32 Reasons Why I Shoot in 50mm Only

32 reasons why I shoot in 50mm only

I am a 50mm photographer and I simply love it. Since I ever bought my 50mm lens, I fell in love with it but didn’t last long. Later, I got a bunch of other lenses, primes, zoom lenses, which in the end I sold anything. For a long while, I was very undecided what to do next and what lens to buy.

After a few years of wobbling up and down with my messy brain, I wanted to get something unique, one single lens to rule them all, to forget about everything related to gear and to enjoy the photography as a passion. And I did it, my last acquisition, 2 years back: Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 manual focus lens and my full-frame second DSLR, Nikon D750. Since then, never looked back.

Many photographers may go through the same phases, where the indecision and increasing anxiety of acquiring new gear are slowly replacing the real passion and pleasure of taking photographs. We are all looking for the best and for the cheapest. Not many are looking into a single direction.

But I do it now. I am not trying to recruit you into a 50mm army but with pleasure, I want to share with you 32 reasons (in reality there are a lot more) why I love my 50mm lens and would never be able to enjoy anything else as much as this.

32 Reasons Why I love to photograph in 50mm.

Table Of Contents

1. It is a 50mm prime lens

Who doesn’t love a prime lens? There are so many qualities of owning a prime lens instead of a zoom lens. Yes, with a zoom lens, you can zoom and cover multiple focal lengths but with a prime lens, you are able to do much more.

The only disadvantage is that a 50mm lens will remain a nifty fifty, therefore, we will cut out the simplicity of taking photographs. Instead of rotating the zoom ring to capture and frame a subject, you will have to move back and forth.

But wait. Across the disadvantages of a prime lens, there will come the advantages of having a very sharp 50mm prime lens, with a very wide aperture and superior glass quality compared to a zoom lens within the price range.

If things are getting a bit confused, I recommend you on checking one of our other articles “prime vs zoom lenses” for an in-depth overview.

2. You have to love the 50mm focal length

A 50mm lens is a medium lens. Not a wide one nor a telephoto. Therefore, it is the only “natural” focal length. With a 50mm lens (on a full-frame camera) you will be able to photograph what you see with your own eyes, therefore, your subject or elements will neither look further nor closer than actually is.

Many people love the natural look of an image. Some other photographers hate it, over the idea that “is nothing special”. I totally disagree. There are way too many things you can explore and be creative with a 50mm lens.

Only the focal length will allow you to explore the endless possibilities of photography.

3. Sharp over the edges

Because is a prime lens and because is a 50mm, you will benefit from one of the greatest advantages: sharpness!

I owned and tested some of the Nikon 50mm lenses and I do own one now, this being my favourite. With every single one of them, I was very impressed about the sharpness from the centre to the edges, from wide aperture to the narrowest point. Very little to no-fault in terms of sharpness.

Compared to zoom lenses, a prime lens has fewer glass elements with superior quality in general, the main reasons why a 50mm or a prime lens, in general, is that sharp. With zoom lenses, you will have to dig a bit more into the pockets to acquire a good quality lens, and even then, it is doubtful you will overtake the sharpness of a good prime lens.

4. The aperture is KING!

Ah, aperture. Who doesn’t love a wide aperture prime lens, f/1.8, f/1.4 or even f/1.2! What is the beauty of photography without being able to capture outstanding photographs handheld during the evening, amazing bokeh or shallow depth of field!

Because of the very wide apertures of a 50mm prime lens, you can do all of the above. No zoom lens is ever able to match this, nor other prime lenses would be able to create a more natural bokeh and depth of field than the 50mm.

I have had quite a few lenses through my hand, but NEVER had something with an aperture of f/1.2 as my Nikkor lens! Words cannot express the feelings of being a 50mm photographer.

5. A step closer into mastering a lens

Because is a 50mm lens and because is a prime lens with a single focal length, you are one step closer to master it. Photographing and main the same lens, you will learn it and gain experience of using it. What in the past was a nightmare to photograph, now is a joy!

A pathway to light, a pathway to becoming a professional photographer is to incline towards what you love. If you love 50mm photography and photographing only with your 50mm lens, then you are on the right track.

Remember, you will never be able to reach these levels with a zoom lens!

