Imagine that you’re a professional photographer. 

Photographers embark on a journey filled with excitement, experimentation, and a quest for the perfect shot. Your lens choice is a critical determinant of the kind of photos you can capture. But fret not, for in this blog post, I’ll share my insights and experiences on the first lens you should consider to help boost your photography skills, building on the lessons I’ve learned from my early days as a photography enthusiast.

I made a mistake. Twice.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of lenses from different manufacturers. As a beginner, the right lens can make your early experiences in photography enjoyable and rewarding. It’s a journey that starts with the right gear, and when it comes to choosing your first lens, the decision can be just as daunting as selecting your first camera.
I bought my first lens, Fujinon XC 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6, as a lens kit for Fujifilm X-T10. I don’t feel comfortable using a lens kit because of its small aperture, which cannot produce a nice bokeh. When I decided to upgrade my camera to X-T20, I made another mistake of buying a bundle with an XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0 as its lens kit. I can’t resist buying that bundle because it came with a free prime lens, an XF 28mm f/2.8, and an Instax Mini Printer. 

Although the XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0 lens is too powerful to be categorized as a lens kit, it still cannot produce the exquisite bokeh I desired.

Which led me to buy a 35mm lens.

Fujifilm is renowned for its APS-C sensor. Since a full-frame camera is regarded as the standard size for all digital cameras, a 35mm APS-C camera equates to a 50mm lens in a full-frame camera.

For several reasons, a 50mm lens, often called the “Nifty Fifty” lens, has become a staple in many photographers’ kits.

One reason is that the 50mm focal length closely mimics the natural view of our eyes, making it an ideal choice for capturing a portrait, a bustling street, or a delicate flower – allowing your audience to connect with the perspective easily.

Prime Lenses – The Best First Step.

Prime lenses are fixed focal length lenses, which means they have a single, unchangeable perspective. Unlike zoom lenses that offer a range of focal lengths, prime lenses typically have just one. 

You might wonder why, as a beginner, you should consider a lens that seems limiting. Here’s why:

  • Learn the Basics of Composition: Prime lenses force you to move physically to compose your shot. This fundamental practice helps you understand the importance of framing, perspective, and positioning. You’ll start seeing the world differently, essentially “zooming with your feet.”
  • Master Low-Light Photography: Most prime lenses have wide apertures, which can capture more light. This feature is a game-changer for low-light photography, allowing you to shoot in challenging conditions without a flash.
  • Sharper Images: Prime lenses are known for their sharpness. Since they have fewer glass elements and a fixed focal length, there’s less distortion, resulting in crisp, high-quality images.
  • Portraiture and Bokeh: A prime lens is your ally if you’re interested in portrait photography. The wide aperture provides a shallow depth of field, creating a beautiful background blur, or bokeh, that makes your subject pop.
  • Simplicity and Creativity: With fewer options to zoom in and out, you can focus on the creative aspects of your photography, such as subject framing and storytelling.

The Nifty Fifty – A Classic Prime Lens.

As I said, one of the most popular prime lenses for beginners is the “Nifty Fifty.” Since I’m using an APS-C camera, I will refer to my XF 35mm f/2.0 as one of the Nifty Fifty lenses. This lens has become a standard in many photographers’ kits for several reasons:

  • Affordability: When I bought the XF35mm f/2.0, it was the most budget-friendly prime lens in the Fujinon lineup. It offers excellent value for money, making it accessible to beginners. Now, there’s an XC version of the lens that comes cheaper. 
  • Versatility: The 35mm focal length is a great all-rounder. It’s neither too wide nor too narrow, making it suitable for various photography genres, from portraits to landscapes.
  • Wide Aperture: With an aperture of f/2.0, equivalent to f/3.0 in a full-frame sensor, this lens excels in low-light situations, producing stunning bokeh for portraits and allowing you to capture subjects with beautiful background separation.
  • Lightweight and Compact: The Nifty Fifty is often small, light, and easy to carry. This lens makes it a practical choice for everyday photography and travel.
  • Great for Learning: As a beginner, the 50mm f/1.8 primes you to think critically about your composition and framing. It encourages you to explore your creative potential.

Tips for Choosing Your First Lens.

Here are some valuable tips to consider when selecting your first lens:

  1. Determine Your Interests: Identify the photography genres you’re most passionate about, whether portraits, landscapes, or macro. Your choice of lens should align with your interests.
  2. Budget Constraints: Be mindful of your budget. Prime lenses like the Nifty Fifty offer excellent quality at an affordable price, but there are other options if your budget allows.
  3. Research and Reviews: Read reviews, watch video demonstrations, and seek advice from experienced photographers. Gathering information from multiple sources can help you make an informed decision.
  4. Try Before You Buy: Visit a camera store and try the lens you’re considering. Get a feel for its weight, focal length, and how it handles real-life shooting situations.
  5. Consider Future Growth: Consider whether the lens you’re considering will remain relevant as you progress in your photography journey. Some lenses are investments that can serve you well for years to come.

Here’s What I learned

My biggest mistake before wasn’t choosing a zoom lens as my first but the urge to have lenses I didn’t need. My decision to buy the X-T20 bundle led to my early GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). GAS refers to the compulsive need to buy more and more photography equipment you may or may not need. Because of that, now, I have around 50 lenses. Some of which have been sold already. 

Trust me, if you want to choose prime lenses as your daily lens, you only need three lenses.

Don’t choose a lens with a focal range close to your current lens. For example, if you have a 35mm lens and want to add two more lenses, don’t choose a 23mm or a 50mm lens but prefer an 18mm and an 85mm lens for a wider gap of focal range.

And now, it’s your time to choose.

Your first lens is a crucial companion on your photographic voyage. It’s more than just a piece of glass; it’s a tool that can shape how you see the world and capture moments. 

The Nifty Fifty, or a similar prime lens, is an excellent starting point for beginners, offering affordability, versatility, and the opportunity to master essential photographic skills. 

Using a zoom lens allows you to swiftly compose your shot and explore various perspectives of the same scene without physically adjusting your distance from the subject, whether moving farther away or getting closer. 

Remember, photography is about the gear and the creative spirit behind the lens. So, go out, explore, and let your first lens be the key to unlocking your creative potential in photography.

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