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Thread: 50mm prime or 50mm on an 18-55. Dilemma + Dilemma.

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    50mm prime or 50mm on an 18-55. Dilemma + Dilemma.

    Hello everyone, i hope the topic of this thread is not too alarming. I have some questions.

    Interesting facts:
    i. I just got a tripod. While you may go "so what?" on me, it is such a big deal to me. I have been advised here to get one and after some piggy savings, it's here. Just though i'd let you know. It's worth it.


    NOW TO THE QUESTIONS

    a. Several times(here and among friends), i have been advised to buy the "plastic fantastic", some tech purists call it the Canon 50mm f/1.8 II lens. Due to my low budget and lack of autofocus on my 18-55 kit lens, the advice comes to me as sensible and thoughtful but however, speaking of 50mm, what will a 50mm prime offer that i can not get with the 18-55mm zoomed to 50mm?

    b. I have a Sigma 70-300mm which i have been told takes good portraits but nasty in low light(f/4-5.6) so what will this lens offer me in the portrait department?

    c. Someone here told me a prime lens will help with my composition skills contrary to zooming which may encourage laziness(bad for a beginner ). How do you mean?

    d. Can it become my walk-around lens? Or will the 18-55mm serve more purposes?
    [A note: I intend to shoot more of indoor events in oddly/ harshly/poorly-lit environments(think fluorescent tubes, think church auditoriums, think classrooms with only windows and no electrical lighting]

    So should I think of getting this to add to my modestly-expanding gear?

    I use a Canon 1000D, Sigma 70-300mm, 18-55mm.

    Thank you as ever, I will be waiting.
    All the best!

  2. #2

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    Re: 50mm prime or 50mm on an 18-55. Dilemma + Dilemma.

    For those like me who don't know whether the Canon 1000D is a full-frame camera, you might want to add that information to the first post in your thread. That information will probably affect the responses to Question B. Also add its practical high-ISO capability, meaning the highest ISO that can be used without introducing noise that can't be reasonably dealt with during post-processing. That information will affect responses to Question D.

    Question C & D: I wouldn't go so far as to say that using the zoom capability will encourage laziness unless you already know that you have that tendency. However, it is important that you decide whether you prefer using a zoom or a prime lens as a walk-around lens. The only way to determine that is to use both. I strongly urge you to borrow a prime lens of any focal length from a friend or to rent the lens before making the decision.

    After about 25 years of using only zoom lenses, I now use four prime lenses ranging from 35mm to 300mm and my only zoom lens is 12-24mm. For me, there is a zen-like experience of using a prime lens. As I walk around, I look for images that are ideal with the lens on my camera body. It's a completely different (not necessarily better or worse) photographic experience that is immensely satisfying to me compared to using a zoom lens. Not everybody shares my feeling about that and you'll never know if you will unless you try using a prime lens for at least a day or two.

    The lens I use the most is my 35mm lens, so I can assure you that a 50mm lens would serve very well as a walk-around lens. It's larger apertures compared to your zoom lens will make it possible to achieve a smaller depth of field than your zoom lens when all other factors about that are equal. Depending on the high-ISO capability of your camera, those larger apertures could also regularly make it possible to capture images in low-light, handheld situations that perhaps would not be possible using your zoom lens. My guess is that the prime lens also allows you to focus considerably closer to the subject than your zoom lens, but check that out to be sure.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 5th October 2012 at 12:33 PM.

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    Re: 50mm prime or 50mm on an 18-55. Dilemma + Dilemma.

    Hello Ife.

    When I got myDSLR Canon 40D it came with the standard 18-55 kit lens and the very first lens I purchase was the 'nifty fifty'. It is simply a charming lens that you will return to time and time again...I would not hesitate in recommending it.

    I went on to buy the 60mm as well and while , like Mike, I do have a variety of zooms there is something special about prime lenses and the way they affect your viewpoint.

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    Re: 50mm prime or 50mm on an 18-55. Dilemma + Dilemma.

    Ife,

    If I were in your situation, I would look into purchasing an 18-55mm IS kit lens that has autofocus. IMO, autofocus is a pretty necessary attribute to DSLR camera lenses because I don't think that DSLR cameras are optimized for manual focusing. I don't know about the pricing in Nigeria but, the prices of the nifty-fifty and the 18-55mm IS lenses are pretty well equal here in the USA.

