While most cameras come with a kit lens (18-50mm or 24-105mm), these starter lenses typically offer a variable max aperture of f/4-6.3 and this limits both your creative options. This includes the ability to control the depth of field in the frame as well as your way of operation – especially when working in low-light scenes that demand faster shutter speeds.

Enter the 50mm prime, a lens so revered that it’s commonly known as the second lens every photographer buys once they discover the limitations of the slower kit optic. The benefits are numerous: a focal length that is close to what the human eye sees, a fast maximum aperture to create an incredibly shallow depth of field while maintaining fast shutter speeds in low light conditions and, in some cases, a lightweight and low profile design that makes for excellent portability.

The best news is that Nifty Fifty lenses are accessible to photographers on any budget, whether you make your living from photography or you have just purchased your first camera. Sure, the faster pro-spec versions will hit the wallet harder, but more modest 50mm optics can be bought for around the £100 mark, making them excellent value for money.

The classic Nifty Fifty is the first prime lens every photographer should buy and an excellent addition for more advanced image-makers. Here’s our pick of the best bargains on the market.

Best EF-Mount 50mm prime lens for Canon DSLR:

Canon EF 50mm F1.8 STM – £109

best 50mm prime lens Canon EF 50mm f1.8 STM

Canon EF 50mm f1.8 STM lens. Photo credit: Canon.

At a glance:

  • Lightweight at just 160g
  • Fast STM motor
  • Close 35cm minimum focusing distance
  • Affordable at just £109

Canon has made 50mm lenses for its DSLR cameras for years and this is the latest version for the EF mount, meaning it can be used with cameras such as the Canon 5D Mark IV or with Canon’s APS-C sensor cameras like the 90D, where the crop factor with change the equivalent focal length to 80mm.

Perfect for both stills and video work, the EF 50mm tips the scales at only 160g, which means it won’t put too much pressure on a gimbal should you wish to shoot movies. While beaten by more expensive alternatives, this Nifty Fifty does offer a maximum aperture of f/1.8 – fast enough to create shallow depths of field and to keep shutter speeds fast.

Other benefits include the presence of Canon’s STM stepping motor technology, which helps the lens operate quickly and lock on to subjects accurately. The 50mm focal length is perfect for portraits and when used with the APS-C sensor, the 80mm effective focal length will lend itself to tighter headshots.

Read our Canon EF 50mm F1.8 STM review.

Best RF-Mount 50mm prime lens for Canon DSLR:

Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM – £199

Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM review image

The Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM is affordable and portable. Photo credit: Michael Topham

At a glance:

  • Lightweight at just 160g
  • Fast STM motor
  • Close 30cm minimum focusing distance
  • Control/Focus switch

Canon’s RF 50mm f/1.8 lens is very similar to the EF version for DSLRs but features a few points of difference that are well worth investigating. The most obvious is the RF mount, meaning it can be used straight away with Canon’s range of mirrorless R cameras such as the R6 or R5.

If photographers wish to use the EF version of the lens on a mirrorless body, they will need to invest further in an EOS EF to EOS R adaptor. Weighting just 160g, the lens also features a shallow profile of just 40.5mm meaning you’ll be able to carry it around all day and the lens won’t cause the camera to be ‘top heavy’ and pull forward.

Other features include a Focus/Control switch that will enable users to make changes to variables such as aperture or ISO by simply twisting the focus ring on the front of the lens. This Nifty Fifty also includes a very close minimum focusing distance, enabling users to get frame-filling shots of smaller subjects and – thanks to a seven-blade aperture design – pleasant circular bokeh will fill your backgrounds, helping your subject stand out in the frame.

Read our Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM review.

Best F-Mount 50mm prime lens for Nikon DSLR:

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G AF-S – £229

best 50mm prime lens Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G AF-S

At a glance:

  • Silent Wave Motor
  • Two focus mode choices
  • Weather-sealed design
  • Lightweight dimensions at just 185g

Nikon’s standard Nifty Fifty for its F-mount DSLR cameras, such as the D850, is the f/1.8 G – a lens that, while a little more expensive than rivals, offers some impressive features that will make a big difference out in the field. First up, the lens features a weather-sealed metal lens mount, which will provide protection from the elements – a must if you are shooting in the often-inconsistent UK weather.

