» Wazari Wazir Photographer Blog, Malaysian Photographer

Which Lens To Buy?

© 2010 Wazari Wazir | A Portrait

First things first, If you are a millionaire photographer, please skip this article, don’t waste your time here deciding which lens to buy, since you have a lot of money to spend but if you are just regular photographer like me which must make a hard decision to save our hard earn money then read on. Here I will discuss just about two favorite portrait lens, 50mm and 85mm lens. For this shot I use Nikkor 50mm f1.4 lens, much cheaper than legendary Nikkor 85mm f1.4 lens. Here I will discuss about this two lens, 85mm and 50mm and why I choose 50mm compared to 85mm.

I do have a hard time when deciding which lens to buy, I already have 50mm f1.8, which I bought the very second day my son HaiQal was born. The number one reason why I bought this lens is just to photograph my son, that is my first 50mm lens and after more than two years using those lens, I think it is time to upgrade and I spent quite a long time thinking which lens to buy, 85mm f1.8 comes into my mind since I already have 50mm.

After deep thought I go for 50mm f1.4, I need the speed and f1.4 give me extra speed compared to f1.8 and just to let you know I use Nikon D200 which not very good at high ISO, I seldom use more than ISO 200 when photographing my son, I’ve try shooting with ISO 400 on my Nikon D200 but I just could not accept the visible noise that it produce. If you already have a camera which is very good at high ISO then you don’t really need a fast lens, just push the ISO and not worry about the noise.

My number one reason when making a decision buying 50mm compared to 85mm is flexibility. I need the flexibility, the picture above is impossible to get if I use 85mm lens, it was very close when I take that shot, just about an arm length, you need extra space or distance when using 85mm lens. When people ask me which lens to buy, whether 50mm or 85mm for portraiture shot, I will ask them back, how often will they  use the lens to shoot outdoor, if most of the time they will be shooting outdoor, in the field, open space, then get the 85mm lens which will be great at throwing out the background out of focus and make the person you photograph stand out. You need quite a distance when using 85mm lens photographing people.

But on the other hand if you spent most of your time shooting indoor, like in the house, building, mosque or anything that you  need to get close to the subject due to cramped or small space then get the 50mm lens, for wedding shots, I highly suggest  50mm lens, you will not be able to use 85mm effectively in a small room because you need that extra space or distance to focus, same goes to photographer who like to travel, I highly suggest to get the 50mm lens compared to 85mm lens, 50mm  is small and lighter than the 85mm lens and most of time when traveling you will spent most of your time shooting indoor, in the mosque, historical building, temple or maybe in someone house.

When traveling you don’t need that BOKEH, instead you will try as much as you can to include the background, the environment so people will know where you are, in front of Taj Mahal or Eiffel Tower, so forget about BOKEH when traveling. You don’t need much BOKEH when traveling, 50mm will do just fine for throwing out the background in case you need it.

You can use 50mm comfortably when traveling and speaking about shooting portrait when traveling there is an add advantage when using 50mm lens compared to 85mm, unless you shoot candid of peoples on the street or peoples at work, that is different matter. Why I said 50mm is better when taking portrait during traveling? It is because you can get close to the person you photograph, and if you are shy kind of a person, you will need to polish your PR skills in order to get close to the person you photograph, in the long run you will be a better person communicating with strangers.

You can get intimate with your subject using 50mm lens, you still can shoot your subject even when you are having a meal with them because you don’t need extra distance to focus, but if you are using 85mm then you need to get up and shoot from a distance and  definitely  interrupting your meal time and furthermore you will attract attention from the passers by which for me is not very good when traveling, we want to blend together with the environment when we travel.

* When decided to buy a lens, please take not also the camera that you are using, is it full frame camera or not? If you are using a Full Frame camera FX for Nikon for an example, then you can buy the 85mm lens since if you are using 50mm lens on a camera which is not full frame, you will get focal length approximately 75mm on 1.5x crop factor camera or 80mm on 1.6x crop factor camera, but still there is a minimum distance where you can focus when using 85mm lens, usually you will need to step back further when using 85mm lens compared to if you are using 50mm lens.

