Cosplay Photography At 50mm

April 11, 2013
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Let’s face it: serious photography requires serious cash, but that goes with every kind of hobby, cosplay included. But for every hobby, there are always ways to do it on the cheap and still produce great work. Photography is of no exception. It just so happened that one of those “cheap” ways everyone can easily adopt is the so called “nifty-fifty”, the 50mm f/1.8 prime lenses, and many may very well find themselves loving these 50s really quickly.

So what exactly make these 50s so attractive as a beginner’s lens? There are many reasons, but here are just a couple main reasons:

  • Price: With most of the 50mm f/1.8 prime lenses priced around $100 USD, these 50s are probably one of the most universally cheap lenses across all camera companies. For those tight on budget but still want to jump on the dSLR ship, 50s’ price points make them a very attractive option.
  • Performance: One of the greatest things about prime lenses is their wide aperture. At f/1.8, one can easily ‘melt’ the background into beautiful bokeh, and at the same time brings the focus to the subject. Cheap zoom lenses seldomย come with aperture larger than f/3.5, and that difference between f/1.8 and f/3.5 is almost night and day for portrait photography, which just so happens to be what cosplay photography falls under.

With 50s obvious limitations in mind, such as the fixed focal length and their cheap build, they do offer an option for one to begin cosplay photography on the cheap side and at the same time offer a decent range of flexibility. For those who photograph cosplays at conventions, that wide aperture will easily become your new best friend, not just to melt away the busy background, but to also allow you to experiment with low light photography.

Examples

All that said, what exactly are the kind of cosplay photos 50s can get you? DeviantArt, flickr, and many other online repositories are full of wonderful examples that you can find. For those interested, read on for my personal description about the shots I have made with my 50mm prime. Note – these shots are captured using the Canon 50mm f/1.4 prime lens, but for all intents and purposes, 50mm f/1.8 can produce the same results.

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Final Fantasy Lightning by Nyurt Cosplay. Shot with Canon 5D Mark II @ f/2.5, 1/125, ISO-400. Backlit by the sun and front fill by a speedlight through a shoot-through umbrella.

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Tangled Rapunzel by Katie. Shot with Canon 5D Mark II @ f/2.8, 1/500, ISO-200. Backlit by the sun and front fill by a speedlight through a shoot-through umbrella.

Vampire Hunter D by Sydney. Shot with Canon 5D Mark II @ f/2.8, 1/200, ISO-800. Natural light through the window.

Vampire Hunter D by Sydney. Shot with Canon 5D Mark II @ f/2.8, 1/200, ISO-800. Natural light through the window.

Black Vow Hatsune Miku by Anastacia. Shot with Canon 5D Mark II @ f/2.8, 1/80, ISO-1000. Natural light. Panoramically stitched.

Black Vow Hatsune Miku by Anastacia. Shot with Canon 5D Mark II @ f/2.8, 1/80, ISO-1000. Natural light. Panoramically stitched.

Guild Wars Shining Blade by Enayla Cosplay. Shot with Canon 5D Mark II @ f/2.8, 1/200, ISO-200. Backlit by the sun and front fill by monolight through a diffused PLM.

Guild Wars Shining Blade by Enayla Cosplay. Shot with Canon 5D Mark II @ f/2.8, 1/200, ISO-200. Backlit by the sun and front fill by monolight through a diffused PLM.

League of Legend Ashe by Missyeru. Shot with Canon 5D Mark II @ f/2.8, 1/125, ISO-125. Speedlight through umbrella on the right.

League of Legends Ashe by Missyeru. Shot with Canon 5D Mark II @ f/2.8, 1/125, ISO-125. Speedlight through umbrella on the right.

Final Fantasy Sice by Nyurt Cosplay. Shot with Canon 5D Mark II @ f/2.2, 1/250, ISO-100. Speedlight through shoot-through umbrella on the right.

Final Fantasy Sice by Nyurt Cosplay. Shot with Canon 5D Mark II @ f/2.2, 1/250, ISO-100. Speedlight through shoot-through umbrella on the right.

Conclusion

50s definitely provide a cheap alternative to zoom lenses, and while you may need to manually zoom with your feet, the added bonus of a wider aperture can sometimes be worth more than the workout. I sort of “cheated” by using fill flash in some of the examples shown above, but with them at a fairly low output power, one can easily achieve similar results even without a flash.

We are all about teaching, learning, and inviting more to the cosplay photography community, and by shedding light on economical ways to do things, we hope to make cosplay photography more accessible, attainable, and easier to jumpย on board. So are you intrigued? Do you shoot with a 50mm? We would love to hear about your experience.

If you found this article interesting, be sure to join our Facebook group, Cosplay Photography Discussion Group. It is a place for cosplay photographers of all levels to learn from each other. Don’t forget to like us on Facebook as well!

