Trip The Plastic Fantastic
No, I’m not talking about anything nefarious, (although I can be available to do so for a modest fee,) I’m talking about my nifty fifty lens, or “niddy fiddy” as I don’t believe anyone with firing synapses or over the age of twenty says.
When I get interested in something, I tend to do a lot of reading around the subject and, where possible, talk to people who know more than me about it. In terms of buying a new lens, everything I read and everyone I talked to said to buy a 50mm lens. A 50mm f/1.8 can be picked up for under £100, which is pretty cheap for a lens, especially one that is capable of taking some beautiful shots. The large aperture allows for dreamy, shallow depth-of-field shots, where the subject is isolated against a blurred, bokeh background, or maybe even parts of the subject itself drop off into blur.
The first thing I noticed about the 50mm was that it was very light, due to being made of plastic. I believe the 50mm f/1.4‘s construction is sturdier, but at around £300, it’s also three times the price.
The second thing I noticed was how noisy it was, compared to the 18-55mm kit lens that came with my camera. That came as something of a shock, considering that kit lenses are not known for being high quality. When the fifty had trouble locking on using autofocus, there was a definite *SHONK, SHONK” as the lens hit its two focus extremes while trying to fix on a subject. This is part due to my camera (A Canon 550D,) having only one cross-type AF point, so moving to one of the other eight AF points runs the risk of not finding a definite edge to lock on to, resulting in the aforementioned onomatopoeia. Using the centre point results in less ‘shonking’, but then requires the ‘focus and recompose’ technique, which works well, providing the distance you are shooting from doesn’t change – which even tilting the camera down and back up again can do. It might only be a few centimetres or millimetres, but when working with very shallow depth of field, it can be the difference between the subject being in focus or not, or the wrong part of the subject being in focus. With people, it’s generally regarded as best to have the eyes in sharp focus, unless you are focussing on a different part deliberately for effect, so a shot with a pin-sharp nose but blurred eyes might not be what you are looking for.
The last thing I noticed about my fifty, is that it’s never been off my camera since I bought it.
Here’s some of my favourites taken with the fifty: