50mm (prime)

canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM front, originally uploaded by louis_ayyh.

I recently found this article on Digital Photography School about discovering the fantastic-ness of the 50mm prime lens.

I had a similar experience as the author when I reviewed my first shots with my 50mm prime:

"These aren't my usual boilerplate shots. There is something different about them. There is more contrast, the composition could make a diamond out of coal, they look almost 3d. Just about every image was holding my attention and my eye was not falling out of the picture like I tend to fall out of bed in the morning (groaning and complain)."

The glass in the lens creates better contrast and color tones for technical reasons I can't remember, but the fixed focal length lens forces you to think more and work more to get the shot you want. Before I got my prime, I had heard that Henri Carier-Bresson used a fixed focal length and that his shots came out more natural and beautiful because of it. If it's good enough for Cartier-Bresson, it had to be worth a try, but I didn't fully understand what all this meant until I shot with the lens for a while. The author of the post says it better than I can:

"The 50mm prime helped me get off my ass and showed me a better way to take a photo. It was not easier, in fact it was much harder. In this day of making our lives easier the camera companies have tied our hands to the chain of mediocrity. The zoom."

My Canon 50mm prime was less than $100 and I find that it's a standby on my camera body. The only reason I take it off is to use a polarizer or if I really need my zoom. Or, if I'm lazy and another lens is already on!

Posted by Matt 10/17/2009 02:46:00 PM


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