Jan 23, 2024

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best 50mm Lens for Street Photography

Understanding the Importance of 50mm Lens in Street Photography

Hunter Scott
Hunter Scott
The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best 50mm Lens for Street Photography

Street photography is a popular genre that requires the right equipment to capture the essence of urban life. One essential piece of gear that every street photographer should have in their arsenal is a 50mm lens. In this ultimate guide, we will dive deep into the world of 50mm lenses and explore all the aspects you need to consider before making a purchase.

Understanding the Importance of 50mm Lens in Street Photography

Before we delve into the nitty-gritty, let's first understand why the 50mm lens is revered by street photographers worldwide. The 50mm focal length provides a natural perspective that closely resembles what our eyes see. It allows you to capture scenes as they appear, without any distortion or exaggeration.

Additionally, the compact size of a 50mm lens makes it inconspicuous, allowing you to blend in seamlessly with the bustling streets. This unobtrusive quality allows you to capture genuine moments without drawing attention to yourself.

The Unique Features of a 50mm Lens

An example of a 50mm lens for street photography

One of the key features that make a 50mm lens stand out is its wide maximum aperture. Most 50mm lenses offer an aperture of f/1.8, f/1.4, or even wider. This wide aperture enables you to shoot in low-light conditions, making it ideal for capturing the vibrant nightlife of a city.

Besides low-light capabilities, the 50mm lens also excels in producing a shallow depth of field. This shallow depth of field allows you to isolate your subjects from the busy urban environment, drawing the viewer's attention to the main subject of your photograph.

Why 50mm Lens is Ideal for Street Photography

The versatility of the 50mm lens makes it an ideal choice for street photography. Whether you're capturing candid portraits, urban landscapes, or the bustling street life, the 50mm lens can handle it all. Its moderate focal length allows you to capture a wide variety of shots without sacrificing detail or image quality.

Additionally, the 50mm lens forces you to be more creative with your composition. You have to physically move closer to your subject, which encourages interaction, spontaneity, and storytelling. It pushes you to explore different angles and perspectives, resulting in visually compelling images.

When using a 50mm lens for street photography, it's important to understand the technical aspects that come into play. The wider maximum aperture not only allows for shooting in low-light conditions but also creates a beautiful bokeh effect. This effect, characterized by the creamy out-of-focus background, adds a sense of depth and separation to your images.

Furthermore, the 50mm lens is known for its sharpness and image quality. It captures fine details with precision, allowing you to showcase the intricate textures and patterns found in the urban environment. From the weathered bricks of old buildings to the vibrant graffiti on city walls, the 50mm lens captures the essence of the streets in stunning clarity.

Another advantage of the 50mm lens is its ability to handle different lighting situations. Whether you're shooting in bright daylight or under the glow of streetlights at night, the lens performs exceptionally well. Its wide aperture not only aids in low-light shooting but also allows for faster shutter speeds, reducing the chances of motion blur in your images.

Moreover, the 50mm lens is lightweight and easy to carry, making it a favorite among street photographers who prefer to travel light. Its small size and inconspicuous appearance make it less intimidating to subjects, allowing you to capture authentic moments without disrupting the natural flow of the streets.

When shooting with a 50mm lens, you'll find yourself immersed in the vibrant energy of the streets. The lens's moderate focal length allows you to capture the essence of a scene while maintaining a comfortable distance from your subjects. This proximity enables you to establish a connection with your subjects, capturing their emotions and stories in a way that is both intimate and respectful.

Ultimately, the 50mm lens is more than just a tool for street photography. It becomes an extension of your vision, enabling you to see the world in a unique way. With its versatility, technical capabilities, and ability to foster creativity, the 50mm lens has rightfully earned its place as a staple in the world of street photography.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a 50mm Lens

Now that we understand the importance of a 50mm lens in street photography, let's dive into the factors you should consider before making a purchase.

Lens Speed and Aperture

An example of a 50mm lens for street photography

One of the primary considerations when choosing a 50mm lens is the maximum aperture. The wider the aperture, the better the lens performs in low-light situations. A lens with a wide aperture, such as f/1.4, allows for faster shutter speeds and greater flexibility in challenging lighting conditions.

However, keep in mind that lenses with wider apertures are generally more expensive. If your budget is a concern, a lens with an aperture of f/1.8 would still deliver excellent results at a fraction of the cost.

