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A 50mm lens is one of the best lenses you can get!

It’s fast, high-quality and delivers some of the best bokeh shots of any camera lens.

You’ll have no doubt heard of it before and it is a great lens.

However, before you go and buy a 50mm lens, you might want to take a few points into consideration.

While the creamy bokeh, handheld night shots and portrait-friendly focal length may make the nifty fifty an attractive lens, it’s certainly not without its flaws.

This article will give you the lowdown on the wildly popular lens, telling you all you need to know. From technical specs to practical examples, this blog post will have it all!

What Is A 50mm Lens?

A 50mm prime lens is a camera lens where the focal length is set at 50mm. This is where the term “prime” comes in.

A “prime” lens has a fixed focal length, meaning you cannot zoom in or out. You may be used to zooming in and out on your kit lens, however, this will not be possible with a 50mm lens.

This means you’ll need to move closer or farther from your subject if you are trying to zoom in or out. While this can be very frustrating at first, in the long term it will force you to be more creative.

This is because you will be exposed to different compositions as different subjects creep in and out of the framing. This will give you new ideas for compositions and it will help you to develop your creative skills.

50mm lenses are often described as having an aperture of “F/1.8”. Some 50mm lenses will have an F/1.4 aperture but we won’t focus on those lenses (they cost hundreds more than the F/1.8 edition and have very few extra benefits apart from a wider aperture).

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This means that F/1.8 will be the widest aperture your lens will be able to shoot at. You can shoot at a narrower aperture if you want more of your scene to be kept in focus, however, this will result in a loss of light.

This type of lens is often made of plastic, just like kit lenses. While this will not affect the function of the camera or the quality of your photographs, it does mean your lens will be far less likely to survive rigorous abuse or constant wear and tear.

They are often described as producing photos that look similar to what the eye would see. This is because the 50mm focal length is neither too zoomed-in nor too wide (to the point where it is distorted).

This explains why a 50mm lens is ideal for portrait photography. It does not distort the face of the subject and it is zoomed-in enough so that you can fill the entire frame.

50mm lenses are also wildly popular too, among beginners and professionals alike. Some of the reasons behind this is the affordability of the lens, the quality of the pictures taken and the versatility and variety of uses for the 50mm lens.

Why Are They So Popular?

As you may have noticed, 50mm lenses are wildly popular. Their versatility, affordability and high-quality lens make the nifty fifty an ideal choice for lots of photographers.

However, when we drill down into the specifics of the lens, we can start to really see why so many photographers opt for the “nifty fifty”.

50mm Lenses Have Beautiful Bokeh When Photos Are Shot At A Wider Aperture

bokeh lightbulbs what is 50mm lens

The 50mm lens shoots pictures with creamy bokeh and beautifully blurred backgrounds, as long as you keep the aperture wide open.

The shallow depth-of-field is ideal when you’re trying to separate your subject from the background. This works particularly well when you have a busy background packed full of movement and various subjects.

Filmmakers will also be delighted when shooting their productions with the 50mm lens. The shallow depth-of-field helps to convey a moody scene and the soft bokeh lends itself very well to a large movie screen, helping the audience to stay focused on the main subject.

Portraits Look AMAZING When Shot On This Lens

night portrait what is 50mm lens

As previously mentioned, the wide aperture and 50mm focal length make for some amazing pictures.

However, these specifications become even more important if you are a portrait photographer.

Ask any portrait photographer what their favourite lens is and they’ll probably say 50mm. 

This is because the 50mm focal length is wide enough to fit in the subject but not so wide that the picture ends up looking distorted.

Focal length plays an important role in photography and I suggest you learn more about it. Check out this website which explains how focal lengths work in a simple way if you want to deepen your knowledge on how camera lenses function.

The compression makes the subject stand out while giving you a “bokehlicious” background, yet the photo remains sharp and punchy.

The wide F/1.8 aperture makes this lens ideal for shooting at night or in low-light conditions. Night portraits look perfect when shot on this lens,

As you can tell, it’s not surprising why so many photographers shoot portraits with a 50mm lens:

  • The 50mm focal length lets you fill the whole frame with your subject
  • The wide F/1.8 aperture lets you shoot in low-light conditions
  • The compression and wide aperture combined lets you shoot images packed with bokeh and a well-separated foreground and background

The Versatility Of The Lens Is Second To None

The 50mm focal length should be considered as the sweet spot of focal lengths. In the grand scheme of things, it is not overly telephoto, nor is it overly wide.

