Top 8 Reasons Why You Should Buy a 50mm Lens (The Nifty Fifty)

Why do you need a 50mm lens? Because it is awesome. Believe me on that. I have been using my 50mm lens for more than 2 years now, and it has never let me down — not even once. I am going to tell you a story. If you think that it is yours, you should read the rest of this post about the renowned 50mm lens.

You have bought your first DSLR camera, and you are happy about it. You probably got a lens along with it — the kit lens.  You will be happy with that lens for a while. But when your experience grows, you feel like you need an upgrade. So, decide to buy a new lens. But, it is not that easy. Here is what usually happens: You are in a shop, and you are wondering which one you should go for it. And, definitely, you are confused, whether you are shopping online or in a shop, as you see a myriad of lenses displayed infront of you. Yes. You will be in a dilemma. Even the salesperson cannot give you a straight answer for your question — ‘Which lens I should buy? ‘

You are going to buy your first lens, and you do not want to be disappointed. If you are new in photography, you will be utterly confused. You probably ask the salesperson, or some of your friends, to suggest you the best lens in the market. But you don’t get an answer. Then the biggest question – ‘Which one I should buy?’ — haunts you. You start looking for an answer, and that is why you are here.

My answer is — Buy a 50mm lens. And here is why?


canon EF 50mm f1.8 and nikon AF 50mm f1.8
50mm f1.8 prime lenses of canon and nikon


Top 8 Reasons To Buy a 50mm Lens

Reason #1: It is cheap: Yes. When you are going to buy a lens (or anything) the first thing you ask is its price. As you may know, anything with a photography tag does not come cheap. But, fortunately, 50mm is really cheap; you can get one for 100$. NOTE: There are various versions of 50mm lens available in the market (regardless of the make). Here, I am talking about the ‘Nifty Fifty’ — the nickname of the entry-level 50mm lens (50mm f1.8)

Reason #2: Professional quality: Okay. You know that 50mm lens is cheap. The next thing you want from a lens is good image quality. 50mm lens is a prime lens (Prime lenses are fixed focal length lenses). They give very good quality images. For its price, the quality 50mm lens gives matches a professional lens. Since it is a prime lens, you will experience the ‘actual’ or capture sharpness. A 50mm lens makes tack sharp images, especially for its price. The colour rendition a 50mm lens gives you is way better than that of a kit lens.

Reason #3: It’s compact and light weight: You don’t want to feel that you can’t take your camera out because it’s heavy. You want it compact. That’s another reason you should buy a 50mm. Since there are only fewer elements inside a 50mm lens, they are lighter than other primes.

Reason #4: It is a ‘normal’ or ‘standard lens’: Don’t let the words normal standard mislead you. By normal it means perspective rendered by the 50mm matches the human eye. So it gives a natural look to the images. Why this is important? It is useful, especially for beginners, because you won’t feel that you are looking through a lens.

Reason #5: It is a fast lens: Fast lenses are those which have f-numbers f2.8 or lower. They are so called because it allows you to use faster shutter speeds since wide apertures let more light in the camera. Kit lenses are opened upto 3.5 – 5.6 range. At 55mm, the widest aperture you can use is f5.6. But in a 50mm f1.8 lens, you can open upto f1.8. That’s a 3 stop difference, or 6 times more than the amount of light a kit lens can let inside a camera. So the advantage is obvious — it helps you in shooting in low light conditions. You don’t need to increase the ISO, which creates noise, as when you use a kit lens, while shooting in low light situations. You can use faster shutter speed in low light situations, thus, taking blurry free images. 50mm comes with various wide apertures – f1.8, f1.4, f2, and even f0.95!

Reason #6: It is a versatile lens: If you are looking for a ‘Any situation’ / all-rounder lens, 50mm is what you want. With 50mm you can take —

  • Portraits: I feel 50mm gives great portraits especially if you are using a cropped sensor DSLR. When you use it with a cropped sensor DSLR, the 50mm ‘acts’ like a medium telephoto lens. So, it is an excellent portrait lens for such DSLR for its price. You will get good results in a full frame sensor, too, although you will experience a little distortion.

Black and White portrait of a kid

  • Macros: If you reverse mount your 50mm lens on your camera, you can take macros at 1:1 magnification. You can take photos with that magnification only with a macro lens (which costs you around 500$). Although you can reverse your kit lens for macros, the quality will be poorer when compared with that of a reversed 50mm. Read our post on how to reverse a 50mm for macro photography.

