6 Reasons Why You Need a Nifty Fifty

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What is a Nifty Fifty?

If you could only own one lens, what would it be? The lens I think every photographer should have in their camera bag is nifty fifty — a fast 50mm prime lens. Why do you need a nifty fifty? I just happened to have 6 reasons.

Nifty fifties are fast, lightweight and compact. Not to mention they’re inexpensive and take incredible photos! But don’t take my word for it, check out the video and photos below!

6 Reasons Why You Need a Nifty Fifty

Nifty Fifties are small, light weight and low-profile, especially when shooting on a smaller camera body such as a Mirrorless Nikon Z6. I can almost fit my Z6 and a 50mm lens in my pocket. Because they’re so inconspicuous, that makes them great for run and gun street photography! A 50 mill will always be in my street photo backpack, and will likely be on my camera the majority of the photo walk.

Ashley Natural light portrait shoot in manitou Colorado with 50mm lens
Ashley on the fence in Downtown Manitou Springs, CO - Nikon Z6 & 50mm

#2 Nifty Fifties are cheap! Because they’re so inexpensive, 50mm primes make great starter lenses for beginner photographers. You can easily find a 50mm lens for $50-$100 (USD) used or $200-$300 brand new! As, with any lens, fifties do go up in price with wider maximum apertures. A f/1.8 lens may only run you $100, but a super fast f/1.2 will likely be closer to $1000 (USD).

Panorama of Nashville Skyline, Music City at Night
Nashville Skyline Panorama - 5 Exposures on Canon 5Dmkii @ 50mm

#3 They’re fast! These 50mm prime lenses usually come with fast aperture values like f/1.4, f/1.8 or f/2.0. This means they perform well in low light conditions when shot wide open. This means you can use faster shutter speeds to capture action and use lower ISO values for less grainy images.

Natural portrait shoot with Ashley in Manitou Springs, CO - Nikon Z6 & 50mm

#4 Because of their wide apertures, 50mm lenses make great portrait lenses! Shooting at f/2.0 and below will give you a soft background with dreamy bokeh. 

1970 Oldmobile 442 in Jackson, MI - Canon 5D Mark II & 50mm

#5 With a fixed focal length of 50mm, nifty fifties are perfect for practicing composition. Here’s a challenge for you to try: Next time you go for a photowalk or photoshoot, only shoot on your nifty fifty! No cheating with a 24-70!

The purpose of this exercise is to get you moving. Looking through your viewfinder, scan your scene and search out strong compositions. What is the subject of the photo? What draws the eye towards or away from the subject? This might require you to move your feet or change your perspective to get the best shot.

5D MK 2 Brynna Neon Portrait
Neon Portraits of Brynna, Downtown Nashville, TN - Canon 5D Mark II, 50mm

#6 Last, but certainly not least, nifty fifty lenses are sharp! Quality prime lenses are known for being sharp. A prime lens only has to worry about one single focal length, and it typically does that job pretty darn well. 

Ashley stands in a river in Natural light for a portrait shoot in manitou Colorado with 50mm lens
Natural light portrait of Ashley in the river - Nikon Z6 & 50mm

Negatives of the Nifty Fifty

We’ve discussed a lot of pros of owning and shooting with a 50mm lens, how about discussing some cons, to be fair? Well as you may know, lenses are typically at their sharpest around f/4 to f/5.6, even if their maximum aperture is say, f/2.8. This varies by individual lenses, but that’s a rough estimate for most glass.

When shooting at f/1.2 or even f/2.0, you may notice some chromatic aberration or a softness to the in-focus portions of your photos. This is just how the physics of light work, and many people, like myself, love this soft, glow look!

Fireworks long exposure, Detroit, MI - Canon 5D MK II & 50mm

Final Thoughts on Reasons Why You Need a Nifty Fifty

So have I convinced you how awesome nifty fifties are? I always have mine ready for so many reasons: fast, light weight, razor-thin DOF, etc. If you enjoyed this blog be sure to subscribe, and don’t forget to subscribe to my Youtube Channel, Run N Gun Photography as well!

Until next time, get you and go shoot!


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