6. Nevertheless, a 50mm lens is a golden tool.

While the 35mm is a street photographer’s choice, statistically speaking, a 50mm prime lens is the most popular between the prime lenses existent. For sure is a reason behind, isn’t it?

Even if you own multiple primes or/and zoom lenses, a 50mm lens is a golden tool which should be part of every photographer’s backpack. It is inexpensive, has a wide variety of usages, and moreover, you can join the 50mm army finally! 🙂

7. A 50mm lens can be used in many niches

From portraits to the street and even landscape photography, there are many niches where you can use a 50mm lens. This is above-average of other focal lengths were with a wider lens there is only a variety of niches you can use it, and same works for telephoto lenses.

But furthermore, let’s talk about my top 5 favourite niches where I love using my nifty fifty and why.

  1. Portrait photography. In general, a 50mm lens is considered to be one of the best in portrait photography not only because it gives a natural look to the portrait but because of the medium focal length as well. For more details, you can check my other post “50mm portrait photography
  2. Fine-art photography. Fine-art is one of my favourite and main niches and I love photographing, composing and framing scenes, objects and elements per my vision, many times breaking the photography rules and going an extra mile. The thing to know about fine-art photography is that it benefits a lot from a 50mm lens (FX camera) in special if the lens aperture is very wide. Also, if you are interested more about “fine-art photography with a 50mm lens” I recommend you check our other article.
  3. Travel photography. Many photographers prefer to have a zoom lens for travelling but honestly, I don’t. I always take my nifty fifty when I am travelling because I am always able to capture low-light scenes and is amazing in evening street photography as well. There are limitless possibilities you can photograph with your 50mm lens when you are travelling.
  4. Event photography. Same as for travelling, I love to use the 50mm lens when taking event photographs because of the low light capabilities if these are held during the evening or to obtain a shallow depth of field and bokeh with the bonus of natural-looking subjects.
  5. Astrophotography. In astrophotography there are two ways of doing it: either wide a very wide lens to capture as much as possible from the night sky or milky way or with a telephoto or super-telephoto lens with an equatorial mount to capture Messier objects, nebulas, galaxies and some other godly night sky objects. But with a 50mm is another story. You are able to photograph parts of the night sky, constellations and even more, but limited. Furthermore, I had created a post “is a 50mm lens good for astrophotography?” If you are interested in some extra reading.

8 Learning to master the manual focus

Well, this point can’t be better than associated with my favourite lens the Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 manual focus lens. Indeed, the fabulous prime lens pushed me over the edges to learn and further to master the manual focus because, it does not have autofocus nor an auto-aperture, therefore, a similar lens could be crucial to learn manual focus.

But now, spreading my obsession of using the manual focus to other 50mm lenses, how these could advantage of it? Well, same as when working with manual settings will push a photographer to be more creative and benefit from a DSLR’s true power than compared to the auto or priority mode, the manual focus can be mandatory at times for the best results, or as it is for me, to better “feel” photography.

It is as driving an automatic car and a manual car. It is easier indeed to drive an automatic car than a manual, but in many cases, the manual gear system can be more useful than the automatic mode.

Although learning manual focus can prove useful not only for 50mm lenses but for any prime lenses, in the case of a zoom lens, I cannot say the same.

Never less, It became a necessity for me to learn the manual focus due to the nature of my favourite lens but in this time, what can be better than taking advantage of it and to take photography to the next level?

If you are interested more about it, I would recommend you checking our beginner guide into manual focus photography and/or 30day manual focus challenge where I offer for free an e-book.

9. NOT a jack-of-all-trades, master of none.

A 50mm lens is a prime lens, indeed, and your experience of using it, it adds to your photography knowledge and skill. Using only a 50mm lens, as the whole topic resonate, will help you to master the focal length and the photography relating the focal length. The “point of the point” is that a 50mm lens is not a jack-of-all-trades, master of none, is exactly the opposite.

What I can consider a jack of all trades is a dozen of prime and zoom lenses in special, with another dozen of focal lengths. You will not be able to master them all for sure, where a single prime lens would probably be a better hit on that.

What do you love more? Having a bunch of lenses and focal lengths or a single lens to fall in love with and enjoy the photography as it is?

