The One Lens Every Photographer Should Have and Use: the 50mm

116Share
The One Lens Every Photographer Should Have and Use: the 50mm

If you are stranded on a desert island and can only have one camera lens with you, which lens would you choose? If your answer wasn’t, “a 50mm (or 50mm equivalent lens),” then you might be wrong. The 50mm prime lens is the one lens every photographer toting an interchangeable-lens camera should own… and use.

Why? Before I tell you all the reasons, I will tell you a sea story. But, before that, know that in the world of different sensor (and film) sizes, there are different equivalents to the 50mm lens. More on that later but, for now, I will be referring to full-frame digital and/or 135 format film. As the reader, please press the “I believe” button and keep on reading.

My Personal Journey

My father is a great photographer. He grew up working in a camera store in New Orleans. He has wielded a Leica rangefinder since long before I was brought to life. When I started my SLR photographic journey, he bought me my first “real” camera, a Nikon N6006, and a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens. He insisted that the 50mm was the best lens with which to learn.

But, this 50mm prime lens felt limiting. I wanted to get closer to things without moving my feet. It wasn’t long before I had recycled enough soda cans to buy a cheap 35-70mm zoom lens. And then I got a 70-210mm zoom. Soon, the 50mm f/1.8 was doing nothing but keeping a small circular region of my bookshelf from seeing light.

For decades, the zoom lens served me well. But, years later, when working on my Master’s thesis, I rediscovered the lens for many reasons (see below) and have since gravitated back to a battery of prime lenses. Now it is the zoom lenses that are keeping areas of my bookshelves from getting dusty.

So, what makes the 50mm the one single lens every photographer should own (and use)?

Field of View

There is some conjecture on if it is the 35mm lens or the 50mm lens that closest approximates the field of view of the Mark 1 Mod 0 human eyeball—minus the peripheral vision. If you do the math, the circa 45° field of view of the 50mm lens is a bit narrower than the approximated 55° cone of visual attention and the 35mm lens is a bit wider at about 63°. Basically, both the 50mm and 35mm lenses see the world the way our own eyes do—give or take a few degrees. Because it does not bend light from wide angles, or zoom in to a smaller part of our eye’s image, these lenses provide our photographs with a familiar aesthetic—a realistic representation of the world that we all see when we open our eyes.

The approximation of the cone of visual attention lies between the field of view of the 35mm and 50mm lens.

Does this mean that the 50mm, because of its familiar perspective, prevents the photographer from exploring the world with creative vision? Definitely not. The 50mm lens allows the photographer to make creative images inside a familiar field of view.

Size

As enamored as many of us are with big DSLR cameras and big lenses—the ones just like the pros use—there is something to be said for small and light. If you have been humping a telephoto zoom, or a wide-aperture f/2.8 “pro” mid-range zoom lens around your neck or in your camera bag, grab a 50mm lens and watch your chiropractic co-pays vanish overnight.

Regardless of how big your camera is, snapping a 50mm on to the front of it will change the way your arms and back approach your photographs.

Cost

We live in a world where four-figure lenses are becoming commonplace. Ugh.

The 50mm lens, especially ones with f/1.8 or f/2 apertures, can be purchased for the cost of a nice dinner for two in Manhattan (with drinks). On the used market, they can be had for the price of dinner for 1—or a few inexpensive New York City lunches.

A superlative lens for a fraction of the cost of a professional zoom? Sign me up!

Optics

In general, prime lenses outperform their zoom counterparts in optical quality. Don’t get me wrong, zooms today are incredibly good—good to the point where only the pixel peepers will tell zoom from prime—but it is the prime lens that still has the overall advantage of a more basic optical formula and mechanical simplicity. When it comes to sharpness, chromatic aberrations, and distortion—Advantage: prime. For me, it turned out that the sharpest and least distorted lens I owned was the very first lens I owned, and the one that sat on a bookshelf for years.

