Want to catch up on the best of our news for the entire week? Well here’s your weekly Phoblographer round up. This week, readers were all about inspiration, tutorials and apparently some of you don’t like the 50mm focal length.
Dear photography mentors,
I hate the 50mm focal length.
No really; I really, really hate it.
The lens is a Jack of all trades but master of none–and it tries to do many things well but ultimately fails are doing them as well as other focal lengths. I am writing this post on May 2nd 2015 and it marks the 10th year that I’ve been a photographer; not a guy with a camera, a photographer. And through the years I used to believe what everyone said about using the 50mm focal length and how it will be the only lens that you ever need. But man, was that wrong.
Why did you tell me to use it?
In the world of photography–be it that the craft is carried out professionally or leisurely–it has always been a matter of dispute whether a prime lens is preferred over a zoom lens, or the other way around. We here at The Phoblographer tend to think rather pragmatically about this: each has its own merits and downsides, and it clearly depends on what you’re up to. Let’s however for a moment assume that you lean towards using prime lenses–or you want to. After years of lens testing lenses, we think there are five essential focal lengths that every photographer should try at least once. These are the 24mm super wide-angle, the 35mm wide-angle, the 50mm normal, the 85mm short telephoto, and the 135mm telephoto.
Before you go on, we also want you to remember that no one is making a bad camera or lens.
“Use a 50mm lens! It’s got a normal perspective! It will see just like you see! Taking photos will never be easier! Look at all the glorious bokeh!”
No. Just no. No a thousand times and a million times over that. So long have I heard something preached over and over again to consumers and photographers in general just starting to get into the photography world and too long have I wanted to say that it is nothing else but absolute garbage.
I was just like many of you at one point or another: a photographer that was a total novice and looking to learn about anything while trying to discover myself as a photographer. And in many cases I used the 50mm focal length. It really started with my 5D Mk II and the 50mm f1.8 II–otherwise known to many shooters as the cheapest nifty fifty you can get your hands on. Yes, it’s sharp when stopped down. Yes, you can get beautiful bokeh. And even more so, you can make potential clients look good and deliver beautiful images with one.
A while ago, we did a comparison of the Canon 50mm f1.4 vs the 85mm f1.8 (due to price points) when it comes to taking portraits. Weekly Imogen recently did their own filmed portrait comparison and asked their readers which one they preferred. After a long time of gathering comments and feedback, many of the readers loved the look of the 85mm lens more. However, as some commenters state, the crew used a cropped sensor camera body–which for Canon actually renders an 80mm field of view not the 75mm as stated due to the 1.6x crop factor.
What this actually means is that a 50mm lens will give the field of view of an 80mm lens and an 85mm lens will give around 136mm to the viewer with a cropped sensor camera. Still though, the lenses will still act like their actual focal lengths–which means that an 85mm will still render a less distorted image.
The comments and feedback are an interesting back and forth debate–though many still lean more towards the 85mm. The video is after the jump.
Want more Useful Photography Tips? Check them out right here.
Before you even get into reading this piece, know that we’re talking about an actual lens focal length, not equivalent to field of view. Look at it this way: you like taking photos with a 50mm lens, right? Let’s say you’re working with Micro Four Thirds camera options. In order to get a 50mm field of view, you need to slap a 25mm lens on your camera. But guess what? That 25mm lens will still act like a 25mm lens. It will be just as distorted and even though you’re still using the center area of the lens more or less you’ll still get all the problems that a lens like that faces. To get rid of that distortion, you’ll need a longer focal length. I found this out the hard way when working with a subject of larger stature. Though I felt the images looked great, she didn’t–and the only thing that really could have helped would have been a longer lens.
To eliminate that distortion to begin with, you’ll need to work with longer focal lengths. The generally accepted portrait focal length is an 85mm or longer. Now again, I’m not talking about an 85mm equivalent field of view on Micro Four Thirds. I’m saying that I need at least an 85mm focal length. Yes, the M43 coalition does a great job with making sure that their lenses are superb, but if you’re going to do portraits then you should eliminate any sort of distortion problems from the start.
Moving up to larger formats like APS-C or Full Frame, we think that the 85mm to the 135mm range is a great area to start working. Remember, the main thing that you’ll need to do is keep the distortion down to begin with.