The Most Awesomest Cheap Lens on Earth – The Canon 50mm f/1.8

by Mike on January 10, 2011

(babies do look better at 50mm)

I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve bought something strictly because it was cheap, instead of because it was something I really wanted.

Now there are some exceptions. I won’t live without a Mac, high-quality headphones, good burgers, and hot Aperture plugins.

However, there have been times when being a cheapskate has been a good thing.

Case in point – when I decided to buy Canon’s dirty-cheap 50mm f/1.8 lens instead of the pricier f/1.4 model.

Now, you can’t get much cheaper than Canon’s 50mm 1.8. In fact, it’s just about the cheapest big-name-brand SLR lens on the market. (Nikon’s is also pretty damn cheap and built a bit better)

However, it’s not just cheap – it’s awesome, and the first lens you need to buy after purchasing a DSLR.

You’ll immediately see improved image quality, and the wide aperture (which lets more light in) will give you newfound flexibility to create new kinds of images.

But let’s break down in more detail why a cheap 50mm f/1.8 lens is an amazing buy for the money.

Here’s why:

1) Shallow Depth of Field

The typical kit lens that comes with a DSLR camera just isn’t capable of generating a shallow depth-of-field effect, meaning that only part of the picture (typically the foreground) is in focus. This is a very popular effect for portraits.

A 50mm f/1.8 lens, however, can easily generate a shallow depth-of-field effect, which helps isolate a subject:

2) Great for Low-Light Situations

The wide aperture of an f/1.8 lens (remember, lower f-stop means bigger aperture and more light coming in) will also allow you to shoot at higher shutter speeds than you could with a typical kit lens.

This was shot as ISO 3200, which is pretty much the practical limit for my camera. Without a fast prime like the 50mm f/1.8, I would have had to shoot it at ISO 6400 or higher.

3) Perfect for the Street

A 50mm lens is also awesome for street photography if you’re not into getting too close to your subjects:

4) Great for Portraits

A 50mm lens (80mm equivalent on a crop-sensor camera like a Canon Rebel or Nikon D3100) makes for a great portrait lens.

5) It’s the Ultimate Baby Lens

If you have a baby and a DSLR, then a cheap 50mm lens is a must-own. The improved sharpness, color saturation over the kit lens makes it the best possible buy if you want awesome baby pictures:

6) Other Random Pictures I’ve Taken With This Lens:






















So what are you waiting for?

Buying links:

Canon 50mm f/1.8 Lens on Amazon
Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Lens on Amazon
Sony 50mm f/1.8 lens on Amazon

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott Thomas Photography January 10, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Oh, yeah, I love my Nifty-Fifty (as I call it). BTW, it’s great for dark rides at Disney and other themeparks.

Helen Oster January 12, 2011 at 5:08 am

Thanks so much for the Adorama mention – very much appreciated!

I’ve passed your comments on to the Adorama CS Manager and to the Crew over at the AdoramaPix lab – I know they’ll be delighted.☺

BTW I’m only ever an email away if you ever need advice or after-sales support with any order from Adorama.

Helen Oster
Adorama Camera Customer Service Ambassador

forkboy1965 January 25, 2011 at 3:41 pm

I too purchased the f/1.8 not long after I acquired my first dSLR (Canon 40D) and found it to be a remarkable lens considering I paid $79 for it.

However, I had found over time it’s overall sharpness at larger apertures seemed… well…. lacking. Too soft. While this may make it great for certain types of situations or looks I always felt I wasn’t in as much control over my pictures. And so it was I picked up the f/1.4 about 6-months ago.

I must say I’m very happy I did. The overall sharpness (center and corners) is vastly better up to about f/5.6, but beyond that they remain very close with a slight edge to the pricier f/1.4.

However, at better than 3-times the price I’m not certain I would say the purchase was a winner. I appreciate the clearly sharper images I get at wide-open apertures, but $79 versus $350? I still find it hard to justify the price difference.

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