Looking for shallow depth of field? Put your f/4.5-5.6 zoom lens on the shelf and mount your 50mm. Open up and watch the rest of the world melt away.

Is your f/5.6 aperture kit lens not getting you the bokeh you crave? Twist on a 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.8 lens, go wide open, focus on a close subject, and experience bokeh like you read about.

Darkness

It’s dark out there. The key to better and less blurry low-light images isn’t only magical low-noise/high ISO cameras, it is a large aperture. Just like the way your zoom lenses limit the shallowness of your depth of field and restrict your bokeh because of their comparatively narrow aperture openings, the wide-aperture 50mm lens is just the right cure for low-light handheld photography.

Versatility

Of course, the advantage of a kit lens is versatility. But the prime lens is not a one-trick-pony. Representing the “normal” focal length, the 50mm lens, in seeing—more or less—how we see the world, is perfectly capable of capturing scenic vistas, a moment on a busy sidewalk, a close-up of a spring flower, or a portrait of a beautiful face. The 50mm is a jack-of-all-trades lens and a master of almost everything photographic.

The Anti-Kit Lens

A huge majority of interchangeable-lens cameras are sold today with “kit lenses.” There is nothing wrong with this and, to be honest, a pair of quality zoom lenses is the fastest way that new interchangeable-lens photographers can explore the world around them. And, for many photographers, the kit lens or lenses is/are 100% sufficient.

But say you’ve been bitten by the bug and you want to improve your photography, technically and creatively. I believe the single fastest way to get on that track is by shooting a quality prime lens—likely a 50mm.

The HC-B Connection

Take in all the above and add to the argument that Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of the greatest street photographers of all time, took the 50mm as his lens of choice.

Let’s Go Shopping

So, grab a 50mm lens and start shooting, right? Not so fast—almost every camera and lens manufacturer has filled the market with multiple 50mm choices. Let’s look at what your options are to get your absolute next favorite lens, regardless of your camera system or sensor size.

The list includes 50mm lenses for full-frame cameras and lenses that have an approximate 50mm equivalent field of view when used with smaller APS-C, Nikon CX, and Micro Four Thirds cameras. 50mm lenses made for non-full frame cameras are not included on the list.

This list is for lenses that fit what I would call the “standard” 50mm all-purpose bill… no macro, tilt-shift, cine, special effect, etc. Of course, specialty lenses might have the same field of view, but let’s focus on the more mainstream lenses.

Nikon F Mount (FX)*

Lens Characteristics
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G no aperture ring, autofocus
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G Special Edition no aperture ring, autofocus
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G no aperture ring, autofocus
Nikon AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D aperture ring, autofocus
Nikon AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4D aperture ring, autofocus
Nikon NIKKOR 50mm f/1.2 aperture ring, manual focus
Nikon NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4 aperture ring, manual focus
Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 ZF.2 aperture ring, manual focus
Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/2M ZF.2 aperture ring, manual focus
Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 ZF.2 aperture ring, manual focus
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art no aperture ring, autofocus
Tokina opera 50mm f/1.4 FF no aperture ring, autofocus
Rokinon 50mm f/1.4 AS IF UMC aperture ring, manual focus
Samyang 50mm f/1.4 AS UMC aperture ring, manual focus
Yongnuo YN 50mm f/1.8 no aperture ring, autofocus

*Due to the fact that Nikon still makes many of their classic older lenses, buyers should verify compatibility when it comes to aperture rings and autofocus. Some Nikon cameras require that the lens has a manual aperture ring in order to change the aperture. Other Nikon cameras will only work with certain autofocus lenses. If you are confused by the different options, email askbh@bhphoto.com, call us at 866-597-8941, or leave a comment below.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G Lens

Nikon Z Mount (FX)

Lens Characteristics
Nikon NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S no aperture ring, autofocus
Mitakon Zhongyi Speedmaster 50mm f/0.95 III manual focus
KIPON Elegant 50mm f/2.4 manual focus
Meike MK-50mm f/1.7 manual focus
Nikon NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S Lens

