JnR Photography
Written By:
Jeff

50mm Landscape Photography: Such A Viable Option

Published On:
July 23, 2021
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Yup. What I want you to do right now is to forget everything you’ve heard or assumed about wide (or ultra-wide) landscape photography. Not the idea that you shouldn’t use it, but the idea that it's the only option for landscape photos…

You should really be considering 50mm landscape photography.

Why?

Well, that’s what we’re going to discuss in this article. We will start with the benefits of using a 50mm and conclude with some techniques and challenges.

It’s going to be a great read filled with useful information. It'll either convince you that 50mm landscape photography is viable or improve what you’re currently taking.

Let’s get started with benefits!
                                                   

Benefits To Using A 50mm Lens For Landscape Photography​

I don't want to come across as saying wide-angle landscape photography is bad. Because it's not, some of the best landscape photos of all time were captured wide - so a wide or ultra-wide lens is proven and will continue to be a very viable option.

What I'm saying is that landscapes taken at 50mm are different. When seen by the viewer, the look more natural - more 'real' I guess you would say.

That's why I support it so much and preach to beginners that you can do almost anything with a 50mm lens.

Lens Price
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM $125.00
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 G $199.95
Sony - FE 50mm F1.8 $248.00

What Makes A Prime Lens So Different And More Natural?​

You know a wide and definitely an ultra-wide when you see one. Distortion is very apparent, and verticals are never straight. Everything is stretched from the center of the image, and objects in the distance are far smaller than you see them in real life.

A 50mm lens eliminates a lot of these issues. The benefits include:

  • A prime lens (sharper than zoom lenses)
  • Compression is more significant than a wide or ultra-wide
  • The new creative process (and possibilities)
  • Inexpensive compared to high-end zooms
  • Perfect travel lens (subjective)

We will touch a little bit on each of these benefits coming up, so stick around!

A Prime Lens Is Sharper Than A Zoom​

A prime lens is a fixed focal length, meaning that it does not zoom in and out. It usually has fewer moving parts than the average zoom lens, which makes for sharper images. You may see some distortion on cheaper lenses, but this can be easily corrected in post-processing Photoshop or Lightroom.

The color rendering is more accurate because of fewer glass elements (compared to a zoom).

It's a pretty simple concept to grasp, but I will include a video below with great comparisons.

Compression Is More Significant

A prime lens is a fixed focal length, meaning that it does not zoom in and out. It usually has fewer moving parts than the average zoom lens, which makes for sharper images. You may see some distortion on cheaper lenses, but this can be easily corrected in post-processing Photoshop or Lightroom.

The color rendering is more accurate because of fewer glass elements (compared to a zoom).

It's a pretty simple concept to grasp, but I will include a video below with great comparisons.

For those who don't know what lens compression is... it's basically an effect of the focal length on a photo that makes elements in the foreground or background appear closer to each other. This is what creates 'depth' and it's one of those features which can make your photos more interesting / dynamic.

Think of 'sandwiching' the foreground and background to your current focal plane.

I have included a video below that covers this in great detail.

It Opens Your Mind And Allows You To Become More Creative.​

With anything new and out of the norm - assuming you like to take landscape on wide-angle lenses... A 50mm lens will open new creative doors.

You can no longer zoom and have to physically move the camera if you want to 'zoom out or in.' Your framing and composition take more thought to create (or spend all day moving your camera around).

Your aperture opens wider on a prime (most of the time). So if you're into taking blue hour landscapes and want to allow more light, you have that option.

Ultimately, you'll have an image and process that you would have never had if you had taken it at a wide-angle.

**Remember, if you're taking landscape photos at low apertures - your entire image will never be in complete focus. You will need to learn how to focus stack multiple images together. This is for another topic altogether**

It Opens Your Mind And Allows You To Become More Creative.​

Let's talk about the nifty fifty.

I'm sure you all have heard the term before. This phrase was coined by those who highly valued the 50mm focal length for its capabilities. Some firmly believe you can capture 80% (or more) of all forms of photography with this focal length. I support these claims myself.

You can purchase a Canon 50mm lens for roughly $125 (give or take a few). This is the 50mm f/1.8. All other manufactures have their own versions with a similar price-point.

Now, compare this to an 'average' wide angle zoom. This would be a 16-35mm f/4. The cost of one, across the board, is about $1000. Of course, some are more and some are less (especially if bought used on eBay or Amazon). But you get the idea.
Lens Price
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM $125.00
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 G $199.95
Sony - FE 50mm F1.8 $248.00

Wide Angle Zooms Are Much More Expensive Than A 50mm.​

I know this is quite obvious - but I wanted to send this one home with real-world numbers.

Wide-angle primes are equally expensive (a good 24mm prime can run $1000+). Even 'off-brand' manufacturers like Laowa make ultra-wide manual lenses that are great! But run $800+.

