What does a 50mm lens look like for portraits: Hanna portrait samples

What does it look like using a 50mm lens for portraits

What does it look like to use a 50mm lens for portraits? In this portrait shoot, I wanted to answer the following question.

Check out the sample gallery below and see if this prime lens focal length is right for you.

What does it look like to shoot with a 50mm lens

A 50mm prime lens is a common portrait photography lens that gives you a similar field of view as the human eyes.

Each eye is around 23mm and combined this is close to a 50mm field of view. This is what users can expect from using this or lenses close to this focal range.

soft light with 50mm lens portrait
Hanna on the bed | Photo shot with Sony a7riii camera | Sony 55mm f1.8 Lens | 1/125 sec | ISO 250 | @f1.8 | natural light only | white balance auto
what does shooting with 50mm lens look like
Model tipping her hat | Photo shot with Sony a7riii camera | Sony 55mm f1.8 Lens | 1/200 sec | ISO 160 | @f2.5 | natural light only | white balance auto

Using a 50mm (55mm) for Portraits

In this sample portrait shoot with my good friend Hanna, I used my Sony 55mm f1.8 lens. I wanted to give you an idea of what type of photos you can get with a 50mm lens.

I know the 55mm is not an exact 50mm, but this is a really close focal length and the only 50mm that I currently own. So enjoy.

Why do they call the 50mm a nifty-fifty

The 50mm lens is often referred to as a “nifty-fifty” due to the versatility and features of the lens. The 50mm focal range is suitable for many styles of photography including portraits.

It’s wide enough to allow you to capture environmental portraits but also lets you get close up shots as well. The 50mm has minimal distortion so your subjects will not look stretched out like close up shots with a 35mm.

All camera manufactures, as well as third-party lens manufactures, have budget friendly versions of a 50mm. Do your research and find a 50mm in your budget range. You won’t regret it.

Sony 55mm f1.8 lens
Sony 55mm f1.8 Lens

Why choose a 50mm for portraits

Beginner photographers with limited budgets will want a versatile lens when ready to upgrade from a standard kit lens.

The 50mm is often the first choice when upgrading to a more professional style lens that offers larger and faster apertures.

You can find a 50mm in many budget friendly options along with higher end versions for more professional applications.

Behind the Scenes video shoot with Hanna

Is a 50mm prime lens good for beginners

I think the 50mm is a smart choice for beginner photographers. If you’re still trying to learn what style of photography is right for you, the 50mm is a good middle-of-the-road choice.

The 50mm will give you a good range of options when shooting portraits. This focal range has less distortion than a 35mm and more options in areas with limited space.

You don’t have to back-up as far with a 50mm versus an 85mm lens to get wider shots.

Can you get close up shots with a 50mm prime lens

You can get close up shots with a 50mm lens depending on the minimum focal distance. This is the minimum distance required for the lens to focus.

The Sony 55mm has a minimum focusing distance of 1.64 feet or 50cm. This allows for some fairly close images will maximizing bokeh or background blur at an aperture of f1.8 or even f2.8.

Sony 55mm f1.8 lens on Sony a7riii

Sony nifty-fifty price comparisons

Sony currently has four native 50mm prime lenses in its current lineup. These do not include third-part options like Tamron or Sigma for the purposes of this comparison. I kept this a list of native lenses to the Sony e-mount lineup.

These prime lenses include:

  • Sony 50mm f1.8 FE lens – $198.00
  • Sony 50mm f2.8 FE macro lens – $498.00
  • Sony Zeiss 55mm f1.8 FE Lens – $898.00
  • Sony Planar 50mm f1.4 FE Lens – $1,498.00

What to expect when shooting portraits with a 50mm lens

From the start, you will find the 50mm focal length very familiar. It is a standard prime with a focal length that is similar to your own two eyes.

Since this a prime lens, you will need to zoom with your feet unless your camera has a digital zoom feature.

Be sure to keep in mind the minimum focus distance of your 50mm lens. This will limit just how close you can get to your subject before the lens has trouble catching focus. May 50mm lenses are not meant for macro photography, but they will give you a close focus distance for portraits.

If you are shooting with a wide aperture like f1.4 or f1.8, be sure to check your portraits after each shot. The small shallow depth of field might capture focus on the eyes but leave the tip of the nose and ears out of focus.

example of harsh light on face with 50mm lens
Hanna with light streak across face | Photo shot with Sony a7riii camera | Sony 55mm f1.8 Lens | 1/1,000 sec | ISO 160 | @f1.8 | natural light only | white balance auto

Drawbacks of shooting with a 50mm lens

Like all lenses, the 50mm focal length can have some draw-backs. For example, the Sony 55mm suffers from bad chromatic aberrations. This is the green or purple fringing that happens when shooting in high contrast areas. This can be adjusted in post-production but it’s something to keep in mind.

Also, the 50mm is considered a “middle of the road” lens. This means it may not have special characteristics such as the 35mm or the 85mm when it comes to portraits. Some photographers consider it a “boring” lens since it is so close to what you normally see very-day.

Also, pricing can vary depending on your camera system, but larger aperture lenses such as an f1.2 or f1.4 can be very pricey. Make sure to do your research or consider used copies as an alternative option.

Should you get a 50mm lens

Yes, I believe every photographer should own a 50mm lens for their collection. I started portrait photography with the Sony 55mm f1.8 Zeiss lens and I have never looked back. After 5+ years of shooting portraits, this lens is still in my collection.

55mm (50mm) Lens Portrait Examples

window light with sony portrait lens 55mm
Window light portrait shot | Photo taken with Sony a7riii camera and Sony 55mm f1.8 Lens | 1/200 sec | ISO 160 | @f1.8 | natural light only | white balance auto

shooting fashion shot with 50mm lens close up with window light and 55mm lens from sony foreground bokeh with 50mm lens portrait example close up portrait example with 50mm lens

hanna sitting on bed portrait shot example 50mm lens
Close up model shot with 50mm lens | Photo taken with Sony a7riii camera and Sony 55mm f1.8 Lens | 1/125 sec | ISO 250 | @f1.8 | natural light only | white balance auto

blue eyed model hanna portrait shot with 55mm lens 55mm lens portrait fashion shoot can you shoot portraits with 50mm lens soft window light with 50mm portrait lens fashion style portrait shot with 50mm lens hanna in lifestyle pose with 50mm lens is 50mm a good lens for portraits is 50mm close enough for portraits is 50mm lens too wide for portraits lazy day pose with hanna by the window mirror reflection portrait with 50mm lens from sony natuaral light portrait example with 50mm lens natural window light shot with open on 50mm lens resting by the window with 50mm lens portraits shooting lifestyle photo with 50mm lens should you use a 50mm lens for portraits Sony 55mm lens portrait example staring out the window with hanna portrait shoot what to expect from 50mm lens shot with 50mm lens hanna on couch sitting on the bed with hanna and portrait shot


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