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Old April 12th, 2011, 08:17 AM   #1
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Anyone else not a big fan of the nifty 50?

I've had a few 50mm lenses through the years and my current one is nice, real nice imho, but I always seem to go for something wider or with more reach. The 50mm is frequently referred to as a must have lens, but mine is almost never on my camera. My current lineup...

Zeiss C/Y 28/2.8, 35/2.8, 50/1.4, 85/1.4
Canon 24-105/4 IS, 70-200/2.8 IS
Samyang 14/2.8
Hartblei Super Rotator 80/2.8

I'm thinking about shuffling my lineup a bit - selling the 28, 35 and 50 - getting the ZF 21/2.8 and possibly a C/Y 35/1.4 to get back the extra stops I'd lose by getting rid of the 50 and get a more usable FL indoors. Am I missing something with the beloved 50?
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Old April 12th, 2011, 09:46 AM   #2
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Re: Anyone else not a big fan of the nifty 50?

A 50mm (I have a Zeiss ZE 50mm, the Canon 50mm 1.8 and zooms with that in the range) is one of the most useful focal lengths for video/motion for that size sensor. It works great as the establishing shot for interviews, and I also use a Zeiss 85mm for the tighter shots. And just as an all around a 50mm works quite well.

I am a photographer for 12 years and use wide angle when needed for stills. But I find wide angle, meaning 28mm and wider, honestly requires a purpose when it comes to video for going that wide. Factors that play into that is how large is the video presented and how large is specific content sized in the frame. A small room with a person or people very prominent in frame size is one thing, but shooting a vast wide landscape or cityscape with tons of small detail can be lost if the detail is important. That's where wide seems less effective.

I find the ideal focal lengths for the 5DII sensor to be 28, 35, 50, 85 and occasionally longer telephoto lenses as required. Shooting the 5DII for video with a 21mm can be odd especially when panning the camera.

My walk around go to lens is the 24-105 since it covers nearly everything I need in one lens for a lightweight and mobile kit.

Also I don't see the need for wider lenses to be fast 1.4 aperture. The Zeiss 28mm F2.8 wide open is wonderful, sharp, clean but only carries just enough depth, so more often than not I may shoot it at F4 if light permits. Also the Zeiss C/Y 35/1.4 is questionable on mounting on the 5DII, some people have made it work and some not. There is a protrusion on the rear of the lens. I looked into it years ago and didn't bother. The Zeiss C/Y 35/2.8 can be had for a fraction the cost, mounts fine and no viewer will know the difference.
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Old April 12th, 2011, 11:16 AM   #3
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Re: Anyone else not a big fan of the nifty 50?

John, I hear what you're saying, I guess I just prefer the look and the wider FOV of the 28 and the 35, even for interviews and such. I always crop wider than 16:9 - cropamorphic as I like to call it - and that combined with wider lenses gives everything a very dramatic, cinematic feel.

I usually bounce between the 28/35 and the 85 when I have the time to switch lenses. I use the 24-105 for the run-and-gun stuff and lots of b-roll, and then Zeiss if I can plant the camera on a tripod for interviews. The 21 would be more for stills and static video - no pans. I've had 3 50mm lenses (Canon 1.8, 1.4 and the Zeiss) and I just never seem to use them.

The other direction I'm considering is getting another tilt-shift lens, either the Hartblei 35mm or the TS-E 24mm to get a wider FOV with the T/S capabilities. Hmmm...
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Old April 12th, 2011, 01:51 PM   #4
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Re: Anyone else not a big fan of the nifty 50?

50mm is one of my favorite focal lengths, but I generally use a zoom to cover it, and not the 50mm prime (unless I'm in a sit-down interview setting). When I was shooting crop-sensor, 50mm was too tight, but with the 5D it's perfect.

The 50mm f/1.8 is so popular because it's a f/1.8 lens in the $100 range. It is hard to justify a $2500 70-200 for many people, but a 50mm f/1.8 for $100 is kind of a must have. (The f/1.4 is a much nicer lens, but even the $400 chases many people away.)
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Old April 12th, 2011, 02:37 PM   #5
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Re: Anyone else not a big fan of the nifty 50?

Mine stays in the bag most of the time. Usually, I'm wider or longer. It only comes out to play on the occasional interview set-up.
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Old April 12th, 2011, 02:55 PM   #6
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Re: Anyone else not a big fan of the nifty 50?

What camera do you use it with?
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Old April 12th, 2011, 04:39 PM   #7
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Re: Anyone else not a big fan of the nifty 50?

I have the 5d2.
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Old April 12th, 2011, 06:01 PM   #8
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Re: Anyone else not a big fan of the nifty 50?