Nikon F Mount (DX) [35mm = 50mm equivalent field of view on Nikon APS-C]

Lens Characteristics
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G no aperture ring, autofocus
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G Lens

Canon EOS (EF)

Lens Characteristics
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM autofocus
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM autofocus
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM autofocus
Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 ZE manual focus
Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/2M ZE manual focus
Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 ZE Planar T* manual focus
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art autofocus
Tokina opera 50mm f/1.4 FF autofocus
Rokinon SP 50mm f/1.2 manual focus
Rokinon 50mm f/1.4 AS IF UMC manual focus
Samyang 50mm f/1.4 AS UMC manual focus
Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8 autofocus
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens

Canon EOS R (RF)

Lens Characteristics
Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM autofocus
Mikakon Zhongyi Speedmaster 50mm f/0.95 III manual focus
KIPON Elegant 50mm f/2.4 manual focus
Meike MK-50mm f/1.7 manual focus
Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens

Canon EOS (EF-S) [30mm = 50mm equivalent field of view on Canon APS-C]

Lens Characteristics
Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC HSM autofocus
Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC HSM Art Lens

Canon EOS M (EF-M) [32mm = 50mm equivalent field of view on Canon APS-C]

Lens Characteristics
Canon EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM autofocus
Mitakon Zhongyi Speedmaster 35mm f/0.95 Mark II manual focus
7artisans Photoelectric 35mm f/1.2 manual focus
Meike MK-35mm f/1.4 manual focus
Meike MK-35mm f/1.7 manual focus
Opteka 35mm f/1.7 manual focus
Canon EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM Lens

Pentax K (Full Frame)

Lens Characteristics
Pentax HD FA* 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW autofocus
Pentax smc DA 50mm f/1.8 autofocus
Pentax smc P-D FA 50mm f/2.8 Macro autofocus
Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 autofocus
Rokinon 50mm f/1.4 AS IF UMC manual focus
Samyang 50mm f/1.4 AS UMC manual focus
Pentax Normal SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 Autofocus Lens

Pentax K (APS-C) [35mm = 50mm equivalent field of view on Pentax APS-C]

Lens Characteristics
Pentax 35mm DA L F/2.4 AL autofocus
Pentax 35mm DA L F2.4 AL Lens

Sony E (Full Frame)

Lens Characteristics
Sony 50mm f/1.4 Carl Zeiss Planar T* ZA autofocus
Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 autofocus
Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T* manual focus
Rokinon AF 45mm f/1.8 FE autofocus
Rokinon 50mm f/1.4 AS IF UMC manual focus
Rokinon AF 50mm f/1.4 FE autofocus
Samyang 50mm f/1.4 AS UMC manual focus
>Mitakon Zhongyi Speedmaster 50mm f/0.95 III manual focus
KIPON Iberit 50mm f/2.4 manual focus
Meike MK-50mm f/1.7 manual focus
Sony Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 ZA SSM Lens

Sony E (APS-C) [35mm = 50mm equivalent field of view on Sony APS-C]

Lens Characteristics
Sony E 35mm f/1.8 OSS autofocus
Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary autofocus
Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8 autofocus
Rokinon 35mm f/1.2 ED AS UMC CS manual focus
Mitakon Zhongyi Speedmaster 35mm f/0.95 Mark II manual focus
Mikaton Zhongyi 35mm f/0.95 manual focus
7artisans Photoelectric 35mm f/1.2 manual focus
Meike MK-35mm f/1.7 manual focus
Neewer 35mm f/1.7 manual focus
Opteka 35mm f/1.7 manual focus
Sony E 35mm f/1.8 OSS Lens

Sony A (Full Frame)

Lens Characteristics
Sony 50mm f/1.4 Carl Zeiss Planar T* ZA autofocus
Sony 50mm f/1.4 autofocus
Rokinon 50mm f/1.4 AS IF UMC manual focus
Sony 50mm f/1.4 Lens

