My 50mm Challenge

I’m currently a few weeks into a little challenge I’ve set myself – I’m using my Canon 5D with a 50mm prime (fixed focal length – i.e. no zoom) lens, on manual focus, in manual mode, with the preview screen turned off.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, with Can...

Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, with Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m metering with an external light meter – actually an iPhone app, and ignoring the camera’s own metering system. Basically I’m forcing myself to shun all the bells & whistles of a modern dSLR camera, and to use it like a good old-fashioned SLR. Having no zoom facility, although greatly restrictive at first, has proved to be a blessing. Rather than stand in an arbitrary position, zoom to fill the frame, then shoot, I have to use my legs, in conjunction with my eye in the viewfinder, to achieve the image I’m trying to capture. This forces me to slow down and actually think about what I’m doing – Image composition, what settings I’m using etc. The result is I’m capturing one or two images where I’d normally have just fired off a dozen or so. Checking back over my shots at the end of a shoot I appear to be getting less shots, but they’re more considered, better composed, better exposed and better focused than they would have been if I’d let the camera do all the work for me. I also feel more like a “real” photographer, as I’m in total control of the camera, and the images, good or bad, are 100% down to my skills, and not the gadgets built into a modern camera.

I’m having fun shooting with what is effectively an old-school film camera…..


7 Responses to My 50mm Challenge

  1. Nikita says:

    So let’s see the result .. post your photos, dude.

  2. Kevin says:

    Just an observation, but why did you decide to use a handheld meter instead of the camera’s meter? I own a digital camera (nikon) but shoot far more film than digital, and I recently picked up a Nikon FE (likely from the 1970’s). It’s my only film camera with a functioning meter, and it has completely changed my ability to capture the world around me. I’ve worked a lot with prime lenses since I started shooting about 6 years ago – more due to price than anything else – and I can definitely appreciate everything you’ve said about slowing down, using your legs to zoom, and really considering each photo that you take. But I felt you could have achieved all of the benefits you’ve mentioned and still kept the internal meter in play. Just my two cents.

    BTW, I stumbled on your page while looking for a 50mm challenge for myself. Nice work and approach!

    • stevieboy378 says:

      Thanks !!
      I found a light meter app whilst mooching through the App Store, and began using it as a comparison to the 5Ds internal metering. As you say, I’ve since discovered that the internal metering system is every bit as good as the app, so I use that mostly, but I still occasionally stop and use the metering app – it comes in handy for working out a “central” EV when calculating bracketed shots for HDRs …….

    • danielroz says:

      I, too, am starting my own 50 mm project, in conjunction with my 50th birthday next year. I’d welcome any suggestions or cautions:

      • stevieboy378 says:

        Stop down the lens. My 50mm f1.4 is very soft wide open, and depth of field is almost TOO shallow. From f4 to f11 it is razor sharp, with f8 giving the best balance between sharpness and depth of field. You may have to jack up the ISO in some situations, but decent noise reduction software can tidy things up …..

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