Do you need a Nifty Fifty Lens?

nifty 50 lens


A what you say?  Where have you been hiding out!

What is a Nifty Fifty Lens?

The Nifty 50 refers to a 50mm prime lens which is considered a portrait lens on most entry level DLSRs such as the Canon rebel series or the Nikon D3100 or Sony Alpha range.

Do I need it?Mollie nifty 50

If you are a beginner photographer and your main subject is your kids you will undoubtedly compare your pictures to those of the pro photographers that you have paid in the past to come and photograph your kiddos.

You want to be able to recreate those same types of photographs with your own DSLR.  You can get junior to smile and pose and look super cute but what you you REALLY want to know is how to get that BLURRY background like the pro did.  The lovely creamy background where it doesn’t matter whereabouts you shoot, your subject stands out, pin sharp against a soft out-of-focus creamy, dreamy background.

Well over half of my students come to me with this woe – “How to I get a blurry background?”


All about the f stops

As they learn a little bit about shooting out of auto mode they discover the concept of Aperture and learn that by controlling the Aperture, they control the depth of field, hence they have the ability to create a blurry background!

Nifty 50 aperture shot

Hurrah!  They’ve cracked it.  They’ve discovered they key…that is, until they try to shoot at a wide aperture with their camera’s kit lens – i.e. the lens that comes with the camera.  No matter how wide the open the aperture – usually f/4, the cannot achieve the blurry backgrounds they dream of.  Their photos still look flat compared with those shot by the pro.  Sound familiar?

So what gives?

Well, the main big difference between your shots and the Pro’s shots is most likely choice of lens.  And that’s where the  so-called nifty 50 comes in to play.  The nifty 50 is a 50mm Prime lens i.e. it it has a fixed focal length of 50mm and therefore doesn’t zoom.  If you want to get closer you gotta move your feet! This focal length of  50 mm is a nice distance for portraiture photography on entry level DSLRS and you’ll often hear it referred to as a portrait lens. But this is not where the secret lies.  The best thing about the nifty 50 is that is has an extremely wide open maximum aperture which means it will give you a much blurrier (is that even a word?) background than your standard kit lens.

Consider my fancy slide below:

Aperture slide for nifty 50

Aperture ratings

Most kit lenses can only open the aperture to somewhere between f/3.5 and f/5.6, depending on the focal length in use.  In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a wide open aperture at all.

Our friendly nifty 50 however comes in 3 versions with a f 1.8, f 1.4 and f 1.2 maximum apertures for most camera brands.  These are considerably more open that the kit lens, allowing you to photograph inside in natural light with out the aid of flash, and more  importantly for this discussion, rendering a beautiful creamy blurry background.

That’s the key!  Use the best lens for the job and you’ll get the results that you are after.  The camera is only half the story…

I need to get one!

And the other awesome thing about the nifty 50?  It’s probably the cheapest bit of photography gear you’re likely to purchase.  Most pros shoot with either the f1.4 or the f1.2 but you can nab a f1.8 (like me!) for about $100. (Be sure to check out your own camera’s compatibility with any lens before you buy)

And trust me, you will blow yourself away with the results. Pin sharp, works in low light with beautify blurry backgrounds.  So what are you waiting for? Go grab one today!

Happy Snapping


P.S. The nifty 50 is such good value that it is one of the only lenses I recommend buying new – your can check it out on Amazon for the best deals.

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About the Author

Ingrid Owens

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Awesome post!
I don’t have a DSLR as of now but surely it did make me wiser! :)


Awesome post!
I don’t have a DSLR as of now but surely it did make me wiser! :)
Well I’m trying to convince my dad to get a Canon 550D soon!


Yes, 50mm lens can be your best friend if you’re into portraits and portability! I bought one for my Canon 550D and I use it most if the time because it’s lightweight and love the blurry background effect.

Jennifer Stein

This is a simple and informative post. I love my 50mm and it’s the lens I recommend to people most. When they ask why I’ll send them here. Thanks for the great post.


Thanks for the comment Jennifer! My goal here is try to keep it simple and leave the convoluted technical terminology to other folks. Loved your 365 project btw. I can hardly keep up with my own Take 52 project – couldn’t commit to 365.

Jennifer Stein

I didn’t know what I was getting into with the 365 – but I learned so much. I created a smaller project for myself – 40 Friday Photos – so I could even skip a week and not get behind.

You’re doing a great thing with this blog. I just found it and will keep up with it.


I just got one this week and I love it!

لپ تاپ

great job Ingrid

very helpful tips mate
thanks for sharing

لپ تاپ

great job Ingrid

very helpful tips mate

thank for god blog…

لپ تاپ قسطی

great blog thanks so much for sharing.

Christy Harper

Love mine. I try not to go anywhere with out my nifty 50 :)


I am selling a Nikkor 50mm 1.8 lens if anyone is interested. I bought it new from amazon about a year ago and decided to upgrade to the 1.4 50mm.


It’s so light and easy to carry too Christy – makes it easy to take along.

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