The 50mm Lens

While recording the podcast a few months back with Cody and Thomas, we were discussing 50mm lenses and our love of them. I knew I owned a bunch of different ones over the years, but didn't realize how many until I started counting them off. Holy crap - I have issues I think. I can't believe the number of 50's I have purchased in the last 10 years (give or take).

50mm Lenses

The 50mm length is just a great one for me as it's how I want to capture the world I see; it's how I visualize just about every image I make. They tend to be relatively inexpensive in most mounts and have a wonderful rendering across the board. I am so used and so comfortable with this length that I always know what I will see when looking through finder. You can see why it's such a popular length for so many various photographers from portrait to landscape to street. After all, it is the normal lens.

I've owned the this length in a handful of lens mounts and have tried vintage as well as modern takes on it. Below is a run-down of them by mount; at least the ones I could remember. Some of them really shined for me, so I will highlight those ones below.

Nikon F-Mount

The below lenses were used on the following cameras: Nikon F3HP, FE, FM3A, F4s, N60, D80, and D700. The ZEISS ZF.2 mount glass was my favorite of the bunch, though the AI/S versions were so nice on the classic film Nikons. If I were to pick up another film Nikon today, I would most likely throw on an appropriate Nikkor 1.4 with it. A digital Nikon would get the ZEISS 1.4.

  • Nikkor 1.4/50 AI

  • Nikkor 1.4/50 AI-S

  • Nikkor 1.8/50d

  • Nikkor 1.8/50g

  • ZEISS Planar T* 1.4/50

  • ZEISS Makro-Planar T* 2/50

Nikkor S 1.4/50 on Nikon S3

Nikon S-Mount

I only had the one lens on the Nikon S3, which was the classic Nikkor S 1.4/50. I really loved the rendering of this one, though overall, I wasn't super-excited about the S3. It was cool and a really fun rangefinder, but something about it wasn't great. Maybe it was because I was spoiled by a handful of Leica bodies at the time, but I just could never put my finger on it. Body aside, the lens rendered so nice.

  • NIKKOR S 1.4/50

Leica M-Mount

I had a ton of these, as I had a bunch of M-Mount cameras: Zeiss Ikon, Leica M2, M3, M-A, and M-E. The Summilux-M was so nice, but man, talk about clinically sharp (bottom left). It was the only lens I owned that was just a touch too sharp for me, even wide-open. But I admit, I totally loved it. I also owned a pile of 'Crons.

The Collapsible rendered the funkiest, and I loved that (top right). The latest Cron-M was super nice (top left).

But my go-to M-Mount was always the C Sonnar (bottom right). I ended up owning the same version twice. Sold it, regretted it, bought a new one within a couple months.

  • Leica Summicron-M 2/50

  • Leica Summicron 2/50 Collapsible

  • Leica Summicron 2/50 DR

  • Leica Summicron 2/50 Rigid

  • Leica Summilux 1.4/50

  • ZEISS C Sonnar 1.5/50 (x2)

  • ZEISS Plannar 2/50

  • Voigtländer Nokton 1.1/50

  • Voigtländer Color-Skopar 2.8/50

Voigtlander Color-Skopar

Voigtländer DKL-Mount

Interesting little lens mounted on my Voigtländer Vitessa T. This one is mounted in a Synchro-Compar shutter. My first roll just came back, and most of my shots were fooling around. I'll have to give it some more rolls before I can get a firm opinion on this one.

  • Voigtländer Color-Skopar 2.8/50

Leica M39 Screw-Mount

The Jupiter 8 and 3 lenses were mounted on a Zorki 4 and a Fed 3, respectively. I only put a roll through the Zorki and it had massive light leaks - so it became just a shelf piece until I can get around to a repair. The Fed 3 is new to me (Emulsive Santa) and I have not had a chance to use it yet. So, though these are both currently owned, I have nothing to show for them.

  • Jupiter 8 2/50

  • Jupiter 3 1.5/50

Sony E-Mount

Only 2 50's so far on the Sony A7R II. I am sure more will come down the road to play with. The Speedmaster was a crazy fast lens and far from sharp wide open - but fun. The smooth bokeh was awesome on this one and that razor thin depth was wild. I didn't really take it serious and dumped it eventually.

The ZEISS Loxia, though - oh so nice. It's a manual 50 - which I prefer - and just awesome to use. I feel it might be a little soft wide-open, but stopped down to f/4 it's perfect. This was the only lens I took with me to New Zealand last month andI honestly feel this 50 was able to do it all.

  • Zeiss Loxia 2/50

  • Mitakon Zhongyi Speedmaster 0.95/50

50mm Equivalent Glass

When talking about 50's with Cody and Thomas on the podcast, we decided that 50 equivalents should be an addition to the list as they are seen the same through the camera. With medium format, 80-90 is within the equivalent range of a 50 on a 35mm camera. For 4x5, the normal lens is a 150 (in the ballpark of 50 on a 35mm). I also included the Linhof 105, as it was used on a 2x3, not 4x5 camera. So, it falls within the range there as well (I think it was about 48mm).

So, here are the ones I can remember. I listed the camera used with each with a handful of samples off to the right..

  • Fuji X-Pro2: Fuji 1.4/35

  • Hasselblad: ZEISS 2.8/80

  • Rolleiflex 2.8E: ZEISS Planar 2.8/80

  • Plaubel-Makina 670: Nikkor 2.8/80

  • Pentax 67: Pentax SMC 2.8/90

  • Graflex Century Graphic 2x3: Linhof Schneider-Kreuznach 3.5/105

  • Chamonix 45n2 4x5: Schneider 5.6/150 (4x5)


For me, the 50 has proved itself to be a favorite length of mine. I seem to buy it over and over again, no matter what body or format I swap to. If I had the gun to my head and had to pick a length, it'd be the 50 or equivalent for sure.

I guess my vision for images really gravitates to this length as it makes for the perfect all around lens. It's awesome for street, awesome for environmental portraits, awesome for landscapes.  I need to remember this the next time I purchase a camera - just grab a 50 as I know I will get one for it eventually. I always do.

I am curious to hear what your collection of past and present 50's entails. Is it a common length for you or something you don't really use a lot? Have there been any stand-out 50's in your life? What are they?