The Cheap and Cheerful Nifty Fifty


Sure it's plastic, weighs next to nothing and costs as little as you can spend on a Canon lens, but the 50mm f1.8 II is an absolutely brilliant piece of glass.   It's not designed to shoot sports or fast action, and the appearance of the 50 while mounted on a prosumer magnesium body is slightly awkward.  As a creative tool, however, this entry-level prime lens is incredibly useful in creating a shallow depth of field and fantastic colour saturation.

The images below were all taken with a 50mm F1.8 II lens on my Canon 5D Mark II body.  Nothing but the ambient light was used to create these shots.

The Sackville photo club is featuring the "Nifty Fifty" as it's submission showcase, and upon hearing this I put mine on the camera and went out hunting for things that would help showcase the strengths of the cheap and cheerful lens.

I absolutely love the narrow depth of field in this shot:


And also this one.  Note too that the clouds in the sky are still resolved,  not super blown out.  This lens is capable of a great dynamic range.


Sometimes repeating patterns in the bokeh can help draw your eye toward the subject.


And other times, symmetry and texture are the goals:


I also love the colour saturation that I get with this lens:


To me, food photography is an absolutely perfect application for this lens.  When you travel, or when  you're out and about with your camera, you really should shoot any food that comes your way, especially if it's well presented.   I was fortunate enough to be seated next to a window for this shot:


Patterns are constantly drawing my eye as well:




The best part?  This is the cheapest lens that Canon makes.  It usually sells for around $130, and it's a fabulous deal!  It doesn't zoom, so you have to use your feet to frame your shots.  This, however is a great way of learning to make the best use of perspective.  Since you can't zoom, you have to get closer, and in doing so the perspective you had originally will change somewhat.

A word of caution:  This is a "normal" lens, and it does have a slight distortion to it.  If, for instance you photograph someone's face with this lens, it can have a widening effect.  I've noticed it much more on a full frame body than on a crop sensor.

Cheers!