Canon 18-55mm Vs 50mm f/1.8 STM: The kit Lens Vs A Prime

One of the first questions that beginners start asking within few months of buying a new camera with a kit lens is: What is the best upgrade lens? I had the same issue as I started to realize the limitations of my Canon kit lens.

The kit lens is usually a 18-55mm f/3.5-6.5 and to be honest you can produce OK images with it if you are planning to use them online and if you know how to adjust your camera settings, etc. But the kit lens has some limits as you will see in this post.

18-55mm Vs 50mm: The Aperture

The aperture of the kit lens changes, as you zoom further, the aperture narrows down and with that, you get less light. The result is a darker image and you are unable to provide a decent bokeh (background blurring). At 55mm, you are using aperture 6.5 which is not really what you are looing for if you are shooting portraits, for example.

On the other hand, the very affordable 50mm f1.8 is wide enough for a really nice bokeh, and for low light or night photography. This is also handy if you or your subject is moving so you could capture the most amount of light you could. If you want to spend even more, you could go for the 50mm f/1.4 or even f/1.2, the latter being the most expensive of the three. The Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM is known as the "nifty fifty" for many reasons and this is just the first one.

Photo of the Canon 50mm lens
Photo by Dave Craige on Unsplash

 Image quality:

Without any hesitation, I can definitely tell you that the 50mm produces sharper and better quality photos than the kit lens. The colors are also more vivid and contrast is somehow better. This small lens can really do wonders. As a rule, any prime lens produces better quality of photos than the zoom lens covering the same focal length. This is due to the way the internal elements are designed inside lenses. With zoom lenses, different parts have to move in certain ways making it more difficult to produce good image quality at all focal lengths.

In terms of sharpness, you might notice that the Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM is slightly less sharp when the aperture is opened at its widest: f/1.8. However, sharpness greatly improves at f/2.8 and higher, and even at f/1.8, you will probably notice the difference if you are a professional photographer or the images are large.

The focal length:

Photo of man holding the Canon 50mm lens
This is where I say "it depends on what you are using the lens for"!. Of course, the zoom of the kit lens given you more freedom it different situations. However, the Canon 50mm lens is pretty versatile: you can use it to shoot landscape, it is perfect for portraits and street photography. In fact, some photographers and street photographers only use a 50mm most of the time.

Yes, before buying a new lens you need to ask yourself if it suits your needs. However, the 50mm is so versatile that professional photographers always advise all beginners to always start by buying a 50mm lens as their first! It is cheap price means you are not really risking spending a lot of money.

It does not have to be a choice between one lens and not using the other at all. you an always use both and you might find yourself needing the zoom or the wider angle in some situations. However, in my opinion, the 50mm will just suffice in most situations. 



That is another are where the 50mm is  winner. The lens is very light weight and it is smaller in size than the kit lens or any zoom lens, of course. This makes is a great "walk around" lens specially if you are traveling or walking/ moving a lot. If you use a neck strap for your camera, you will notice how light this lens is. Your neck muscles will love you!

I like this video review of the lens by one of my favorite reviewers and street photographers, he is also funny and witty.

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