Is a 50mm Lens Better Than an 18-55mm Lens?

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People who are new to photography may often hear about two lenses, the 18mm-55mm kit lens and the 50mm prime lens. 

If you are not familiar with the features of a lens, these two may not have much of a difference. 

Is a 50mm Lens Better Than an 18-55mm Lens? 

Based on the features, the images that it produces and its overall built, the 50mm prime lens is better than the 18mm-55mm lens. 

However, that does not mean that the 18mm-55mm does not have its own advantages. 

Canon cameras with a 50mm lens and an 18-55mm lens

Difference Between a 18mm-55mm Lens and a 50mm Lens

The biggest difference between the two lenses is their type. The 50mm is a prime lens with a fixed focal length, so it can’t be zoomed in or out. As for its aperture, it is wide enough to be used in the dark, or at night time

Meanwhile, the 18mm-55mm kit lens is categorized as a zoom lens that can change focal lengths and allows for more versatility. However, its aperture is narrow, so it can’t be used in low light areas, you might be required to use an external flash.

Benefits of a 18mm-55mm Lens

The 18mm-55mm lens is the kit lens that comes with the DSLR that you purchase. It has an aperture range of f/3.5 to f/5.6 which is ideal for wide-angle and zoomed pictures. 

The outcome of your images will depend on the focal length range that you use. If you go for the wider angles, you can use the lens for the following types of photography:

  • Architecture 
  • Landscape
  • Real Estate
  • Automotive
  • Nature
  • Family

Aperture of a 18mm-55mm Lens

The 18mm-55mm kit lens shares the same aperture regardless of the brand. The aperture of a kit lens is f/3.5 to f/5.6. If you are using the 18mm focal length, the aperture will be f/3.5. If you are using the 55mm focal length, the aperture will be f/5.6. 

A kit lens is smaller and lighter compared to other zoom lenses, so they are perfect for travelling. The downside is that the quality of the image changes drastically based on the focal length. 

For example, if you use the 18mm focal length, distortion will be visible when you switch to 55mm. To combat this, you will need to make some adjustments on the shutter speed of your lens. 

Benefits of a 50mm Lens

The 50mm prime lens has a different set of advantages compared to the 18mm-55mm lens. It is a fixed focal length which means you can only take pictures of your subject from a distance. 

Despite not having a zoom option, it has a very fast and wide aperture of f/1.8, which is ideal for taking pictures in low lit areas. It also creates a beautiful background blur on your pictures. 

The types of photography that the 50mm lens covers are:

  • Astro
  • Portraits
  • Blue Hour
50mm camera lens

Aperture of 50mm Lens 

The 50mm has a wide aperture of f/1.8. It is two stops brighter than the aperture of the 18mm-55mm lens. Even though you won’t use the f/1.8 aperture on all of your pictures, it can still create a beautiful look on the images. 

Since the aperture is wide, it will naturally create a shallow depth of field. It can also naturally create a background blur and creamy bokeh

Related Questions

How Far Do You Have to Be From the Subject to Shoot With a 50mm Lens?

Since the 50mm prime lens does not have a zoom feature, you will need to stand a few feet away from the subject so that it won’t look too zoomed in. 

What you need to check is the focus of the lens. The 50mm is not ideal for close up photo shoots since there is no way for you to adjust the frame. 

How Far Do You Have to Be From the Subject to Shoot with a 18mm-55m Lens? 

Since the 18mm-55mm lens is a zoom lens, you can take pictures of subjects from far away. 

Even if you are physically away from the subject as you can always adjust the focal length of your lens until you get a clearer shot. 

Why is a 50mm Lens called Nifty Fifty?

The 50mm prime lens is often called the nifty fifty because of its aperture and focal length. The nifty part is from its wide aperture, which is f/1.8. Meanwhile, the fifty part refers to its fixed focal length of 50mm. 

The 50mm lens captures images the way that it is viewed by the human eye. It has minimum distortion and a good field of view. 


If you are confused about choosing between the 18mm-55mm lens and the 50mm lens, it is best to figure out what you want your photos to look like.

If you are a beginner testing the waters, you can get the 18mm-55mm kit lens. If you want more versatility and a camera lens that will push you to be more creative, you can get the 50mm lens. 

Kaitlin Cooper is an active professional wedding and portrait photographer in San Diego, California at Kaitlin Cooper Photography. She is also a contributor to many large publications, including Bridal GuideBustlePixpaWith Joy, and Hello Giggles.