Sony A [35mm = 50mm equivalent field of view on Sony APS-C]

Lens Characteristics
Sony 35mm f/1.8 DT SAM autofocus
Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC HSM Art autofocus
Sony DT 35mm f/1.8 SAM Lens

Sigma SA

Lens Characteristics
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art autofocus
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens

Fujifilm X [35mm = 50mm equivalent field of view on Fujifilm APS-C]

Lens Characteristics
Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 R WR autofocus
Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4 XF R autofocus
Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8 autofocus
Mitakon Zhongyi Speedmaster 35mm f/0.95 Mark II manual focus
7artisans Photoelectric 35mm f/1.2 manual focus
7artisans Photoelectric 35mm f/2 manual focus
Meike MK-35mm f/1.4 manual focus

Meike MK-35mm f/1.7

manual focus
Opteka 35mm f/1.7 manual focus
Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4 XF R Lens

Leica M

Lens Characteristics
Leica 50mm f/1.4 ASPH Summilux M manual focus
Leica 50mm f/2.0 Summicron M manual focus
Leica 50mm f/2.0 APO ASPH Summicron M manual focus
Leica 50mm f/0.95 ASPH Noctilux M manual focus
Leica 50mm f/2.4 Summarit M manual focus
Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 C Sonnar T* manual focus
Zeiss 50mm f/2 Planar T* manual focus
Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.1 manual focus
Voigtländer NOKTON 50mm f/1.2 Aspherical manual focus
Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.5 Aspherical manual focus
Voigtländer Heliar 50mm f/3.5 manual focus
7artisans Photoelectric 50mm f/1.1 manual focus
KIPON Iberit 50mm f/2.4 manual focus
Leica Normal 50mm f/1.4 Summilux M Aspherical Manual Focus Lens

Leica T

Lens Characteristics
Leica Summilux-TL 35mm f/1.4 ASPH autofocus
Leica Summilux-TL 35mm f/1.4 ASPH Lens

Micro Four Thirds [25mm = 50mm equivalent field of view on Micro Four Thirds]

Lens Characteristics
Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 ASPH autofocus
Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 ASPH autofocus
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO autofocus
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 25mm f/1.8 autofocus
Mitakon Zhongyi Speedmaster 25mm f/0.95 manual focus
Voigtlander Nokton 25mm f/0.95 Type II manual focus
Sigma 30mm f/2.8 DN autofocus
7artisans Photoelectric 50mm f/1.8 manual focus
Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 ASPH. Lens

Panasonic/Leica L-Mount

Lens Characteristics
Panasonic Lumix S PRO 50mm f/1.4 autofocus
Leica Summilux-SL 50mm f/1.4 ASPH autofocus
Leica APO-Summicron-SL 50mm f/2 ASPH autofocus
7artisans Photoelectric 50mm f/1.1 manual focus
KIPON Iberit 50mm f/2.4 manual focus
Leica APO-Summicron-SL 50mm f/2 ASPH. Lens
Leica APO-Summicron-SL 50mm f/2 ASPH. Lens

Where do you stand on the 50mm lens? Is it a necessity? Do you think it is the best lens for beginners? Has it been made obsolete by zooms? Is it your go-to lens or are you curious to try one? Let us know in the Comments section, below.

Items discussed in article

116 Comments

Great article on this subject. My challenge now is how to determine the various benefits vs cost of the Canon 50's.

1.2 vs 1.4 vs 1.8    I now have the Canon EOS R and I don't think I can find the $'s for the 1.2 RF lens, so...anything you can add to the other EF choices?

Thanks,

Tom

Hey Thomas,

Thanks for the praise on the article!

Great question! Before I answer, I will qualify my statement by saying that I have never been a Canon shooter, but I do know a bunch of them and I have discussed their 50mm options several times.

