Monday, March 06, 2006

the f/1.4 advantage

Aside from being the only choice lens in available light photography, another advantage of a wide aperture lens or the so called "fast lens" is that it is capable of producing a nice blur or "bokeh". There are only few fixed lenses that can go as wide as f/1.4, namely, the 50mm normal lens, the wide 35mm and the 85mm portrait lens. Gone are the days when the kit lens of an SLR you would purchase was bundled with a 50mm normal lens. Interchangeably called as the "standard" lens, the 50mm fixed lens was virtually replaced by the more convenient stock zoom lenses of today like the 18-55mm zoom or 18-70mm zoom. Lesser informed consumers never realized that a fast prime lens like the 50mm is a lot more superior in many aspects than the present day consumer zooms. An f/1.8 50mm is considered a fast lens by any standards. It offers greater speed, that is, it can allow more light to seep in thru the lens. Compared to a consumer zoom with f/3.5-5.6 minimum to maximum apertures, the former has the advantage of having at least 3 stops which makes a very significant difference especially in available light photography. This extra stops can let you shoot indoors and with today's DSLRs where you can push the ISO to at least the standard 1600, it would afford you few luxuries in composition in low light conditions. Since the trend of consumerism by the camera manufacturers is to float the inferior stock zooms, the need to buy an off-camera flash becomes a necessity. Thus, these manufacturers will end up raking more money into their coffers. I still believe that full understanding of photography, most especially the lighting techniques, should first begin with the mastery of the "classic" 50mm lens - being the sharpest lens there is.

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