Is the 50mm 1.8 The Best Value Lens Ever Made? | Light Stalking

Is the 50mm 1.8 The Best Value Lens Ever Made?

In one word, yes. But I’d figure that you would want a more detailed explanation.

The 50mm f/1.8 lens – doesn’t matter what brand it is Canon, Nikon, Pentax, etc – is the cheapest and most widely used glass ever made.

The Build Quality

More often than not, manufacturers don’t bother with pristine build quality with this lens. Almost all of them are cheap because they are made of plastic and don’t include USM focus motors. The mount is plastic as well (at least for the models I have seen and held in my hands). Autofocus on the lens is often loud and slow, and it feels weird. On almost all manufacturers the front element spins, thus making the lens difficult to use with circular polarizer filters.

Photo by alf sigaro

However, that loud and weird focus motor is slow when compared to USM focusing motors, but when compared to other regular focus motors mounted on kit lenses, for example, the 50mm f/1.8 motor is faster. So it is practically somewhere in the middle when it comes to focusing speed.

The plastic build means that the lens is not weather sealed (to be honest, it often feels like it isn’t even assembled properly, even though it is and it will work perfectly as any other lens would), but that also means that the lens is extremely light, making it convenient for extended usage.

As I already mentioned, the front element spins, therefore you can forget about butterfly lens hood or circular polarizer filters. But since the lens is mostly used for portraits, you don’t need CPL filters anyway, and you can attach a regular lens hood if you want to (not that you need it really).

Canon Lens EF 50mm 1:1.8 II by Richard Cocks, on Flickr

I already mentioned the plastic mount. Yes, it’s plastic, so what? I haven’t heard about a plastic mount that failed. When the lens breaks (due to mechanical force, where the mount strength is tested) it is usually between the mount and the rest of the lens, so it doesn’t matter whether is plastic or metal. Several of my lenses have plastic mounts and 6 years so far I haven’t had a single issue with them. Metal mount is really an improvement if the whole lens is made out of metal, like most of the vintage lenses are, which you probably won’t find on modern lenses.

Value for Money

By now you are probably saying: that doesn’t sound best value for money really.

However, that is not the case. I know that the 50mm f/1.8 by Canon comes for 100 bucks brand new. That is even cheaper than the kit lens. Nikon's is a tad more expensive, coming about 200 bucks new. In reality, you won’t find a cheaper lens brand new. The “nifty fifty” is the cheapest lens by every manufacturer.

Photo by s58y

The lens justifies value for money on picture quality and convenience. After all, it is a f/1.8 lens – that would be 3 and ⅓ stops faster than the kit lens on the same focal length – meaning if you needed 800 ISO at 1/200th of a second with f/5.6 now you will need 100 ISO and 1/275th of a second for the same exposure. The bokeh (specular lights) and the added background blur are an added bonus.

But it is not all about the amount of light. The “nifty fifty” is a very sharp lens, especially when compared to the kit lens. When used for portraiture the depth of field it provides paired with the sharpness and focal length makes it perfect for the beginner portrait photographer.

Best Budget Lens

Since most aspiring photographers start out with a tight budget, I’d highly recommend getting a body only and a nifty fifty lens, instead of the kit one. It will cost you less, and due to the fixed focal length, you will learn more about framing and composition, since you’ll have to move in order to “zoom”. The better image quality and performance in low light is another added bonus. Learning proper framing is best done with fixed focal length, and which better lens to start with than the 50mm f/1.8?

Photo by peddhapati (Thanks for 1M Views!!!)

Reselling is Easy

Another advantage is that the lens isn’t updated often. Frankly it has only been updated once by Canon and as far as I know once by Nikon too. Since the lens doesn’t update often, there aren’t newer models to drive down the price if you ever want to sell it. Mostly nifty fifty lenses sell for about 70% of the retail value, which is a pretty good deal. And they sell fast, people buy them a lot since it is one of the best lens to learn photography with.

About the author

Dzvonko Petrovski

Photographer who loves challenging and experimental photography and loves sharing his knowledge about it.


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