Having said that, I have heard, many times over the years, that the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 (a lens I own and love) is superior to the Canon 50mm f/1.8 when compared directly. That would lead me to send you to the Canon 50mm f/1.4 (or the f/1.2) in your search. The disadvantage of the 50mm f/1.2 (EF and R version), besides cost, is the size of the lens. You aren't really dealing with a "Nifty Fifty" there...it is a big lens. My guess is that there will be some less expensive 50mm's available for the R soon...you might even search the rumors websites to see if there is any buzz. I just checked the Canon R lens roadmap and there aren't any 50's mentioned. :(

My $0.02...get a used (or new) 50mm f/1.4 and enjoy it until something newer comes out for the R mount. If you want to start saving now for the R, get a 50mm f/1.8 and have fun with it! It is a decent lens, but could be better.

Let me know if you have follow-ups, Thomas! Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the kind words!

The everyday carry focal length I like the most is 35mm. I like 50mm focal length too, but I appreciate that I can get more in the frame with a 35mm than with a 50mm. When carrying primes, thought, I like carrying my 25mm (Batis) and my 55mm (Sony). They make a good pair. If I have extra space, I love bringing along my Samyang 135mm, too.

Good stuff, Jonathan! Thanks for sharing your experience! 

You and Shawn Steiner can be best friends now! https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/buying-guide/lens-every-photographer-should-have-and-use-35mm

Thanks for stopping by!

For Sony E (APS-C), any reason you recommend the Sigma Contemporary over the Art? Just b/c it's faster, or other considerations too? Thanks. 

Hey Jason,

The list above isn't necessarily recommendations, it is to show what is available in these focal lengths. Did we miss a Sigma for Sony E APS-C?

Let us know!

Yeah, the Sigma 30 f/2.8 DN Art lens. Precursor to the Sigma 1.4 Contemporary on your list, but still in production and available at B&H.

Cons: Not as fast as the Contemporary, obviously, so can't compete in terms of depth of field, low-light performance, or bokeh. Also only supports phase-detect autofocus in the very center, so not ideal for subjects moving quickly across the frame.

Pros: Significantly cheaper and far more compact than the Contemporary, and great bang-for-the buck in terms of image quality. Both the labs and the in-the-field reviewers agree this lens should cost more than it does. Theoretically the Art line is also supposed to have slightly better build quality and better optics than the Contemporary, though there are those who suggest that's more marketing talk than anything else.

Ahhh! That one snuck by. Thanks, Jason!

We will update the list above!

Funny. When I bought my first DSLR (Nikon D5100) back in 2011, the lens I was about to buy (18-70mm) wasn't in stock, so the first one I got was Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G. I planned to learn shooting portraits with that, as it was and still stays my main interest in photography. The lens served that purpose just perfect.

I'm feeling like it's time to upgrade and may be switch to fullframe. I know it will drastically change the field of view and not sure if it worth it. May be just take D500 and 50mm f/1.4 and keep going. Really struggling here.

You're obviously much more experienced in this than me. Got any advice?

Hey Denis,

So, the D500 and 50mm f/1.4 is a great portrait combination. As you know. And, you can stick with DX and keep on being a happy DX shooter. The D500 is a great camera. I keep telling people that it is basically a D5 without the vertical grip and a slightly smaller sensor...at a fraction of the price. It really is a professional-level APS-C camera.

Or, you can go full-frame, and still have your great 50mm that will now behave like a traditional 50mm and then you can get an 85mm or 105mm portrait lens for your portrait work. Or, you can get the D500 and an 85mm portrait lens and do portraits with that, too!

Shoot. Now I am struggling! :)

If you can resist the gravitational pull of full-frame, get the D500 and make some great photos with a small(er) and light(er) pro package!

Standing by for follow-ups! Thanks for stopping by!

You got me thinking even more...

I was just about to stop on D500 + 16-80mm lens, so I could have a new, more advanced camera and a good zoom to replace my 18-140, which is sadly not nearly as sharp as I hoped it to be. Does auto distorion control for that lens really help? Never had this feature in camera before and just corrected distortion in postprocessing. Also, would you advise to try 35mm on D500 for the real "50mm feel" or just stick with the zoom and use 35mm there?

