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Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials

6 Things You’ll Discover While Traveling with RF50mm f/1.8 STM

2024-06-25
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If you had to travel light and could only bring only one small camera bag, which lens would you pick? Your standard zoom lens would be the safe choice, but to switch things up, why not pack the RF50mm f/1.8 STM “nifty fifty” lens instead? You’ll find yourself on a different type of epic journey that transforms the way you see and shoot.

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In this article:

 

1. You’ll always be ready for photo opportunities

The RF50mm f/1.8 STM is known as a “nifty fifty” for good reasons. Small and light (approx. 160g; approx. 4cm long), it should easily fit into your everyday bag with ample room to spare! It also makes a compact, easy-to-hold combination with most cameras—perfect for a day full of exploration.

Try this: Shoot for a whole day with just the 50mm. It’s more versatile that you think—read on for more ideas!

 

2. Brighter handheld shots in low light

EOS R8 + RF50mm f/1.8 STM @ f/1.8, 1/100 sec, ISO 200

With its large f/1.8 maximum aperture, the RF50mm f/1.8 STM lets you keep the shutter speed fast enough to avoid camera shake when shooting in dim places or at night. You can also set a lower ISO speed to get cleaner images, and enjoy better autofocus performance in low light.

It is one of the smallest, most versatile “fast” lenses available. Large aperture zoom lenses tend to be heavier and larger, whereas smaller and lighter zoom lenses have smaller maximum apertures that become narrower as you zoom in. That’s another reason why it’s called a “nifty fifty”!

Know this: A large maximum aperture also means beautiful bokeh

EOS R6 Mark II + RF50mm f/1.8 STM @ f/1.8, 1/125 sec, ISO 500

The RF50mm f/1.8 STM’s wide aperture also makes it capable of beautiful shallow focus blurring, also known as “bokeh”. Use it to make subjects stand out better against a cluttered background, or create effects that make your image more visually interesting.

Find out more in:
Easy Pretty Portraits: 3 Quick & Convenient Camera Techniques
4 Easy Steps to Capture Those Elusive Bokeh Circles!

 

3. Your images take on an intimate point of view

EOS R8 + RF50mm f/1.8 STM @ f/5.6, 1/125 sec, ISO 640

When used with a full-frame camera, the RF50mm f/1.8 STM provides a field of view similar to that of humans’ when our attention is on a particular object.

Unlike wide-angle lenses, which exaggerate distances between subjects, and telephoto lenses, which compress distances and make scenes look “flatter”, it does not add any interesting effects to your pictures on its own.

The natural perspective it provides makes it seem “boring” to some photographers, but that’s also precisely its charm. Its instinctively familiar point of view draws viewers into the scene, making it a powerful storytelling tool.

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Find out how one photographer uses this characteristic to his benefit in:
50mm Portraits, My Style: Creating A Picture of a Memory
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4. Your composition skills will improve

The lack of obvious perspective distortion is also what makes the RF50mm f/1.8 STM chameleon-like: you can create images that resemble those shot on a wide-angle or telephoto lens by simply varying your shooting distance, camera angle, and composition. That’s another reason why it’s considered such a versatile lens!

Wide-angle-like at 50mm
EOS R6 Mark II + RF50mm f/1.8 STM @ f/9, 1/200 sec, ISO 160


Telephoto-like at 50mm
EOS R6 Mark II + RF50mm f/1.8 STM @ f/1.8, 1/6400 sec, ISO 100

To create images that look like they were shot on a wide-angle lens:
- Move further back to show more of the scene.
- Incorporate foreground to add depth.
- Tilt the camera to add perspective.
- Use a narrower aperture to get a larger depth of field.

To create images that look telephoto:
- Move as close as possible to the subject so that it fills the frame. With the RF50mm f/1.8 STM’s 30cm closest focusing distance, you can focus on subjects as near as around 4cm away from the lens’ tip.
- Shoot with the camera as level as possible.
- Create the illusion of compressed distances: stack layered subjects directly in front of each other and shoot them head-on instead of an angle.

With just one lens, you can produce images that look like they were shot on very different lenses!

Pro tip:  For more reach, turn on the 1.6x crop mode on your full-frame EOS R series camera. This gives a field of view equivalent to portrait-friendly 80mm.

 

5. You’ll discover new angles (and get a little fitter in the process)

EOS R6 Mark II + RF50mm f/1.8 STM @ f/11, 1/20 sec, ISO 200

No sugar coating: because the RF50mm f/1.8 STM has a fixed focal length, you’ll work harder for your compositions. It’s a great way to get your creative juices running: more exploration means more discoveries!

While you’d get some exercise, it will be less of a workout than you’d expect. The RF50mm f/1.8 STM is, after all, a compact, lightweight lens.

Try this: Experiment with other ways to capture the same subject even after you get your envisioned shot. Stumped? Use the Matrix Method to help.


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Find out how using the RF50mm f/1.8 STM inspires landscape photographer GOTO AKI in:
50mm Landscapes, My Style: The Lens that Inspires Adventure
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6. You’ll be shooting travel photos with a classic

EOS R6 Mark II + RF50mm f/1.8 STM @ f/2.8, 1/1250 sec, ISO 100

50mm lenses are the original kit lens. They first appeared in the 1920s, and soon became a mainstay on the 35mm rangefinder cameras that were mainstream at that time. For decades, almost all new camera kits were sold with a 50mm lens.

Many established photographers from the analogue photography era learned photography on it, and it would have influenced the way they composed scenes. Some like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa even used 50mm prime lenses almost exclusively—Cartier-Bression liked its lack of distortion as he felt that distortions were too “aggressive”, like “shouting”. (Read more about why he prefers a 50mm lens in this interview with the New York Times)

Though we have more options nowadays, shooting with a 50mm lens gives us some insight into what photographers like Cartier-Bresson saw. And the affordable, nifty little RF50mm f/1.8 STM provides an accessible way.


RF50mm f/1.8 STM
The nifty-fifty that’s a classic must-have.


Gallery
Click or tap on an image to see the EXIF details

 

 

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