    The 18-55mm IS kit lens is a very decent lens and although it is slower than the 50mm f/1.8 "nifty fifty" and perhaps the image quality is not "quite" as good, I consider the zoom capabiliy to more than make up for those shortcomings.

    Using your tripod and shooting at around f/8 to f/11; the 18-55mm IS lens will produce vey acceptable image quality.

    I don't think that any lens will impact upon the photographer's laziness. Laziness is a factor of the photographer, not of the lens with which he is shooting. Additionally, you can frame our image with a zoom lens closer than you can with a prime lens (unless you are lucky enough to be standing in the exact spot you would need for your composiion). This lack of cropping will prevent any deterioration in your imagery due to cropping.

    As for your Sigma 70-300mm lens; I recommend that you use it for portraits at somewhere around 135mm or so and at f/8 or f/11. Mounted on your new tripod, you should be able to get quite decent results at that focal length and f./stop.

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    Re: 50mm prime or 50mm on an 18-55. Dilemma + Dilemma.

    I feel a 50mm lens is must have lens myself, the great Henri Cartier-Bresson used a 50mm lens almost exclusively for over 50 years so that tells you something. Botton line if you doing low light work or a lot of street photography I can see no better lens to have. My Sigma 50mm f/1.4 gets a lot of work, I guess I keep it on my D90 most of time but that's because of what I do. Here five reason to have a 50mm lens.
    #1 Light
    #2 Makes you think
    #3 Everything looks right
    #4 Versatile
    #5 Bokeh.
    Now that we got that out of the way I will say having a good 18-55mm lens is also good to have. Even Zhang Jingna started out with a 18-55mm lens. Think of the 18-55mm lens as two lenses in one. If you have a kit lens of typical focal length, 18-55mm, then treat it as an 18mm and 55mm lens in one. The 18mm is a moderate wide-angle that is great for landscapes, architecture and environmental portraiture. The 55mm end is a short telephoto lens ideal for compressing perspective and taking portraits or closing in on details. That doesn’t mean you can’t use the in-between focal lengths, and there are times when you can’t avoid it, but by sticking with the shortest and longest focal lengths you will learn how those focal lengths behave. Lenses are the ‘eye’ of your camera system and your photos will improve as you learn the characteristics of each focal length.

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    Re: 50mm prime or 50mm on an 18-55. Dilemma + Dilemma.

    I love Paul's nebulous reason #3 Everything looks right.

    ..................unquantifiable as it sounds he is spot on!

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    Re: 50mm prime or 50mm on an 18-55. Dilemma + Dilemma.

    Paul - Henri-Cartier Bresson shot with a 50mm on his Leica 35mm film camera; that is more like a 30mm lens on Ife's crop frame Canon. A 50mm on the crop frame is like an 80mm on a full frame; so we are not looking at a normal lens in this recommendation, but rather a short telephoto. You get a totally different perspective with a normal lens; just look at Cartier-Bresson's work.

    I use a 35mm prime as my street lens on my crop frame D90, but use the 50mm lens on my full-frame D800 for the same purpose. I mostly do this reduce the profile of my camera when wandering around, i.e. I am trying for a lower profile. I have tried the 50mm lens on my D90 and find it to be a focal length I do not like working with.

    Ife - I totally agree with the statement of using a prime lens as a good learning tool and agree with the "laziness" thought. Because a prime cannot be zoomed in, it forces the photographer to move around to to frame and compose. In my experience it helps you become a better photographer. I still do what I call "prime shooting days"; where I head out with a normal lens to force myself to move around when composing. I find in sharpens up my composing skills.

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    Re: 50mm prime or 50mm on an 18-55. Dilemma + Dilemma.

    That would be right Manfred. So to get as close to 50mm as possible on a 1.6x crop frame sensor you want to buy a 30mm lens.
    30x1.6=48

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    Re: 50mm prime or 50mm on an 18-55. Dilemma + Dilemma.

