There are many 50mm lenses out there that come in a variety of options. You can get a Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art lens at just above $1000, or you can get a lens like Leica 50mm f0.95 at around $11,000. However not all lenses are expensive super stars. Some are meant to be a common man workhorses. This is where the 50mm f1.8 lenses come in, and I have a few. They are the Volkswagen beetles of photography and just may be the best lenses for street photography. Here’s why.
Normal Field of View
Working with a 50mm f1.8 lens is arguably the closest you will get to working with your eye’s focal length. There is a natural field of view with a 50mm lens. When you’re out photographing, what you see is what you get. This makes for faster composition that will yield the most natural looking shots. If you are shooting with a crop sensor lens you have more of a portrait lens. The lens still provides a pleasing look and you still can nicely capture your surroundings.
Speed: The Aperture Matters
With most 50 lenses you can get a fast aperture. This helps with photographing at any time of day inside or out, and you’ll have a nice shallow depth of field. If I want to make my subject stand out from the crowd, it’s easy. If I want bokeh or I have to go indoors I just open the aperture and get the shot. This is something you can’t do with a kit lens unless you crank up the ISO to noisy levels.
You can get a decent fast 50mm lens for very little money. The Nikon 50mm f1.8 G goes for just above $200. If something happens to it, you will find it easier to fix or replace. I have a few 50mm lenses. It’s the cheapest ones that I use the most. They do everything just right. Any 50mm 1.8 lens is a fantastic bang for your buck. If something goes tragically wrong, which can happen in street photography, it’s easily replaced.
Size & Weight
The average 50mm lens is small, light and nimble. On a photo walk this goes a long way. The lens can be carried for a long time with without causing too much fatigue. I have walked for hours with the 50mm lens. It is a work horse that you never want to take off the camera, and you don’t need to. On those days when you find challenging territory and you want to explore all day, a 50mmf1.8 lens is just what you need, and it will never get in the way
Helps with Creativity
A 50mm lens keeps you creative. For the cost, most 50mm 1.8s are insanely good lenses. There is no zoom, there is only you, sou have to frame your images the right way from the right distance. For a portrait, you’ll need to get close, For a cityscape, you’ll have to step back a bit. If you need to get close up you can get a close up filter. On the street, a 50mm 1f.8 lens is just right for almost everything.