A nifty fifty lens is the colloquial name given to a 50mm prime camera lens with a wide aperture. At this focal length, the field of view is very similar to what we see through our eyes. This means images have little to no distortion and have a familiar feel to them. Nifty fifty lenses are often very affordable, making them a popular recommendation to pick up as one of the first lenses to attach to your camera.
Nifty Fifty Lens Benefits
If you’re wondering about the benefits of owning a nifty fifty, I’ve got six reasons why you should have one of these lenses in your arsenal. Read through them and you’ll understand why this lens has its own name and is an essential piece of photography equipment for your DSLR or mirrorless camera.
Shallow Depth of Field
Most nifty fifty lenses have a maximum aperture somewhere between f/1.2 and f/2.0, creating dreamy bokeh outside of whatever is in focus. This makes these lenses a great option for portrait photographers that want to separate their subjects from the background or get creative with selective focus.
With such low f-stops available on nifty fifty lenses, you’ll be able to let in a lot of light when shooting with them wide open. This is important for low-light situations while shooting indoors or at night. The lower the f-stop on the lens, the more light the lens lets through to hit the sensor and the less you’ll need to increase your shutter speed or ISO setting to get a proper exposure. While I worked shooting event photography, a nifty fifty was an essential lens to have with me to capture nightclub scenes where there’s very little ambient light.
Nifty fifty lenses are typically one of the most affordable prime lenses available on all camera systems. This is because there are less moving parts and the build materials may be plastic rather than metal. I’ll include some examples down below so that you can see just how cheap these lenses are. If you’re new to photography or just switched to another brand’s camera body, a nifty fifty lens is a great choice to buy right off the bat. While you should always choose the lens that matches your style of photography, a 50mm lens is versatile enough to shoot everything from landscapes to portraits while you save for more expensive glass.
Since the nifty fifty lens is a prime lens, most models are small in size and lightweight, especially if they are made of plastic. Compact prime lenses are a great way to blend into crowds while shooting on vacation. Most tourist sites are littered with people toting giant lenses attached to DSLR cameras. Not only does this frighten some people getting in your shot, there are also times where photography is discouraged and you need to be a bit more discreet. Not to mention, you probably won’t be as attractive a target to thieves.
As I touched on above, the 50mm focal length works for many styles of photography. While landscape photography is typically shot with ultra wide angle or wide angle lenses, you can still capture incredible landscape images that make the viewer feel like they can walk right into them. If you shoot portraits, the shallow depth of field helps you get tack sharp eyes while the background is beautifully blurred. For everyday shooting, you often have the flexibility to move around, so you can frame your shot by moving closer or further away from your subject—making the focal length a little less important.
Sharpness and Image Quality
Nifty fifty lenses are praised for all the points above, while still delivering fantastic results in terms of image quality. Even wide open, many nifty fifty lenses are very sharp and will blow you away. You may be tempted to bundle your camera purchase with a kit lens, but you’ll likely find a 50mm lens to be a much wiser choice to go along with your body. If in doubt, check out the sharpness scores recorded on DxOMark and you’ll notice nifty fifty lenses excel in this department.
Best Nifty Fifty Lenses
In this section, I’ll be reviewing a few of the best nifty fifty lenses on the market for several camera brands. Before we begin, I wanted to bring up an important point about focal lengths and sensor sizes.
The nifty fifty is 50mm for a full frame camera sensor. When you are shopping for a nifty fifty lens to go on your APS-C camera, you’ll typically be looking for a 35mm focal length. This is roughly the equivalent to a focal length of 50mm on full frame. If you were to buy a 50mm lens designed for your APS-C camera, the equivalent focal length would be 75mm, which is less versatile. What about micro four thirds crop sensor cameras? For those, you’ll be looking for 25mm focal length lenses as your equivalent nifty fifty.
Beside each model name in the list below, I’ve labeled the sensor size and mount to make it easy for you to find the right nifty fifty for your camera.
Best Nifty Fifty Lenses for Sony
Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 – Full Frame/E Mount
This Sony FE 50mm F1.8 lens is a great addition to any photographer's kit. It is lightweight and compact, making it easy to take with you on the go. The lens delivers excellent image quality, with sharp detail and minimal distortion. It is also very affordable, making it a great option for beginner photographers.
Rokinon 50mm f/1.2 – Full Frame/E Mount
The Rokinon 50mm F1.2 AS UMC is an affordable lens designed for Sony E Mount cameras. With a maximum aperture of just f/1.2, you'll be able to deliver stunning images with beautiful bokeh without breaking the bank.
Sony SEL35F18 – APS-C/E Mount
The Sony SEL35F18 is a light and fast 35mm lens that offers great image quality for its price. This lens is perfect for travel, street photography, and general everyday use. The SEL35F18 has a powerful autofocus system that makes it easy to capture sharp images even in low light conditions.