Thanks for your articles, btw. Really helping people like me :)

Hey Denis,

First of all, no worries at all! It's my pleasure to help you and our other customers out!

Given an unlimited budget, I would get the D500 and the 16-80mm. That is a fantastic lens and a top performer. I would also grab the DX 35mm f/1.8 as your "50"...that is a great lens as well and will definitely not break the bank. I cant speak for your finances, but adding that 35mm f/1.8 to the pile when you are making a big purchase probably is just like doubling the sales tax! And, if you live outside of NY or NJ and shopping from B&H, you aren't paying taxes anyway!

You can use it for low-light work or for when you want to travel super light. Your 50mm is also your low light option and a great portrait lens.

Standing by for more follow-ups! Let me know what you figure out!

I own the Sony/Zeis 55mm and it is a great lens, extremely sharp with beautiful bokeh, but the 50mm I use most is the Sony FE 50mm F2.8 macro.  A decent lens, light enough to carry and use in most situations, and to take macros.

Good stuff, Mike! Thanks for sharing your experience and stopping by Explora!

True, you guys also forgot to add Sony's 55mm FE in the Sony FE mount list! Great lens.

True, but I had to draw the line somewhere! If I allowed 55mm lenses, then I might have to allow 56mm lenses. And what about that legendary Nikon 58mm? Oops, now we are close to the 60mm lens focal length....

Before you know it, we have an article that talks about every lens ever made. :)

I have the Canon 50/1.4 and like it a bunch (couldn't swing the 1.2 at the time). I'm really wanting to dip a toe into macro. Would this 50 paired with an extension tube or a bellows be a decent setup? Or should I get a dedicated macro lens? And yes I did read your macro article ;)  Thanks for all the effort you put into your articles. 

Hey Dale,

If you were a Nikon shooter, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend some classic, and very inexpensive Nikon macro glass. Unfortunately, there are not similar older offerings from Canon.

You could, if you were adventurous enough, get a Canon to Nikon adapter and shoot a classic Nikon macro lens on your Canon. Crazier things have been tried!

If you just want to dip a toe into macro, tubes would be the way to go. Bellows are pretty extreme—more like diving in head first! If you think you will be enjoying it, you might want to adapt the Nikon 55mm f/2.8 (check the Used Store...they appear there often) as it will be easy on the check book. Or, you could always rent a Canon macro lens and see if you enjoy it before making the plunge.

Standing by for follow-ups! Thanks for the kind words!

so would you suggest the 50mm f/1.8 as a good starter lens for a beginner? i'm on the fence betweem the 50mm or the 15-85mm f/3.5. not sure if i should get both or just the one. buying a canon 80d body to go with it. i've also read that macro lenses can be a good all around lens, but not sure if that would be getting ahead of myself.

Hey suzanne,

That is a toss up. There are definitely two-schools of thought. The zoom is versatile and many people prefer them. It kind of depends on your approach to photography. If you are more serious about the art and craft, the 50mm might be the way to go. If you are a casual shooter, the zoom will serve you well.

Remember, the Canon 80D is an APS-C-sized sensor, so the 30mm lens I mentioned above on the list will give you the nearest thing to the 50mm experience. 

That is just my opinion...it all boils down to your preference in the end. But, you can't go wrong with a good prime lens!

Todd,

Thanks for your response. My goal is to develop a solid understanding of the dslr and the art of photography.  I guess that's why I'm putting so much thought into my starter lens.  Whatever I end up getting will have to serve me well for a while (at least a year).  So I want to choose wisely.  Based on all the reading I've done, I favor the idea of the prime lens.  So taking into account the crop factor for the 80d, I was thinking perhaps the canon EF 35mm f 2 IS USM (35mm equivalant would be 56mm). Would that be close enough to the 50mm lens to get the same benefits? In the meantime, I will take a look see at the sigma 30mm lens you mentioned. But why am I hesistant to go with non-canon lenses?? 