10. The price is by your side

Probably the worst part of obtaining photography gear, either a new camera or lenses, we must dig deep into our pockets. The lenses in special can jump to prices many people cannot afford. But, for a few reasons already mentioned, a 50mm lens is very cheap and price friendly. You can get one new as low as $150/£120 or even cheaper (this depend on the marketplace and manufacturer).

Having less glass inside not only increases the sharpness of the lens but decreases the production cost overall, therefore you will often find cheap high-quality prime lenses like the 50mm but not only.

11. A fast autofocus

Ok, maybe you don’t like the manual focus as in the above point, but you have to love the autofocus of a 50mm lens. Throughout all the 50mm lenses I owned and tested (except the manual focus lens) all of them excelled in autofocus capabilities.

There is really not much I can say about the autofocus of a 50mm prime lens other than it never failed me and always I loved it. I only cannot speak for some other 50mm lenses I never tried from other camera manufacturers than Nikon or Sigma.

12. Lightweight is the way

Do you know the worst part of having a bulky DSLR with a bulky lens and a bulky tripod? Everything is bulky!. But not a 50mm prime lens. In fact, as mentioned elsewhere, a 50mm lens is so small, that you even forget sometimes you have a lens attached to your DSLR 🙂 (that was supposed to be a photographer joke).

No, for real now. A 50mm lens is very light and portable, one another reason why I love my nifty fifty instead of my old Tamron 24-70mm, which was not only bulky but heavy as hex.

Therefore, in special if you intend to use a gimbal for video making, a DSLR with a 50mm (or 35mm) attached is the way to go because of the limited amount of weight you can attach to the gimbals.

13. You cannot ever complain about the quality

Well, I never complained about the quality, and will never do, frankly. Put everything I mentioned together (aperture, sharpness, autofocus, size&weight) and you will obtain a perfect lens.

14. No more hassle with the filters.

I used to have a small bag full of filters, including the 100mm square ND filter, polariser, different sizes for different lenses. What a nightmare.

This would be the reason number 14 why I love to shoot only in 50mm. I don’t have to hassle and invest in more filters than I should too in order to cover multiple lenses but only for my nifty fifty. My gear bag just got lighter now.

15. Long exposure? Take the sharpness more over the edges

I mentioned about a zillion times how sharp a 50mm prime lens can it be but I never mentioned how sharp can it get in special when you are taking long exposures. Due to the fact that you will step down the aperture, shoot on a tripod and enjoy the results, the sharpness can contribute to outstanding night cityscapes or street photographs, where, with some other lenses, I failed miserableness.

16. You get to “feel” the lens

Getting used to using the lens over and over, you will get used to it and using it will become natural. One another reason I love my 50mm lens because I can be natural and myself when I am photographing.

When you are interchanging a dozen lenses, both zoom and primes, you will never get to “feel” how is to enjoy a single lens, to learn and master it. A fault point or quality on the design will become part of your day-to-day photography routine.

17. Back to loving photography

There was a time when I fell through a dark period in my photography time. There was a time when I was not enjoying it anymore and I was so close to giving it up. It was that time where the indecision of what path to take overtook my passion for photography. It was that time when I liked and disliked at the same time every lens I owned, never decided what to use or what niche to choose.

Starting my 50mm journey in photography got me back on track with an intense new passion for it and my life took a different turn. I am not sure that I may be the only person going through this;

Getting stick to something you love is a long-term commitment. I found my way back when I first got my hand and bought my last nifty fifty lens.

18. Amazing to capture low-light handheld photographs

Due to the wide and very wide apertures of a 50mm prime lens, you are able to capture indoors and low light photographs handheld. I wrote an article covering everything is about to know “night photography with a 50mm lens

19. Avoid getting dust into my camera sensor

Often interchanging lenses is one of the main reason dust can be sucked into the camera sensor, where this can have a major impact on the quality of your photographs.

When you own a single prime lens the risk for the dust to be sucked in would be greatly decreased. A zoom lens tends also to “suck” the dust in because when moving the zoom ring, the lens will create an amount of vacuum which can be a magnet for dust.

Therefore, not related to a 50mm prime lens but to using a single prime lens, if you want to avoid as much as possible the nightmare of sending your camera to professional cleaners or attempt to clean the sensor by yourself, use a single prime lens! This is one another reason I love my 50mm lens and I rarely take it off my DSLR.