Rokinon 35mm F1.8 – APS-C/E Mount
Best Nifty Fifty Lenses for Canon
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM – Full Frame/EF Mount
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens is a great choice for anyone looking for a fast 50mm lens. The f/1.4 aperture allows for great low light shooting and the USM motor provides fast and accurate autofocus. This lens also features Canon's excellent build quality, making it a great option for both professional and amateur shooters.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM – Full Frame/EF Mount
Claimed the world's best-selling lens, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens is an affordable lens owned by may professional photographers. If you have a Canon EF Mount camera and are looking for a quality lens, grab this nifty fifty and never look back.
Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM – Full Frame/RF Mount
Canon's RF 50mm f/1.8 STM is a prime lens with a focal length of 50mm and an aperture of f/1.8. It's designed for use with Canon's EOS R camera system and features an STM motor for smooth and quiet autofocus operation. The RF 50mm f/1.8 STM also has a seven-blade aperture for pleasing out-of-focus highlights, and is dust and moisture resistant.
Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM – APS-C/EF Mount
The Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM lens is is a bright lens for EF Mount cameras, offering image stabilization, solid build quality, and great image quality Its USM delivers quick, yet accurate autofocusing. Get this if you want a compact 35mm lens for your lens collection.
Best Nifty Fifty Lenses for Nikon
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G – Full Frame/FX Mount
The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G lens is a great addition to anyone's camera bag. It is perfect for portraits, landscapes and everyday shooting. The f/1.8 aperture allows for beautiful background blur and the autofocus ensures that your shots are always in focus. This lens is also lightweight and durable, making it this nifty fifty lens the perfect travel companion.
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G – Full Frame/FX Mount
The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G is a fast prime lens that is great for portraits, low-light photography, and general shooting. The lens has a Silent Wave Motor for quick and quiet autofocus, and a wider aperture of f/1.4 compared to the Nikkor f/1.8G model. The optics are superb, with stunning sharpness and contrast.
YONGNUO YN50mm F1.8N – Full Frame/FX Mount
The YONGNUO YN50mm F1.8N lens is about as good as it gets when you look at affordable nifty fifty lenses for Nikon. If you don't have much cash to spare and are after a 50mm lens that works well for portraits or low-light situations, definitely consider this Nikon lens.
NIKON NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S – Full Frame/Z Mount
The Nikon Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S lens is a great option for Z Mount camera owners looking to pick up a nifty fifty lens. It has seals to protect against dust and moisture, while also taking advantage of VR-enabled Z cameras' in-camera image stabilization for up to 5 stops of vibration reduction when you need lower shutter speeds.
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G – APS-C/DX Mount
The Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G is a fantastic lens for both beginner photographers and professionals. It has a 50mm equivalent focal length on Nikon APS-C sensor cameras and a maximum aperture of f/1.8—perfect for landscapes, street, low-light, and portrait photography. Its compact size and light weight make it a great lens to toss in your travel bag.
Best Nifty Fifty Lenses for Fujifilm
Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 R WR – APS-C/X Mount
The Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 R WR lens is a prime lens that has a focal length of 35mm and a maximum aperture of f/2. This lens is made for the Fujifilm X-series of cameras and is designed to be weather resistant. The lens has an angle of view of 44.3 degrees, and it is capable of producing sharp images with great color and contrast. The lens is also built with a metal barrel and a manual focus ring, which makes it feel sturdy in your hand.
- Lightweight and portable
- Weather resistant
- Wide f/2 max aperture
- No optical image stabilization
Fujifilm XF35mmF1.4 R – APS-C/X Mount
The Fujinon XF35mm f1.4 is a great lens for street photography and general use. It has a fast aperture of f1.4, which allows you to shoot in low light conditions and create shallow depth of field effects. The lens is also compact and lightweight, making it easy to carry around with you. The build quality is excellent, and the autofocus system is very fast and accurate. Overall, the XF35mm f1.4 is a great lens that delivers excellent results.
- Popular focal length for street photography and everyday usage
- Fast maximum aperture of f/1.4
- Lightweight and compact
- No weather sealing
- No optical image stabilization
Best Nifty Fifty Lens for Olympus
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 25mm F1.8 – Micro Four Thirds Mount
This lens is a great choice for anyone looking for an affordable prime lens. The M.Zuiko Digital 25mm F1.8 lens has a fast aperture of f/1.8, which makes it perfect for shooting in low-light conditions. It is also very lightweight and compact, making it easy to take with you on your travels. This lens delivers superb image quality, thanks to its advanced optical design and high-quality construction.
Well I hope you enjoyed this guide to nifty fifty lenses and walk away feeling a bit more knowledgeable. Hopefully you also have a better idea of which lens to purchase for your specific camera after reading through the numerous recommendations and reviews of the 50mm lenses above for Sony, Canon, Nikon, Fujifilm, and Olympus. If you’re still on the fence, you’ll be happy to know that I’m currently developing a lens finder tool that’ll help you narrow down your choices quickly. More on that real soon!