But think about it, their purpose is wide/ultra-wide-angle photos - nothing more. Want to take portraits? I wouldn't suggest it. What about indoor events and concerts? Eh, maybe to capture a shot of the entire venue... then what? You get my point, I'm sure.

Compare the table above and below for price comparison.

Be mindful that the zoom lenses below are both 16-35mm and 24-70mm (below and above the 50mm range) - as well as f/2.8 (not nearly as fast as the 1.8 from the primes above).
Title Price Buy
Sony - FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM $2,198.00
Canon EF 16–35mm f/2.8L III USM $1,645.00
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 17-35mm f/2.8D $1,951.95
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM $1,899.00
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E $2,096.95
Sony E-Mount 24-70 F2.8 G Master $1,698.00

A 50mm Lens Is Great For Travel​

Its size is perfect. Small enough to not add too much weight or space, yet versatile enough to take pretty much any photo you would need on vacation or traveling. The only exception, in my opinion, is wildlife photos. But again, a wildlife lens is in its own category and for an entirely different article.

You can even leave the lens mounted to your camera throughout your travels and pull it out and snap photos when you need it. As long as you have a little room to move around and get the distance you need, you'll be golden.

50mm Landscape Settings​

First off, there isn't much difference in settings between a wide-angle and 50mm.

You'll want:

  • Your aperture is between f/8 and f/11. If you decide to go lower because you need more light... check your photos and see where you may need to photo stack a few images to get the sharpness you want.
  • Then, adjust shutter speed and ISO accordingly.

Seeing as you'll most likely have your camera on a tripod... you'll be able to set the shutter speed where you need it and not have to worry about camera shake/blur.

Long Exposures Aren't Treated Much Different​

If you're taking long exposures, be sure to have a nice ND filter with you and a remote. I include the remote because you want to eliminate as much camera shake as possible. Even if you use the 2 or 10-second timer, you're still putting your hands on the camera, not eliminating camera shake. I remote fixes that.

Not to mention, remotes are very inexpensive (I think my Sony remote was like $30).

I have included videos for this topic as well.

Value The Gear And The Process​

Concerning a 50mm - there is so much value even outside of landscapes. We're talking portraits, street photography, pet photography, cars, product, etc...

The only profession I would not recommend using a prime or 50mm on would be Real Estate photography/video. You would not get great results with the different sizes of homes and rooms. A wide-angle lens is great for that.

Value the process of taking a landscape photo with a 50mm. You'll create beautiful images that don't look like a typical landscape. This makes you and your work unique and will stand out from the rest of the wide-angle guys.

Yeah, the process is different; it requires you to possibly do a little more work and think a little more about it - but in the end, your result will be that much different from what you'd get out of a wide-angle lens.

A 50mm lens is arguably the most versatile focal length on the planet (close with the 35mm, to some).

Embrace the journey of mastering it in the field of landscape photography.

I Hope You Have Learned A Bit About The 50mm For Landscape Photography!​

Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you have learned a thing or two.

If anything, remember, if you decide to start taking landscapes with a 50mm... don't give up. If you aren't happy with what you see on the computer - find what you did wrong and exactly how to fix it.

Nothing great, or worth anything, happens overnight. It'll take a little practice and time to build the motor skills and mindset for it. But once you do, you have a skill set that most don't - and a look to your landscape photos than even fewer do.

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Until next time, be safe and keep creating!

FAQ

What mm lens is best for landscape photography?

Our article goes into great detail on this matter - but, you'll want to pay a great deal of attention to your exposure while shooting indoors without flash. You'll want to have your aperture as wide open as possible (when indoors without many windows/natural light), shutter speed where you need it (depending on the action), and ISO set where your exposure is 'perfect' (although, try not to go above 3200).

What is a 50mm lens best for?

Everything! Well, not everything...but, you can take amazing landscapes, portraits, street, automobile, and so much more with the 50mm lens. It's considered by most to be one of the most versatile focal lengths available. You will have issues with tight areas or (small rooms) or long distance subjects where a long zoom lens would be best.

Is Canon 50mm 1.8 good for landscape?

Absolutely. Your chances of taking an amazing indoor photo without an off-camera flash greatly increase if you have a window. Yes, window light is just as beneficial as outside light (and it can easily be defused indoors). Of course, if you do not have a window - you can still pull it off with artificial light (like shaded lamps, etc.).

Is a 50mm lens good for astrophotography?

It depends on what you're trying to photograph in the night sky. For a semi-wide shot of the night sky - yes it is! If you are wanting ultra-wide or if you want a narrower shot (of galaxies or specific start systems), you'll want a wider or narrower focal length.

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About The Author

Jeff

2022 marks our fourth year in business and my 8th year in photography. I have learned so much about not only photography, running a business, and everything web-related... I've learned so much about myself. Truly determining my passions and constantly learning and improving has gotten me to where I am today.
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