Top 8 Best Nifty Fifty Lens for Your Camera (Updated for 2018)

 Nifty Fifty Lens When starting out with photography, the chances are you’ll soon feel comfortable with the kit lens you purchased with your camera. You’ll know how to take great pictures with it, but you’ll also discover its limitations. Where do you go from there? The answer, almost invariably, is to invest in a new lens. This of course comes with its own set of questions and headaches. There are so many different types of lenses for specific purposes, and so many models in each category. What’s the best type of lens to move on to? The answer really depends on what style of photography you’re intending on pursuing. However, a common recommendation will be a 50mm prime lens. They’re versatile and it’s easy to get instant results with them. Below you can read why the 50mm is so good, and our 8 favourite 50mm, nifty fifty, lenses that you should consider.

3 Reasons the Nifty Fifty Is the Second Thing to Buy

1. It’s versatile

50mm lenses are good at just about everything. Why would you take a separate wide angle lens, telephoto lens and kit lens when a 50mm is good for landscapes, portraits, street photography and more? They’re often light and compact, so carrying one with you is always a good idea. As an addition to your kit lens, it can make the ideal travel companion for the amateur photographer, particularly given that you can pick one up for pretty cheap.

2. It has a lovely bokeh and shallow depth of field

If you’re a fan of portrait photography, you’ll certainly appreciate a lovely soft-blur background behind a sharp and in-focus subject. A 50mm lens is the master of this effect, called bokeh, thanks to the shallow depth of field and often wide maximum apertures. Canon, for example, offers 50mm prime lenses with maximum apertures of f/1.2, f/1.4, and f/1.8, all of which are capable of capturing stunning images.

3. It sees what you see

The field of vision of a 50mm lens most accurately captures what the human eye can see. This means they make great lenses to practice your art and get some really interesting, true-to-life shots. The fixed focal length means that you have to move closer to or further away from your subject to get the perfect shot. As a beginner photographer, this is really useful for getting the feel of how to capture what the eye does, and doesn’t, see.

Best Nifty Fifty Lenses for Your Camera

1. Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens

Why it’s great:

  • Outstanding sharpness at f/1.4 aperture.
  • Attractive price point compared to others in the range.
  • Excellent chromatic aberration control.

Our favourite nifty fifty is the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art. It’s the perfect balance of quality and affordability, making it versatile enough for the enthusiast without breaking the bank of the amateur. There are myriad features that make this lens our top contender; the fantastic sharpness across the frame, even at f/1.4, the excellent quality of the construction, the fast and silent autofocus and the control of chromatic aberration and distortion. It performs excellently on both full and crop frame cameras, maintaining its quality even with the aperture wide open. The bokeh, or background blur, is soft and smooth, whilst the subject always remains crisply in focus. Sigma’s Hypersonic Motor (HSM) technology means the lens focuses quickly and silently, whilst the manual focus override is smooth and pleasant to use. Overall this lens is fantastic, especially considering the relative price.

Buying considerations:

  • As far as 50mm lenses go, it’s a little on the weighty side.
  • The lens isn’t weather sealed, so be cautious when braving the elements.

2. Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM

Why it’s great:

  • Maximum wide aperture of f/1.2.
  • Amazing image sharpness and dynamic range.
  • USM for quick and silent autofocusing.

Canon’s f/1.2 50mm has the widest aperture on this list. It’s simply staggering how much light this lens lets in. Sharpness of image is consistently good throughout the aperture range, and the depth of field is pretty unique to this lens. You can totally isolate the subject in the frame against a silky smooth background. It’s a very well-constructed lens and it feels sturdy in your hand and on your camera. The weather sealing means that you can take it out and about without fear. The price tag is rather hefty though, so this may be only for the serious photographer.

Buying considerations:

  • There is a slight drop in clarity towards the edge of the frame compared to the centre, particularly when wide open.
  • The price will be off-putting for beginners.

3. Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Why it’s great:

  • More affordable than the f/1.2, without too noticeable drop in quality.
  • USM for fast and quiet autofocus.
  • Good flare resistance and vignetting control.

