Blur Your Background with the Nifty Fifty 50mm f/1.8 lens for Canon or Nikon DSLR cameras

Nifty fifty lens

Why this lens?

What’s that lens everyone is always recommending, and why might you want it?

The “Nifty Fifty” or the “Nifty 50” 50mm f/1.8 lens is THE most frequently recommended lens for those getting into DSLR photography, especially if you’re wanting to achieve a shallow depth of field.  Also, it is the one lens that lets you do that but that is still quite affordable.

In general the lenses that let you open up your aperture are expensive, but for whatever reason, the 50mm f/1.8 is the one exception to that rule. And yes, there is also a 50mm f/1.4 lens that you can get if you have some additional spare cash, but I’m here to tell you how to get into a fast lens on the cheap. Oh yeah, and what’s a “fast lens” anyway? That’s one where you can get a lower f/stop number, or “open up” more. You may also hear it referred to as “fast glass.”

“But I already have an 18-55 lens, so I already have a 50mm length lens. Why would I need a fixed 50mm?”

Well, here’s why. You see on your lens where it says “1:3.5-5.6?” Those numbers show you the most open aperture you can get from your lens at the two far ends of your zoom. At the wide angle end, which is 18mm, your smallest f-stop (most open aperture) is 3.5. At the most zoomed-in end, 55mm, your most open aperture is 5.6. The more you can open your aperture, the more shallow depth of field you can achieve (the more you can blur your foreground and background).

The 50mm f/1.8 lens lets you open up to f/1.8, which is a much larger opening than the f/5.6 opening you could achieve at that same length with your 18mm-55mm kit lens.

You can blur out your background a WHOLE LOT more at f/1.8 than you can at f/5.6.

So that’s why you want it even though you already have a lens that goes to 50mm! Okay, and you also want it because it lets in a lot more light at that aperture, so it provides you with more flexibility in low light situations.

Which lens should I buy for my specific camera?

So, what specifically, do you want to purchase? Well, like I said, if you’re not wanting to spend a ton of money, then the lens you want is the 50mm f/1.8 lens.


With Canon it’s straight forward, you want this one:

Canon Normal EF 50mm f/1.8 II (my affiliate link through B&H)


With Nikon, it depends on your camera. It’s a difference of about $100 depending on which one you need:

Nikon has manufactured several camera bodies where they excluded an autofocus drive motor for the lens, and if you have one of them then you need to purchase the more expensive version of this lens. If you don’t buy that lens and get the cheaper one, then you’ll be stuck with a lens that doesn’t autofocus, which is probably not what you want.

The cameras that require the AF-S version of the lens are: D3000, D3100, D5000, D5100, D40, D60. Basically, they made these cameras less expensive by leaving off the autofocus drive motor, but effectively made them more expensive by requiring you to purchase the more expensive lenses!'

Author: Mary Lynne

Mary Lynne Ashley has been a professional photographer since 2001. She spends her time teaching photography, photographing dogs (primarily as a volunteer for a rescue organization), and operating her amazing photo booth inside a cute red 1971 VW bus -- the Photo Love Bus. The best way to get in touch is through email at

Share This Post On

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *