Why your next lens should be the 50mm F1.4!

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Upgrade That Kit Lens

So this is a follow up to my previous post about using that brand new, shiny DSL camera you got for Christmas. I will assume you got a “kit” lens with your camera that is usually a lower quality lens that covers a wide angle such as 18mm to a standard focal length of around 50mm. Some kit lenses go to the circa 100mm zoom range. Another quality of your lens is the variable aperture. In the simplest of terms, that means as you zoom in on a subject, you lose the amount of light that is let into the camera. This is typical of consumer grade lenses and some professional grade ones as well.

While your kit lens is fine to learn the basics of photography, you’ll soon see the limitations of the kit lens due to focal length, aperture and quality of images. So you will ultimately be faced with what lens to buy next in order to take better pictures. Well, I will say first off that no amount of high speed, low drag, super expensive professional gear will make a bad photographer’s pictures look good. You MUST learn the basics of proper exposure and composition. Once you have a good grasp of that, then you’ll want to invest in an upgrade to your lens collection.

As stated in the title of this blog, I would highly recommend you looking at a 50mm F1.4 lens. Canon, Sony, Nikon and other major manufacturers make a version of this lens and they are usually priced in the $350 range. I would recommend the F1.4 versus the F1.8 due to build quality and overall sharpness. I’ve owned both and could see the difference. As it stands now, the 50mm F1.4 prime is one of my “go to” lenses when I travel due to its compact size as well as some portrait assignments. Even thought it opens up to F1.4, I will usually stop it down to around the F2.8 and get clear, crisp and clean images.

So, ok Mike, what about a 40mm or a 60mm, or a (insert lens here)??? The reason I am recommending taking a look at the “nifty fifty” lens is for a few reasons. First off, the quality and sharpness of this lens is quite remarkable given the relative inexpensive cost. Keep in mind all of my other lenses are Canon L Professional lenses that cost thousands of dollars EACH! But this 50mm F1.4 finds its way into my camera bag no matter how light I travel. It’s that good!

Another reason is that the 50mm focal length replicates the field of view we all see through the human eye. Meaning, the picture you take is more or less what humans see if they were not looking through the view finder of a camera. If your composition and exposure is well conceived, your image should come out looking natural and won’t require much cropping.

Lastly, the 50mm lenses are small in comparison with zoom lenses that scream attention. Face it, if you’re shooting with your DSLR with a 50mm lens, I think you’ll get much less attention than using a 70mm-200mm zoom. Or even a wider 24mm-70mm lens. So taking pictures in a travel setting, you’re much less conspicuous with a 50mm versus a larger zoom or wide angle. Just some things to think about.

In conclusion, at some point, you may start thinking about upgrading that kit lens that came with your camera. There are obviously a lot of choices and probably as many opinions you’d get depending on who you ask. But after buying lenses that I use in professional settings and taking into account cost, quality, sharpness and size, you really can’t beat the trusty old nifty fifty! Give it a try!

Mike Byrd Black high res copy cropped

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