The 50mm Prime

Long have I been a subscriber to the theory that those new to the digital single lens reflex arena should start their lens collection with one, relatively inexpensive piece of glass, the f/1.8 variation of the 50mm prime, in either a Canon or Nikon mount, depending on the users choice of camera brand.

As a Canon user there are two different relatively affordable variations of the standard 50mm prime lens. An f/1.8 and f/1.4 version. The f/1.8 variation is the lightest and the cheapest ($79 USD) of all three, it’s the perfect piece of glass to introduce an individual to primes lenses. I’ve owned this lens in the past and thoroughly enjoyed my first experience of inability to zoom. Owning the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 forced me to use my eye to its full creative ability.

Second in the line is the slightly heavier, and relatively more expensive ($329 USD) f/1.4 version of the 50mm lens. Advantages of this lens include a far more superior build quality, faster focusing, full time manual focus ability, and a larger aperture opening. I now own this Canon 50mm lens due to its advantages over its cheaper counterpart.

Also available is the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM. This is the only 50mm prime lens in Canon’s line which features the “L” tag, as a luxury series lens. It features the most superior build quality of all Canon 50mm primes, and is one of two lenses in the Canon EF mount lineup which will open to f/1.2 (the other being the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 USM) – allowing in a significant amount of light.

Why Should I Invest In A 50mm Prime

I initially purchased the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 after hearing praise of the lens optical quality for its small price on photography forum Fred Miranda. Once in my hands, I discovered why.

The focal length of a 50mm prime is somewhat special, as it’s very accurate in terms of field of view to a human eye. Essentially, on a full frame body, what you see through your eye is what you get through the cameras viewfinder.

When limited to a single focal length, there’s only one possible field of view. This view rapidly sticks in your mind, until you know exactly what you’ll see through the viewfinder of your camera without having to life it to your eye. It’ll make you think about framing of images much more closely, and help you improve your eye for creating exceptional shots.

You’re made to think much more about the finder technical aspects of the image, such as aperture, ISO, shutter speed, and exposure. Changing the framing of your image will need to be done via your feet (foot zooming), giving you much more creative control over your image, rather than standing in one spot and either zooming in, or out.

While I believe that all photographers should have a general walk around zoom in their bag for general use, prime lenses will help you create better images, and help you develop your personal photographic style.