Hippkhoi in Conscious: a 'nifty fifty' photography

Whether you’re a student on a budget, or a pro looking to invest in some new gear, the 50mm prime lens is by far your best option. Unlike zoom lenses (ones that move), prime lenses are a fixed length and less glass usually means better quality. As a true advocate for this brilliant little piece of gear, let’s walk through why it is the best camera lens around.

Disclaimer: As a devoted Canon shooter (much to my Father’s Nikon dismay), the 50mm lenses referred to in this article will be the Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 II, Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 STM and the Canon EF 50mm F/1.4 USM.

Life in a Teacup
Life in a Teacup, 2017

Practice Makes Perfect

So, what makes the 50mm the best camera lens in the business? When using a Full Frame DSLR camera (check out Cropped vs Full Frame sensors for more details) – the 50mm lens represents what we see with our natural eye. Where a wide angle will show you far more of the scene, and a telephoto lens will zoom into something close up and specific… The 50mm produces a direct representation of the scene in front of us. This is vital when discovering photography, as it gets you to move around and adjust your crop instead of relying on a zoom lens to do it for you.

As its number one fan, I recommended this lens to a close friend starting out, and she couldn’t help sing its praises, too: “The 50mm forces you to craft your art. I love the style this lens can achieve, but you have to move your feet, think about your subject and the light. Once you’ve worked hard, this lens will reward you.” See, it’s not just me!

Next up: Composition. The 50mm is by far the best camera lens to learn on because it forces you to think about what you’re photographing. Your angles, your position and of course, your subject will all have to be considered well to get the shot you want. Over time, you’ll realise that composition is actually one of the more enjoyable factors in photography, so take pride in it and grab that 50mm!

Maxie Boy
Maxie Boy, 2018

In Its Prime

Though the first Canon DSLR 50mm lens was released back in 1987, the modern varieties have been making comeback after comeback. The Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 II replaced the Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 back in 1990, yet, only in 2015, the Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 STM overtook. Speaking from experience, this was a smart move from Canon. Their earlier model of the F/1.8 was faulty in many areas – especially their plastic mount that could not withstand much mobility at all. Since moving to the Canon EF 50mm F/1.4 USM, the love for this lens has grown tenfold. It’s lightweight, brilliantly compatible with the Canon 5D and diverse as anything!

The Cambodian Dream
The Cambodian Dream, 2019

Niche After Niche

How many of you reading this have struggled to define your niche in photography? Yep, you’re not alone. It takes years to define (and redefine!) what it means to be a professional photographer, and what you’re able to create. Now, the true beauty of the 50mm (and why it IS the best camera lens in the business!) is down to this: its versatility.

If you’re still trying to figure out what you want to do with your newfound (or continuing) skillset, the nifty fifty has got you covered. This lens has covered more bases than the Major League – guaranteed! From documenting places whilst travelling to photographing models in a studio, to second shooting a wedding, or products in-situ… The 50mm is the one. Before considering the 85mm as your go-to portrait prime, or that epic fish-eye lens you’ll really only use once… Do yourself a favour and go for the Canon 50mm F/1.4. No, this is not an ad – it’s just a REALLY great lens.

Barn Wedding
Barn Wedding, 2017

Budget Friendly

If I haven’t convinced you yet, listen to this. Our best camera lens is also… amazingly economical! Whether you decide on the F/1.4 VS F/1.8 – it’s truly down to personal preference. Brand new, the Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 STM is only around $125 (+-£100), and the Canon EF 50mm F/1.4 USM goes for around $329 (£250) on Amazon. Secondhand, you can expect to pay +- $220! (£150)). If you can, spare the extra cash and go for the F/1.4mm. It is a small price to pay for the quality, longevity and diversity it carries and will save you thousands of dollars in other lenses until you know exactly what you want.

Floral Bokeh
Floral Bokeh, 2017
J'bay Boys
J’bay Boys, 2016
All of the Lights
All of the Lights, 2018

That Bokeh Though

Last but not least, the magic that comes from a decent piece of glass is of course: BOKEH. For those who aren’t familiar with the word… When you see an image and it has a lovely, creamy softness in the background, that’s bokeh. Or “blur” in Japanese apparently. It’s created through a combination of a good depth of field, a wide open aperture and using… yes, you guessed it! The best camera lens in the business. Aesthetically speaking, it gives you so much. Not one portrait or lifestyle shot is complete without a little bokeh. And a lot of love.

Capetonian Customs
Capetonian Customs, 2017

All in all, the Canon 50mm is the by far the best camera lens for beginners and pros alike, and if you don’t already, get one in your kit bag! It’s extremely economical, straightforward and easy to grasp – and it comes with many teachable lessons! As a student, this lens was my saving grace, and it helped me develop my own photographic style. I guarantee this lens will open many doors in your photographic world, too.

Find our how DSLR Photography changed my life and how Africa proved it in my Feature article here…