Monday, December 27, 2010

My Nifty Fifty

In previous posts where I've mentioned Depth of Field (or Depth of Focus), I'm sure I've bemoaned the lack of aperture in my standard kit lenses?  Well now I have my 'Nifty Fifty' with an additional 3 f-stops (taking me from f/5.6 at 55mm on my 18-55 zoom, to f/1.8 on the 50mm), so there is more opportunity for bigger and better things, DOF-wise... (and bokeh, and hand-held low-light shots, etc.)

So what is a 'Nifty Fifty'?
Basically, it's a 'prime' lens with a fixed focal length of 50mm.  Prime lenses have a fixed focal length such as 50mm, as opposed to zoom lenses, that have variable focal lengths, such as 18-55mm.  Prime lenses usually have better maximum aperture than the equivalent focal-length on a zoom lens.

And why is it 50mm?
Well, when combined with a full frame dSLR or a 35mm film SLR, the 50mm lens approximates the field of view of the human eye.  This made the 50mm lens a very popular choice in the pre-digital days.  Now, with entry level dSLR cameras having sensors that are smaller than a 35mm film negative, the size difference impacts on the 'effective' focal-length of the lens.  This size difference gives an adjustment factor of around 1.5 to 1.6, which makes the 50mm lens behave approximately the same as a 75mm lens on a 35mm film SLR.  This is a pretty good focal length for portrait work, so the nifty fifty has found a new niche as a portrait lens with entry level digital photographers - like me.

Giving it a go...
Anyway, I gave it a few tries this morning - keeping it seasonal of course.  Obviously, I wanted to use the full power of the f/1.8 aperture, and focus as close as possible for maximum effect.  I set the camera up on the tripod, set to aperture priority and f/1.8, and focused at the minimum distance (45cm).  Then I hunted around the Christmas tree for a suitable bauble to capture. Initially, I tried with no lights, just to see how much light f/1.8 would capture - it worked, but today was a bit overcast and even with f/1.8, the image was 1/10 second and the bauble was moving very slightly after I accidentally knocked the tree while setting up the camera, so I got a little motion blur (you can't see it at this size, but it's there when you zoom in - trust me).

Then I turned on the tree lights to help decrease the shutter time, and also to provide a bit of bokeh (though you can see some already from the natural light in the picture above).  I love this cute little snowman peeping out from inside one of the balls.

I'm struggling a little with the manual focus at the moment, but I'm sure it'll come with practice, otherwise I'm loving my new lens, and looking forward to the opportunities it will open up for me (no more excuses, eh?)

Till next time
Happy Snappin...


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