As you might have noticed, I love my 50mm lens – the Nifty Fifty. Photography would be a much more accessible and enjoyable hobby if more good stuff cost less. Honestly, at this point, I raise an eyebrow much faster at a lens that costs less than $100 than I do at one that costs more than $1,000. But I’m getting off the subject – where was I. Ah yes. The Nifty Fifty. This is a great lens that anyone who owns a Canon (D)SLR should have. The main selling point after the price is that huge f/1.8 aperture. That makes it a good two stops faster than most “good” lenses and worlds better than the slow end of what comes bundled with your average camera. This has some obvious upsides (bokeh, anyone?) but there are also some problems.
It is easy to take bad pictures with this lens. Out of focus pictures. Here’s the key. In most situations, the camera is going to drop the lens all the way open in order to gain more light. Unless you set the aperture yourself, this means shallow depth of field. When you take a picture of two people maybe 8 feet away with one slightly in front of the other, someone is going to be blurry. You see where I’m going here? No? Well that’s why I brought examples.
This, my friend, is Lucky the Cat, doing what he does (when he isn’t rapaciously eating or rapaciously scratching people). Without moving the camera, but with a twist of the focus ring, you get this:
Lucky is a big cat, but he’s not that big. This is shallow depth of field. You can do some great stuff with it, but you’ve got to remember that it exists. If you want more DOF, you have to dial your aperture down a few stops, which means you need a higher ISO speed or a longer exposure length. This is the same with any lens, of course. The only difference is with the Nifty Fifty, you have the option of going down to 1.8. You’ll never have the shallow DOF problem with an f/5.6 lens because you’ll have your own, completely different problems instead. I’ll take this one any day.