Please buy a 50mm lens

Have you ever been in an aquarium or dimly lit room with your Canon Rebel T1i, Nikon D5000 or any other DSLR and got blurry images. Ever wondered why? well its a big day for you, your about to find out why. The answer will change your life, You want the answer? well read on.

A camera’s sensor records light. Ever lens has a number which tells you how wide the lens opens to let in light. This doesn’t mean the lens is wide angle, it simply means at the back of the lens how big the opening are. Standard kit lens have F-stop (or f/ ) numbers of f/3.5 or f/4.5. For reference, professional photographers use lenses of f/2.8 to shoot sports.

Now with your f/3.5 or f/4.5 you can still take pictures where every things is standing still. This can be done by raising the ISO. The ISO adjusts the camera sensors sensitivity to light. This can be brought up to very high levels. However there is a compromise, the images will appear more “noisy”, this is to say have more grains on them. These take away from the image quality. Unless you are going for something artistic and film looking this is not what you want.

Another way that cameras can deal with darkness is with a flash. Now most non-pro DSLR’s have a built in flash. However this does not mean that your problems are solved. Using the built in flash limits your options because the flash is limited in where it can give light. Without using a speed-light flash you cannot bounce light throughout an entire room. Speed-light flashes (or strobes to some) allow you to fill a room with light. These are what you imagine a professional photographer or paparazzi having affixed to the top of their camera. Of course this is an option however it is increased bulk. If you are at a concert or a party you probably don’t want this option.

The fastest production lens in the world is f/0.95, it is made by a german company called Leica. Their lens named “Noctilux” and dubbed “king of the night” can take pictures in darkness. However their are a few serious deterrents  to you running out to your closest camera store and grabbing up one of these beauties. First, they are not sold everywhere. Second it can only be used with their M series cameras (which run $7,000 new). Third their M series provides superior optics and control meaning precise focus (what this really means is that its manual focus). Fourth, and this one is the kicker, it costs more than a new smart car. Thats right the “king of the night” will set you back $10,000 before tax.

So want a solution that is 1/100th of the cost? Yeah, you probably do, well here it comes, you ready? buy a 50mm lens. These gems are often dubbed nifty-fifties because of their versatility. Nikon, Canon (and other manufacturers) make these lenses with apertures of f/1.2 , f/1.4 and f/1.8 being quarter stops from each other you will not see much of a difference between them, f/1.4 is the standard. These lenses are everything you need for around $100. Again their is a catch (when isn’t there a catch?) they are a fixed focal length. This means you cannot zoom in and out with them. Many reviewers online will astutely and smugly observe “the zoom is your feet” or something to that affect. I have always found the way people have worded this to be obnoxious. However this is true…you want something to be bigger in the frame? get closer. You want a more panning shot move back away from your subject.

Every place that sells DSLR’s will  sell 50mm lenses for the cameras that they stock. When you buy your shiny new DSLR or pay your camera store a visit, I implore you to buy one of these lenses. So next time you are at a Jay-Z concert or visiting the aquarium or even out partying please pack one of these. It will stop you from being dumfounded when your pictures come out awful. Sorry about my rant, but admit it you know more now then you would have if you just read the exec. summary.


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