The Versatility of a 50mm Prime

I know, I know, the 50mm again. There isn’t much more for me to add really. The attributes of this focal length have been lauded many times in many articles, including on this site. A (usually) cheap and light prime, very sharp with a fast aperture and beautiful bokeh. A useful portrait length on APS-C sensors (75mm – 80mm equivalent field of view), and on full frame it’s supposedly close to how the human eye sees (don’t know about you, but my human eyes see the almost 180 degrees stereoscopic vision they were designed for). Still, the 50mm is often claimed as a classic and an essential addition to our kit.

1 Flower St James's Park

A Photography Life reader recently asked me to write about using a 50mm lens, so rather than rehash its technical aspects, which have been expertly and amply covered on this site alone, I’ll simply share my own experience of its versatility, with all the shots here made with a 50mm.

2 Chinatown

I have to admit to not using my DSLR much in the last year, and I don’t have an equivalent prime lens for my m4/3 kit, but the 50mm had always been a staple part of my DSLR gear. Like many people, it was the first prime lens I bought, and served me particularly well capturing scenes on my travels or freezing action in low light.

3 Vltava River

4 Juggler - Prague

It can be a tricky focal length to get used to on APS-C sized sensors, tightening the frame and limiting your field of view, especially indoors. But this can also be its strength, making it very effective for portraits and individual items or details. Having the tighter frame helps to de-clutter it and focus the viewer’s attention on the subject.

5 Wedding Macaroons

The longer equivalent field of view on APS-C sensors also made this lens very useful to me as a nature lens, with the wide aperture isolating the subject against an out-of-focus background. Naturally, being a prime lens, the details were sharp, even zoomed into the picture.

6 Bee Landing

6a Regent's Park

7 Heron

Furthermore, it has proved useful capturing wildlife too, as being shorter than typical telephoto means I can place the subject in more of its environment.

8 Pelican St James's Park

9 Stag Richmond Park

Like any lens, it is only through experience that one gets used to the focal length and becomes able to judge when to use it, particularly with the short telephoto effect on APS-C sensors. Your eye learns to ‘see’ with that focal length, and for any given situation you can decide whether it’s appropriate.

9a F-15 Eagle

(Cropped off the top and bottom of this shot.)

It’s tempting to use it at the widest aperture all the time, but remember that depth of field is very shallow here (especially on a full frame camera), so if you are close to your subject and it isn’t completely perpendicular to you then some of it will be out of focus. It’s worth stopping down a little to ensure your whole subject is in focus while still maintaining a nicely out of focus background. Using a single point AF means you can determine exactly where the focus will be. Some photographers even manually focus for more control.

10 Genka

Shooting scenic views or landscapes, you might stop down further still to narrow the depth of field and even use a tripod to ensure the shot is sharp, especially when shooting at night.

11 Prague Castle

11a Queen Elizabeth Tower

I personally found the 50mm particularly effective for scenic shots. Most people want to go wide to get as much into the frame as possible, but this ironically ends up disconnecting you from individual features. With a tighter frame you can focus more on what you really want inside it, and hopefully lead the eye into the shot.

12 Flam

13a-Norway-Rainbow

13b Alesund

As sharp as these primes are stopped down, the fast aperture is undoubtedly very useful in low light. You may still need to raise your ISO, but combined with the widest aperture the 50mm lets you use faster shutter speeds than would otherwise be possible. I found this particularly useful shooting events indoors, and more recently capturing some swallow chicks under the roof of a very dark boathouse. (Both these shots below were taken at F/1.8)

14 Muay-Thai

14a Swallow-Chicks

On full frame I have used my 50mm for shooting food and fireworks with pleasing results (at least pleasing to me, anyway!).

15 Beetroot Salad

16 New Year Fireworks

I may not have anything original to offer with respect to this lens, but that is hardly surprising since it has been a favourite of photographers since long before I hatched onto the planet’s surface. Still, hopefully I have demonstrated how versatile this lens can be in capturing all kinds of subjects, and perhaps reinforce its use in preference to more convenient zooms. Enjoy.

