I always loved photography and loved my first ‘proper’ camera, a Sony Cybershot Camera. But about a year or so ago I treated myself to a Canon 110oD DSLR. I booked myself onto a day course with Westland Place Studio in London and learnt the magic of manual shooting.
At the time I was interested in close up shots and the tutor advised me to get a 50mm lens. I cried the first time I used the lens. I had no clue how to operate it. It’s not easy for an amateur to handle something as delicate as a narrow angle lens with such a sensitive manual focus. I wasn’t going to give up. I kept on trying and after watching endless YouTube tutorials, I’ve got the hang of it, or at least I think I have.
Before embarking on our SE Asia trip, I was dreaming of buying a wide angle paparazzi lens to shoot all those golden temples top to bottom and snap the scenic landscapes in all their glory, but the more I played with the 50mm lens, the more I loved it. Eventually I decided to just stick with it and learn to use one lens properly before investing in another one.
I still carry my basic 18-55mm lens, just in case, but used it only on a couple occasions so far.
What I love the most about my 50mm lens
I love the smoothness, quality and vibrant colours of a close up shot, especially when taking pictures of food (which I love doing). I also love how it forces me to stretch my creativity.
With the 18-55mm lens, I used to zoom in and out, crop and re-crop images in the image editor. Now I am learning how to compose my pictures while looking through the lens.
I can’t say I mastered it completely, but sometimes I am really proud of my work. It might not always be technically accurate and there might be some noise going on in my pictures, but to me it’s all about the moment, action or stillness and the ambience in the photo.
Since I started shooting with the 50mm lens, I noticed a significant decrease in clicks per day when I am out with my camera. I used to shoot anything and everything thinking, yeah…that’s ok.. I am gonna crop it later… Now I take time to think about the composition and things I really wanna capture. I look at the lines, corners, shadows, movement.
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I read once in a photography magazine that a photographer needs to anticipate the next move and wait for it to happen. So I waited for the wind to blow the ribbons so I could create a floating atmosphere in the photo below.
I often have a vision in my head of how an image should look and if I see that it’s not working, I move on. But more often than not (Charlie will agree with this) I try to make the composition work, no matter how big the object is. And sometimes it takes a long long time… That’s why 50mm lens is great, it will make you work hard, but it will deliver (most of the time) the result you want.
Should you get a 50mm lens?
Absolutely. If you want to challenge yourself, test your patience, creativity and learn new photography skills, I really encourage you to get one. Your close up shots will get better and ok, you might not get that picture with everything in one shot, but sometimes it’s not all about trying to squeeze every detail in one picture. Get one element right and you will have an amazing image.
However, if you stand far enough, you can still get quite a few elements in one picture even with a small angle lens. As my one day photography course teacher said: “camera is just a tool, your eyes are your real camera, use them.”
Pros of 50mm lens:
- less cropping means better quality
- no zooming improves quality of your photos
- forces you to be more creative, which is always a good thing in photography
- it’s more fun trying to capture small details than just point and shoot
- improves composition
- you will take smoother portraits of your friends and family
- challenging, but rewarding
- your close up shots (especially food and drinks) will be magazine quality
- if you love abstract, the 50mm lens is perfect for it
- it will allow you to explore the world in a different dimension
- you will start noticing more details, something you haven’t noticed before.
These are just some pros of using a narrow angle lens.
What are the cons?
As you gathered from the above, I love using the 50mm lens, but of course, there are some draw backs, especially when shooting larger objects. There are some things that can’t be taken on a small scale as it just wouldn’t work.
It can be very challenging, and very frustrating, especially when travelling, not being able to capture all that amazing landscape as a whole. But to me beauty lies in small details, a smaller fragment of an image.
But once you befriend the 50mm lense the challenge becomes fun. I learn new things every day, try new compositions and constantly push myself to see more through my lens, something that others might not notice.
I am happy to the point that the post has propelled you to utilize the 50mm focal point.
I just visited your blog and cherished it, your photography is stunning!
Hey Mac, thanks very much, we are chuffed that you enjoy our snaps! We’ll do our best to keep them coming!
I just bought a canon 80D and I’m thinking of getting a 50mm lens. Glad I saw your post, love the photos! I’m definitely buying the 50mm:)
Yep, it’s great for the close-ups but we’ve moved more towards our Sony compact just for portability and to keep discreet in some places 🙂
Couldn’t agree more, i love the 50. Fast with good depth of field control. I think zooms can actually take away from the art of photography, as they distract you from the moment.
Thanks, glad you love your 50mm too, we wouldn’t travel without it!
This is a really interesting take on travel photography and quite thought provoking so thank you for sharing your tips and advice! I have a 50mm lens too but I must admit I don’t use it as much as I could do. You’ve inspired me so thanks! Christina ????
Hi Christina, I am so happy that the post has inspired you to use the 50mm lens. I used it pretty much throughout my SE Asia travels and will probably continue using it for a little bit longer. I love details more than the overall view and I feel that 50 mm lens helps me bring those details out.
I just visited your blog and loved it, your photography is breathtaking! 🙂
Indeed the 50mm is awesome! I have a 50mm f/1.8 and love it! Though since my camera is not a full frame I feel some times is too narrow… but yeah, fixed lenses are the best ????
Thanks Jenn, we just love the detail that it can bring out. It’s been very handy here in Angkor at the temples over the past 3 days! Cheers C&K
Lovely photos! I don’t carry a dslr with me much (too heavy and i like to travel really light, hence i got a sony rx100iv) but i’ve heard similar things about the pros and cons of non-zoom lenses. I think it definitely improves your photography skills when you have to get creative with composition.
Thanks Michelle! You are right, it is quite heavy to carry around, but I got used to it now 🙂 As I am still learning lots of new stuff, it’s quite exciting so I am not ready to give it up just yet.
I’ll check out the Sony rx100iv as we are looking for something descent to make videos with 🙂