5 Reasons you Need a 50mm Prime

JamesMillerJamesMiller Posts: 10Member
edited April 2014 in Nikon DSLR cameras
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  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    edited April 2014
    Adding fuel to the topic...

    Post edited by Golf007sd on
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • ThomasHortonThomasHorton Posts: 323Member
    Unfortunately, some of those reasons are more along the line of reasons to have a prime lens, not specifically a 50mm prime.

    I am re-building my kit of lenses and I am trying to think it out and plan my kit. I am trying to buy the highest quality but at the same time eat regularly. So I don't want to have one of every FL...(OK I do want it, but I can't/shouldn't afford that).

    I currently have a 35mm, an 85mm, and my 180mm macro baby. :) I think I need to populate the 85-180 gap first. But when I get that gap in my kit finished, I am wondering if I really need a 50mm when I don't do street photography or group portraits.

    In my thinking, for my type of photography (no people, mostly stuff and landscapes), there is little that I could not do with a 35mm or 85mm that I would need a 50. Is my thinkin' flawed?

    In photography, when the question "do I need a xxmm lens" is asked, the obvious answer is "Yes, I do *need* that FL" LoL but what does a 50 do that a 35 or 85 really can't.. to the extent that I should shell out much bucks for a high quality 50?

    If I did not already have a great 35mm, this question would be a lot easier for me to answer.
    Gear: Camera obscura with an optical device which transmits and refracts light.
  • SquamishPhotoSquamishPhoto Posts: 608Member
    Your thinking is not flawed. I have the Sigma 35mm 1.4 and its the reason I don't ever see myself buying this new 50mm or any other 50mm for that matter. The focal range used to be something I really liked and employed frequently, but much like yourself I find the rendering capabilities of a paired 35mm and 85mm much more satisfying than any of the results from a 50mm. Some shooting styles will obviously lend themselves much better to the 50mm range, and for that person a more perfect lens is hard to find when looking at this new "Art" offering from Sigma. For me, however, its not worth the money. Like you said, if you didn't have a great 35mm already its really hard to justify a lens like this, however appealing it may be. Personally, I'd wait to see if the rumoured Art 24-70 with OS comes out this fall as that will fill that range much better than a 50mm prime would, IMO.
    Mike
    D3 • D750 • 14-24mm f2.8 • 35mm f1.4A • PC-E 45mm f2.8 • 50mm f1.8G • AF-D 85mm f1.4 • ZF.2 100mm f2 • 200mm f2 VR2
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    I blew the dust off my 35 f1.8 a week or so ago and used it for the first time in a long time. It lasted about 20 minutes before I got my 17-55 back out. I haven't gone through the pictures yet but I am curious to see if I even see a difference.

    I will say it is small and light.
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 4,372Member
    I have the same sentiment as some others. While I have the 50mm F1.8G, it's more of a backup or for use when I want to travel light. The 24-70mm F2.8G or 16-35mm F4G get far more use for serious shooting, simply because they provide better colour and contrast, IMO. I do like 35mm and 50mm focal lengths, but I don't think I'd bother getting both if I only shot with primes. For me the hard part would be deciding which one.
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • TaoTeJaredTaoTeJared Posts: 1,306Member
    BIG DISCLAIMER: All of this is about a 50mm FX equivalent.

    28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85/90mm, & 105mm is the "classic" prime set and for good reason - they all make distinct images.

    Although I love 50s, mastering any of those will benefit anyone. I think the real point is to master something so that you can build off of it. I'm not a big fan of the "Must have a 50mm" argument and I believe it stems back to photography instructors pushing kids to get a kit without the kit zoom lens while considering cost. Add to that, most photographers when first getting into camera's couldn't afford anything else. 50s are cheap, give a "normal" non distorting look, and can separate subjects from non-subject elements. You can't find any other lenses that can do that for under $300. At that price, it is kind of a no brainer to pick one up.
    ...
    I am re-building my kit of lenses and I am trying to think it out and plan my kit. I am trying to buy the highest quality but at the same time eat regularly. ....
    I keep reading/hearing the "highest quality" statement and I just chuckle. We all want good performing lenses, but somehow the "quality" of a lens has turned into what DxO and other lens "testers" say it good. There is some merit in their tests, but there is way too much focus on them. Look to any photographer you enjoy from the past and I will guarantee you the lenses they used were not half the "tested" "quality" of today's lenses and the "real quality" of them is just as good.
    ... I am wondering if I really need a 50mm when I don't do street photography or group portraits.

    In my thinking, for my type of photography (no people, mostly stuff and landscapes), there is little that I could not do with a 35mm or 85mm that I would need a 50. Is my thinkin' flawed?...
    Flawed no - mis-informed, maybe. It seems for some odd reason people continually flow to this idea that a 50mm is only for street photography or some very limited use. I just don't get it.
    1) 50s stink at shooting groups - I absolutely hate using one for that. 35mm or 28mm is much better. Or I like a 105-200 to compress the image but that is rare.
    2) Most Street photographers generally use 28s and 35s or even wider, not 50s. Some very good one's do, but it is not a normal use for one.