    Quote Originally Posted by Melkus View Post
    I feel a 50mm lens is must have lens myself, the great Henri Cartier-Bresson used a 50mm lens almost exclusively for over 50 years so that tells you something..
    It tells you nothing unless you shoot full frame and even then is a questionable statement. I too shot with a 50mm lens or equivalent for maybe fifty years until the digital revolution came upon us. Back when HCB worked there were very few lenses available to suit the Leica camera and certainly no zooms worthy of consideration.

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    Re: 50mm prime or 50mm on an 18-55. Dilemma + Dilemma.

    Quote Originally Posted by cyracles View Post
    a. Several times(here and among friends), i have been advised to buy the "plastic fantastic", some tech purists call it the Canon 50mm f/1.8 II lens. Due to my low budget and lack of autofocus on my 18-55 kit lens, the advice comes to me as sensible and thoughtful but however, speaking of 50mm, what will a 50mm prime offer that i can not get with the 18-55mm zoomed to 50mm?
    Generally the f/1.8 50mm lenses are an excellent value. They are fast, have very little distortion and are fairly unobtrusive when it comes to manual shooting. Before you buy any lens, you really have to decide what you want to do with it, and then if it makes sense, go ahead and buy it. If you buy it and then end up not using it because it does not fit for the types of images you are planning to shoot, you have wasted your money.

    A 50mm lens is a “normal” lens, i.e. the boundary between wide angle and telephoto for a full frame camera. It would act as a fast, short telephoto (80mm on a full-frame camera); is that something you need. If you are looking for a “normal” lens for your camera, a 30mm or 35mm would be more the focal length you would be looking at.

    One other consideration is that your current lens already covers the 50mm focal length. Unless you need the additional speed or shallower depth of field, why are you thinking of duplicating a focal length that you already have?

    Quote Originally Posted by cyracles View Post
    b. I have a Sigma 70-300mm which i have been told takes good portraits but nasty in low light(f/4-5.6) so what will this lens offer me in the portrait department?
    I think that this is actually a very good lens for what you are planning to do, especially in the lower end of the focal length range. While f/4 is not blazingly fast, it is certainly not a slow lens for portrait work.

    The bottom line for getting a good portrait is to add more light, which is what flash is for or turn up the ISO (potentially increasing noise) in low light situations.

    That being said, a lot of the shots you have posted are not posed portraits, but rather casual shots of people, so the lighting is not under your control. This means you have to understand the lighting and what can and cannot be done. The mid-day African sun casts harsh shadows and makes photography quite difficult. There are solutions, but they are not necessarily going to help in candid shots. Fill flash is probably the most obvious solution, but it is intrusive and possibly not an acceptable approach. Doing your photography earlier or later in the day when the light is more diffuse is probably the most appropriate approach, if that can be managed.

    Quote Originally Posted by cyracles View Post
    c. Someone here told me a prime lens will help with my composition skills contrary to zooming which may encourage laziness(bad for a beginner ). How do you mean?
    I could be the source of that statement and I wouldn’t suggest using a zoom encouraging laziness, but rather the photographer (especially the beginning photographer) will find it easier to use the zoom capabilities to compose, rather than working the subject. A prime lens helps force good behaviour because you have to move around to compose and that helps you learn that particular skill. That way when you shoot with a zoom, you will continue to move to compose your shot and look for the best position for the shot, rather than taking the easy.

    Quote Originally Posted by cyracles View Post
    d. Can it become my walk-around lens? Or will the 18-55mm serve more purposes?
    [A note: I intend to shoot more of indoor events in oddly/ harshly/poorly-lit environments(think fluorescent tubes, think church auditoriums, think classrooms with only windows and no electrical lighting]
    I personally think that your existing 18-55mm is really quite good as a walk-about lens. The problem that you have is that the autofocus is broken and that makes the lens much more difficult to use. I don’t know your lens, but have the equivalent Nikon; and frankly the manual focus capabilities are terrible. Add to that the camera’s focusing screen is really not made for manual focusing, this does not help. Have you looked at what it would cost to have it repaired?

    As for the low lighting conditions that you are planning to shoot under, you are ideally looking at faster lenses. This unfortunately means very expensive lenses, Fast lenses are usually viewed as the ones that are f/2.8 and faster. I suspect that these are well beyond your budget.

