The 50mm 1.4f…My Endless Love…

I start this post off by saying “You’re Welcome” and that I hope you don’t mind having your life changed forever.  I even struggle to remember what my life was like before I found this lens.  I at times hold up this lens making my own victorious Rocky moment screaming “Yo Adrian I did it!”  This lens is an absolute requirement for any photographer of any level.  The truth is there are tons of amazing life changing lenses but only one won’t set you back the price of a new camera.  I present to you (cue echo) the “Nifty Fifty”.

I hope you realize just how much I love this lens.  So what is it exactly?  Both Canon and Nikon make a 50mm 1.4f lens that is nothing short of perfection.  It is fast, sharp, has great depth of field, lightweight and surprisingly most of all, affordable.  Let’s delve a little bit into what this all means.

Only possible with a fast lens and no flash.

  • Fast – The speed of a lens refers to the largest aperture setting possible on the lens.  In this case it is 1.4 which is incredibly large and fast.  The larger the aperture the more light the lens will allow into the camera and the faster your shutter speed.  The main benefit of this lens is you can shoot indoors or in low light situations without having to use a flash.  I used this lens at an aquarium which was very dark and filled with glass surfaces ready to cause horrible flash reflections.  With my nifty fifty on my camera I was able to shoot hand held with no flash and still get great photos.  Something I wouldn’t have been able to do with my flash on.  I utilize this lens all the time at birthday parties for the nieces and nephews.  There is usually not much light indoors, barring a huge open window, and I love the stealth that this lens gives me.  Instead of popping off my flash and letting everyone know I just took a photo I can take ninja like candids.  This way I can avoid the kids hamming it up for the camera or the adults covering up their faces and  instead get natural, candid shots.  The fastest high end zoom lenses can only shoot 2.8 which is half the size of a 1.4 aperture.  The nifty fifty will let you take photos in situations where you simply couldn’t with other lenses.

This cloudy evening shot was made possible with a fast lens.

  • Sharp – For the price there is NO other lens that takes pictures better than the nifty fifty.  It’s a prime lens which means it doesn’t change focal lengths.  You can’t zoom in or out with it, but that is what makes it so sharp.  It’s designed to shoot specifically at 50 mm and it does it very well.  Just deploy your foot zoom to get the composition you want.  I’ve compared shots taken with the nifty fifty next to a Canon ‘L’ lens and they compare quite favorably.  I try to find every chance I can to use this lens because of it’s high quality.  The only problem is once you start shooting with the nifty fifty and see what comes out of your camera all your other lenses might just start collecting dust.

The blurry background and foreground makes the alligator pop.

  • Depth Of Field – The bokeh on this lens is AMAZING!  With an aperture of 1.4 you can turn any distracting background creamy smooth leaving all the focus on your subject.  I actually have a problem at times of not having enough depth of field and not all of my subject is focus.  This is actually a nice problem to have and better than the other way around.  It can give portraits a nice soft glow around the edges and the super shallow depth of field can be quite flattering.  Just make sure you get the eyes of your subject in focus.

Captured without flash thanks to a fast lens keeping my presence ninja stealth.

  • Lightweight – Good things come in small packages with this lens.  It’s tiny and the smallest lens I own.  I love the size!  It gets tiring sometimes carrying around my camera with a huge zoom lens attached.  There’s nothing like the freedom that the little nifty fifty gives you.  It’s only 2 inches long and weighs a svelte 10 ounces.  You can jump and run with no consequences with with this tiny wonder around your neck.  It’s the only lens that ninjas use to stealth about.

Taken in a dimly lit museum that didn't allow flash thanks to a huge 1.4 aperture.

  • Affordable – I probably wouldn’t be singing the praises of the nifty fifty if it wasn’t for the price.  The vast majority of high quality lenses that are sharp and fast will set you back a thousand dollars or more.  You can get this lens for a third of that price.  There is literally not a better investment you can make in your photography.  I’m all about value and there is not a better value of how much you’ll spend versus how much you’ll get back in quality.  Thus truly earning the title of nifty for this 50 mm lens.

Taken in a cave! This is how versatile and awesome the 50mm 1.4f lens is. Hand held with no flash.

I now take this moment to write about the little brother to the nifty fifty…(cue slightly smaller echo) the “Thrifty Fifty”! Both Canon and Nikon  make a 50 mm 1.8f lens.  It has all the great qualities of the 50 mm 1.4f  except in slightly smaller doses.  The sharp photos are still there from a well designed prime lens.  An f stop of 1.8 is still incredibly fast and faster than you’ll find on most lenses (but not 1.4 fast 🙂 ).  However the build quality of the actual lens is not as solid for the Canon 1.8 vs. the 1.4.  The kicker though is the price.  The thrifty fifty 1.8 can be had for around only a hundred dollars which is unbeatable.  If you can get the 1.4 I would recommend it, but the 1.8 is still much better than anything that comes with your camera in the box.

I exaggerate not one bit when I say the 50mm 1.4f has changed my photographic life.  It’s liberating beyond all belief when I have that lens on my camera able to shoot in any kind of light.  The bokeh is intoxicating and the separation you get between subject and background makes your photos pop.  It’s lightweight and short making you forget you are even carrying around your camera.  Sometimes I just hold it up for hours on end just becuase it’s so tiny and I can for fun.  There is no smiley face emoticon available that can express how much I LOVE this lens.

Amazingly shallow depth of field.

If all you have is the kit lens that came with your camera go and change that immediately.  No excuse.  If you don’t have this lens there is no reason not to, if not the 1.4 then the 1.8 at the very least.  There is not a single piece of photo equipment you can get that will have a greater effect on your craft for the price.  The 50 mm 1.4f will let you take photographs that you simply couldn’t before.  The nifty fifty can stop deep ocean oil spills and keep celebrity couples together.  There is NOTHING it can’t do.  Just do yourself the biggest favor of your life and get one.


~ by Rick The Stick on June 1, 2010.

3 Responses to “The 50mm 1.4f…My Endless Love…”

  1. I bet it could even stop world hunger if only I could get one . . .

  2. […] the higher you go.  You can use a bigger aperture which might require switching to a faster lens ( to read about the wonders of a fast lens).  You can also add more light by opening a window, […]

  3. […] get the shots I wanted.  There is nothing that this lens can’t do (see my love poem to it at  It was a perfect situation where I pushed my lens and camera to the limit and didn’t […]

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