Also present is Nikon’s SWM (Silent Wave Motor) technology for fast and accurate autofocus, along with a choice of focus modes; M/A (manual-priority autofocus) and M (manual focus). Weighing just 185g, the lens offers a 75mm equivalent focal length when used with an APS-C crop sensor camera such as the D500 and also offers a 7-bladed diaphragm for circular bokeh.

Read our Nikon 50mm.F1.8 G AF-S review.

Best Z-Mount 50mm prime lens for Nikon mirrorless:

Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S – £499

best 50mm prime lens Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S

Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S

At a glance:

  • Premium optics
  • Wide focus ring
  • Near silent autofocus

While Nikon’s 50mm f/1.8 for the Z range of mirrorless cameras is significantly more expensive than its DSLR alternative, the money is arguably well spent with some critical components that will make a difference. You can still use the F-mount lens on Z-mount cameras, such as the Z 7 II via an adapter.

First up is a very wide focus ring that is grooved for a much firmer hold – this will prove incredibly useful when working in manual mode and dialling in some precise adjustments to focus. A minimum focusing distance of 40cm will get users close to the action and premium image quality is delivered thanks to the inclusion of not one, but two ED (Extra Dispersion) elements and a pair of aspherical lens elements to enhance colour and contrast.

Also present is Nikon’s anti-reflective Nano Crystal Coat technology, which works to reduce ghosting in your images. All this pro glass does bump the weight up to 415g, though many photographers will favour quality over portability.

Find more Z-Mount lenses in our guide to the best Z-mount lenses.

Best FE-Mount 50mm prime lens for Full-Frame Sony mirrorless:

Sony FE 50mm F1.2 GM – £2100

Sony FE 50mm F1.2 GM

Here you can see the AF/MF switch and one of the two AF-stop buttons

At a glance:

  • Pro-spec optics
  • Four linear motors
  • Control button

Not all Nifty Fifties come with a budget price tag, but then again some photographers have deeper pockets and are looking for the more pro-spec kit. This prime optic for full-frame Sony mirrorless cameras such as the A7R IV is a hefty investment, but you also get a lot of lens for your money.

First up is an ultra-fast maximum aperture of f/1.2, which will allow rapid shutter speeds in near darkness – perfect for portrait photographers who prefer to work in low light. Fast autofocus is delivered by not one but four XD (extreme dynamic) linear motors and the lens offers many points of control for the photographers – in fact, there are two focus hold buttons that can be assigned to commands via the Menu system.

The lens features a high degree of weather-sealing to offer enhanced protection from harsh weather and the pro-spec features continue with an aperture ring towards the back of the lens, complete with an aperture click switch, which will allow video users to make aperture changes on the fly without the click being picked up on audio.

Read our Sony FE 50mm F1.2 GM review.

Best E-Mount 50mm lens for APS-C Sony mirrorless:

Sony E 50mm F1.8 OSS – £250

Sony E 50mm F1.8 OSS

Sony E 50mm F1.8 OSS

At a glance:

  • Built-in optical stabilisation
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Value for money

Not all Sony primes cost the earth and this bargain-buy prime optic will be of great interest to photographers using a mirrorless from Sony’s crop-sensor camera such as the a6600, where the equivalent focal length switches up to 75mm, making the optic a wise choice for portraiture photographers.

Along with a fast maximum aperture of f/1.8, the lens includes Sony’s OSS (Optical SteadyShot) technology which will help banish blur and shake from frames – incredibly useful when shooting in low light with a slower shutter speed. Also present is a 7-bladed circular diaphragm that works to produce more natural, rounded bokeh, along with a wide focus ring and a minimum focusing distance of 39cm.

Despite the advanced tech, the E 50mm F1.8 OSS tips the scales at just 202g, meaning it won’t cause smaller crop-sensor cameras to become top-heavy or feel a burden to carry.