Lens Sharpness and Contrast

Another crucial factor to consider is the sharpness and contrast of the lens. Look for a lens that can deliver tack-sharp images in the center as well as the corners of the frame. A high-quality lens will also produce excellent contrast and vibrant colors, enhancing the overall image quality.

To determine the sharpness and contrast of a lens, it's best to read reviews from trusted sources or try out the lens yourself before committing to a purchase.

Focus Capabilities

In street photography, quick and accurate focusing is vital. Look for a 50mm lens that has fast and reliable autofocus capabilities. Additionally, consider whether the lens has a focus distance scale. This feature can be handy when shooting in manual focus mode, allowing you to quickly and accurately estimate the distance between you and your subject.

Comparing Different Brands of 50mm Lenses

Now that we have discussed the factors to consider, let's compare different brands of 50mm lenses available in the market.

Canon 50mm Lenses

Canon offers a range of 50mm lenses that cater to different budgets and performance needs. The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is a popular choice for beginners due to its affordable price tag and excellent image quality. On the other hand, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM is a high-end lens that offers exceptional low-light performance and superior build quality.

Nikon 50mm Lenses

Nikon also has an impressive lineup of 50mm lenses. The Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G is a budget-friendly option that delivers sharp images and smooth bokeh. For professional photographers looking for the best performance, the Nikon AF-S 58mm f/1.4G is a top-of-the-line choice that offers impeccable image quality and a unique rendering.

Sony 50mm Lenses

Sony, known for its mirrorless cameras, has several 50mm lens options for its E-mount system. The Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 is a compact and lightweight lens that delivers impressive image quality at an affordable price. For professional photographers, the Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 GM provides stunning image quality, excellent bokeh, and exceptional low-light performance.

Budgeting for Your 50mm Lens

When it comes to budgeting for a 50mm lens, it's essential to consider both the upfront cost and the long-term value. The price range of 50mm lenses varies depending on the brand and lens speed.

An example of a 50mm lens for street photography

Price Range of 50mm Lenses

Affordable options, such as the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM or the Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G, can be found for under $200. Mid-range options, like the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM or the Sony FE 50mm f/1.8, typically range from $300 to $600.

If you're willing to invest in a high-end lens with exceptional performance, be prepared to spend upwards of $1,000. Lenses like the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM or the Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 GM fall into this category.

Balancing Quality and Cost

When deciding on a 50mm lens within your budget, it's essential to strike the right balance between quality and cost. Consider your shooting style, aspirations, and long-term goals as a street photographer. Investing in a high-quality lens that will serve you well for years to come may be worth the initial cost.

However, if your budget is limited, don't fret. There are plenty of affordable options available that still deliver remarkable image quality. Keep in mind that it's the photographer, not just the gear, that ultimately creates the stunning photographs.

Maintaining and Caring for Your 50mm Lens

Caring for your 50mm lens is crucial to ensure optimal performance and longevity. Here are a few tips to keep your lens in top shape.

Cleaning Your Lens

Regularly clean the front and rear elements of your lens using a microfiber cloth or lens cleaning solution. Remove any smudges or dust that may affect image quality. Be gentle with your cleaning to avoid scratching the lens surface.

In addition to cleaning, protect your lens with a lens hood and high-quality UV filter. A lens hood helps prevent flare and protects the front element from accidental bumps or scratches. A UV filter acts as an additional layer of protection against dust, moisture, and other potential hazards.

Protecting Your Lens from Damage

When not in use, always store your lens in a clean and dry place, preferably in a padded camera bag. Avoid exposing your lens to extreme temperatures or humidity, as this can cause damage to the internal components.

If you are shooting in adverse weather conditions, use a rain cover or protective sleeve to shield your lens from moisture. Be cautious when changing lenses to minimize the chances of dust or debris entering the camera body.

By following these maintenance tips, you can ensure that your 50mm lens performs at its best and stands the test of time.


Choosing the best 50mm lens for street photography involves careful consideration of various factors such as lens speed, sharpness, and focus capabilities. It's essential to explore different brands and find the balance between quality and cost that suits your needs.

Once you have your 50mm lens, remember to maintain and care for it properly to maximize its longevity and performance. With the right lens in your bag and a passion for street photography, you'll be well-equipped to capture stunning images that tell stories of the vibrant urban life around you.