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EF50mm f/1.8 STM: A Review with Useful Composition Tips

An affordable prime lens that is easy-to-use even for beginners, the EF50mm f/1.8 STM is also lightweight, which makes it highly compatible with the EOS 200D. Here is how to use this lens to create pleasant, creamy bokeh effects. (Reported by: Maiko Fukui)

 

Beautiful, creamy bokeh that makes photography more fun than ever

The EF50mm f/1.8 STM offers high performance and user-friendliness amid affordability, qualities that will make it appealing to users seeking the best value-for-money. With its natural depictions and minimal distortion, chances are that you will find yourself having fun creating images with this lens. Its creamy, visually-appealing bokeh, which is its most significant feature, makes it easy to defocus the background in photos to make subjects such as people and animals stand out. It goes without saying that this lens is useful even in street photography.

When paired with a camera equipped with an APS-C sensor, such as the EOS 200D, it gives a medium telephoto angle-of-view equivalent to 80mm (35mm-film equivalent). This is a narrower angle-of-view than the lens on a full-frame camera, and lets you take close-up shots of subjects that are far away.

The look and feel of an image shot with a large aperture lens can be dramatically different. At f/1.8, the lens can easily produce creamy bokeh, not only in the background but also the foreground. This can be used to give your photos depth as well as depict a sense of surrealness. The bokeh circles created from point light sources are beautiful too. It can be difficult to get the same kind of quality and effect with a kit lens. In addition, as this is a bright lens, it is also great for photography in dark locations.

Using the maximum aperture results in a soft effect, which can be sharpened by narrowing the aperture. Nothing beats the excitement of wondering how subjects in a particular photo will turn out when taken at f/1.8, and thus this is one lens that I recommend for beginners in photography.

With this lens, you can find new charms in everyday scenes, be it in a display window along the street, something you find lying on the beach, or beautiful lights that you happen to come across. You can have fun utilising the bokeh effect for things that catch your attention!

 

The EF50mm f/1.8 STM is a great choice for these scenes:
- Portraits of people, animals, etc.
- When the shooting location results in a cluttered image background and you need to make the main subject stand out more
- Street photography scenes that require defocus effects and the creation of bokeh

 

Lens tip 1: Get up closer to your subject to create a creamy background bokeh

To increase the degree of blurring when defocusing the background to create bokeh, it is important to not only use maximum aperture, but also have distance between the main subject and background, and get as close as possible to the main subject. (Find out more in Lens Basics #3: Creating Bokeh)

In the picture below, I got up close to the roses to take shots near to the closest focusing distance (minimum shooting distance). The photo was captured from a position that placed the subjects in semi-backlight so that the petals would be depicted beautifully and the background would sparkle. The depth-of-field becomes shallower at wider apertures (smaller f-numbers), so you need to hold the camera firmly and be aware of the shutter speed so as to minimise camera shake.

 

Close-up with good bokeh

EOS 200D/ EF50mm f/1.8 STM/ FL: 50mm (80mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/1.8, 1/1,600 sec, EV+1.3)/ ISO 200/ WB: Daylight
I wanted the beautiful roses to stand out as the main subject. By creating a large blur in the background, I was able to get up close to the roses so that they would be in the line of sight.

Less significant bokeh

EOS 200D/ EF50mm f/1.8 STM/ FL: 50mm (80mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/1.8, 1/1,600 sec, EV+1.3)/ ISO 200/ WB: Daylight
In this picture, I did not get up close enough to the roses. The aperture was f/1.8, but the roses did not command as much attention. To ensure that your subject has a strong sense of presence, move closer to it.

 

Lens tip 2: Make the most of the large aperture lens with the Rule of Thirds composition

How the elements in a photo are framed and composed is very important. If you are using a very significant bokeh effect in your image, keep in mind the proportion of the image frame that the bokeh occupies. If you are using a landscape orientation, place the main subject about 1/3 from the centre to the left or right side; if you are using a portrait orientation, place the main subject above or below the centre to depict calmness and impact. This way, your image will seem to be telling a story. The images below bring to mind the idea of a light bulb that has drifted in from the ocean and settled on the sand.

Read more about the Rule of Thirds here: Simple but Essential Compositions (Part 1)

 

Rule of Thirds composition (landscape)

EOS 200D/ EF50mm f/1.8 STM/ FL: 50mm (80mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/1.8, 1/1,600 sec, EV+1.3)/ ISO 200/ WB: Daylight
Landscape orientation
Using the Rule of Thirds, the main subject was placed where the lines intersected on the lower right of the image. I also lowered the level and adjusted the camera position, such that the sand through to the sparkle of the sea were in the frame, and filled up empty space by defocusing it to create bokeh.

Rule of Thirds composition (portrait)

EOS 200D/ EF50mm f/1.8 STM/ FL: 50mm (80mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/1.8, 1/1,250 sec, EV+1.3)/ ISO 200/ WB: Daylight
Portrait orientation
I shot this from a slightly higher position to give a better idea of the shape of the bottle. The portrait orientation allowed me to create a little more space above the subject, which makes the composition look more stable.

 

Photo Gallery

Artistic shadows in evening

EOS 200D/ EF50mm f/1.8 STM/ FL: 50mm (80mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/2.8, 1/4,000 sec, EV+1.0)/ ISO 400/ WB: Daylight

The shadows bathed in the evening sun created a beautiful, artistic-looking pattern. Pairing this lens with an APS-C camera gives you an 80mm (35mm-film equivalent) medium telephoto angle-of-view that looks natural and carries no distortion.

 

Cat with foreground and background bokeh

EOS 200D/ EF50mm f/1.8 STM/ FL: 50mm (80mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/1.8, 1/800 sec, EV+1.0)/ ISO 1600/ WB: Daylight

A cat in a back alley, sandwiched by bokeh in the foreground and background. The grass and wall in the foreground have been blurred into creamy bokeh created at f/1.8 to make the cat stand out.

 

EOS 200D/ EF50mm f/1.8 STM/ FL: 50mm (80mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/4, 1/320 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 400/ WB: Cloudy

This close-up image shows a pair of sunglasses lying on the sand captured up close, the surroundings reflected in them as silhouettes. I aimed to create a creamy bokeh in the background to make the sunglasses stand out.

 

Two worlds at sunset

EOS 200D/ EF50mm f/1.8 STM/ FL: 50mm (80mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/5.6, 1/400 sec, EV-1.0)/ ISO 400/ WB: Shade

This image depicts two magical worlds - the sea as how we view it on the left half of the photo, and the sea with the sunset reflected as seen from the pedestrian crossing on the right half - both captured vividly at an aperture of f/5.6.

 

Also see the following articles about the EF50mm f/1.8 STM:
[Part 1] The Sophisticated New Incarnation of a Bestseller Lens
[Part 2] Expressive Power that’s Gotten Better Yet Again

 

Lens Hood ES-68

Lens hood (sold separately): ES-68

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Focal length (35mm film equivalent): 50mm (80mm when mounted on an APS-C camera)
Lens construction:  6 elements in 5 groups
No. of aperture blades: 7
Minimum shooting distance: approx. 0.35m
Maximum magnification: 0.21x
Filter diameter: φ49mm
Maximum diameter × overall length: approx. 69.2×39.3mm
Weight: approx. 160g

 


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Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
Published by Impress Corporation

Maiko Fukui

Maiko Fukui

Born in 1983 in Osaka. Photographer. Actively involved in magazine and advertising photography, book writing, photography workshops and so on.

http://caby.exblog.jp/