5 Reasons Why Your Next Lens Purchase Should be a 50mm

Its called the Nifty Fifty for a good reason.
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kit vs 50mm
The most common question new photographers have after getting their first camera is what lens they should invest in next. You may be debating between a zoom or wide angle lens, but many overlook the 50mm lens, which is the equivalent of most kit lenses being zoomed in all the way. At this point, you’re probably wondering why you would want a 50mm lens if that specification is already covered by your kit. Although there are several differences, the most important one is image quality.

The 50mm is a prime lens, which means it has a fixed focal length of 50mm. Even though the kit lens can reach this focal length, there is a certain amount of quality that is lost. As you use the 50mm, you will notice that the images are sharper and have a higher color contrast over the kit lens. Not totally convinced yet? Well we've got five reasons your next lens purchase should be the 50mm.

 1. Good Bang for Your Buck

There's a reason the 50mm lens is often referred to as the Nifty Fifty. It’s a high-quality lens that's also quite inexpensive as far as lenses go. If you're looking for an investment worth the money, the 50mm will not disappoint. You’re going to get a level of quality that you would expect from a much more expensive lens at a fraction of the price. Check out our list of the best 50mm lenses -- and deals on those lenses -- at the end of this article.

2. Versatility

What exactly can you do with a lens that only has a 50mm focal length? The most popular use is as a portrait lens. The 50mm lens has a very shallow depth of field, which is perfect for capturing up-close portrait shots. If you’ve been disappointed with your kit lens’ inability to capture sharp macro shots, you will be much happier with this lens.

The 50mm focal length is perfect for creating bokeh photography as well, which is a characteristic of a photograph created by focusing on a small source of light and then unfocusing the lens, resulting in small soft circles in the background.  The circle shape is determined by the aperture of the lens. Cut-out shapes can be used to change the shape from a circle to a heart or star. The wide apertures of the 50mm lens creates a shallow depth of field, as mentioned above, creating the dreamy background effect you see in the image below.


This lens is a favorite of street photographers as well. It gives a good human eye perspective that many journalist crave in their photographs. Bottom line, the 50mm lens is unquestionably versatile.

3. Light Weight and Petite

Carrying a big bulky camera around all day can get old fast. When you can get by with a lighter camera lens that doesn’t stick out a mile, it’s a good day. The 50mm is actually lighter than other primes out there. It will probably be the lightest lens you will ever own. Basically it’s a great walk-around lens for whatever may catch your eye.

4. Faster Shutter Speed

The benefits of the 50mm are not just limited to utility, but also quality. A faster shutter speed means less camera shake. The wide aperture lets in up to eight times more light over a kit lens.  So what does this mean for your pictures? Basically, you'll be able to use a lower ISO setting in low light situations, producing sharper images with less noise.

5. Composition Training

The 50mm lens is an excellent way to practice composition. When photographing landscape shots, people have a tendency to try and get as much in the frame as possible. When working with a 50mm lens, you are forced to use a tighter frame and focus just on what you want to include in the photograph. If you feel that your composition could use some work, take the 50mm out on a scenic photo shoot. Being forced to walk around will present new angles that you may not have considered with a zoom lens.

Top 50mm f/1.8 Lenses and Deals

Ready to buy? We took a look at some of the top 50mm lenses on the market so that you can find the right lens for you at the right price. We're sticking to f/1.8 models for this list, as they tend to be better for new photographers. More advanced photographers may want to invest in the f/1.4 versions of the 50mm though. While some comparisons of the Nikon brands show that the f/1.8 actually out performs the f/1.4, the price tag for a f/1.4 can be almost double, so be sure to check reviews before you buy to make sure the extra money is worth it.


  • Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm Nikon 50mm FIxed f/1.8G: While the MSRP on this lens is $229, it's pretty easy to find it for less than $200 these days. Currently, 42Photo has it on sale for $189.00 with free shipping. We've also seen deals for as low as $152, but you typically only see that kind of price on a refurbished model.
  • Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D: This lens first hit the shelves at $134.95 and new models haven't seen much of a price drop since. But, being one of the least expensive lenses on the market, that's no surprise really. Amazon currently has this 50mm lens for $131.95 with free shipping, and budget-minded buyers can easily find used or refurbished models for less than $100. Ritz Camera also has the AF FX 50mm lens for $99.95 with free shipping and a one year warranty. The catch being Ritz purchases products from overseas and you can't always be sure you're getting the real deal. The company has an overall positive feedback score, but there have been a few unsatisfied customers.


  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM: MSRP on this lens is $125.99, but 42Photo currently has a deal available on this lens for $109 with free shipping. Last November, Rakuten was selling this lens for only $85 after using a $25  off coupon code.  Additionally, just last week the official Canon store had a refurbished model for $91 with a 1-year warranty.
  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II: We've seen a steady retail price of around $100 for this lens, but prices have dipped down into the $70 range occasionally, so keep an eye out. The best current deal is available over at Rakuten for $97.88 with free shipping.  Shopping Tip: Rakuten often has discounts for checking out with Paypal or MasterPass. Look for checkout related discounts before purchasing from the site.


  • Sony 50mm f/1.8 DT Alpha A-Mount: This lens is currently available at both Amazon and B&H for $168 with free shipping. But, since the MSRP is 169.99, that's not much of a deal at all. There were better sales on this lens a couple of times last year, including one really amazing deal for $69, but most were store-specific sales. In any case, it wouldn't hurt to check your local Best Buy for possible in-stores deals on this one.
  • Sony 50mm f/1.8 Lens E Mount: This 50mm lens started out with a $298.00 price tag, but saw a $50 price cut in November of 2014. B&H currently has this lens available in black or silver for $248 with free shipping.  We wouldn't be surprised to see a spring sale on this lens in the future.

The key to finding the best deals is knowing where to look. You can find the latest deals on camera lenses by checking out the Slickdeal's Camera Lens deal page. It's like the SD Frontpage, but with camera lens deals only.

Have you tried a 50mm lens? Seen any great deals? Let us know in the comments below!

Images courtesy of Sheena Koontz, 42photo.

Any product or service prices/offers that appear in this article are accurate at time of publish, and are subject to change without notice. Please verify the actual selling price and offer details on the merchant’s site before making a purchase.

About the Author
Sheena Koontz Contributor

Sheena is a freelance writer and photographer out of Bristol, VA. She specializes in abandoned, landscape, and travel photography. You can follow her on Facebook or check out her website here.

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