The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 is a lens anyone with a camera should own. Although there are higher priced versions of the 50mm like the 1.4 and 1.2, the 1.8 is available to a much larger audience with its price of around $120. Why is the 50mm 1.8 such a great lens for anyone? Read on.
Fixed Focal Length
With a fixed focal length of 50mm, this lens is close to what the human eye will see – a natural perspective. Of course, this perspective is for a 50mm used on a full frame body such as the Canon 5D Mark II. When this lens is used on a crop body, like my Canon T2i, it is more like an 85mm on the standard 35mm (sensor) full frame format. Using a 35mm focal length lens on the T2i would give a more human eye-like perspective. Why do you need a 50mm? This is a great place to get started with a fixed focal length lens, meaning you can’t zoom in or out to frame your subject. To compensate for the lack of zoom, you have to do something else to compose your shot – MOVE YOUR FEET. This makes you much more aware of what you’re actually framing instead of just lazily zooming in an out and not moving. There are times when you just can’t move back any more and you would benefit from a shorter focal length lens, but most of the time you have the pleasure of moving anywhere you want!
Low Light Performance
The standard kit lens has an aperture range of f/3.5-5.6. Even with an ISO of 6400 and a reasonable handheld shutter speed, this is just not going to cut it once the sun goes down. The image below was shot a concert with mediocre stage lighting, making it very difficult for just anyone to get a usable picture. This was shot at f/1.8, ISO 800, and a shutter speed of 1/320 of a second. This was more than enough speed to freeze the action of the guitarist. With higher ISO and a slower shutter speed, down to 1/80 for handheld with the 50mm, you could shoot in some really dark locations. Another great use of the 50mm is astrophotography.
Astrophotography involves photographing the sky at night, capturing the stars, planets, or whatever UFOs you might find. Using the 50mm is great because you can use its wide aperture to capture the sky in a faster time and lower ISO than the standard kit lens.
You can search online for astrophotography settings for your camera, but here’s an example of what you can do. Some stars appear to be moving while others are still because of the way the stars revolve around the North Star. Using a longer shutter speed results in longer “star trails” because of the longer distance the stars travel in that time.
Bokeh refers to the out of focus area in an image, as well as its quality. With the WIDE aperture of f/1.8 on this 50mm, you can get a REALLY shallow depth of field in the right circumstances. A wide aperture in combination with a close subject and distant background will result in just millimeters being in focus in your image. This portrait below has a background that is unrecognizable because the beach was so empty and everything was far away from the subject. The eyes are in focus, but going back in space, even the neck and hair are starting to blur.
Go out today and get your own 50mm lens today and see if it doesn’t change your outlook on photography! Check out the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 on Amazon.