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.
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.
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 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.
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