Is the 50mm lens phasing out?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by flosseR, Aug 9, 2011.

  1. flosseR macrumors 6502a


    Jan 1, 2009
    the cold dark north
    Ok, I have a 50mm lens and so do all of my friends and acquaintances but almost none uses them anymore. There is the occasional time when i want the f1.4 effect but generally my 24-70 stays on almost all of the time and it takes lovely bokeh shots. Is this a general trend that the 50mm is more like a gimmick nowadays since zooms have caught up with the quality?
  2. Phrasikleia macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2008
    Over there------->
    I have a "nifty fifty" that doesn't get a whole lot of use anymore. It was the second lens I ever purchased for my first DSLR; the other lens I had at the time was the slow 18-55mm kit lens, which I sold eons ago. I'm probably pretty typical in this regard. People get a cheap 50mm because they have nothing faster than f/3.5. Then they eventually invest in an f/2.8 zoom of some sort, and the 50mm starts to collect dust.

    I actually think prime lenses in general are becoming less popular because the best zooms are so sharp now. I will be keeping the two primes I have because they do have their uses (one is still my fastest lens, and the other is a macro), and I'm happy to have them when I need them, but the lenses I use the most are zooms.

    Of course, there are people who do a lot of nightclub or street shooting, where wide apertures are everything, and I reckon those people use primes most of the time because of their greater speed.
  3. TheReef, Aug 10, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2011

    TheReef macrumors 68000


    Sep 30, 2007
    NSW, Australia.
    I share this view. IMO 50mm is an awkward focal length to use on a crop body, a fast 35mm is better suited in more situations - low light events or stealthy street applications, which I've seen become popular with the increase in low light high ISO performance of even entry level dSLRs.

    I rarely (maybe once a year) use my 50mm, but do use a 40mm pancake more regularly because of it's incredibly small and lightweight construction and more convenient focal length.

    That said, probably none of my lenses can touch the 50mm when stopped down in terms of sharpness, contrast and colour but some come very very close. Being limited to the awkward 50mm focal length will have more of a negative impact on my pics than some minute sharpness level, undetectable and/or insignificant to most eyes out there anyway. I may be biased in that I'm not particularly geared towards hand-held low light/portraiture, and always use an external flash for any events, but can appreciate some of the fast 50's application and merits.

    But yes, they're a great cost-effective way of achieving certain results not possible with a standard kit lens.
  4. tag macrumors 6502a


    Apr 29, 2005
    Funny, I was just contemplating this last week. I love my 50mm 1.8 that I have, but on a DX sensor it just zooms too much for what I want I've found. Been a bit lazy about getting around to buying another prime lens but I think I'll be picking up a Nikon 35mm f1.8 in the next couple weeks (can't really justify the price of the 35mm f1.4 as an amateur with only a couple of lenses).
  5. Ish macrumors 68020


    Nov 30, 2004
    I think the crop-factor has been the cause of the drop in popularity of the 50mm lens. As Reef said, it's an awkward length for a crop body. When we all had 35mm film cameras it was the standard lens. It was the only one I had for years and I would have loved to be able to afford a standard zoom! I suppose 35mm should be the standard for DX cameras, but as flossR and Phrasikleia said, zooms are now so much better, and they're a lot more versatile.
  6. gnd macrumors 6502a


    Jun 2, 2008
    At my cat's house
    I use mine almost exclusively when I need maximum sharpness, need very precise manual focusing and no perspective distortion. Effective field of view on my camera makes this lens 75mm and that forces me to step further away from the subject, which minimizes the perspective distortion. For my purpose anything longer would be too long (sometimes you can't step any further away) and anything much wider would start to show perspective distortion ...
    So I guess I use my 50mm as a 75mm lens. If Pentax ever makes a FF body (and I decide to buy it) I'll be forced to get another lens for this purpose. Lucky for me there is no shortage of great prime lenses in the Pentax lineup ... :D
  7. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus


    Jul 24, 2002
    For me it's a whole system thing. I bought an EF 50mm f/1.4 when I had my EOS 400D. I still have it now but it's not used all that much on my EOS 7D. I find it's just a little too long so tend to use the EF 35mm f/1.4 L instead.

    But on my Epson RD-1 I find I use my Leica Summicron 50mm f/2 a lot more than my Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4. Both cameras have comparably crop factors but 50mm feel right on the rangefinder.
  8. mtbdudex macrumors 68000


    Aug 28, 2007
    SE Michigan
    I have not touched my Canon 50mm f1.4 since......?? Dec-2010?
    As mentioned, on crop T1i slightly too much for indoors.
    Reading this thread has reminded me of that....and got me thinking what to do.

    I'll put the Canon 50mm f1.4 for sale and look at possibly the Canon EF 28 1.8 USM (45mm FF equiv) as my low light prime.
    The EF 35mm f/1.4L USM (56mm FF equiv) is of course the better choice for top level PQ, but over $1k I can't justify it.
  9. steveash macrumors 6502


    Aug 7, 2008
    My 50mm is still my most used lens. I sold my mid range zoom because it wasn't getting used as I mostly just use primes. I only have an ultra wide and 70-200 zooms in my bag these days. Am I stuck in the past?
  10. pakyooh macrumors 6502


    Jan 21, 2009
    Same here.. 50mm 1.4 stays on mine the whole time. The 28mm and 70-200mm are in the bag but only comes out when really needed.

  11. Keleko macrumors 68000

    Mar 26, 2008
    I've used my 50mm 1.8 a lot lately. I preferred it for event and random crowd portraits compared to my kit lens. Maybe if I had a f/2.8 24-70 or something similar, I'd have used that instead, but the 50mm has served quite well for me so far.
  12. mackmgg macrumors 65816


    Nov 2, 2007
    Yeah, I don't really use a 50mm lens since I went digital, but I do use a 30mm one. The Sigma 30mm f/1.4 is great, inexpensive compared to fast zooms, and is the perfect focal length. At 30mm, it's 48mm 35mm equiv, so it's pretty much the only lens that's been on my body for a while.