This makes the “nifty fifty” one of the most useful lenses to have with you, as it can handle a variety of shooting situations very well (more on this later).

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Wide aperture, good bokeh and a sharp lens are all attributes that lend themselves well to almost any shooting situation. Couple this with a 50mm focal length which looks akin to the human eye and you’re onto a winner!

All in all, it can be difficult to beat the 50mm lens for sheer affordability and versatility. At a relatively low price, you get a powerful package that can produce pictures that are pleasing to the eye in almost all conditions.

It Encourages Creativity And Good Composition

coffee inspiration what is 50mm lens

A 50mm lens has roughly the same field-of-view as a human eye, as mentioned earlier in this article. This is why it is so popular among portrait photographers, as it lets you capture images that look similar to what the human eye would see.

Portrait photography is just one example of the type of photos you can shoot with this lens, however!

The fixed lens (technically referred to as a prime lens) will force you to be more intentional with your composition.

You cannot just zoom in or out to get a new composition. You will need to move around and think on your feet.

While this might feel limiting at first, you’ll soon realise how useful it is. You’ll sharpen your creative skills and develop your “eye” for photography while relying less on your zoom lens.

This means you’ll be able to better adapt to a variety of lenses and shoot epic photos with them, regardless of whether they’re a prime or zoom lens.

What Kind Of Photography Can I Shoot With A 50mm Lens?

The 50mm lens is a great catch-all lens. You can shoot almost any genre of photography with this lens. Some great examples include:

  • Night Photography (The wide F/1.8 aperture is ideal for this, letting lots of light into the sensor)
  • Pet Photography
  • Travel Photography (Ideal for architecture, etc)
  • Food Photography
  • Portrait Photography

This means that if you decide to shoot another type of photography or to try something new, your lens will still be useful. A 50mm lens is a great lens to buy regardless of what photography you shoot and they are available at a reasonable price online.

If you’re looking for some inspiration to get those creative juices flowing, I suggest you have a look at this article which features 50 fantastic photos, all shot on a 50mm lens..

It will give you an idea of what you are capable of snapping with a nifty fifty and give you a better idea of what *you* would like to photograph yourself.

Should I Use A 50mm Lens As A Beginner Photographer?

beginner photographer new what is 50mm lens


It is absolutely worth your time to pick yourself up one of these bad boys.

You can usually find them for around £50-£150 brand new online and they are worth every penny.

The quality of the lens and the wide aperture make for some amazing pictures. While the body is typically made of plastic rather than the metal seen on more expensive lenses, this will have no impact on the picture quality.

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It simply means you need to be more considerate in how you handle and use your lens.

The versatility of the focal length makes it a great lens for almost any type of photography. This could be considered as a “set and forget” lens.

Simply leave the nifty fifty on your camera and shoot away. You’ll get excellent pictures whatever the scene.

I would suggest you buy this lens as a step-up from a kit lens. If you’ve been using a kit lens for the past few months and you’re looking for an upgrade, the next logical choice would be this lens.

While it does not have zooming capabilities like the kit lens, the fixed focal length means the camera will produce sharper photos as it is only focusing on one focal length (ie. jack of all trades… master of none).

Trust me, when you use a 50mm lens for the first time, you’ll be hooked. Just remember to keep your kit lens so you can shoot pictures where you may need to zoom in and out. After all, the 50mm lens is a prime lens.

How Much Does A 50mm Lens Cost?

british pound money what is 50mm lens

Lucky for you, 50mm lenses are on the cheaper side in comparison to more expensive lenses.

When you see some lenses going for £1,500+ a pop, a £100-£150 lens looks like a good deal. And I believe it is.

For that £150/ish investment, you’re getting a powerful and versatile lens that’ll last you for years (if not decades) to come.

I have linked below some 50mm lenses on Amazon if you wish to go and buy one. Links are for both Canon and Nikon models:

If you do decide to take the plunge and buy the lens, congratulations! You have made the right decision and this lens will amaze you with its photo quality and lens sharpness.

In Conclusion

The great thing about the 50mm lens is its ability to do almost everything well – portrait shots, night photography, street photography, you name it.

This is the ideal step-up from a kit lens and it is a great way to get back to basics if you’re a more experienced photographer. 

It’s a terrific tool to have in your kit and I highly suggest you give it a try when you next go out on a photo shoot.

What are your thoughts on the nifty fifty? Have you taken any candid shots with this lens? Let us know your thoughts below.

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Joel Oughton is the Creator of Photoaspire. He likes to write about anything photography related and is more than happy to help out others with any photography-related issues

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