What’s my go-to lens?

One question I get a lot is “what lens should I buy?” In reality, that’s a pretty broad question with a lot of possible answers. It really depends on what you are photographing and ultimately, your desired look for the photographs. If we are talking about photographing your day to day life however, I do have one go-to lens. When I think about a lens I am always reaching for it’s my 50mm lens. This lens is so versatile for reasons which I’ll outline below. Not only is it versatile, but when it comes to lenses, it’s pretty inexpensive. That to me is a big bonus considering how much you’ve probably already invested in your camera.

1. The Price point –

Let’s face it. Photography is an expensive hobby to have or business to run. You go out and buy yourself an awesome camera and realize you need to buy just as awesome a lens. You start looking around at lenses and see that a lot of what you want, costs more than the camera! Sticker shock am I right? It was a harsh realization, at least for me. You can go out an get yourself a great 50mm 1.8 lens for roughly $200. This is my lens of choice. You’ll see below some of the reasons I can’t live without it.

2. The bokeh

Oh how I love bokeh! If you haven’t heard that term before, bokeh by definition is the effect seen in the out of focus areas of an image. Pleasing bokeh is generally smooth and does not distract from the subject of your photo. We often think of bokeh as balls of light. Think Christmas time with blurred twinkling lights in the background. That, in my opinion, is bokeh in the most recognized form. Bokeh can be so much more than that though. It can blur your background which really makes your subject pop. It creates a separation from your subject and what’s behind it almost creating a painterly quality. You can create this affect with wide apertures, such as those available on a 50mm prime lens. 

Bokeh example 50mm nikkor 1.8, Copyright Cristina Elisa Photography LLC, Maryland Botanical Photographer

Taken with my Nikon D610 at f/2 | ss 1/800 | ISO 400

Bokeh works as a great tool to create focus on your subject. Take a look at the following example. At f/16 the background is in focus. I chose this background for this example since it has so much going on. It’s a simple pattern indeed, but at the same time, it is so busy! Notice the difference between these two images. They are of the same things, seconds apart, just with different settings. The first image makes me a little dizzy, not gonna lie! I don’t really know where to look because there is so much movement in this pattern. However, while the background has just as much going on in the second photo, it is so subdued. Creating a blurred background shows me that my subject was the flower. That’s where I’m meant to be looking and that’s what this image is all about.

small aperture example, Cristina Elisa Photography LLC, Photography educator Maryland

Taken with my Nikon D610 at f/16 | ss 1/160 | ISO 800

wide aperture bokeh example, Cristina Elisa Photography LLC, Photography Educator Maryland

Taken with my Nikon D610 at f/2.0 | ss 1/2500 | ISO 320

3. The Aperture

With a wide max aperture, the 50mm 1.8 lets you capture things your kit lens cannot. A kit lens is simply a lens that is bundled with your camera. When you shop for DSLR cameras, you can either buy “body only” or in a kit or bundle. A kit lens that comes to mind is the 18-55mm zoom. While it’s nice to have only one lens on the body and be able to zoom in and out, the drawback is the aperture. A standard kit lens will have max apertures between say 3.5 & 5.6. On my 50mm I have to go 6 stops before I reach an aperture of 3.5. That’s a lot of extra light! If you are ever shooting indoors or in low light situations, those extra stops will be invaluable. I will take a wide aperture any day over a zoom. I can simply zoom with my feet by taking a few steps forward or a few steps backward. The wide aperture is also what makes that pretty bokeh I mentioned in #2 possible.

4. It is small and light

Goodness me does it get tiring to walk around all day with a big heavy lens. Picture it, Disney World, it’s sweltering hot out (do you see I’m channeling my inner Sophia Petrillo here?) and your walking all…. day… long, carrying not just your camera, which is pretty weighty itself, but a two pound zoom lens on it. That gets heavy over time, believe me. My 50mm weighs just over 6oz. It really does not add noticeable weight to my camera and it also adds very little bulk. That comes in handy getting on and off of all those rides! My family and I went to Disney World last year and I was really torn about what lens to take. The logical side of me said bring just one lens, bring a prime, and I’m so glad I did. I will have to create a fun post one day with examples of all you can capture with one simple lens at Disney!

Nikkor 50mm 1.8

5. It is a great portrait lens

It’s said that a 50mm focal length is very close to how our eyes perceive things. I would have to agree with that. I often take portraits with this lens and find they look true to life. The lens is also very sharp. Just take a look at the sample images below and look at the eyes. I don’t think the focus could be more precise. It’s a fast lens which means the wide aperture allows for faster shutter speeds. Combine the speed with sharp focus and the fact that it’s light weight and you have got yourself one heck of a lens for portraits. If you are a mom like me, you know that kids won’t wait for your shutter. Carrying around extra bulk while you are chasing them never helps either!

50mm portrait example, Cristina Elisa Photogrpahy LLC, Photography educator Maryland

This photo was taken using my Nikon D610 at f/3.2 | ss 1/640 | ISO 200

50mm portrait example, Cristina Elisa Photogrpahy LLC, Photography educator Maryland


These are just a few of the reasons you’ll often hear this lens called the nifty fifty. Go out and get one and have fun!! You won’t regret it. I’d love to see your work with it too. Tag @filmgirldigitalworld on Instagram and show me what you’ve been working on!


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