    And I think the appeal of the nifty fifty is its price. Sure you can spend thousands of dollars for a lens that's just as sharp. Or you can spend $100 for a prime, and use that for starting off. If I had a 24-70mm f/2.8 I probably wouldn't use the primes as much. But that's way out of my price range, and prime lenses yield just as good of a result.
  13. fcortese macrumors demi-god


    Apr 3, 2010
    Big Sky country
    For the price I spent on my nifty-fifty (f1.8) {less than $100} it was well worth it even though I do not use it as much. I have a FF camera so I do not have the issues that the cop camera shooters have. I have some extension tubes and plan on trying some macro with that set up and I will use it when indoors taking picutres of the grandkids. So for me the combo of the inexpensive price and several scenarios where it would come in handy still makes this a lens to own, IMO.
  14. rusty2192 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 15, 2008
    I don't think I've even mounted my nifty fifty (EF 50 1.8) since I got my Tamron 17-50 f/2.8. I suppose I may reach for it sometime in extremely low light, but the fast zoom has all but replaced my need for the 50mm.
  15. MattSepeta macrumors 65816


    Jul 9, 2009
    375th St. Y
    Hmmm... I couldn't disagree more.

    I find my Sigma 50 f/1.4 is on the 5DII for >75% of the time I am shooting.

    Sure, I enjoyed my old trusty 17-55 f/2.8IS "L" on my 50D, but it just does not compare.

    In fact, despite having a 70-200 f/2.8L IS on hand, I find myself "zooming with feet" and using the 50 as opposed to the L zoom, even for portraits.

    I am actually in the process of swapping out my zooms for an all prime array. Getting the heeby jeebys thinking about 24L.... MMMMMMmmmm
  16. flosseR thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jan 1, 2009
    the cold dark north
    interesting.. seems that the trend is only slightly less 50mm usage.. I agree that a f1.8 50mm is still a bargain nowadays and for the occasional shot its ok but investing into a f1.4 or even a 1.2L seems a bit far out. Even on FullFrame I found i used 85mm much more often....
  17. acearchie macrumors 68040


    Jan 15, 2006
    It's interesting that youf found that you used the 85mm more on full frame as that seems to be the biggest complaint about the comparable field of view with using the 50mm on a crop.

    I really like the lens but maybe I am biased as I shoot a lot of video as well.

    I am also waiting out for a 5diii and think that it will probably get more use on that as at the moment I have an UWA lens and the 50 and I am finding a lot of the time that I want something in the middle which is hopefully what the 50 will give me on full frame!
  18. b_scott macrumors 6502a


    Mar 31, 2008
    no. 50mm f/1.4-1.8 on a full frame camera is still one of the best portrait lenses out there.
  19. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    On a "Crop body" the 50mm is a mild telephoto. Not bad the people shots but I like my 85mm f/1.8 even better for people shots, even on my crop body DSLR. I bought the 50mm when I shot film.

    I'm very seriously looking at a 35mm prime lens. But I like the 50mm for existing light, not so much the shallow DOF of an f/1.4 lens but with the fast llens I can shoot indoors existing light.

    Is it fading away? Yes but only because now so many causal snapshooters are buying SLRs So many SRLs are sold today to people who will never ever buy a second lens so the proportion of them who have a 50 is lower. But if you count only people who are serious about photography (those who shoot at places other then vacations and social events or take photos of their own kids) then I bet the numbers are not down at all.
  20. b_scott macrumors 6502a


    Mar 31, 2008
    50mm isn't a mild telephoto at 80mm equivalent. I used my 50 1.8 on my XSi for a long time for most anything. my 85mm on my 5D2 is one of the best head and shoulders portrait lenses out there.

    85mm on a crop is a mild tele though.
  21. HBOC macrumors 68020

    Oct 14, 2008
    I find the 50mm is almost the ideal multipurpose FL on a full frame body.
    35mm is perfect on a small sensor camera. While zooms are very good (70-200 IS MKII), primes are sharper by their nature.

    I used to never own primes, now I don't own any zooms. I am not going to say that dumb saying "zoom with your feet", as that is nonsense. I just find primes fit my style much better. My buddy just got his first (D)SLR last December, and he has the plastic fantastic and the 100mm macro. I showed him the FOV with the 50mm on my full frame camera and he couldn't believe how much wider it was.
  22. Phrasikleia macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2008
    Over there------->
    "Zoom with your feet" is probably the photographic cliché that I dislike the most. It completely ignores the importance of perspective and alignments. If the focal length of your prime lens gives a good field of view for the perspective you want, then great, but otherwise, you need to use a different focal length.
  23. b_scott macrumors 6502a


    Mar 31, 2008
    bolded - not always the case. The 70-200 f/2.8 IS II is I guarantee you sharper than a 20mm USM, for instance.
  24. Macshroomer macrumors 65816


    Dec 6, 2009
    In amateur land, probably, in pro land? Not a chance, professionals let the mind's eye do the talking, not the gear.....

    I have about 5 x 50mm lenses or the equivalent in 4 formats...
  25. tinman0 macrumors regular

    Jun 5, 2008
    Welcome to the 21st century! ;)

    50mm bit the dust in a big way in the mid 80s when the compact zoom became the popular kit lens, and it's never really found a way back since.

    And the crop thing really doesn't help as it's pushed the 50mm from an all purpose lens to a portrait lens, and not everyone does portraits.

    Simple as that.

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