The Best Lens on a Budget – The Nifty Fifty

advice | tech

Nothing quite prepares you for the realisation of how much money your new-found photography hobby is going to cost you. Because, by the time you find out, it’s usually too late to back out. You’ve been sucked in and there’s no getting out now! 

And so you find yourself trying to learn and take the best shots you can on the cheap kit lens that came with your camera body. But there’s only so much you can achieve with that lens. The time has come to look for a new one.

There’s a little secret you’re about to find out though. In photography, one of the best beginner lenses you’ll ever buy is an unassuming prime lens that’s dirt cheap and not much to look at. But it packs a punch and you’ll forever be grateful for the day you discovered the nifty fifty – the best lens you’ll buy when you’re on a tight budget.

The nifty fifty, so named because it’s a speedy piece of glass, is a 50mm focal length lens and typically comes in wider apertures such as f/1.8 and f/1.4. There’s a 1.2 version but that’s not very budget friendly, I’m afraid!

The 50mm length is described as being the closest representation of what the human eye sees. You get minimal amounts of distortion with this focal length and it covers a very similar field of view as your eye which makes it a great lens to really learn composition with. 

Being a prime lens (i.e. of a single focal length and not zoomable), the cheapest 50mm comes in at less than £100 (or $125) so it’s a firm favourite with beginner photographers wanting to branch out from their kit lenses. Honestly, this lens isn’t much to look at. It’s small. It’s plasticky and you’ll wonder what the hell I’m talking about when you first pick it up and feel how light it is.

But get this lens on your camera and you will be pleasantly surprised.

What you’ll also find is that, once you’ve sampled a prime and a lens with a much wider aperture than you’re typically used to, you won’t want to go back. You’ll love the ability to shoot in lower light, the creamy bokeh shooting at f/1.8 gets you and the crisper images you can expect from shooting with a prime instead of a zoom lens.

I’m only gonna offer you a half-arsed apology now… 😉

Because once you’ve had a taste of this lens you’re definitely going to want to go even bigger and better with your glass.

But my biggest piece of advice would be this. Take that 50mm lens and really get to grips with it. Master it. Learn to take the absolute best shots you can on that and your existing camera. And when you start to feel its limitations, consider that it might not be the lens that needs upgrading. After all, if you invest in good quality lenses (and even this cheap little 50 qualifies as good glass!), they’ll last forever and it might be the camera body that needs an upgrade!

I’m going to shut up now because, as you can see, there’s a reason I don’t write about technical stuff. This post was never going to be an article full of technical jargon and specifications. But it is full of opinions (my own!) and I definitely believe that, once you’ve bought this lens, it’ll change your outlook on photography going forward!