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Good ‘Ol Standby: The 50mm

January 30, 2007 by David Perry  
Filed under David Perry, Sports, Web/Camera Tech

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I often advise amateurs who want an interchangeable lens camera to NOT buy the 50mm lens that often comes with it. The “normal” focal length lens isn’t nearly as useful as a room filling wide angle or a moderate telephoto. Well, the camera manufacturers have gotten the message in the last few years and are offering cheap, but slow zooms (say, maybe a 18mm to 85mm ) with their entry level single lens reflexes. They are of limited use indoors without flash, as the 85mm end usually has a f5.6 maximum aperture. But going against my own advice, I still have a 50mm f1.8 in the camera bag. My professional f2.8 80-200 and 17-35mm zooms sometimes aren’t fast enough. Which brings me to last Saturday’s swim meet:

(Seth Broster, Tates Creek, winner of 100 yd. butterfly)
The Fayette County Public Schools Swim Meet was held at Transy. Normally, the skylights offer really great light, but not last Saturday, and not at 5pm with a thick cloud cover. I was pushing the limit of my Nikon D2-H, trying to shoot 1/250th at f.28 at 1250 ISO, and even THAT was yielding underexposed frames. I finally gave up and attached the 50mm 1.8. That yielded an action stopping 1/500th /sec. at 1.8 at 1250 ISO. Now, luckily, butterfly swimmers come up for air often and so this shot (above) was within a reasonable distance of the 50mm. The freesyle event photos weren’t so good. Of course, when action is difficult technically, you can always shoot reaction (bottom photo) with a slower, longer lens. (1/200th, ISO 1250, f2.8. 80-200 zoon at 145mm. Auto white balance.)

(Kelsey Floyd, Tates Creek, winner of 100 yd. butterfly)
One other thing about the 50mm: if you don’t want to spring the big bucks for a maco closeup lens, try buying a closeup lens filter for the 50mm. Several of our staff photogs are doing just that. We never know when we will need macro capability for copying, nature, food, etc. in the field.

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One Response to “Good ‘Ol Standby: The 50mm”
  1. Alison says:

    Very interesting. We have a 50mm f 1.8 lens, and I’ve used it a bit, but I like the flexibility that my 18-55 kit lens gives me.

    Of course, I am just an amateur shooting with my D50. I sense it’s time to push my boundaries a bit…

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