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What Is a ‘Nifty Fifty’ Lens?
A nifty fifty lens is basically a fast 50mm lens. The nifty part comes from a lens having a very wide aperture, such as f/1.4 or f/1.8, and the fifty part refers to the focal length.
A fast 50mm lens is the closest you can get to the human eye. This means low amounts of distortion and a similar field of view.
These lenses are also more from plastic than metal and are lower priced.
So now we know about what makes a ‘nifty fifty’ lens, we need to look at what makes them great. As we mentioned before, the nifty fifty is the closest replication of your human eye.
When you see a scene you want to capture, the 50mm will capture that as close to how you see it as possible. Using a wider or telephoto lens will give you more or less of the scene, forcing you to move around more.
Shallow Depth of Field
This lens has a very shallow depth of field. Depth of field is created by the size and speed of the aperture of the lens. The Canon or Nikon lenses mentioned above have apertures of f/1.8, meaning they open wider letting in more light.
Looking at the price, this is the most cost-effective prime lenses you can imagine. A prime lens is a necessary item in your camera gear. These often outweigh zoom lenses in terms of quality and sharpness.
A prime lens needs less glass and motors inside it. The manufacturers can focus on creating something of superb quality. They have one focal length, which they are the master at.
A zoom lens is the jack of all trades, as it is necessary for it to change its focal length and focus at each step. They are good at every step of their capacity, but not perfect.
It’s Small and Light
Ergonomics are very important to photographers. Whether you are a travel/street photographer, or you prefer landscapes.
This gets more important the longer you carry it.
A zoom lens can be heavy, due to the motors and extra glass inside, wide angle lenses have a lot of heavy glass.
The nifty fifty f/1.8 is mainly built from plastic and you won’t even realise you are carrying it.
It weighs 4.59 ounces (130 grams), which is a little heavier than a deck of cards.
It is light and will fit anywhere.
It’ll Help Train Your Photography Eye
Training your eye is something photographers are always looking for. A way to get better and better at photographing subjects. The nifty fifty is great for this.
As it is a prime and not zoom lens, you need to move to get closer or further away from your subject.
There is no cheating here, so you need to move. Every time to do, you learn more about framing, distance and a workable image.
You will spend more time thinking about each shot, creating better images.
A telephoto lens (100mm or more) is perfect for deep sky astrophotography, but not great for street photography. Telephoto lenses are huge and will draw attention to yourself, stopping all candid photos in their tracks.
A 50mm, however, is a great all-rounder. You can use this for landscape, portraits and street photography. Only in rare situations will you feel like you needed a different lens.
We recommend checking out our article on choosing a 35mm or 50mm prime lens too.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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