It was six months back when I bought my first true 50mm lens, the Canon 50mm f/1.4. Coupled with the 5D Mk II I have nothing but praise for it, but lately I have been beginning to wonder, “could I have gotten a better shot with a different lens?”.
I love all of the qualities of shooting with a ‘Nifty 50’. It’s small and light, and the focal length makes it just right for almost everything. But then there are those times when it is absolutely not the right lens to have on your camera. I have had this lens attached to my camera, almost exclusively, since I took it out of the box and it has been a superb everyday lens. Something that I have been able to just walk around with and take pictures of people and landscapes, and the surroundings and details of each.
But in recent weeks I’ve started to ask whether the lens that can do so much can really do only very little.
For example: shooting on the streets, it is often too long, not allowing you to get the full subject in frame. There is also a certain point at which you can no longer ‘zoom’ with your feet when trying to get entire buildings into frame. Walls often take part in thwarting this plan. Another example happened quite recently during my second attempt to shoot sports. I foolishly believed that my 50mm lens would be able to not only capture the action of college basketball, but capture it well. Within two shots, the lens came off and in place, a zoom: 28-70 f/2.8. Even stopped down to f/4 the lens was fast enough and I was finally able to capture some action. I got shots of the whole court and spectators and, at times, I even got close enough to see the emotions on the player’s faces.
Though I’ve sworn by the 50mm lens (or the equivalent for APS-C sensors) for the past few years there are definitely some places were the ‘perfect lens’ falls short, and though I did get a few shots at 50mm on the zoom, the extra versatility that it provided me was simply amazing. Though I would still recommend for beginning photographers to get a 50mm as their first or second lens, they should not get stuck in the rut of making it their only one. The 50mm lens is simply one of the most quintessential lenses that a photographer could own, but having a lens that is good at everything only means that it is mediocre at most. This lens is an excellent starting tool, but once you know what you want to focus on get the lens that will make your work shine.