Btw, I am enjoying reading your articles. I've learned a lot and you've made me laugh too. Thanks!

ok so i just read your answer to mr enggaard's question below me. i hear you. i will ponder my options, but it looks like that 35mm will be an decent lens to learn and grow with.  thanks for taking the time to answer our many many questions. 

You are very welcome. It is my pleasure to help others with their photography! Cheers!

Hey suzanne,

Sorry for the delay in replying...I was working at a night photo workshop with the National Parks at Night crew in Cape Cod. Very fun!

I like that you are leaning towards a prime lens for your serious pursuit of the art. That Canon 35mm will serve you well, at a slightly longer reach than a standard 50mm lens. But, if you aren't familiar with the 50mm experience, you won't really be walking around thinking that your field of view is any difference. Right?

Sigma has a great reputation and has been making some really nice lenses of late, but you are not alone in hesitating to go "off-brand." Many of us have the same hesitation.

Thanks so much for the kind words! Any laughter was purely accidental as I am always deadly serious in my articles! :)

Thank you for a very interesting article. I have a Canon APS-C, so is it then your recommondation to go for a prime ~35 mm instead of a 50 mm?

Regards Peter

Hey Peter,

With APS-C, I would go for the 35mm for the "50 feel."

But, don't shirk the 50, as, on APS-C, it makes a great portrait lens.

Thanks for reading and thanks for the question!

Excellent article Todd. Back in 1971 the Navy exchange in Japan only offered a few kits to ship out to the hinterlands (Diego Garcia). Our photographer's mates were using Pentax and Nikon so I went with the Pentax and still have the original kit including the 50mm 1.4. Today I have acquired Pentax F/50 1.4 and 1.7 and M42 Mamiya Sekor 55 plus the 50 mm for my Nikon F2 Photomic for film. The 50s were the backbone of composition, color, and perspective. They taught all of that back when a zoom was moving your feet as much as necessary to the desired framing. The other thing that sticks out especially on the older lenses is the color renditioning from the glass coatings (especially the Pentaxes) and how the saturation and sharpness hold up so well today. For much of the vintage woodworking tool images that I do, that 35 year old Pentax 50mm 1.7 will bring out the grain of Rosewood, Mahogany, and Fiddleback Maple superbly. Again, thanks for the well written article

Hey Lou,

Thank you for the kind words and thank you for your service! I always thought that PH was the best rate you could do in the Navy. Had I not been an aviator, I would have gone PH!

It is really amazing how sharp and sweet an inexpensive 50mm lens can be!

Thanks for stopping by and Go Navy!

I have a Canon APS-C and use the EF35 f2.0 as my "Niffty 56".  Very pleased with it.

Thanks for the article.

Steve

Thanks for stopping by, Steve!

I am curious as to why this article only includes 50mm lenses

Because that's what it's about?

Hi Leic,

I am passionate about my 50mm lenses and, therefore, chose that focal length.

Thanks for stopping by!

I enjoyed my old Konica 52mm lens way back when, but what I would really like to see in the Canon EF mount is a lens like my Konica Hexanon 40mm, F1.8. That lens alway felt like an extension of me.

Might be time to switch to mirrorless, grab an adapter, and start shooting that Konica lens again!

Thanks for reading, Eric!

Just wish canon made a decent 50 lens

Sigma knocks it out of the park  

otherwise there is nothing for Canon  puzzling 

Their new 35 L is epic.   That is about it.  

Hey John,

Hopefully they are reading the discussion here and see your comment!

Are you not a fan of the Canon 50mm f/1.2L? If not a fan, care to share why?

Thanks for stopping by!

Todd

I never bought the 50, 1.2

based on Bryan C.'s image tests it seemed too soft for me. 

Felt the 85 1.2 and new 35 were better. Sticking with them

why do you like the 50?

Hey John,

I am not a Canon shooter, but I know the 50mm f/1.2 has a bunch of fans. My Canon experience is limited and has never included the 50mm lenses they make.

