Thoughts on the 50mm focal lenght

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by film_guy, Jun 28, 2007.

  1. film_guy

    film_guy Member

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    I've been using my 50mm lens on the EOS 3 more and more lately for street photography, and I'm just wondering does anyone here feel the same way as me as it's the perfect lens for walk-around shots. I don't know what it is about the 50mm focal lenght but it definitely works for me and photos (especially portraits) done using it have the right mix of the subject and environment.
     
  2. photogolf

    photogolf Member

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    I use a Nikon 50mm 1.8 AFD with my Nikon F4 and F5. I really love the focal length and it's ability to take sharp pictures in low light environments.
     
  3. mcgrattan

    mcgrattan Member

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    I rarely use anything else. On SLR -- SMC Takumar 50mm f1.7 -- or on rangefinder -- Jupiter-8, Industar 61L/D, Xenon f2.8, etc -- I find the 50 is the perfect length for me.
     
  4. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    Is anything really 'perfect'?

    Glad this focal length works for you. My mileage may differ. Grin.
     
  5. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Seems to be a complex interaction on subject, preference, print size and lens quality. My 'standard' lens for years has been a 35/1.4, with a 75/2 on the other body; my wife now uses 50mm as a 'standard', usually with 90 on the other body. But the new 50/1.5 Sonnar may incline me more towards 50mm too. It's gorgeous for colour though I've not shot much mono with it yet (and I haven't processed her mono either -- I'm doing 10 rolls today and 10 more tomorrow).

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  6. mcgrattan

    mcgrattan Member

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    <i>Seems to be a complex interaction on subject, preference, print size and lens quality.</i>

    Yes, purely personally, I struggle to produce interesting compositions with anything much wider than 40-50mm so I don't really favour wider lenses and longer lenses, while I very much like the results, I tend not to use enough to justify carrying them around. So I pretty much always default to the 50.

    I suspect if I started carrying two bodies more regularly, I'd alternate between a 50 and 85 or 50 and 90.
     
  7. Mike Richards

    Mike Richards Member

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    Walk around 50mm

    I've been doing "walk around" shots for a couple of years of Greek street markets. I've tried 28, 35, 45 (on Contax G2), and 50, but 50mm remains my favorite. In fact, my best shots were with the Leica M7 and collapsible 50mm f2.8. Elmar. Part of the preference is in one's head -- the way you see an image shaping up and where to position oneself, comfortably, to get it. The wider lenses tend to result in either too much cropping, or moving in so close that it disrupts the photographer/subject relationship.
     
  8. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    A 50mm lens gives me a good working distance, too. :smile:
     
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  9. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    For me the 50 is best for people shots. I find wider angles better for in city walk-about landscapes. In more open territory with mountains etc I find I actually prefer wider angles under 35mm.
     
  10. Snapshot

    Snapshot Member

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    This is my favourite focal length because of the speed and versatility of my 50mm AF-D. However, it's not without its shortcomings.
     
  11. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    I recently carried my CV R2S to a wedding in Memphis. I brought along both my Nikkor 3.5cm and CV 85mm lenses. I probably would have been happier to only have brought the 5.0cm/1.4 with me. Sometimes I think I get "down" on 50mm because it seems so "common". But there are times when it really does make sense to just use a "normal" lens!
     
  12. John Curran

    John Curran Member

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    The 50mm was the lense of choice of many photojournalists in the 1960s and 70s before the advent of high quality zooms.
     
  13. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    I use a 50mm f/1.8 AI Nikkor for over 90% of the work I do. It just seems right to me. If I find myself in slightly more cramped quarters, then the 35mm f/2 lens sees a bit more use.
     
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  15. GeoffHill

    GeoffHill Member

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    I did use my canon 50 f/1.8 nearly all the time, but I've just invested in a Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L, which I bought with the intention of being a higher quality replacement for the 50. It is, however, HUGE, so I dont think ill be getting rid of the 50 any time soon, due to its portability
     
  16. dferrie

    dferrie Member

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    If I had to work with just one lens then I would opt for a 50mm, it's what I started with and have always found it to be a great "utility" lens.