20. You will benefit from more features

Related directly to the quality and price of a 50mm prime lens, you will often find those lenses are benefiting of quality features over many other lenses such as multicoating, reducing glare and even ED elements to reduce or remove chromatic aberration

All those features in special ED are pricey, therefore, for a zoom lens or more telephoto prime lens, this is directly reflected on high-prices, where, with a 50mm lens you will probably find those under an accessible price.

21. Neat and unique portfolio

50mm is a natural medium lens. All the photographs you will take will look within the same focal length. In the end, your portfolio will have a nice touch of photographs and will not look as messy as photographing with multiple focal lengths.

22. The best choice for fine-art photography

A 50mm lens is considered to be one of the best focal lengths when is about fine-art photography. I love to create fine-art with a 50mm lens and by my attempt to create fine-art with multiple lenses, nothing worked as the way my nifty fifty did.

I wrote a full in-depth post about 50mm fine-art photography if you are interested in it.

23. Unique in portrait photography

A 50mm lens is considered to be one of the best focal lengths in portrait photography due to the medium format and unique natural look the lens can give it to you. Moreover, due to a wide aperture, you can obtain beautiful bokeh and shallow depth of field, a golden tool for creativity in portrait photography

Furthermore, I have written a post where I covered everything is to know about “how to take portraits with a 50mm lens

24. Get to create UNIQUE panoramic images

I found that with a 50mm lens you are in the sweet spot of creating wide and perfect panoramic images, and unique focal length you will benefit only from it and never be able to create something similar with any other lenses.

Let me get a bit into details, shall I?

When you create panoramic images, you don’t crop a photograph. Instead, you will shoot a series of images one next to the other and next to the other, later to be able to stick them together in Photoshop or Lightroom. By doing this, you will be able to create a wide panoramic image of a scene (e.g. cityscape).

That is, as the photograph above, a result of using a 50mm prime lens. But what if you use a wider lens (e.g. 18mm), a recommended lens for landscape photography?

If you redo the same process of creating a panoramic image from a series of photographs taken with an 18mm or wide lens in general, later to stick them all together in Lightroom or Photoshop, the final panoramic image resulted would be way too wide (equivalent of 8-10mm or even wider), creating an unpleasant effect for most of the viewers. Using a telephoto lens instead (e.g. 105mm) would result in creating a wider image equivalent of 35-50mm which you will benefit only from a higher resolution.

Therefore, I often found that a 50mm focal length may be the perfect one to create outstanding panoramic images!.

One tip to share with you, the very best process to do it is to shoot vertically instead of horizontal, to obtain the above-example results. If you feel for extra reading, check our other article vertical vs. horizontal photographs covering this above-mentioned point.

25. Can always give you a challenge

The simple fact that you have a prime lens is a challenge as compared to zoom lenses. The 50mm lens represents another challenge and a few good examples would be indoor group photography or astrophotography. Many people like simplicity but not me.

Thinking that not only I am able to truly reach another level of photography with my favourite 50mm lens, sometimes I get challenged by it. Embracing and working with the challenge instead of seeking alternatives is a process of gaining knowledge, skill and experience.

A good example would be this 50mm wedding photographer who is using only a 50mm lens to shoot weddings and is having a success out of it. Although it can be a real challenge sometimes, in time, you will manage to overcome all your 50mm problems and difficulties in your road to success as a photographer.

26. Unleashes the creativity of a photographer

As associated with the passion of creating fine-art photography with a 50mm lens, a 50mm focal length, in general, can be a source of creativity along with the photographer.

Beautiful bokeh, shallow depth of field, low-light capabilities, sharpness. The tools are in your pocket, you only have to work with them.

27. Easier to learn and to master photography

Photography is a lifetime learning process and even among professional photographers, there is much more knowledge and experience to be gained. Everything is easier, as mentioned above, with the right tools.

A 50mm lens or focal length is not just any, is a medium format, on the sweet spot between wide and telephoto. Good for most of the niches and excelling in some, you are able to focus your attention on learning and experimenting with the lens.

