A colleague of mine recently came across some pictures I’d taken during my 52 week project and was interested to know more about prime lenses.
I bought my ‘Nifty Fifty’ some time ago and so far its the best investment I’ve made for my camera. I’m sure you’ll find tons of reviews and reams of information about the 50mm primes from both Nikon and Canon online but this is an article of my own about these amazing lenses.
Why do you need a fast prime?
1. Let there be light!
A fast prime is the 50mm f/1.8 or 35mm f/1.8 is your best friend in low light situations. Where other lenses struggle to bring enough light to your sensor at f/3.5 or f/5, you just need to dial it in to f/1.8 and you suddenly have enough light to get a faster shutter speed and a lower ISO. Both of which contribute greatly towards a sharper and cleaner image.
2. Keep it simple
Lenses with variable focal lengths may be versatile but they contain many glass elements and stabilizing mechanisms that add to the cost and complexity of the lenses. With a prime lens you’re getting a lens that’s made for a specific purpose and thats to get as much light as possible onto your film/sensor. A great prime lens doesn’t have to be expensive. In Kuwait you can get a Nikon 50mm 1.8D for as low as 31 KD or a 1.4D for 83KD.
3. No distortions or aberrations
With my cheapo 18-55mm kit lens there’s a fair bit of distortion at the widest setting but when using my 50mm I’ve yet to see any purple fringing or distortions. It can best be described as what you would see with your own eyes.
4. Learn new ways to compose
With a fixed focal length lens you’re constrained to a certain angle of view and for me in most cases I take a few steps back or forwards to get what I want in my frame and take the shot. In some tight areas you’ll try to find a way to take the best possible within the space limitations and you’ll figure out new ways to compose your images.
5. Learn the basics!
Now this point is for some of my friends who’re afraid of manual lenses. Don’t be afraid of manual focus. I too was initially aprehensive but once you get the hang of manual focus there’s no stopping you from taking great shots. Most cameras have a built in range finder or focus meter that will help you find the correct focus for the point that you’ve selected. Now when I use my 50mm 1.8 I hardly ever worry about getting an out of focus shot.
If there was only one reason I’d go for a prime, it would have to be Bokeh and that’s all. Prime lenses with rounded diaphrams give a beautiful blur to backgrounds and out of focus areas. You can get the same effect with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens but that beauty will set you back around 600 KD minimum whereas the prime is less than 50 KD.
Finally here’s a video on the subject by Mr. Kai