The 50mm focal length has been the universal one ever since the birth of the 35mm format and there are a number of reasons for that,some of which are on this list. The thing with most of today ’s newcomers to photography is that they take the easy way and begin learning with entry-level kit lenses. Or perhaps they are a bit more generous and go straight ahead and invest in a pro zoom lens, which is absolutely fine as well. But this is not about learning photography with a zoom lens. This is about how well you can learn using a fixed lens, and what better option would there be than the universal 50mm?
Here is a list of reasons why I think new photographers should learn photography with a 50mm lens. If you’re not brave enough to use the exclusively, the least you can do is make sure this valuable item isn’t missing from your gear bag.
This is a focal length that you can use to shoot a lot of stuff. You can photograph portraits, and I believe that’s what most people have in mind when they think of this lens, but you can also use it for certain landscapes, indoors sporting events and lot of other stuff you might not think of using it for at first.
Most 50mm lenses are either comfortably affordable or dirt cheap. When I say this I mean the fast f1.4 versions and the all-time classic f1.8. The later one should be in every photographer’s kit, even if they don’t use it. At less than 100 USD, it’s hard to beat.
It’s very hard to find something so close to professional optical quality and sharpness anywhere near the price range of a 50mm lens. And, again, I’m talking about the “less bright” versions. The reason for performance and price ratio is that they are relatively easy and cheap to build. It’s one of those success recipes where you put in a little and get back a lot.
Most 50mm lenses are small and light, which makes them a lot of fun to carry and shoot. Even the notorious Canon 50mm f1.2L is a feather compared to a standard zoom. Apart from the obvious comfort advantages, the small size often lets you get away unseen.
The angle of view of a normal 50mm lens comes close to that of the human perspective .This can give a natural look for a number of types of photography.
By fast I mean with a wider aperture that f2.8. As I’ve mentioned before, the technical design of a 50mm f1.8 isn’t all that complicated or difficult to produce. So even the least bright 50mm lens can still get you to shoot only in available light where a pro zoom simply wouldn’t handle it. The width of aperture goes as low as f0.95, but don’t think you’ll find any of those at your local dealer anytime soon.
They make you try harder
Unlike the privilege of zooming in and out by standing still, with a fixed lens you have to do the zooming with your feet. For a beginner, that might sound inconvenient or old school. The fact however is that even if it might seem like an old school method, it’s one of the best ways to learn composition like a pro. The more limits you have, the harder you have to think to compensate and come up with a solution, and that is something that zoom lenses take away from aspiring photographers.