July 30, 2018

3 Reasons Why You Should Absolutely Get Your Hands on a Nifty Fifty

If you haven't purchased a 50mm lens yet, here's why you might want to.

When new filmmakers buy their first camera, they typically go with a kit lens that gives them some flexibility in the focal length department, allowing them to zoom in and out to get the right shot. And while gear acquisition may not be the prime directive when first starting out, there is one additional piece of equipment that newbies might really want to consider getting their hands on: a good ol' nifty fifty. In this video, David Bergman of Adorama TV explains several of the main benefits of working with a 50mm lens. Check it out below:

They're small and lightweight

A huge benefit of using these lenses, especially for those who aren't used to carting around a bulky camera, is that they're small and lightweight. You're not shooting on a long, heavy, unwieldy zoom lens that you have to carry around all day, you're shooting on a relatively short and compact lens that doesn't bulldoze its way into your work.

They have a very wide aperture

On an aesthetic level, 50mm lenses allow you to capture some truly beautiful images thanks to their wide aperture, which are usually anywhere between f1.8 to f1.2. Because of their wide apertures, you're able to capture a nice shallow depth-of-field with stunning bokeh, and you won't need as much light to get it either.

Bonus: Also, nifty fifties capture what many tend to believe is what our eyes naturally see (unless you shoot on a camera whose sensor crops your images), so they're great for getting used to shooting what's around you without having to worry about zoom or distortion.

They're affordable

Perhaps one of the greatest things about nifty fifties is that they're usually inexpensive. There's a pretty wide range of great 50mm lenses that you can buy for less than $100, like the YongNuo 50mm f1/8, the Jupiter 8, or the Helios 44. 

What is your favorite nifty fifty? Let us know down below.     

Your Comment

11 Comments

Thing is most filmmakers are starting out with crop-sensors not full-frame so a 35mm would be more precise. Now, more filmmakers are starting mirrorless and their crop factors are usually 2 so a full-frame 50mm on them is 100mm. IJS. It makes more sense to invest in full-frame lenses if one should ever go up.

July 31, 2018 at 9:24AM

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Freddy Long
Writer-Director
219

Good point. A 50mm on your typical APS-C starter Canon or Sony, is not really 50mm=)

July 31, 2018 at 3:04PM, Edited July 31, 3:04PM

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Josh.R
Motion Designer/Predator
955

A 50mm on a crop factor camera is still technically a 50mm. the only thing that changes is the crop.

If i took a full frame camera and take a photo with a 50mm and then crop in 1.6x in photoshop, the same the lens will behave the same as on a cropped camera.

Wide angle lenses make the background appear farther from the subject while tele lenses compress the subject and the background.

This is why filmmakers choose lenses, not because of crop.

August 2, 2018 at 1:31PM

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Forrest McBride
Producer, DP
86

You’re right but the cropping affects framing and how far or close you have to from your subject. That’s an important thing to consider.

August 2, 2018 at 3:11PM, Edited August 2, 3:11PM

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Freddy Long
Writer-Director
219

I consider myself a beginner and though I rent full-frame gear to make freelance stuff I only pocess a cheapo Canon t5i (which has got a APS-C sensor), a nifty fifty and a 24-70 f2.8L. The crop factor sucks - i hate it - but still it's only cropping... so I can see things in 50mm focal lenght, but just, you know... cropped.
I believe this is still an amazing lens to start out :)

August 2, 2018 at 10:36AM

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David Huxiley
Director
211

Favourite nifty 50? Nippon Kogaku 55/1.2. Look for a single-coated version. I haven't ever found anything quite like it. Very dreamy quality without going overboard. Sharp, but not the way we think of sharp today. It's a treat. Bought it for about $200 then had the mount modified. Sometimes you need a SuperSpeed or a 50L or something like that, but when my 55/1.2 is appropriate I'm absolutely elated to mount it because something special is about to happen.

July 31, 2018 at 10:40AM

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I have the 50mm f1.8 for Canon and my FAVORITE thing about this lens (in addition to the amazing bokeh) is the amount of light it lets in. I honestly feel like if I were to do a short film with this lens, I would not need much in terms of actual lighting because it does an amazing job at reproducing human vision! And every shot is amazing.

July 31, 2018 at 3:06PM, Edited July 31, 3:05PM

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I have the same lens and agree, it's absolutely a fantastic lens.

July 31, 2018 at 10:04PM

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Charles Duoto
Floor Director
117

I personally prefer something like 28mm (on Super 35 - so about equal to 40mm FF). But, nifty fifties are typically much cheaper and still of high quality. Canon does make a 40mm pancake though. Most video I shoot is on Super35/APS-C or MFT.

August 1, 2018 at 9:15PM, Edited August 1, 9:15PM

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MattyMustng
Director of Photography
219

I could have sworn the nifty fifty was specifically a Canon 50mm f/1.8 because of the price and build. That's what I was taught, and if you type in "Nifty fifty lens" on google, the only thing that will pop up is the Canon 50 1.8.

I think this article is misinformed about what a nifty fifty is.

August 2, 2018 at 1:35PM

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Forrest McBride
Producer, DP
86