17 RAF Museum

18 Covent Garden

19 Genka

20  Butterfly Plovdiv

If you would like to explore more 50mm photos, please see Roman’s excellent post on using a 50mm prime for creativity.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) P.G. Hutchins
    August 17, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    Don’t show you beautiful bokeh to an optamologist because he will said to you that your camera has catarats.

  2. 2
    ) S Santana
    August 17, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    Your “human eyes see the almost 180 degrees stereoscopic vision they were designed for” but most of it is out of focus with the exception of the 40 degrees right in the middle which is also able to resolve more details as there is a higher density of receptors on the retina (at the back of the eye) at that particular angle of incidence which rapidly decreases thereafter thus drop in ‘resolving’ power.

    In practical terms what it means is that whenever you center your sight on a scene the part that seems to be ‘in focus’ fairly much matches what a 50mm focal length would produce (horizontally at least).

    • 22
      ) Global
      August 18, 2014 at 12:10 am

      I’m not an expert on this things, but I know my own psychological & physical experience.

      If you put a 24-70/2.8 Zoom on a D810 and zoom in and out until your foot or your television or whatever you’re pointed at is the “same size” in the OVF as what your other eye sees — then it will be approximately around 55mm (D810). I am not sure if this depends on the OVF, but assuming that Nikon uses a pretty typical size, historically speaking, then the whole 40-60mm range probably has generally converted to this similar sizing. This image will “feel” like what I’m concentrating on, but to say that its close to what the human eye perceives is a complete myth. I think there are 50mm lovers out there, who just follow the trend and repeat that line too much.

      By contrast, a 18mm to 20mm is MUCH MUCH more likely to see what the human eye can see — but anything you point the camera at is MUCH MUCH smaller in the OVF than what your other eye can see. Similarly, if we’re talking about the general tunnel vision, then maybe 30-40mm, depending on how your peripheral vision is (make a circle using the top and bottom of your vision, since the sides are too wide).

      So I think these are psychological reasons why MANY MANY people prefer 18mm or 20mm vs. 28mm or 35mm vs. the 50mm or 60mm. It really depends on if you’re trying to “Take it all in” (people love 18mm), or if you want to “See what I’m seeing” (people love 28mm); or if you want to “Focus on what I’m focusing on” (people love 55mm). Each length has its psychological distortion — but also its psychological familiarity (through the camera). When the camera is an extension of your body, as it becomes on photographers, your psychological needs dictate which “look” you perceive. Because the OVF is, in a way, your eye. Obviously this has to do with the OVF psychology, because prints can be any size.

      And once you get to 16mm and under or over 85mm, the mind’s perception has been stretched too far, and it feels alien or “super human,” lacking a familiar human aspects to the view. In many ways, this might be why people DON’T give consideration to 14mm or say 105mm that they do to the 50mm; but rather consider these lengths when they want to do something particularly artistic. Its also why 24-85 is considered Normal; containing “Normal” human experience.

      Its funny that the human eye can see what an 18/20mm lens can see — but that it brings tightly in, close to us — like a 55/60mm lens. I really wonder how it can do that & why we don’t have a lens design that can do it on our cameras… *scratches head.* You’d think someone would consider to design such a lens (if possible)? Until then, a good 28mm or 35mm is a nice compromise!

      • 26
        ) S Santana
        August 18, 2014 at 12:53 am

        I totally agree with you regarding preferences of focal lengths, I favour a wider angle myself. What I was referring to is the angle which best suits our physical sight which is largely dictated by how the internals of our eyes are made up.

        I guess a good way to know what is best ‘physically’ suitable for a person is to go into a cinema (theatre) and grab a seat on a row from which you can feel comfortable viewing the entire screen without having to scan across the screen so much that it becomes uncomfortable. I’d suggest that distance will most likely be retracted enough to create an angle of viewing fairly close to 40 degrees. I understand a few people love sitting on the front row but that’s more of an ‘experience’ thing as opposed to it being a more comfortable or natural viewing distance, even though it recreates the viewing angle of an ultra-wide lens. Sit back far enough and rather than scanning the screen viewing becomes more of a strain as one starts to ‘focus’ on an area (screen) which is now smaller than that which seems ‘natural’ this is similar to a tele-lens focal length.

