Friday, April 4, 2014

How Nifty Is A Fifty?

If you have spent any time in a photographic community it's likely that you've heard of the lens often referred to as a nifty fifty. For many photographers in film era the nifty fifty, a 50mm F1.8 lens, was either the first or second lens they owned. While today's entry level DSLR cameras come with 18-55mm kit, early film SLRs were kitted with a 50mm F1.8. Unlike the modern kit zoom, which I'm sure you'll never hear referred to as the nifty eighteen to fifty-five, the nifty fifty is said to offer the user some (no pun intended) nifty features.

How nifty is a 50mm F1.8? While the usefulness of any lens comes down to how the photographer in question chooses to use it, the 50mm F1.8 does have some features that many a newbie seeks, without a hefty price tag.  First of all it has what is called a wide aperture, F1.8, which has two advantages.

1. Out of focus blur (bokeh), that elusive creative tool that draws many a shooter from a point and shoot or cell phone to larger format cameras. While this affect can be somewhat duplicated by software after taking a photo, it is not the same.

2. Provides the ability to take photo in low light situations. Even though modern camera have ever improving high ISO performance, there comes a point when the light is so low that you loose the required shutter speed for some types of photography. The wide aperture of a 50mm F1.8 lens not only enables you to reduce sharpness in the background, but also to shoot in lower light conditions.

What else does a 50mm lens have going for it? A 50mm lens provides a natural field of view (FX). That means a similar view to what many people have within their normal (rather than peripheral) vision. While it might be common to think that a wide angle lens is required for landscape shooting, that is far from the truth. In addition, a 50mm F1.8 lens is often rather compact in size, and light weight. As a result of that a 50mm F1.8 lens easy to take along on any journey.

If you are the user of a modern full frame camera the nifty fifty is a great lens to have in your bag, because it offers a fast aperture. The F1.8 aperture allows the user to have creative control over the background in an image, and the ability to work in low light conditions. The light weight, compact nature of the lens also makes it a no brainer to bring along on almost any outing with your camera. 

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