Macrophotograph of a house fly

  • Street Photographs: For street photography, I use my 50mm rather than kit lens. As I mentioned before, its field of view matches the human eye. So I can shoot what I see with my eyes and the images look natural. Another reason is that the frames from a 50mm are much more compact than from the frames of a wide-angle lens. So there will be least information in the frames, and it is a good thing since it avoids clutter. NOTE: I am not saying it is the lens for street photography. My point is that it is not a bad lens for street photography.

Umbrella and bicycle

    •        Landscapes: Why not? You don’t have to use wide-angle focal lengths for landscapes every time. Try some with a 50mm, too.


landscape photo using 50mm lens. Gavi, kerala

Thus, 50mm is a walk-around lens; you can go out with just a 50mm and come back with a variety of shots.

Reason #7: It gives you great bokeh that everybody loves: I just love this aspect of the lens. The bokeh is incredible. Apart from letting more light into the camera, wide apertures create a shallow depth of field. You can make ‘dreamy’ effect in your photos; that, you don’t have to rely on photoshop, or any other photo editing software, to create it. I mean, who doesn’t love the out of focus circles and blur background in their photographs, right?

photograph of flying butterflies

Reason #8: It will help you to know what you want: One of the disadvantages of having a DSLR is that you have to buy various lenses, and that is expensive. Like I said, 50mm is a versatile lens. You can try different genres of photography – portraits, street, and macro – with a 50mm.Eventually, you will find your taste in a particular type(s) of photography, and, thus, you can streamline your equipment upgrade.

What are you waiting for?

To summarize, 50mm lens is a low light beast; gives tack sharp images; a walk-around lens and  a versatile lens. So, why don’t you grab one? Have fun shooting!

Check out: some collection of photographs taken with 50mm lenses

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Vidhu Soman

Hi, I am Vidhu Soman, Editor of Shutterstoppers. I have been doing photography since 2010, and I co-founded shutterstoppers community in 2012. I love photography, writing, travelling, and reading. If you wish to contact me, send a mail using our contact form.

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  5. I like the 50mm as well. BUT I like my 40mm/F2 even better! It gives me a little bit more wideness that I like. Sometimes the 50mm seems a bit too long. Once I shot with the 40mm, I was hooked.

  6. Hi….i never wanted to buy another lens than the lens that comes with a dslr kit until i learned about this 50mm f1.8g from nikon i think its perfect for me..everything it does is the things i really love to do in photography..and your article convinced me i would like to say thank you :)..but wait i need to buy a dslr first..hehehe.

  7. hi vidhu, i am planning to buy 50 mm lens with full frame camera. Above you mentioned that there will be some distortion issue. What does that actually mean? Thanks.

  8. My favourite use of my 50mm is for portraits. But my second favourite is to create bokeh different shaped bokeh filter (eg hearts, arrows and letters) to put in front of the lens so that the bokeh shape comes out differently.

  9. I have a Nikon D610 full frame, and I’m shopping for a 50mm lens but seems there are a few choices and I’m having a really hard time sifting through the articles to pick the right one… I’m looking for something that will eliminate the blur, shoot fast in low light, with a full frame camera. Which one is the best choice? F1.4 D or G, OR an F1.8? It’s so hard to pick… I’d like results like the ones in the 40 amazing pics you presented 🙂 the potential anyway… 🙂 thanks!!

  10. “That’s a 3 stop difference, or 6 times more than the amount of light…” – just a small correction – 3 stops is equivalent to 8 times the light (not 6)

  11. Thanks ,for giving your suggestion(After reading 8 reasons) for using Nifty Fifty 50 mm, F/1.8 prime lenses of Canon and Nikon.
    Is it suitable to my EOS 1000 D CANON Camera which is having EF-S 18-55 MM F/3.5-5.6 IS LENS.Image sensor is high sensitivity,high resolution large single plate CMOS sensor.

  12. Hi! I am using a Canon 50mm 1.8f lens on a Micro 4/3 with an adapter, and I find that it acts too much like a telephoto lens. Is this normal or is it because of the adapter? Thanks!

  13. Thanks very much Vidhu. I just ordered my 50mm f/1.8 after reading these reasons. Very informative.

  14. Thank you for this blog! The pictures are wonderful and I definitely agree that the 50mm is a great lens.

  15. I have this lens and I can’t get my pictures not to be blurry…what am I doing wrong????
    Thanks for your help

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