        I find that I can comfortably sit closer than most to a screen and surprisingly enough the resulting viewing angle almost perfectly matches my preferred focal length of 35mm which unsurprisingly is what I ‘envisage’ when I’m walking around and think of capturing an image.

      • 37
        ) plevyadophy
        August 18, 2014 at 6:15 am

        Hi Global,

        Your point is well argued but wrong. The reason why our eyes appear to take in a very wide angle is because our eyes rapidly scans the scene, up down left right, in front of us and then the world’s best image processor ( way better than Canon’s Digic or Nikon’s Expeed ), that is the brain, merges all of this thus making us believe we have a rather wide view; but we don’t.

        Roger Cicala of Lens Rentals wrote an excellent piece on this subject which you should find on DPReview and on his own site. It is worth reading; the long and short of it though is that a lens in the 40mm to 50mm is most representative of human field of vision in respect of that which we are most able to concentrate on and discern detail.

  3. 3
    ) Bill Keel
    August 17, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    Great article, great shots. The depth of field depends on the focal length, aperture and distance from the camera to the subject. It has nothing to do with the size of the sensor. If you want to take the same picture with a full size and with an APS-C, then the full size will have to be closer to the subject. That is what changes the depth of field. Not trying to nit-pick, just trying to be clear.

    • 5
      ) Casper
      August 17, 2014 at 7:09 pm

      Well, it actually does matter. But, since the effective focal length changes when 1.5x crop (APS-C) is used, it does not need to be accounted for. It is almost what you say and probably what you mean, but in other words :-)

      Neat post, it is THE lens I recommend to new photographers. Really forces you to experiment with composition, thus trains you.

    • 42
      ) John
      August 18, 2014 at 10:41 am

      Bill, if you’re referring to the author’s comment “remember that depth of field is very shallow here (especially on a full frame camera)” – I took that to mean he is referring to the distance to the subject to get the “same photo” rather than the size of the sensor. So you can get closer with the full frame.

      Anyway, the other thing is that sensor size does matter for depth of field. There seems to be lots of people who disagree with this notion (including Mr. Mansurov – we had a back and forth in comments on another post a while back), but check any good depth of field calculator and you will find sensor size is a factor.
      http://www.dofmaster.com/dofjs.html

      It’s easy to see if you consider some extremes – Compare an APS-C sensor with 4×5 medium format (which is obviously huge compared with APS-C). Say 50mm lens at f/2 on both cameras, subject 10 feet away. So everything is constant except for the sensor size. The calculator shows less than 1 foot DOF for the APS-C but over 5 feet for 4×5 film. And this makes sense if you think about the results you would get: 50mm is a wide angle lens on 4×5 so the two pictures would be very different. The APS-C one might be good for a portrait of a person, with fairly shallow DOF, while the 4×5 would be a much wider view with more DOF.

      Hope that helps.

  4. 4
    ) Anil Moniz
    August 17, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    I bought a 50mm two years back and only used it for portraits.
    Your post has opened my eyes to the many uses it is capable of.
    Thank you.

  5. 6
    ) Steve B.
    August 17, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    That ‘Alpha Whiskey’ dude sure is talented. Dang! That’s good picture taking!

    • August 18, 2014 at 1:31 am

      Thanks Steve! Half of it is just being in the right place at the right time :)

  6. 7
    ) B. Monk
    August 17, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    ACTUALLY, each human eye has an angle of view approximately that of a 17mm lens. The typical human perspective is most closely approximated by a 40-50mm lens, a camera’s film or sensor size measured across the diagonal is typically referred to as a ‘standard’ for a lens in that camera’s format… luckily I studied photography in college, just saying!