    Harsh lighting means modifying the light to make it softer or more diffuse or adding light (fill flash) to soften the shadows. If you cannot influence the lighting, you will have to try to find places where the lighting does work for you; are there areas in the places where you are shooting that have more diffuse and even lighting? If so, try to shoot there, rather than in places where you are going to fight the light.

    Quote Originally Posted by cyracles View Post
    So should I think of getting this to add to my modestly-expanding gear?

    I use a Canon 1000D, Sigma 70-300mm, 18-55mm.

    Thank you as ever, I will be waiting.
    All the best!
    When I first got my D90, I started with the Nikon 18-55mm lens and got the Nikon 55-200mm kit lens a few months later. I added an ultra-wide angle Tokina 11-16mm lens for architecture and landscape work and these are the only lenses I used for the first couple of years that I had my DSLR.

    Based on the type of photography you want to do, I think you have a reasonable combination of lenses to cover off your needs. You will know what additional lens (or lenses) you will want to consider once you continuously run into a situation your current gear can’t handle; and that will help shape whatever additional equipment you might wish to pick up. That is exactly how I ended up getting the ultra-wide. I found that 18mm was just not wide angle enough for what I was trying to do.

  11. #11

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    Re: 50mm prime or 50mm on an 18-55. Dilemma + Dilemma.

    A little off topic however it fits into what Manfred said about light, it is as article about finding Portrait Light in the Mid-day. I had added a link to it, as it is a free publication. Some interesting information.

    http://www.pictureline.com/blog/find...-at-mid-day-2/

    Cheers:

    Allan

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    Re: 50mm prime or 50mm on an 18-55. Dilemma + Dilemma.

    Thanks Allan - the author / photographer did a magnificent job using the available light to create some stunning images. Moving into an area where there was diffuse light (in the shade) and using the light reflected from the buildings to subtley break up the flat lighting to create interesting portraits works quite well. The downside is that this only works if you have a subject that can cooperate and is willing to move around. An assistant with a reflector would have been another approach that could have been used.

    From what I can tell, Ife is looking at doing candid shots, so this technique is not likely going to help. Heavy duty fill-flash is what I had to resort to when taking pictures at mid-day in a Himba village in northern Namibia, almost at the Angolan border. The villagers were sitting under a tree and the leaves were casting very dark shadows. I managed to use a bit of brute force with fill flash that allowed me to soften the shadows, but not blow out the skin tones either.

    50mm prime or 50mm on an 18-55. Dilemma + Dilemma.

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    Re: 50mm prime or 50mm on an 18-55. Dilemma + Dilemma.

    Hmmmmmm. Now I have a lot to think about. Thank you for your inputs. Let me use this opportunity to tell you something. My desire to shoot portraits and indoor events is of necessity in school as I need to raise money for my upkeep.

    While i have my eyes on making some money from printing 4 x 6" for clients(fellow students), the big picture is in view too(pun slightly intended). Here is the big picture: i want to take photos like:
    a. A man lost in thought.
    b. Showing plights of rural communities.
    c. A dispute.
    d. A sweaty mechanic frustrated with a car.
    e. The physically-challenged man feeling excited(against the run of ability)

    and so on....it's not like there is a particular list but i like candid shots or even have market women pose with their goods. Is that what candid shots mean?

    Moving on, the problem may be what i do with the pictures but i intend to sell them too(think corbis, gettyimages), print on large canvass and hang them on the walls of my later gallery.

    So while i educate myself in portraiture techniques, i need to be learning about techniques/gear/method. That is why my questions at times here don't turn out having particularly single answers.

    Manfred, you are 100% right. I have seen many beautiful pictures on this website but this one of the Namibian is the one that most resonates with me(it is not an African bias, I assure you. ). I just see honesty in the picture....like the camera/photographer is testifying that the woman is actually under a tree.

    On another thread, i posted some pictures of some kidsCriticize These Images. Not my super-hot models.

    After some little research on PP with B&W images, here is an attempt:
    50mm prime or 50mm on an 18-55. Dilemma + Dilemma.

    The road is still far i think, but this is my situation.

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    Re: 50mm prime or 50mm on an 18-55. Dilemma + Dilemma.

