Feature Story

Getting Back To Normal: 50mm Lens Re-discovered!

rainy leaves
gnarly tree
Metro rail sunset
Stream bed, Noguchi Garden
Surprised Cactus
scraping skies

I've been shooting for awhile with DSLR's, since the early Canon 10 D around 2001. The crop factor and all pretty much meant you would have to settle for a few zooms to cover the range of normal to telephoto.

With the full frame 5D Mk II (an oldie now, but I still love it) I found myself looking at prime lenses again.

One of my favorites is the 100mm 1.8 Macro lens; as I was fooling around with some rain photos, I realized that was the only prime lens I had. I borrowed a friend's 50 mm f1.4 Canon EF lens and found that shooting wide open real fast was really fun.

I began shooting a variety of scenes around the neighborhood, shooting some video, and eventually sunsets during a rain storm. It was cool to be able to shoot hand held with this light, nimble little lens.

I really would love the Canon 50mm 1.2, but I wound up buying my friends 1.4 and it has been so much fun.

At my age (53) I have begun to have problems with carpal tunnel like numbness and burning in my shooting hand and arm. The heavier glass like the awesome 24-70L makes it tiring to carry about. So the "Nifty Fifty" makes shooting for fun...well,...funner..

I noticed that the wide open 1.4 on this lens was soft overall, almost ethereal actually. Used artistically it probably would be great for babies, little flaxen-haired kids where a dreamy effect was a good thing. But I really was not a fan of the purple fringing that was pretty strong on the highlights, and had to remove that in Lightroom with the profile/defringe tool. Time consuming and annoying.

But, stopped down to 2.8, 4.0 the fringing on the 50mm 1.4 goes away, and the sharpness is wonderful. I was able to crop down quite a bit on areas near the edges, which isn't always possible with the zoom like the 24-105L (edges get mushy even at 4.0).

So now I'm looking at primes again; what if I just dumped all my zooms (the 24-105, 24-70, 70-200 IS, 17-35 Tamron) and went for a set of very good primes instead? I'm thinking that the 24mm f1.4, 50mm 1.2, 85mm

1.8, 100 f1.8, and 200mm f2.8 primes would pretty much cover the spectrum....all nice and fast...

What I find is that even with my zooms, I tend to cover with the 17-35mm, 24-40, and 70-200m anyway and they are all pretty heavy. The five primes still weigh less than the combination of zooms.

I haven't ebay'd my zoom lenses yet, but after 10 years of lugging them around, I'm considering it!

Try the nifty fifty fast lens and see for yourself how good "normal" feels!

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3 responses

  • Lew Harford

    Lew Harford gave props (30 Jan 2013):

    For years back in the day of film SLR's the 24mm was my go to lens. I love primes.

  • JamesHarmon McQuilkin

    JamesHarmon McQuilkin   gave props (1 Feb 2013):

    well done all around--very informative

  • Beth Evans-Lutz

    Beth Evans-Lutz said (29 Jan 2014):

    This is fantastic! Such a great essay on the pros of what the typical lens can do for you!! I absolutely love what and how much we can get out of our cameras without all the fancy stuff! Kudos!

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