  7. 8
    ) Henrik Manoochehri
    August 17, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    With a full-frame and an APS-C camera in my bag, the 50 mm and my feet cover the majority of my lens needs. I’ve thought about dropping nearly two grand for a 28-70 F-2.8, but my $150.00 50 mm F-1.8 is sharper, simpler, smaller and more interesting and fun to use. Now if someone would make a wide angle converter for the front ring, I could drop that and my doubler into my bag and forget the rest of the lenses.

  8. 9
    ) Henrik Manoochehri
    August 17, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    Oh, I forgot some other stuff. Fewer lens elements and groups means less glare and flare too. there are also advantages when using flash.

  9. 10
    ) Thomas Stirr
    August 17, 2014 at 7:56 pm

    Hi Sharif,

    Great photos and another insightful article…you use that 50mm like magic!

    Your article reminded me of the fact that I very, very seldom ever use my 50mm f/1.8 G FX prime to take still photographs…although I do shoot lots and lots of video clips with it. Same thing with my 28mm f/1.8 G FX prime….I use it almost exclusively for video work.

    On the other hand I use my 85mm f/1.8 G and my 105 micro f/2.8 all the time for stills….and only occasionally for video.

    I guess we all have different shooting styles…or maybe I’m just too lazy to carry a lot of primes with me when I travel. :-)

    Tom

    • 13
      ) Patrick O'Connor
      August 17, 2014 at 9:34 pm

      I use my 50 for environmental portraiture and usually have it in my pocket, just because I can, but agree with you on carrying a lot of primes. Unless I’ve a specific use, they usually stay at home.

    • August 18, 2014 at 1:49 am

      Thanks Tom!

      Each of us has a preferred focal length, I think. Some people prefer to see the world through 28mm, others through 35mm, 50mm, etc. There’s no right or wrong. Just preference. :)
      Cheers,
      Sharif.

      • 36
        ) Thomas Stirr
        August 18, 2014 at 5:16 am

        Hi Sharif,

        By far my preferred focal length is ‘zoom’…. :-) When I travel I usually take 2 or 3 of them…all of my primes stay at home.

        When I’m on site doing a facilities still photography shoot for a client I find using primes takes far too long to set up and frame individual shots…especially if I’m working in cramped quarters and I need to capture several hundred images in a morning which is very typical for the type of work I do.

        Tom

  10. 11
    ) Keith R. Starkey
    August 17, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    Shoot, that works for me! Hek, I got the 35mm 1.8 for my DX body, which gives me a close 50mm equivalent field of view, and I love it. thing shoots clear as a whistle and is great for the kind of shots you’ve talked about here.

  11. 12
    ) Patrick O'Connor
    August 17, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    I’m pretty sure what they (not sure who “they” are) mean about it being close to the human eye is the perspective at any given distance. Not that it really makes any difference.

  12. 14
    ) Pat Dunnuck
    August 17, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    Really enjoy your comments! What lens would be close to the 50 in the MFT world? Is there one that will come close to the nifty 50?

    • August 18, 2014 at 1:10 am

      I know for the m4/3 format both Olympus and Panasonic each have a 25mm lens, which on the m4/3 sensor gives an equivalent FOV of 50mm. :)

  13. 15
    ) sceptical 1
    August 17, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    Another great article with great pictures to illustrate!

    “I personally found the 50mm particularly effective for scenic shots. Most people want to go wide to get as much into the frame as possible, but this ironically ends up disconnecting you from individual features. With a tighter frame you can focus more on what you really want inside it, and hopefully lead the eye into the shot”

    I think the point you make about the narrower focal length on DX is great. Anything that helps you focus properly on the subject of the photo will almost always make for a stronger image.

  14. 16
    ) abhijeet chatterjee
    August 17, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    What is the critical aperture of 50 km? Which shoot like sharp shot.