    A lot of people recommend buying a prime lens as it makes you more considered with your framing and compositions. This is true.

    Many people have a preferred focal length that they like to work with. You may find, by buying a prime lens too soon, that the focal length you choose may be too limiting for you, and even may put you off prime lenses altogether.

    I'd recommend using your 18-55 as a prime. Stick to 50mm for a day, go for a walk, and see how you go. Then the next day try sticking to 35mm. Then the next day try sticking to 30mm.

    You will then get more of an idea for how these focal lengths can work for you and which you prefer.

    Personally, on a crop sensor, I would have found 50mm too limiting and close. 35mm (which became 52.5mm equivalent) was about my limit. I find that I prefer 35mm on Full Frame. Me recommending any focal length to you is not the way to go though.

    Moving to a 50mm prime lens will make a big difference, if that's a focal length that you like. The different between f1.4 and f5-5.6 at that focal length on a crop sensor body gives you much shallower depth of field to play with. You'll be able to shoot a lot more creatively and into lower light.

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    Re: 50mm prime or 50mm on an 18-55. Dilemma + Dilemma.

    Phil makes some excellent points that are well worth considering.

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    Re: 50mm prime or 50mm on an 18-55. Dilemma + Dilemma.

    Quote Originally Posted by dubaiphil View Post
    A lot of people recommend buying a prime lens as it makes you more considered with your framing and compositions. This is true.
    Sorry Phil, but I disagree. I shoot zooms all the time - and framing and composition are every bit as important.

    If all one has is a fixed focal length prime then all one can shoot (and expect good results from) are scenes that suit that focal length -- and that in turn can be VERY limiting; remembering that the objective should be to have the tools necessary to capture any scene that the photographer finds desirable -- not to limit ones self to scenes that suit very narrow ranges due to hardware. And if one wishes to shoot a particular focal length most of the time then it's easy enough to dial that focal length into a zoom and just leave it there.

    Truth be known, I have more primes than zooms - but it's zooms that are on my cameras 95% of the time; the primes are really only specialist lenses (14mm (wider than any zoom), 90MM T&S, 85/1.2 (fast), and 135/2 (faster than the 2.8 zoom)).

  17. #17
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    Re: 50mm prime or 50mm on an 18-55. Dilemma + Dilemma.

    You know what I mean - zooming with your feet rather than with the lens, and all that!

    Besides, a prime lens doesn't limit you to a narrow range due to hardware. I have a 'portrait' prime which works well for me as a street telephoto, and I can isolate far more than a 70-200 with it if I so require. I've also used it for fast sports - you just need to think outside the box. Landscapes with a 200mm f2 - why not?

    Also, with a 50mm you can stitch a panorama together to represent far more accurately what the eye can see, rather than using an untra wide angle which will accentuate depth in the image.

    Having said all that, IMO a 50mm prime would be far too limiting on a crop sensor body
    Last edited by dubaiphil; 6th October 2012 at 10:07 AM.

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    Re: 50mm prime or 50mm on an 18-55. Dilemma + Dilemma.

    Quote Originally Posted by Melkus View Post
    the great Henri Cartier-Bresson used a 50mm lens almost exclusively for over 50 years so that tells you something.
    It tells me that he probably missed out on one heck of a lot of good shots that could only have been taken with lenses of different focal lengths!

    Seriously -- I can't for the life of me understand why someone would want to limit their opportunities so severely. In my mind, it's much like a mechanic who only has one size of spanner.

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    Re: 50mm prime or 50mm on an 18-55. Dilemma + Dilemma.

    Quote Originally Posted by dubaiphil View Post
    You know what I mean - zooming with your feet rather than with the lens, and all that!
    We do that to a degree with zooms as well; unfortunately though, often "2 steps back or 3 steps forward" may well put someone over a cliff or in the middle of a busy street. It can also introduce unacceptable degrees of perspective distortion as the ratio of sizes between foreground and background objects changes.

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    Re: 50mm prime or 50mm on an 18-55. Dilemma + Dilemma.

    With such a balanced view, Colin, which primes are you thinking of selling?!?!?!?!?!
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 6th October 2012 at 10:30 AM.

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