Last Updated on 12/06/2018 by Mark Beckenbach
If you’re new to the world of prime lenses and aren’t sure what your first prime lens should be, look no further than the nifty fifty.
There are so many lens choices available to photographers today it can honestly be difficult to know where to turn when it comes to lenses. Do you stick with the telephoto and zoom style lenses like the ones that came with your camera, or do you enter the world of prime lenses? We can tell you right up front that if you’re serious about your photography, and if you want to improve, prime lenses are the way to go, and the 50mm focal length is the perfect place to start your prime journey.
Why is a 50mm prime lens the perfect one to help you grow as a photographer you say? To start with they are usually very cheap and are within reach of photographers with any kind of budget. The 50mm focal length is incredible versatile. A nifty fifty is perfect for street photography, portraits, documentary style photography, events, and even landscape work.
If you’re coming to prime lenses from telephoto and zoom lenses, a fixed focal length lens will force you to think about your composition, it will make you think about your location and how you can move to get the best shot seeing as you just can’t zoom in or zoom out. Nifty fifties are also considered fast glass with apertures of f1.8 or higher, so they will introduce you to depth of field and the world of creamy bokeh.
There are so many things an affordable 50mm prime lens can do. Their versatility makes them the perfect choice for those looking to take their images to the next level. Here’s a look at some of our favorite 50mm prime lenses on various platforms that will serve a new camera owner well.
Canon 50mm f1.8 STM
The Canon 50mm f1.8 prime lens is one of the first lenses all Canon shooters should buy no matter what. This nifty fifty is lightweight, has an incredibly small footprint, and a max aperture of f1.8. To top it off, this 50mm lens is incredibly affordable and is capable of producing great images.
In our review we said:
“Canon’s 50mm f1.8 STM is a great lens for the beginner, hobbyist, enthusiast, or even the professional who likes to rough and tumble their equipment.”
This 50mm f1.8 lens is proof that you really don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a great lens. The Canon 50mm f1.8 has six elements in five groups, seven rounded aperture blades, and it weighs just 0.35lbs. You can easily attach this lens to the front of your cameras and walk around all day and you’ll never break a sweat with it. The images it produces are simply fantastic, especially when you take into account the price that you pay. Images are nice and sharp, colors have pleasant tones and are great overall, and the bokeh that can be produced is pleasing to the eye. You’re also going to find that autofocus performance is exceptional too thanks to the STM motor that Canon used in this lens.
Build quality overall is good; you’re not going to be getting a premium feeling lens here but the plastic is tough and it will survive anything you can throw at it. However, it isn’t weather sealed so just keep that in mind and don’t head out into a downpour with it.
The Canon 50mm f1.8 is a marvelous little lens. It’s small enough to put on your camera and walk around all day with. It’s a great portrait, street, and event lens. When it comes to affordable 50mm prime lenses, Canon has a winner on its hands. They have produced a lens that many have tried to replicate at this price point and they just haven’t come close. If you’re a Canon shooter and want to increase your photography skills, this is one lens you simply cannot overlook.
Buy now ($125): Amazon
Canon 50mm F1.8 Image Samples
Pro Tip: If you’re using a lens or camera body that isn’t weather sealed, and you would like to take pictures in less than decent weather you still can. Pack some weather proof camera and lens covers into your camera bag or pocket before you head out so that you will be prepared for mother nature.
Nikon 50mm F1.8 G
Like Canon, Nikon also offer a very affordable way for photographers to break into the world of prime lenses with their 50mm f1.8 G. This little gem of a prime lens may be low in price, but it’s overall image quality and ease of use score highly. When it comes to entry level prime lenses for Nikon cameras, this nifty fifty should be the one you reach for.
In our review we said:
“This lens is for the elder statesman photographer or the newbie. It can tackle pretty much every situation on any Nikon digital camera.”
We have to be honest here; with any of these lenses listed, you won’t be getting a premium lens. However, you will be getting some glass that is capable of producing quality results, and this Nikon 50mm f1.8 G is no exception to that rule. Inside the plastic housing of the Nikon 50mm f1.8 you’ll find seven elements in six groups, with seven aperture blades. Like the Canon 50mm, image quality overall is impressive. You will be able to expect sharp images in the middle when shot wide open at f1.8, but stop the lens down just a hair and you will find edge-to-edge sharpness that will really please you. The colors rendered are nice and natural, with skin tones in particular being very good. Seeing as many people use these lenses for portrait work this is important to note.
The bokeh produced by this Nikon 50mm is really quite nice and pleasing to the eye. You’re not going to be getting the creamiest or smoothest bokeh for sure, but what you’ll get from a lens this affordable is impressive. You’ll also be impressed with its fast focusing speeds and light weight (0.41lbs). All of these features combined make this a great lens for street photography, portraiture, or just a great overall walk-around lens.
If you just received or purchased a new Nikon camera, and you want to move beyond the kit lenses that came with your camera body, this is where you should start. Nikon make excellent prime lenses, and this 50mm will really impress you.
Buy now ($216.95): Amazon
Nikon 50mm F1.8 G Image Samples
Pro Tip: Keep all of your lenses clean and ready to go by keeping a inexpensive lens cleaning kit in your camera bag. These kits contain everything you need to remove grease, finger prints, dirt, and dust off of your glass. It’s better to spend time cleaning the glass rather then spend time in post removing unsightly marks from your images.
Sony 50mm F1.8 FE
Sony users have a great 50mm lens to add to their kit too thanks to the highly affordable Sony 50mm f1.8 FE. This nifty fifty is small, lightweight, capable of producing great images, and priced under $200. Mirrorless bodies are perfect for prime lenses due to their smaller size and weight, and this lens will compliment those characteristics perfectly.