If most of the time you are using 85mm in the studio with Full Frame camera like Nikon D3 or Canon 5D Mark II, then it is a good lens but if you are using 85mm lens on a “Crop Factor” camera body, you need to look into your studio space, if it was small, the I think, you will have a problem getting full body shot because your 85mm lens will turn into 127mm on 1.5x crop factor camera body, unless you shoot inside big aeroplane hangar, then it should not be a problem.

*Above picture was edited using My Photoshop Tone eBook technique, like most of my picture here in my Blog, I use that technique to get The Tone.

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Muhammad Fitri - Thank you. I might sell my kit lens after buying the 18-200.
Your advice convience me to buy the 50mm.

admin - Muhammad Fitri, just don’t sell your 18-200mm lens, you need those lens, what I’m discussing here is when making a decision to buy 50mm or 85mm. 18-200mm is very versatile lens and when combine with the 50mm lens with wide aperture f1.8 or f1.4, you are good enough to travel the world, traveling light without breaking your back. Actually I still have my kit lens with me and I use it a lot when traveling, my kit lens is 18-70mm but if I’ve enough money I will get 18-200mm, for traveling…

Hafiz Pesona - i still remember the day u ask about this 50mm f1.4 lens … 🙂

nono - This is a very helpful tips bro Wazari 🙂 I am into portrait (outdoor), nature and architectural photography and yes, I am thinking to get myself a 50mm f1.8 at first but a friend of mine suggest me to get the 85mm instead. After reading this entry, I think I will stick with 50mm 🙂 But since I am using Sony, it’s kind of hard to get the Minolta 50mm f1.8.. But I will keep on searching and hunting for it. wish me luck! hm~ Sony 50mm f1.4 ada but it might burn my pocket T.T

musz - bro… ayat pertama tak tahan la.. good explaination.. but i still use my f1.8 …i will upgrade to f1.4 one day.. cheers bro..

dian nais - the first sentence had made me loose some of my sanity streak… thank you for the good advice.. only few good photographers provide good advices.. others just brag and take advantages..

admin - Dian Nais : Untuk orang yang memang ada banyak duit, buat apa nak pening kepala, fikir mana lens nak beli, just beli sahajalah kan, tapi untuk kebanyakan orang yang tak berapa nak ada duit macam saya ni, kena la fikir dua tiga kali sebelum buat keputusan, bijak membeli, menang memakai without burning hole in our pocket…

Mohd Ruzaimi Bin Yaacob - assalamualaikum
sy bru bli Nikon D90 n lens 50mm f1.8. ape setting yg abg pkai ntok dpatkn potrait Haiqal ni?same ke setting cam D200 abg, kalau sy pkai D90?

-remy, student masscomm, UiTM Melaka.

admin - Waalaikumsalam, Mohd Ruzaimi, tentang setting yang saya guna pakai untuk dapatkan gambar HaiQal ialah biasa sahaja, saya tidak “customize” kamera saya, settingnya Normal, tentang lens yang saya gunakan 50mm F1.4 tapi aperture yang saya gunakan untuk shooting nie F1.8, saya menggunakan AWB ataupun Auto White Balance pada Kamera. Actually I shoot RAW for all of My Son picture so white balance should not be an issue here. Tentang color tone tu saya adjust di Photoshop dan bukannya di camera saya.

zenn - Artikel yg bagus..saya mmg tgh pening nk cari yang mana satu antara 50mm 1.4 & 85mm 1.8.. artikel ni sgt membantu..thanks

Raimi - Very informative article. Normally ‘professionals’ rave about multi-thousand lenses like the 85/1.4 or high-end zooms particularly 24-70/2.8, no doubt they are good and some really need them, but I was always confused whether photography needs such amount of hard earned money in order to produce great photographs. But you, whom I regard as a professional, prove to me my belief that it is never about the tools. Many people struggle to produce anything worth looking at even with full-frame, 2.8 zooms, heavier-than-me gears, but you produce excellent pictures even with your kitlens.

p/s:You are the reason why I just stick with my kitlens and 50mm despite ‘nafsu’ to upgrade 🙂

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Azral - Good info, good explaination!

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