Everyone should own a fast 50mm lens, I keep saying. “Fast” meaning a prime, large aperture lens (like a 50mm f/1.8, or even a 50mm f/1.4, like this one:)
One student asks a good question about this:
“I recently attended your travel photography and Nikon Pt. 2 classes. You spoke about the value of a 50 mm lens. I have a Nikon D90, which is not full frame therefore I am wondering if you still recommend the 50 mm over a 35 mm.”
As you know, a small sensor camera (like most of today’s DSLRs) appears to “lengthen” the lens (search this blog for “crop factor” to see why). So a 50mm lens will work like a “real” 80mm lens.
In “real” terms,
- 50mm is a “standard” lens;
- 80mm is a great portrait lens for half-length portraits and headshots.
So presumably we should all start with a “real” 50mm lens? On a regular (non-“full frame”) DSLR, that means you need to buy a 35mm lens.
So is my advice really “buy a lens marked 35mm” or “buy a lens marked 50mm”?
Ideally, both. But if you have to choose, start with the 50, because:
- You’ll want to do headshots sooner or later;
- Sometimes you’ll use it for product or detail-shots, too;
- Above all: it is very affordable.
Most manufacturers make a 50mm f/1.8 that costs around $150 or less. A bargain, and something you just need to put in your camera bag.