In our review we said
“Generally speaking in terms of nifty 50 lenses, you can’t really get much better here. Sony’s 50mm f1.8 is right up there with the Canon 50mm f1.8 in terms of image quality. It’s got great color output, is very sharp, very little chromatic aberration (and even then you’ve really got to look for it) and bokeh that isn’t bad overall.”
The Sony 50mm f1.8 is lightweight and easy to use, like most 50mm lenses. It weighs in at just 0.4lbs which means you can stick this lens on your camera and go about your day not having to worry about its weight. As you would expect at this price point, the lens is made from plastic, and that’s just fine. The Sony 50mm f1.8 doesn’t feel cheap in any way, shape, or form. Inside the lens you will find six elements in five groups, along with seven rounded aperture blades. Like most other lenses at this price point there is no weather sealing.
This nifty fifty is capable of producing razor sharp images all the way from f1.8 and on which is incredibly impressive. The colors the lens renders are typical Sony; nicely saturated and vibrant. Chromatic aberration is kept well under control, and when shot wide open the nifty fifty produces some of the nicest bokeh of any entry level prime lens at this focal range.
Focusing speeds in good lighting conditions are very fast, but those speeds will drop a little in low light situations. For the price you’re paying it performs very well. If you are looking to buy a 50mm for your Sony and don’t want to spend a fortune, this is one of the 50mm primes lenses you should take a closer look at.
Buy now ($198): Amazon
Sony 50mm F1.8 FE Image Samples
Pro Tip: Make sure you’re ready to shoot by keeping extra SD cards on your person at all times. New cameras generate large RAW files these days and your cards can fill up quickly. SD cards can also fail, and when they do it’s often at the worse possible moment.
Fujifilm 35mm F2
Fujifilm has been raising the bar when it comes to prime lenses for quite some time now, and the affordable 35mm f2 R WR is another fine example of this. The Fujifilm 35mm prime lens will have the equivalent focal length of 52.5mm on Fujifilms crop body cameras, which makes it a great place to start with prime lenses. This may be one of Fujifilm’s entry level primes, but this piece of glass performs well enough for pros who want a cheaper 50mm option as well.
In our review we said:
“It is the fastest to focus Fujifilm lens to date and finally makes candid street photography with a Fujifilm camera really viable when it comes to using autofocus. For this reason alone, many photographers will greatly, greatly appreciate this lens and just how quickly it can perform.”
While the Fujifilm 35mm f2 isn’t as cheap as Canon’s 50mm 1.8, the Fujifilm 35mm f2 R WR still represents amazing value for money. The all metal construction of this lens, and the fact that it has eight points of weather sealing should show you that. You can take this lens out on your camera (as long as it’s weather sealed) in the rain or snow and will be just fine. You’ll be able to get images with this lens that the others on this list can only dream of.
The Fujifilm 35mm f2 has nine elements in six groups, and nine aperture blades. The images you capture with this lens will be exceptionally sharp, even when shot wide open. The nine aperture blades are more than capable of producing incredibly smooth, creamy bokeh, and there is not a hint of color fringing or chromatic aberration at all. The Fujifilm 35mm f2 R WR is one of the fastest focusing prime lenses on the Fujifilm platform. We never experienced any hunting when in low light situations, and during the day it’s lightning fast.
The Fujifilm 35mm f2 R WR is of course lightweight. Weighing in at just 0.37lbs, the 35mm f2 will balance on your light Fujifilm camera body very well. Put it on your camera and you will pretty much forget it’s there. The 35mm f2 is perfect for those who are considering buying one of their first prime lenses on the Fujifilm platform. It’s small, light weight, produces remarkable images, and it won’t make your wallet scream out loud.
Buy now ($349): Amazon
Fujifilm 35mm F2 R WR Image Samples
Pro Tip: If you’re heading out for a day of shooting, you’re going to want to be as comfortable as possible. Use a quality camera sling to carry your camera around with you. Camera slings are much better at distributing the weight of your gear over your upper body when compared to the standard neck straps that come with you camera.
Olympus 25mm F1.8
If you’re a Micro Four Thirds shooter you have a fantastic entry level 50mm prime lens to grab as well. Thanks to the 2x crop factor of Micro Four Thirds cameras, this Olympus 25mm f1.8 lens effectively becomes a nifty fifty; and what a beautiful lens it is.
In our review we said:
“The 25mm f1.8 is one of the most affordable and bang for your buck lenses out there for the Micro Four Thirds system. In general, we’re quite impressed with the sharpness, bokeh, fast focusing speed (coupled with accuracy), small size, and the overall feel that it is the single lens that you may want to keep mated to your camera forever.”
The Olympus 25mm f1.8 lens is an outstanding piece of glass. Inside the lens you will find nine elements in seven groups, along with seven rounded aperture blades. The optics Olympus used produce absolutely gorgeous bokeh, and images are tack sharp from corner to corner. Colors rendered are natural and are as accurate as you can get straight out of camera. You simply will not be left wanting more when it comes to overall image quality from this lens, especially not at this price point.
The Olympus 25mm f1.8 has good build quality overall. The lens is made from plastic, but like the others listed here it doesn’t feel cheap and it gets the job done. This lens will survive the rough and tumble of being in your camera bag. Focus speeds are fast in both good poor lighting conditions, and the lens is incredibly light at just 0.3 lbs.
This lens is the perfect lens for street photographers, documentarians, and portrait photographers who use any camera on the Micro Four Thirds platform. For the price, it’s a no brainer and should be considered a must have for all Micro Four Thirds users looking for one of the best entry level prime lenses around.
Buy now ($249): Amazon
Olympus 25mm F1.8 Image Samples