    David
     
  17. eddym

    eddym Member

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    I feel exactly the same way... but about a 35mm lens, not a 50! :smile:
     
  18. marsbars

    marsbars Member

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    I too prefer the 50. Since it is fairly close to the angle of view of the eye it makes a great lens. I generaly take pictures of what catches my eye and the 50 makes it look pretty darn close. Then after that I may revisit said photo opp and then use a wider or narrower lens. I have 3 nikons and a newer pentax and I have a 50 to go on all of them. I have found some use for the 35 2.8 more recently but the 50 is always on whatever camera I am packing around.
     
  19. goros

    goros Subscriber

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    I'm also feeling more comfortable with the 50 mm. I have tried shorter lenses (35 and 28 mm) but it implies to go too close to the subject and then I feel like I am invading the subject space. On the other way round, a longer lens doesn't allow me to get the details I'm looking for. I have used the 50 mm on almost 100% of my pictures, although recently I have used a Lensbaby, that has a focal lenght of 50 mm (more or less, as it get smaller when focusing to infinity).

    Right now, I have "built" a system around the 50 mm: a 35 mm for indoors or very tight places and a 85 mm for close up portraits.

    Cheers
     
  20. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Disputable. What do you actually mean by this? Too much depends on the size of the print and the viewing distance.

    Perspective looks most natural when the objects in the image subtend the same angle as they did in the original scene, but there's quite a wide range before things start to look too wrong.

    This is why I prefer to straddle the 50mm, with a 35mm on one body and a 75mm on the other: the 35mm is more the way I see when I see something in context, and the 75mm is more the way I see details in isolation.

    Wider or longer lenses (than 35 and 75) require a different way of seeing, but even at that, every now and then I go on a 21mm jag (or 38mm on my Alpa, which is near enough the identical angle of view) or a 135mm jag or even a 200mm jag (especially in the mountains where I want details).

    I wondered how long it would be before the 'angle of view of the eye' thing came up...

    Cheers,

    Roger (www.rogerandfrances.com)
     
  21. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear John,

    In the 40s and 50s maybe, but the 35 was pretty popular by the 60s and 70s -- once there were high-quality, fast lenses such as the 35/1.4 Summilux (c. 1957). The big advantage of the 50 could be summed up in one word: SPEED.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  22. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    I hardly ever used a 50mm until I bought a Leica. It was the only lens I could afford for several months and I came to like it a lot. Now I most often use 50mm and 35mm lenses on both Leica rangefinders and my Canon EOS bodies. I also like 75/80mm lenses on medium format.

    Interestingly, I've never felt the 50mm had a "normal" angle of view compared to my vision. I tend to see in wide angle but with magnification like a 70mm lens. The perspective of a 50mm does seem "normal" to me.
     
  23. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    One more thought. I find people who use "normal" lenses a lot are more interersted in the subject matter of their photos whereas people who use super wide angles and long telephotos are more interested in the look of their photographs. I can go either way--I also love the distortion of perspective you can get with various focal lengths.
     
  24. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    The 50mm lens are called "standard lenses" because they are for most subjects they are the most useful , and if I was only allowed to choose one lens to have with my Canon FD system it would be the 50mm 1.4, that's also the fastest lens I own.
     
  25. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    I don't entirely agree. Historically, a 'standard' lens was one that was close to the diagonal of the negative, and with 35mm the 'long standard' became the norm because it's easier to make a reasonably fast (f/3.5) 50mm lens that covers the frame well than to make a 43mm. If you want faster still (f/2, then f/1.5) with full-frame coverage, 50mm is MUCH easier. Anything longer, on the other hand, soon gets bulky if it is at all fast. In other words, it was cheap'n'easy.

    Degrees of enlargement also enter in to it, and I'd argue that a 35mm is at least as 'standard' as a 50mm, while 40mm is closer still. As for 'the most generally useful', I'd disagree completely; I find a fast 35 much more generally useful, and I am not alone in that. As I said above, my 'standard' lens is a 35/1.4.

    Then again, my favourite 'standard' on the Nikon F was the 58/1.4 -- like many ultra-fast lenses for reflexes, even longer than 50mm for similar reasons to why 50mm (or 2 inch) lenses were normally supplied instead of 43mm, 40mm or 35mm.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  26. John Curran

    John Curran Member

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    I've seen the work of many photojournalists who covered the Vietnam war with a 50mm lense on a 35mm SLR. An amazing feat looking back from this age of zooms. My father shot for Newsday throughout the 60's on primarily a 50mm lense, and he was shooting Tri-x.
     
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