    If you like shooting "stuff"/objects, I think you would love a 50. Landscapes - stitch 3 photos together (don't change the focus) and 50s look amazing.

    If I'm looking at a lens that I'm not sure if I will fall in love with it, I will buy an old manual focus lens, used one, or even a really cheap version to try. If I like it, then I go for the "better" stuff. If I don't, I sell it, and am never out much when I do. You can pick up a 50mm 1.8D for $100. To me, that is the cheapest "trial" run you can get. Hell if you want to go real cheap, look for a used old MF 50mm 1.8 E lens - those can be had for $25-30 on ebay.
    D800, D300, D50(ir converted), FujiX100, Canon G11, Olympus TG2. Nikon lenses - 24mm 2.8, 35mm 1.8, (5 in all)50mm, 60mm, 85mm 1.8, 105vr, 105 f2.5, 180mm 2.8, 70-200vr1, 24-120vr f4. Tokina 12-24mm, 16-28mm, 28-70mm (angenieux design), 300mm f2.8. Sigma 15mm fisheye. Voigtlander R2 (olive) & R2a, Voigt 35mm 2.5, Zeiss 50mm f/2, Leica 90mm f/4. I know I missed something...
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,430Moderator
    No thanks, I'll stick with zooms.
    Always learning.
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    No thanks, I'll stick with zooms.
    Ha...I like zooms, but I wouldn't give up my primes either. The 70-300 can't match my 300 F4, nor is there a zoom that will do what the 105 F2.8 does.
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • SymphoticSymphotic Posts: 704Member
    edited April 2014
    No thanks, I'll stick with zooms.
    "zooms"? I get great results with the 24-70, but before I owned a digital cameras I kept a 50 f/1.4 on the front of my camera mostly and I changed to something else when I felt a need.

    This is probably due to me being an old guy, and the 50 mm lens was the only lens I could afford on my first SLR in the early years. (It was a Zeiss Planar 50 mm f/1.7.) So I know this focal length better than any other.

    I "zoomed" by walking towards or away from my subject, and the 50 always retained a natural proportion with fast optics for a reasonable cost.
    Post edited by Symphotic on
    Jack Roberts
    "Discovery consists in seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought"--Albert Szent-Gyorgy
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    No thanks, I'll stick with zooms.
    "zooms"? I get great results with the 24-70, but before I owned a digital cameras I kept a 50 f/1.4 on the front of my camera mostly and I changed to something else when I felt a need.

    This is probably due to me being an old guy, and the 50 mm lens was the only lens I could afford on my first SLR in the early years. (It was a Zeiss Planar 50 mm f/1.7.) So I know this focal length better than any other.
    Funny you say that because I have no 50 fetish like the older people on here do. It means nothing to me when everyone talks about 35 mm cameras and really I hate the FX vs DX discussion. It doesn't make any difference to me...my camera shoots what my camera shoots. But then again my first camera was a point and shoot kodak with no optical zoom.
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    I love my 50s. If you look at my signature, you can see that I have two of them. About 50% of my photos are taken with them. If they were better quality, it would be more than 50%.

    For shooting people, I like as long a lens as possible. For street photography or in confined spaces, that usually seems to be a 50. I want a tight full body shot but from a distance. If I am in an open area, it is my 85 or maybe even my 135.

    I like using my MF to shoot scapes, whether they are land, sea, city etc. I am surprised how useful the 50 is for shooting scapes (heck, even the 200 is). I admit that I use my 14-24, 20, and 28s more, but the 50 is still a key piece of kit.

    For $500 bucks, my 50mm 1.4G is four times faster and has better picture quality at 50mm than a 24-70 2.8 zoom (but maybe only by a hair). My only complaint is that it has a plastic cheap feel and so so image quality for a prime. I wish it was built like my 50mm 1.2 MF, cost $2,000 and was worth it.

    And both of them are nice and light. They feel like a feather when I replace my 14-24 zoom with them (this is the only zoom I will likely ever have).
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,430Moderator
    @tcole1983: It isn't an age thing. :)
    No thanks, I'll stick with zooms.
    "zooms"? I get great results with the 24-70, but before I owned a digital cameras I kept a 50 f/1.4 on the front of my camera mostly and I changed to something else when I felt a need.

    This is probably due to me being an old guy, and the 50 mm lens was the only lens I could afford on my first SLR in the early years. (It was a Zeiss Planar 50 mm f/1.7.) So I know this focal length better than any other.

    I "zoomed" by walking towards or away from my subject, and the 50 always retained a natural proportion with fast optics for a reasonable cost.
    I too had a 50 on the front of my OM1 back in 1979 (didn't everybody?). I also had only primes to cover all focal lengths. I found photography pretty tedious back then when 'zooming by foot' would have me climbing fences or falling off buildings.