I can't post the links to Bryan's site (we don't want you to leave here!), but thanks for sending the info. If you, or other readers have Canon 50mm favorites, definitely let us know!

Thanks for replying!

I to would also like to voice my concern as to why you left out the fabulously great Sony/Zeiss 55mm f1.8. Last year I shot with the a6000 with the 24MN 1.8 (36MN equivalent), absolutely love street photos with that set up. Updated to the A7M2. Looked at the best 50mm and best ratings and it was the 55mm. So sad...you didn't mention it.

Hey Tom,

I will take the blame on that one. I researched the lens selection as carefully as I could, but, as it is 55mm, this Sony lens was missed.

I appreciate you mentioning it here and I will see if we want to add it to the list, although, once you let a 55mm in, will we have to start letting 56mm lenses in, too? :)

For those interested in the Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA lens, click here.

Thanks for writing in!

Re the 56mm question - I'd say if there was a high quality 56mm lens, then yes it would be worth including in the list.  The logic behind including the 55mm in this list is not just that it's fairly close to 50mm but also because in the sony world it's a lens with a big rep - 191 reviews on B&H with a 170 5 star reviews and 19 4 star reviews. Anyone in the sony world looking for a ~50mm prime would be remiss to count it out -  the planar is bigger and pricier, the cheap sony 50mm 1.8 has slow autofocus, and the loxia and mitakon lenses are both manual only. There is nothing else like it in terms of size and performance.

Thanks for your vote, Jack!

I will bring this up at our next lens conference and see what we decide! 

Your feedback and thoughts are appreciated!

Thanks for reading!

Just picked up the Classic Nikon F Film camera body and couldnt be more excited to pair it up with the best lens possible. I was torn between going with a 35mm or 50mm after reading this article im leaning towards the 50mm. I shoot mainly actionsports and portraits,would love any suggestions on what would be the best for what I shoot.

In the 70s I had a Nikon F with a 55mm f1.2.  These days I have the lens paired with my Sony a7SM2.  This setup can photograph things in the dark that I can't see.  It's soft focus wide open and tack sharp images at f8-11 give you great versitility.

I have heard great things about that lens as well!

Hi Bryant,

There are a lot of folks that say the Nikon 50mm f/1.2 is the best 50mm they have made. However, everyone seems to agree that wide open, it leaves a lot to be desired. 

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the older AIS 50mm f/1.8 pancake lens. Small, sharp, no distrotion—a fantastic lens! And you can usually find them for well less than $100. I used it on many shots for my review of the Nikon F here.

Bottom line is that you cannot really go wrong with any Nikon 50mm lens. I don't think they have made a bad 50 ever.

Thanks for reading!

The kit lenses that come with the 5xxx and 3xxx Nikon DX bodies are great, but the 35mm f1.8 DX lens is absolutely the next lens for a DX user to get. Light, fast, and inexpensive. It is always in my bag when I'm shooting with my DX bodies.

When I shoot full-frame, the 50mm f1.4D is always in the bag. It is truly the low-light secret weapon, and reaonalbly affordable to buy used.

I think of the 55mm f2.8 macro (Nikon's first AF macro) as the swing lens, a good portrait lens for DX, a good all-around normal lens on FX.

And if you don't mind manual focus, the 28 f.2.8 AI or AI-S lens is a super sharp normal lens for DX (a 42mm equivalent), and is easy to find used for about $100 in decent condition.

Hi Randy,

Somehow this comment slipped through the cracks! I apologize for not replying sooner.

I agree with all of your statements! Yes, that 35mm f/1.8 DX lens is stellar...and so inexpensive!

Thanks for writing in!

I personally see the 35mm 1.8 & the 50mm 1.8 as the same lens with just a wider field of view on the 35mm.

I won't disagree with that, Mr. Blak. Someone needs to come up with a catchy "Nifty-Fifty" tag line for the 35mm lens...

Show older comments

Close

Close

Close