Which "Nifty" 50mm ?

Started Jul 21, 2011 | Discussions thread
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Re: Which "Nifty" 50mm ?
In reply to devoh, Jul 24, 2011

Hey Devoh,

All of the recommendation information you've received so far ought to help you make a lens choice--but something you wrote suggested (to me, anyway) something else to think about:

devoh wrote:

I'd love to have a nice fast lens that could help me avoid using flash.. but that being said I like sharpness..

If the critical problem, here, is that you don't like the look of the way your flash photographs are coming out, I'd argue that a fast prime isn't the best solution. Instead, consider re-thinking the way you've been using flash: It might be time to start bouncing flash if you're using one on-camera, or get it off the camera altogether.

For the price of a 50 f/1.4g, you could have an SB-900 speedlight. For a little more than the 50 f/1.8G, you could have an SB-700. Either of these options would allow you to use your D7000's built-in creative lighting system (CLS) commander for very credible off-camera lighting, and decent bounce-lit shots when used on-camera in many situations.

Ultimately, I'd argue that a speedlight is a far more flexible, creative, engaging tool than a new lens (even though a 50 prime is one of the most useful lenses to have in your kit). Particularly if you shoot photographs of people, off-camera lighting will take your art and the quality of your photographs to a whole new level. It's hard and maybe even somewhat unfair to generalize, but I'd still argue that the use of off-camera lighting is one of those essential, pivotal characteristics that separates lots of really "snapshoty" photographs from compelling, artistic, professional work.

A "nifty" fifty will help you shoot in lower light, and it'll allow you interesting latitude with depth of field and selective focus--all good things. But if wanting to avoid flash or not liking the "look" of on-board flash photography is the root of your problems, I have a hunch that a "nifty" fifty won't go far enough to solve them. f/1.8 is only 2 stops away from the f/3.5 of wide end of the D7000's kit 18-105 VR; it might be enough to get you into higher quality ISOs and faster shutter speeds, or it might not. Shooting at 1/125 with a 50 is probably the minimum "high-keeper-rate" shutter speed on DX, so if your interior ambient lighting had you at 1/8 or 1/16 at ISO 3200 with the kit 18-105VR, you'll still be on the edge with the "nifty" fifty at ISO 6400. And that's assuming you can nail the focus wide open (or nearly so, were you to get an f/1.4 design), which takes some practice, too.

(Some credible folks around here (Anothermike comes to mind), argue that the D7000's viewfinder "phase-detect" focus doesn't really have the precision to hit focus consistently with apertures faster than f/2 or f/2.8. My experience corroborates that. Of course, the D7000's live-view "contrast detect" system can nail wide aperture focus easily--but it's slower and not particularly suitable for action / candid shots.)

So: give a CLS speedlight some thought--they're easy to learn and work incredibly well, on camera or off. Websites like "Strobist.com" or even Joe McNally's blog will have you shooting off-camera speedlights and exercising real lighting creativity in no time at all. Take a look at the possibilities (following McNally's work, particularly, is a good way to dream).

Food for thought, anyway.

Cheers!

M.

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