    I have never shot an image with a zoom at 50 that I thought would have been noticeably better with a prime - f1.4/1.8 shots excepted (and they are very rare).
    Always learning.
  • SquamishPhotoSquamishPhoto Posts: 608Member
    edited April 2014
    So you're old and shoot boring stuff. ;]
    Post edited by SquamishPhoto on
    Mike
    D3 • D750 • 14-24mm f2.8 • 35mm f1.4A • PC-E 45mm f2.8 • 50mm f1.8G • AF-D 85mm f1.4 • ZF.2 100mm f2 • 200mm f2 VR2
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,430Moderator
    Can't deny I'm old!
    Always learning.
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited April 2014
    No thanks, I'll stick with zooms.
    +1

    unless I am photographing black cats in coal holes and I need f1.4, or I am shooting macro. I cant see the point of a prime.

    If you standing on the edge of precipice, zooming with your feet, is not really an option

    Post edited by sevencrossing on
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    Reposting with corrections in my calculations…..

    In the "old"days, on a Speed Graphic, 4' x 5", the "normal" lens was a 135mm. Using the ratio of the diagonal to the focal length this calculates to a "normal" on full frame 35mm to 35.9 mm or if one uses a 4x5 ratio, 30mm x 24mm crop, the "normal" lens is about 32mm. So, whatever your cup of tea is…….

    Oh, telephoto…210 mm was used for portraits. If one does the numbers, on a 24mm x 30mm crop… the "portrait" lens is about 50mm…. how interesting.
    Msmoto, mod
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,387Member
    50mm is great for 1/2 to 3/4 body sitting portraits. It is a portrait lens. The 85-105mm is more of a headshot lens. Today when we say portraits we tend to think of headshots. Way back in times long past the word portrait meant a person sitting in a chair or standing and shot from about the knees up. And then we have "environmental portraiture" in which the person is captured in his or her environment. 35mm is good for this. I think the definition of the word portrait has changed over time.
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    50mm is great for 1/2 to 3/4 body sitting portraits. It is a portrait lens. The 85-105mm is more of a headshot lens. Today when we say portraits we tend to think of headshots. Way back in times long past the word portrait meant a person sitting in a chair or standing and shot from about the knees up. And then we have "environmental portraiture" in which the person is captured in his or her environment. 35mm is good for this. I think the definition of the word portrait has changed over time.
    I disagree somewhat with this. The 85-105 range is fine for full body portraits. You just have to give yourself more room. So while it might not be ideal ina studio it is great outdoors.

    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,387Member
    Yes, 85mm works fine outdoors or in a very large studio. The 70-200 (either the f2.8 or the f4) also works great outdoors.
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited April 2014
    . The 70-200 (either the f2.8 or the f4) also works great outdoors.
    Yes the 70-200 is great for outdoor portraits, be they group or head
    but it depends on your style. One friend uses the 24mm f1.4 another the 200mm f2
    needles to say , they have comply different, but distinctive, styles

    (the one with the 24 does not "do" head shots but the one with 200 often uses it for groups)

    Post edited by sevencrossing on
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    edited April 2014
    50mm is great for 1/2 to 3/4 body sitting portraits. It is a portrait lens. The 85-105mm is more of a headshot lens. Today when we say portraits we tend to think of headshots. Way back in times long past the word portrait meant a person sitting in a chair or standing and shot from about the knees up. And then we have "environmental portraiture" in which the person is captured in his or her environment. 35mm is good for this. I think the definition of the word portrait has changed over time.
    Ideally to me, the 50mm is good for casual full body, the 85mm is a full body portrait, the 135mm is a head and shoulder portrait and the 200mm f/2 (preferably the 400mm f/2.8) is a headshot portrait lens. Since my 200 macro is not suitable for portraits and I don't have the budget yet for the other two, my 135mm is my headshot lens.

    I only go shorter when I don't have the space or it is what is on the camera in a "moment".
    Post edited by WestEndBoy on
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    edited April 2014
    No thanks, I'll stick with zooms.
    +1

    unless I am photographing black cats in coal holes and I need f1.4, or I am shooting macro. I cant see the point of a prime.

    If you standing on the edge of precipice, zooming with your feet, is not really an option

    Here is a point. I shot about 100 pictures with bokeh just like this last night. Moving the background flowers back to get the depth of field, let alone the trees and bay in the background, is not an option. My 1.4 prime does all of this with ease. There is not a zoom on the market that can touch this lens' ability.

    Tulip Garden

    D800, AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G, ISO 250, 85mm, f/1.4, 1/400 sec

    Post edited by WestEndBoy on
  • SymphoticSymphotic Posts: 704Member
    So you're old and shoot boring stuff. ;]
    Ouch! But too true! One good thing about being old is I've lived long enough to find the people who will pay for photographs of the boring stuff I shoot.
    Jack Roberts
    "Discovery consists in seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought"--Albert Szent-Gyorgy
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    edited April 2014
    And here is another point that I shot last night. This is handheld at f/1.4 and ISO 6,400 and no tripod was available. The best Nikon zoom is a 2.8 meaning ISO would have been 25,600. Whups, I forgot the superior transmission ability of this prime compared to zooms, so add another 1 or 2 stops.

    How would this photo have looked in the 50,000 to 100,000 range?

    Tulips at Night

    D800, AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G, ISO 6,400, 85mm, f/1.4, 1/60 sec
    Post edited by WestEndBoy on
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    Last night I took 200 pretty good shots. With a zoom, it would have been 20 or 30.
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