Have a look at more E-Mount options in our best E-Mount lens guide.

Best X-Mount 50mm prime lens for Fujifilm mirrorless:

Fujifilm XF 35mm f/1.4 R – £549

Fujifilm XF 35mm f/1.4 R

Fujifilm XF 35mm f/1.4 R

At a glance:

  • Weather-sealing protection
  • Lightweight 187g payload
  • Fast f/1.4 max aperture

Fujifilm X-mount cameras, such as the fantastic X-T4, feature a 1.5x crop factor and this means that a 35mm delivers a 52mm equivalent focal length. Although this lens isn’t the cheapest, for your money you get a lens that delivers premium image quality and an ultra-fast maximum aperture of f/1.4 – great for creating shallow depths of field in portraits, but also handy if you want to try your hand at some astrophotography and capture star trails or the Aurora if you are lucky enough to be at such a location.

Along with a decent-sized focus ring that will offer precision when making manual adjustments, there is also an aperture ring to make f-number changes on the fly. Built around 8 elements in 6 groups – all of which move together when focusing – the 35mm features impressive build quality with a high-quality metal barrel build and a minimum focusing distance of just 30cm. A short, discreet and portable lens, the Fujifilm XF 35mm f/1.4 R weighs in at just 187g.

Have a look at more X-Mount options in our guide to the best X-Mount lenses.

Best K-Mount 50mm prime lens for Pentax mirrorless:

HD Pentax-D FA 50mm F1.4 SDM AW – £1059

Pentax FA 50mm f1.4 SDM AW Lens

At a glance:

  • Distance panel
  • Ultra-fast f/1.4 max aperture
  • Weather sealing

When it comes to Pentax cameras, there is a clear winner to the question of the best 50mm option. Part of the brand’s premium Star Series of optics, the HD FA 50mm offers a huge amount of pro-spec features that will make a big difference to photographers chasing quality.

First up is that max f1/.4 aperture which will create incredibly shallow depths of field. Built for use on both full-frame and APS-C sensor K-mount cameras, the 50mm features a distance display panel and follows the Pentax DNA seen on cameras like the K-1 Mark II of offering enhanced weather-sealing to provide protection from dust and moisture – in fact, the lens can operate in temperatures from -10 to 40 degrees.

With an Ultrasonic Wave Motor, the lens is capable of achieving fast and accurate autofocus and there’s also a minimum focusing distance of 40cm. The front elements are treated with Pentax’s Aero Bright Coating technology to enhance image quality and banish ghosting from your frames. Supplied with a lens hood to further protect the front element from directional rays, the HD FA 50mm weighs in at 910g.

Find more K-Mount optics in our guide to the best K-Mount lenses.

Best MFT-Mount 50mm prime lens for MFT mirrorless:

M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f1.2 PRO – £1099

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm F1.2 PRO

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm F1.2 PRO

At a glance:

  • Enhanced weather-sealing
  • Ultra-fast f/1.2 max aperture
  • Function button

One of the massive advantages of Micro Four Thirds cameras such as the OM-1 or Panasonic GH6 is that the lenses are often excellent value for money. That said, there are also some more professional-level optics and the M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f1.2 PRO returns an equivalent 50mm focal length thanks to the MFT 2x crop factor and is part of the brand’s PRO series of lenses.

Packed with impressive features, including enhanced weather-sealing to make the lens dust, splash and freezeproof, the optic also offers an incredibly close minimum focusing distance of just 19cm, ensuring you can really fill the frame with your subject. There is a Function button so users can change exposure variables on the fly and Z Nano coating to further enhance image quality.  Autofocus is fast and accurate and then there’s the ultrafast f/1.2 maximum aperture, which will be of great interest to portrait photographers looking for the best possible results.

All this technology and design is squeezed into a lens that tips the scales at only 410g – quite simply, you will struggle to find a lighter f/1.2 50mm on the market.

Read our Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 25mm F1.2 PRO review.

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Fujifilm announces new Fujinon XF 56mm F1.2 R WR portrait prime

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