Featured Photo – Beautiful Bokeh: Best Lens Bargain for a Nikon!

Camera equipment can be quite expensive.  But not always.  There are some fantastic 50mm lens out there for not so much money.  Nikon, for instance, makes a 50mm f/1.8 for somewhere around US$100, and a 50mm f/1.4 for under US$300, lens with large apertures (openings) to let in more light (see links at bottom).

And remember last week when I was showing you photo examples taken with really small apertures (the long exposure shots at Goat Rock Beach)?  You may remember that I mentioned that small apertures keep more elements of the photo in focus, or, in other words, has a large depth of field.

I’m going to show you the opposite of that this week.  If you shoot with the aperture wide open, using large apertures of f/1.4 or f/1.8, *less* elements appear in focus, or, in other words, a shallow depth of field.

Why would you want to do that, you ask?  To accentuate features and have backgrounds (or foregrounds) blur out.  This would be effective for portraits, focusing our attention on the subject and not the background or foreground.

Portraits can be people.  Or reptiles.  We may have friends or family members who qualify as both.

Reptile near 49 Palms

Reptile near 49 Palms.  Since I was using a 50mm lens and not a zoom, I was surprised at how close this guy let me get to him.  This was taken at f/1.8.  You can see how in this photo, our happy prehistoric looking subject is in focus while the foreground and background have this lovely bokeh, or blurred areas due to the shallow depth of field.

Or maybe another use might be taking photos of bottle trees in the desert…you know, the usual things one might use a 50mm prime lens for…

Bottles at Joshua Tree

Bottle tree in Joshua Tree, taken with a 50mm f1/4 prime Nikkor lens, illustrating the shallow depth of field for the lovely readers of this photography blog.

Dengue Fever

Dengue Fever. For those who don’t know this Los Angeles-based band, who combine Cambodian pop-rock with psychedelic rock. They were formed in 2001 by Ethan Holtzman after he visited Cambodia and was inspired to start a band. This was taken with – you guessed it – the 50mm prime, illustrating another fine use…it’s a fast lens. Meaning it lets in lots of light through its large opening.  Meaning it does well in low light situations such as at this concert.

There’s a few other bonuses of a 50mm:

– As I mentioned, they can be quite cheap.  You can get Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 for a hair over US$100.  Not bad.

-They’re prime lens, or, in other words, fixed.  Good and sharp.  Of course, you can’t stand around and use your zoom lens.  You’ll hafta move your feet.

– As mentioned in the Dengue Fever photo caption, the lens is a fast lens.  It lets in lots of light through a larger, wider opening.  Which means that it’s also better in low light situations, where you might need to use a faster shutter speed to capture the action without blurring.  Cool, eh?

– And 50mm primes are small and light, perfect for the photographer on the go.

Flute player

Flute player for the band Dengue Fever, shot wide open at f/1.4. 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor lens. For this photo, I also shot at 1/100 at ISO 2500, focusing on his eye. I really like the bokeh on his hat and flute, a beautiful sense of depth that this lens is capable of doing.

Equipment:  Nikon D90, 50mm f/1.4 prime Nikkor lens

6 thoughts on “Featured Photo – Beautiful Bokeh: Best Lens Bargain for a Nikon!

    • Thanks for your comment, Andrew! And “zooming with your feet” is a great phrase to describe what one needs to do with a 50mm. You’re gonna hafta move. Getting this lens has helped my photography progress greatly, and I believe it would do this for any photographer.

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