  15. 17
    ) Jay
    August 17, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    In 1975, I left for Europe with my guitar, Nikon F with a 50mm, and lots of Kodachrome slide film for what I thought would be a 6 week trip. Four months later I came back to Texas with memories and slides that I still have of a Reindeer round-up in Finland to people I met along the way hitching across Europe. The 50 was the perfect lens and I didn’t know anything else. The camera was stolen in Helsinki from a youth hostel and after much investigation, police work, and even going to the local newspaper, I got the camera and lens back. I have it to this day, set back in a corner. I look forward someday, to going back to a full frame camera and getting the quality and bokeh that I got with my old camera and that 50mm lens!

  16. 18
    ) Rakesh Sarate
    August 17, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    Heron with 50MM…… This is awesome.
    Hats off to you…. This image is proof of –> the camera is just good tool for the best man behind it.

  17. 19
    ) David Garth
    August 17, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    You must have insects and birds in Europe and the UK that are much more cooperative than ours in the US. None of them would ever let me get close enough to shoot closeups with a 50mm lens, even on an APC camera. Are you sure you shot all these pictures with a 50mm lens?

    • August 17, 2014 at 11:51 pm

      Hi David, for what my input is worth, London has a plethora of parks loaded with birds of all sizes, and yes, they can fly quite close by in places like Hyde, Richmond and St. James Park. APS-C’s field-of-view plus some cropping has helped me get lots of bird shots with the 50mm there… actually, all around the world, really. No, it’s not the same creamy background or tack-sharp detail obtained by 200mm and longer lenses, but as Sharif has shown, they can sill look plenty good.

      -Brian

  18. 20
    ) Richard
    August 17, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    Excellent new approach to describing the versatility of the nifty fifty. I also see some excellent Norwegian images, Alesund being a returning favourite for us and even one of Florence too. Like you my dSLR’s do take a somewhat back seat now, especially for travel which us now mostly covered by my Fuji X gear. However, I did take a few images recently with my Nikon 50mm coupled to a Fotodiox adapter on my Fuji X-T1 and although only manual focus it worked extremely well.

    Richard

    • 24
      ) Pascal
      August 18, 2014 at 12:31 am

      Hi Richard,

      Funny, I just ordered a Fuji X-T1 yesterday (with a 35mm prime) for travel and my bike rides. I wasn’t aware that you could mount Nikon lenses to the Fuji through an adapter. Thanks for the tip !
      Are there any other things besides auto focus that need attention?

      • 33
        ) Richard
        August 18, 2014 at 1:47 am

        Pascal. A decision you certainly will not regret. Although still fully involved with my Nikon D7100 and D610, the Fuji is my “good to go” camera offering superb imagery in a small package. I would stand the image quality any day against my Nikon D610. It is very well suited to manual lens operation as the X-T1 has a superb focus zoom button allowing precise focussing. I use the Nikon fit Fotodiox pro adapter (£40 $US about 60). It has a basic aperture ring too and these adaptors are available for most lenses to enable fitting to the Fuji X system. Hope that helps.

        Richard

        • 43
          ) Pascal
          August 18, 2014 at 4:14 pm

          Hi Richard, thanks – that does help indeed.

          I bought the X-T1 as a complement to my trusted D800. I’ll still be using my D800 for landscape and nature photography. But it is a bit big and heavy for travel and certainly to carry with me on my bike rides. Last year I had the D800 with the 17-35 f4 lens in my backpack while climbing the Mont Ventoux. This is a combination that weights almost 1.7 kg. After a while I got a sore back and had to leave my backpack in one of the follow cars… I’m confident that the Fuji will be a better match for such situations. I’ve been reading a lot of good things about this camera; looking forward to it !

  19. 23
    ) Pascal
    August 18, 2014 at 12:27 am

    Great article and great images Alpha Whiskey!

    I love my 50mm because it is small and light to carry, especially for holidays and as a general work around lens. And I must admit that I like a fixed focal lens because it does distract me less from photography than a zoom lens. With a fixed focal lens I don’t have to worry about what focal length suits the scene best. I just work with what I have in the scene and instead move around a bit more. I generally find that easier to compose an image.

  20. Profile photo of Stephen
    25
    ) Stephen
    August 18, 2014 at 12:46 am

    Timely article. I had made my mind up to buy a 50mm 1.8G only yesterday. It really is a must have prime and I … must have one.

    • August 18, 2014 at 1:26 am

      It’ll serve you well, Steven. The images in this article were made with both a 50mm F/1.4 and F/1.8. I sold the former and bought the latter as it is sharper wide open. Best of luck with your new purchase! :)

  21. 29
    ) Colin
    August 18, 2014 at 1:25 am

    For nightphotographers: The Nikon 50mm 1.8 D makes beautiful sharp sunstars, even at f/8. (Example: 2nd picture of the gallery http://www.colinutzphotography.com/heilbronn-bei-nacht-photos/ )

  22. 35
    ) Paul
    August 18, 2014 at 3:30 am

    Using a Nikon-mount Voigtlander 58mm 1.4 on my X-Pro 1. Have to say it is taking some getting used to, especially after being “spoiled” by the versatility of the Fuji 18-55mm. With the Metabones adapter, it’s a heavy piece of kit too so not something I will likely take on my travels.

    But the subject isolation, the bokeh, the colours, the sheer “crackliness” of the images … takes my breath away.

  23. 38
    ) Jim Morey
    August 18, 2014 at 8:22 am

    Interesting article, but if you are going to talk at length about use on APS-C cameras then why not a combined piece on 50mm and 75mm together? To intermingle the two is to distort the whole purpose of the focal length choice.

    Personally I’ve been getting much better results on my D810 with a 40mm lens of late. Pity that is a focal length so underrated, and ignored by Nikon and Canon. Hooray for the 250+ year old Voigtlander (or whatever is left of that company).

    But for the record yes, I do also enjoy my 50mm 1.4. Keep up the good work.

  24. 39
    ) Harry
    August 18, 2014 at 8:50 am

    Since I have a D7000, which multiplies the lens to a 75mm would it be better to get a 35mm?

    • August 18, 2014 at 8:57 am

      For what it’s worth, Harry, I loved using my 35mm F/2 AF-D on my APS-C camera. It gave an equivalent FOV of around 52mm, and I took so many great images with it. Maybe the versatility of that focal length will be my next write up ;)

  25. 41
    ) Harry
    August 18, 2014 at 9:00 am

    Thanks.

  26. 44
    ) Steve
    August 18, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    “(don’t know about you, but my human eyes see the almost 180 degrees stereoscopic vision they were designed for)”

    Yes, they were amazingly designed, by the Great Designer.

    Well said.

  27. 45
    ) Barry
    August 18, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    Great images! That would be too much work for me to try to get some of those shots with a 50mm. I started with that lens, but it just collects dust now. If I wanted that focal length, I’d probably go with the 24-70mm f/2.8, which is more versatile. I find that the 16-35mm f/4 is more useful for me. Otherwise, I use the 70-200mm f/2.8 or a macro for close-up work.

  28. 46
    ) Aleksi Lausti
    August 19, 2014 at 12:03 am

    For some reason ever since I started photographing 25 years ago, I have found the 50mm to be the least interesting and least versatile lens ever created :) I know I am in the minority here but I have never gotten why it gets so much accolades. I find that it does not in any way give a natural angle of view and certainly does not mimic the human eye as the myth keeps repeating over and over. It was a great lens in the 50’s and 60’s am sure when options were few. I know, I am being provocative but do not mean to be trollish. Just after the umpteenth article pushing the 50mm agenda I could not hold back :) Have a great and enjoy the 50mm to all your hearts content if that is your thing.

  29. 47
    ) Sebastiano
    August 22, 2014 at 5:40 am

    Thank you for this article, Alpha Whiskey, it has opened my mind about my 50mm. I own a Nikon Af-S G f/1.8, I use only on my Nikon D300. Sometimes I’ve tried to male photos like yours (http://photographylife.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/6-Bee-Landing.jpg) but the problem I’ve encountered is if I want to full the frame like in your shot I’ve to stay so close to the flower the dof is then too shallow, or the lens doesn’t focus at all. What can you suggest me to try improving? At least trying ;). Thanks

    • August 22, 2014 at 10:45 am

      Thank you Sebastiano. Try stopping down a little, even to F/4. I use the F/1.8G, but I think I shot that bee pic with the older F/1.4D. Can’t remember what the minimum focusing distance of either lens is. If you’re just photographing a static flower, then you could always try manually focusing, even set up on a small tripod?
      Hope this helps a little.
      Warm Regards,
      Sharif.