In special, when working with a single focal length, you learn and gain skill and experience, rather than working with 10 different lenses were you not excel in anything. Therefore, I must say, with a single focal length (could be something different than 50mm though), you are learning and mastering quickly photography.

28. Unique framing and composition

With a 50mm focal length, there is only a number of elements to be framed into the scene, as compared with wider focal length. Working with the composition technique you learned while studying photography, you are able to obtain some unique framing due to the fact that you will not have any focal length distortion because of the medium format of the lens

Therefore, know your techniques and how to work with them and with a 50mm lens you are able to create unique framing and composition, beyond the possibility of any other focal lengths.

29. You are able to frame the scene before touching the camera

After you use the 50mm focal length for a period of time you come to realize that although your camera eye-finder magnification would be something in between 0.65x to 0.85x (and not always), the framing of the scene is the same.

Understanding the size of the framing and the final image you take with this lens, you will be able to visualise it in your mind before putting your eye to eye finder. But why?

It is the same reason the 50mm focal length is unique and your camera photograph similarly to what you see with your own eyes. Your mind perceive things naturally, therefore, it is not difficult to visualise the scene and size of the frame.

But how can you improve this? Imagine a rectangle. This is in your mind. Every time you capture a picture, look at the image and at the scene. Know your frame edges and how much from the whole scene is cut for the final image. You have no distortions or whatsoever, therefore, your brain would be able to learn how to perceive that rectangle framing before you take your final image.

30. One-time investment. A lifetime of production

Once you use to love the 50mm focal length and to work with a single lens as myself, or even before, one time investing into a good lens like the one I have, the 50mm f/1.2 manual focus from Nikon, you probably need no more. A good investment into a high-quality 50mm lens is a one-time investment, able to work with it for a very long period of time.

As the technology changes, given example the DSLR cameras, the lenses would remain the same. You will definitely take advantage of the same lens years ahead (if you love it, of course) although you change your camera a few times.

This is important to know not to do big investments in DSLR as in a few years will be outdated but in a good lens! and not only a 50mm but any.

31. Help you enjoying little things.

Having a single prime lens such as the 50mm can boost productivity and the pleasure of photography in general, but why?

If you have a bunch of lenses, you will never be happy of all of them but a single one, that is another story. when you get an attachment of a brilliant 50mm lens, you are being more productive than ever, you not only learn and master the lens but will get to enjoy every second of having it.

As an instance, instead of being indecisive on a specific scene what lens or focal length to use, is better not to have a choice and to use your only 50mm lens. You will always be able to improvise although the odds are not in your favour.

32. Amazing for filming as well

Who said that a 50mm lens is good for photography only? Even if you are not too much into creating videos, keep in mind that for the same reason this lens is good for photography, for videography excels.

It is simple to understand the natural look of the videos as compared to your phone capabilities or any other focal lengths. I did some filming with this lens and I am super pleased with it, in special filming a concert indoors where the lighting was very difficult.

Upon request, I can create a post and share my experience about using a 50mm lens for filming and to give you some tips.

Conclusion.

Forgive me, I wrote 32 reasons why I love to shoot in 50mm but in reality, there may be more. For now, only the above-mentioned I can think off.

There may be millions of reasons to love to shoot in 50mm but before it, you have to like it. If you do, why don’t give it a try?

With this said, I am really grateful you remained until the end of this post. Farewell for now, and hope to see you around. Take care!


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I am a 50mm photographer and I love it. A while back I had a bunch of lenses and my life was very indecisive related to photography. Now I am enjoying my photography more than ever. 
In this post, I want to share with you 32 reasons why I shoot in 50mm only and what made me do it. Moreover, some tips if you are struggling to find your perfect focal length.
#photography #phototips #photoguide #50mmphotography #50mmlens #50mm

About Gabriel Mihalcea

Howdy! You’re here! Great things to start! Hi, I’m Gabriel I live in the UK in the beautiful town of Hastings. I am a photographer, and I do DSLR and drone photography. I always loved to capture everything I could see through the eye-finder of my Nikon, or the bird-eyes of my drone. My expectations are to share everything I learned about photography and help anyone in need to reach their potential. Honestly, nobody ever reached their maximum potential as there would always be more room for improvement, more information to achieve or new technologies in photography released on the market. But leaving that aside, I am here to help anyone in need.

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