The 50mm focal length has the same field of view as the naked eye and, therefore, is a popular focal length lens for photographers and it is a lens all photographers should have in their bag of lenses. There are many 50mm prime lenses available to buy and choosing the best one for your specific needs isn’t an easy choice. Before choosing a 50mm prime lens there are a few questions you need to answer, as follows…….
Auto focus or no auto focus?
Most modern day lenses have auto focus so you can chose whether to focus the lens yourself (i.e. manually) or let the camera do it for you. Even cheap modern day 50mm lenses have auto focus however this is not always the case with older 50mm lenses.
There are older 50mm lenses, some of which are made by well-known and respected manufacturers, which are manual focus only lenses. The image quality of some of these manual focus only lenses is superb, and I mean superb, and it is worth mastering the art of manual focus so you can use these lenses should the opportunity arise.
If you are the sort of photographer who prefers to focus manually all the time and never let the camera choose the focal point there really is no point in splashing out on a manual focus/auto focus lens, and by choosing a manual focus only lens you could end up saving yourself a wedge of cash.
What maximum widest aperture?
When choosing a 50mm prime lens you need to identify the maximum widest aperture you want to shoot at before parting with your hard earned cash. All 50mm prime lenses are fast and the maximum widest apertures comprise f1.8, f1.4 and f1.2. As you’d expect the f1.8 lenses are significantly cheaper than the f1.2 lenses, with the f1.4 lenses being mid-priced.
Some photographers have a “wider is better” opinion, which I have to say I don’t agree with. When shooting at ultra-wide apertures you need to be spot n with your focal point and if you don’t nail this your images will be soft. The wider you shoot the more accurate you have to be.
If you need to use an aperture of f1.4 or narrower to get the subjects you like to shoot in proper focus what’s the point in spending the extra and buying a 50mm f1.2 lens? Similarly, if you need to use an aperture of f1.8 or narrower to get the subjects you like to shoot in proper focus there is no point in buying a 50mmf1.4 or 50m f1.2 lens is there?
You can always narrow the aperture and stop the lens down but you can never open a lens more than its maximum widest aperture.
Branded or third party?
Whatever brand of camera you shoot there is more than one brand of 50mm lenses available for your camera. For example, if you shoot a Canon dslr camera you have the choice of a Canon 50mm lens, Yongnuo 50mm lens and Sigma 50mm lens to name just three. The same applies to Nikon Shooters too.
There are some photographers who only shoot lenses made by the manufacturer of the camera they shoot, and if you are one of these that’s totally your look out, which is fine. If you are open to using a third party branded 50mm prime lens the options increase and you have a greater choice of 50mm prime lenses available to you.
What level of build quality?
The 50mm f1.8 prime lenses are typically made from inferior materials and are more like toys than serious photography equipment even though they are capable of capturing some stunning photos. The 50mm f1.4 lenses are very well made as are the 50mm f1.2 lenses. Before you decide on what 50mm prime lens to buy you need to think about the level of build quality you are prepared to accept.
What’s the budget?
Not many people are in the position where money is no object therefore before buying a 50mm prime lens it is necessary to set a budget. As a general rule of thumb the narrower the maximum aperture the cheaper the lens, i.e. the 50mm f1.8 is cheaper than the f1.4 which in turn is cheaper than the f1.2. There are, of course, some exceptions to this.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.