A step down from the above f/1.2 model, the f/1.4 still offers decent performance at an affordable price. It has the same USM (ultrasonic motor) technology as the f/1.2 which focuses quickly and accurately and sharpness at the centre of the frame is still very clear. It’s a little softer at max aperture however. The lens is good at resisting flare and vignetting, whilst the build quality is up to scratch. As an alternative to the f/1.2 and a step up from the f/1.8, this is a great nifty fifty.

Buying considerations:

  • Sharpness doesn’t really kick in until f/2.8.
  • Some barrel distortion is noticeable.

4. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens

Why it’s great:

  • Canon’s least expensive lens.
  • Lightweight and portable.
  • Excellent sharpness.

It’s three in a row for Canon nifty fifties. The f/1.8 STM is an upgrade to the ever popular f/1.8 II and has many more features that its predecessor. Notably, the STM (stepping motor) autofocus is quieter and less clunky than the II, the build quality is improved and the maximum magnification is higher. The STM in particular will be a boon to those looking to capture video, reducing the ambient noise considerably. What it represents is a very affordable way of trying out a 50mm lens whilst still producing quality images. Once stepped up to f/2.8, image sharpness is very strong across the frame, although not quite as good as the more expensive f/1.4. It’s not the perfect 50mm lens by any means, but for the price it’s an excellent first foray for the beginner.

Buying considerations:

  • Some unwanted effects such as lens flare and chromatic aberration compared to f/1.4 and f/1.2.
  • Although the autofocus is much improved over the II, it’s still a little slow.

5. Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.2

Why it’s great:

  • Wide f/1.2 aperture.
  • Manual focus lens.
  • Fantastic all-metal build quality.

This is the first manual focusing lens on the list, and it may not be for everyone. Nikon’s classic 50mm has the ever-desirable f/1.2 aperture, and coupled with the manual focusing, this lens is only for the serious photographer. The all-metal build gives a reassuring feel in the hand; it really is very sturdy.  In terms of image performance, it’s equally unique. Images are sharp and stunning, even compared to more modern lenses. Images at f/1.2 are particularly interesting, with the wonderfully soft bokeh and shallow depth of field. The adjustable aperture and depth of field controls give an excellent degree of control over your images, and feel great in the hand. Definitely a unique and fantastic lens if you can get to grips with it.

Buying considerations:

  • It doesn’t have many of the mod cons that some users would expect. Definitely not a lens for the beginner.

6. Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G

Why it’s great:

  • f/1.4 aperture and good optical performance.
  • Lightweight and well-made.

Our second choice of Nikon lenses is the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G, a direct replacement for the f/1.4D with some noticeable upgrades. The SWM (silent wave motor) means it’s quiet and accurate when focusing, and it’s easy to switch between manual and auto focusing. Nikon uses SIC (Super Integrated Coating) to reduce image flare and ghosting, meaning images come out clear and sharp. This is a great lens for portraits and in general we like it as a nifty fifty.

Buying considerations:

  • Focusing can seem a little sluggish compared to other similar lenses.

7. Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D

Why it’s great:

  • Cheap price makes it a good entry to nifty fifties.
  • f/1.4 aperture gives strong performance.
  • Goode build-quality.

As mentioned above, the f/1.4D was replaced by the f/1.4G yet the older D model is still available, and at a cheaper price. Although it’s not quite as up to date as the G, performance is still very reasonable, particularly when considering the cost. The aperture ring and depth of field indicator are nice touches on this lens, although it does lack some of the other conveniences of more modern lenses. There’s no autofocusing motor on the 50mm f/1.4D, although some cameras in the Nikon range will compensate for this. There’s also no image stabilization, which could make it tricky when shooting in low light. Despite this however, as a budget nifty fifty this is a good choice for the beginner.

Buying considerations:

  • No autofocus or image stabilization may frustrate some users.

8. Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8

Why it’s great:

  • f/1.8 delivers sharp images when wide open.
  • Little distortion of chromatic aberration.
  • Fast and accurate when focusing.

Our last nifty fifty is the Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8. Although the widest aperture is only equivalent of the Canon f/1.8, it has a far higher price tag. This is somewhat justified by the quality of the images it produces. Even wide open at f/1.8, images are sharp and clear throughout the frame. Background blur is wonderfully soft and smooth, and there is very little distortion of chromatic aberration. Overall, this is a worth contender on our list of nifty fifties.

Buying considerations:

  • More expensive than some similar alternatives.
  • Somewhat plastic-feeling design.

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