I have owned many 50mm lenses from Nikon, Pentax, Canon, Contax, Leica etc in f/2, f/1.4 and f/1.2 speeds, but always eventually sold them all. For most work I much prefer the wider lenses in the 15mm to 28mm range or the telephoto lenses in the 135mm-600mm range.
My 'normal' lens for the 5D Mk2 is the MF Pentax 67 Large Format SMC 45mm f/4 which I use mainly for shots or footage where I require corner-to-corner sharpness, such as landscapes.
My favourite lens for decades has been the 24mm prime which in my view is far, far more useful than the 50mm lens, but I eventually sold my 20mm & 24mm lenses because the Nikkor AF 20-35mm f/2.8 was getting so much use...and that particular lens with outstanding build quality changed my oldtimer views about the need to carry a bagful of primes to cover the same focal lengths.
On the 5D my EF 17-35mm f/2.8 L lens covers these ranges for both stills and video - which produces outstanding quality stills & video. My EF 35-350mm L covers the 50mm range for video, so I don't feel the need to carry an extra 50mm fixed lens.
The main advantage of a 50mm lens is that a used one can be picked up relatively cheaply and I doubt if anyone could tell the difference in footage filmed with a 50mm lens from Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Minolta, Leica, Contax/Yashica... So if you MUST use a 50mm lens, it doesn't really matter if it is a brand-new-fangdango Zeiss or battered old Yashica or Konica, because they will all produce outstanding sharpness and contrast...so it is far more important to buy a 50mm lens which has the right handling, ease of focus and build quality that fits your own needs.
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Old April 13th, 2011, 01:09 AM   #9
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Re: Anyone else not a big fan of the nifty 50?

John,

My experience with video focal lengths is exactly the same as yours. Occasionally, something longer than 85 or wider than 28 is required, but only for specific shots.

An ultra-wide, like the 21/2.8 can be fantastic, but must be used very specifically. For instance, flying camera shots and dolly shots can work well, as can shots that really work the perspective, but stagy, straight-on, head-height tripod shots with and without pans can be horrible. That said, stop the ZE 21/2.8 down to f/11 or tighter and it's a fantastic landscape photo lens.

And don't forget about the importance of a macro. Many lenses in the 28-85 range have poor minimum focus distances. When you want to rack focus to a nearby candle, or just plain show a hand, a note, a photo, or a clue, the minimum focus distance is an important consideration.

BTW, I got to handle the ZE 35/1.4 today and I was disappointed that it didn't have a longer focus ring throw like the 50/1.4 or 85/1.4, The throw is pretty much identical to my ZE 35/2, yet the body has the size and weight of the 85/1.4. I now feel better about the 35/2, which is quite similar in performance to the 35/1.4, but without the extra stop.

BTW, for me, I love the 35mm view for my normal, especially when shooting for 2.35:1 delivery.
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Old April 13th, 2011, 10:28 AM   #10
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Re: Anyone else not a big fan of the nifty 50?

John F, I agree - a macro lens is probably the biggest gap in my current lineup - its something I've also been considering. When I want something really tight I usually go with the 70-200 on sticks. I know a macro would be better, but I want to stick with Zeiss for most of my video work and the Marko's are spendy for something that might not be on my camera that much. I think I'd go with another T/S lens before a macro.

I posed the question mainly because I see so many posts that show a lot of love for the various 50mm options and it just doesn't do anything for me. I find myself using the 35 and 28 more than any other, then the 70-200 and the 24-105. I'm back and forth with the 21, obviously I love with wider FOV, but it does have limitations on the video side of things. I had the 17-40 for 5 years and I have the 14mm Samyang, so I'm well versed with shooting wide angle lenses.
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Old April 13th, 2011, 03:17 PM   #11
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Re: Anyone else not a big fan of the nifty 50?

When I shoot stills I can shoot all day long with just the 50mm. For video though I prefer to shoot with the 24 and the 85 or the 135 (on a 5DMkII). If i had a 70-200L IS I would only shoot with that and the 24 f1.4.
The 50mm is fine on a crop sensor especialy considering the cost.
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Old April 13th, 2011, 09:58 PM   #12
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Re: Anyone else not a big fan of the nifty 50?

I'm thinking that a great, two lens, matched solution is the ZE 35/2 and the ZE 100/2 Makro (as compared to the 85/1.4.) That gives you f/2 with both lenses, 1:2 macro capability, and Zeiss quality. The Makro has a fair amount of falloff wide open, but it's amazingly sharp to the corners.

I shot video at NAB over two days, and the 35/2 was on the camera 80% of the time. The 21/2.8 was interesting for some shots, but I got bored of it. I wasn't going for an "extreme perspective from crazy angles" look, so it was just wide. (It was great on the Strip at night though.) The 85/1.4 was great for logos, small signs, and really isolating things with shallow DOF. Anyway, the ZE 35/2 continues to be my bread and butter lens.
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Old April 14th, 2011, 01:43 PM   #13
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Re: Anyone else not a big fan of the nifty 50?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Watson View Post
50mm is one of my favorite focal lengths, but I generally use a zoom to cover it, and not the 50mm prime (unless I'm in a sit-down interview setting).
Preach on. Part of the allure of the 50mm is that you can get a very nice piece of glass for much less then wider angles. I try to keep the 50 on, but always end up putting on the zoom, even though it's a stop and a half slower.
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Old April 14th, 2011, 02:45 PM   #14
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Re: Anyone else not a big fan of the nifty 50?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Fairhurst View Post
I shot video at NAB over two days, and the 35/2 was on the camera 80% of the time.
OT, but what was up with every Tom, Dick and Harry with a DSLR and a shoulder rig at NAB this year? There were as many "reporters" as there were attendees. My feet are killing me by the end of the day and my arm is about to fall off after every booth says "want some literature?", I can't imagine dragging a whole gear kit around.
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Old April 14th, 2011, 03:06 PM   #15
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Re: Anyone else not a big fan of the nifty 50?

I sometimes shoot a "being there" style. That is, with a 50mm lens and the video shown on a large TV at normal viewing distance, the angle of view is the same as if you were there and looking directly at the scene. If you shoot carefully with this style you can create the feeling of being at a site. It can be useful for travel logs or any scene where you want to convey the actual scale of things.
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