shots!
* In preparing the article, materials from the resource bhphotovideo.com (author — Todd Vorenkamp) were used