      • 51
        ) Sebastiano
        August 25, 2014 at 4:15 am

        Really thank you Sharif,

        I’ll try both. When I saw the bee photo I had supposed you had cropped, and not a slight crop but to a tighter view.
        But your answer reassures me I can do better (or have to try at least :) so that the minimum focusing distance shouldn’t be a problem; I’ve only to manage it :)

        Warm regards too, Sebastiano

        • August 25, 2014 at 4:47 am

          I think the bee pic is slightly cropped. It was a bit of a lucky shot to get the bee in it since they move so erratically. But I believe you’ll do great. Be confident and keep shooting! :)
          Cheers,
          Sharif.

  30. 49
    ) arief
    August 23, 2014 at 8:05 am

    its a really nice article… i was planning to buy my first lens on my D3300. n i think it would be best to get a prime lense but i just can figure it out either to buy 50mm or 35mm n either f/1.4 or f/1.8. i really apreciate if u can help me here it would be a big help

    • August 23, 2014 at 11:08 am

      Hi Arief,
      I think the 35mm would be better for street and everyday photography as it gives a more ‘normal’ field of view on APS-C , and the 50mm for portrait perhaps (75mm equivalent field of view). I’m putting together an article on using the 35mm on APS-C soon. :)
      I swapped my 50mm F/1.4 D for the F/1.8 as the F/1.8 was sharper wide open. I have the 35mm F/2 AF-D which is compatible on both FX and DX, although I understand Nikon now have a dedicated 35mm lens for FX.
      Regards,
      Sharif.

  31. 53
    ) jd7000
    August 28, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    Great article illustrated with stunning images.

    I have a AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f1.8 and a AF Nikkor 50mm f1.8D. The 50mm is perfect on the D7000 for events , like weddings, or concerts, or family events where I want to capture cantid portraits of people but there is some distance involved due to logistics. The 35mm is my “walking around lens” for the D7000, and I am quite fond of it, for just about everything, it is very versatile. The 50mm and 20mm are my favorite lenses for my Nikon N80 (35mm film).

    • 54
      ) Harry
      August 30, 2014 at 9:53 am

      I also have the D7000. Just bought a Sigma 17-50mm F1.8. Just wondering if either the 35 or 50 fixed lens have any “added” value?

      • 55
        ) jd7000
        August 30, 2014 at 10:03 am

        Well you have the range covered with the 17-50 so it does seem redundant. I don’t know the specifics of that lens, sharpness, distortion, etc. Primes can be better in those areas. You should be able to find statistics, MTF Charts etc to make comparisons. But heck, why not live with your 17-50mm lens for a while and see if your feel the need for anything more.

        If you find that you have too much distortion or lack of sharpness then maybe you might want a prime lens. IMHO a good lens collection will contain both.

        There is a good video “Top 4 Prime Lenses for the Nikon D7000″ at:

      • August 30, 2014 at 10:44 am

        Your sigma will cover the range quite nicely, and may be all that you need :)
        I think for the me the value of using primes is that a fixed focal length trains the eye better in composition. You really have to consider what you want to leave in and out of the frame, as well as train your eye to see things within the limits of that focal length. The images become more interesting and focused on a definite subject or scene. Plus, if you challenge yourself to do a day’s shoot with just the one lens, they are lighter and smaller to carry around. Often I’ll challenge myself to a photo walk with just one focal length, and I’ll come away with much better shots than if I used a zoom.
        E.g. All taken with the Olympus 45mm (90mm equivalent FOV). http://alphawhiskey.slickpic.com/photoblog/post/PhotoWalkInLondon

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