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I am a Seattle, WA based lifestyle fashion photographer who has Cosplay to thank for his adventure into the photography world. In addition to fashion, I also maintain Costographer as my cosplay work outlet: http://facebook.com/costographer

34 Comments

  1. Avatar

    But, hey, the examples are with a 5DII body, so it’s 30mm for APS, wich means, it can’t apply for the 90% of the cosplay photographers, so I think the examples aren’t quite appropriate. ๐Ÿ™‚

    If a photographer is using a fullframe camera, I assume he won’t buy cheap lenses xD

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      That’s a 50mm on a full frame camera. On a crop sensor it’s an effective 50mm x 1.6 (80mm) (Canon) or 50mm x 1.5 (75mm) (Nikon).

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      50mm on a APS is like, what you say, 80mm, and that’s not quite “wide”, as the article describes, and it’s not that good for shooting cosplay photograph (unless you wanna make more close-ups) (sorry for my English, it’s horrible)

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      It’s perfectly fine on a crop, provided you have enough space. My most favorite shoot ever was done entirely with a 50 on a crop body, I did very few closeups and a lot of environmental portraits… I just stepped back a bit to get them.

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      Not entirely true. You can get a used 5D Mark I (classic) full frame for around $500-600 now days, pair that with the 50mm 1.8 and you have a nice cheap(ish) full frame setup.

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      Yeah that’s true. but how many 5DI vs D3100 550D etc are there? Like 1 vs 500… In the country I live, I didn’t see any 5DI, none.

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      The 50mm lens is a 50mm on a full frame sensor. It’s a 80mm (50mm x 1.6) on a Canon crop sensor and a 75mm (50mm x 1.5) on a NIkon crop sensor.

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      50mm on a APS is like, what you say, 80mm, and that’s not quite “wide”, as the article describes, and it’s not that good for shooting cosplay photograph (unless you wanna make more close-ups) and the examples are 50mm for full frame 30mm fot aps. (sorry for my English, it’s horrible)

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      step up, step back. problem solved. the biggest reason why the 50 1.8 is amazing is because of its quality-price ratio. For the Nikon equivalent, its optimal settings outperforms the 24-70 1.8, which is 2000 dollars.

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      There isn’t any 24-80 1.8, it’s F2.8. ๐Ÿ˜›

      Didn’t you read the article “Lenses for cosplay photography”, don’t you?

      There, http://cosplayphotographers.com/2012/07/the-best-lens-for-cosplay-photos/

      Compare the pics taken with 28mm and 50mm, you really think that’s just a distance problem? I don’t think so xD

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      chill, its a typo. just like how you typo’d 70 -> 80. and yes, it’s just a distance problem. only thing that would suffer is the dof, which i believe is still within a workable range. look at all the 35-70 examples, they’re all similar.

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      and you should really only compare it to the next focal length on those examples, if you jump by 2 then you can see a huge difference. jumping once is approximately the effect you’ll get when you use a cropped lens.

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      It’s not a distance problem, when you take a photo with wide lens you can cover more things in the background without making the main object look small.

      http://cosplayphotographers.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Cosplay-Photography-Focal-Length-comparison-fixed.jpg

      If u want to cover the building behind the cosplayer with 50mm focal, you must step back, right, but the cosplayer will be smaller.

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      obviously there would be a difference in background compression. however i feel that the difference in that is minimal between 35-50, and 50-70. (big jump from 35-70) which is why i didnt mention it. There is a difference, but I don’t see how it can drastically affect your quality of work.

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      Hey there. I shoot with a low end Canon 1000D and a 50mm f/1.8… And my photos are quite comparable to the ones posted up there.

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      Uhm, overall, maybe… But, you can’t make the same photo as the first one. On the Light photo, you can’t cover that much background, and it loses something… I am not saying that the 50 1.8 on APS isn’t a great lens, just saying that the examples are not the most usual real focal distance for most of the photographers (including me, I use a Sony alpha a65 -aps-)

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      btw, awesome work, Beethy xD I liked your page ๐Ÿ˜€

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      It is my hope to address your question sufficiently in the next article. Stay tuned!

  2. Avatar

    WOW! Totally agree, Al. 50 is a very well corrected lens and one of the sharpest for any brand of camera. I shoot with a 50/1.4 on the Canon (my only lens) and it’s about $250 used.

  3. Avatar

    Ahh! this was a fun read and I completely agree with all said! The zoom lenses are nice but you DO lose something with the 3.5 to 1.8. I’m EXCITED I got an adapter for my old school Analog lenses one of them being my 50 mm f1.8. Sure it’s manual focus but the fun I’ve had so far with it has been AWESOME! It’s been a long time since I pulled my Zuiko 50 mm out of the closet, built tough it’s a sexy lens and produces equally astonishing shots! I hope others will look into playing around with a 50 mm! Back to the basics man!

  4. Avatar

    Okay.. aside the crop factor. I totally agree with the 50mm lens for the cost price point. Even with the crop factor you can just foot zoom back a bit :p it is one of my fav lens which often gets overlooked. Nice work guys I love the images and is given me a few more ideas to try out ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Avatar

    I use both a 30mm/1.4 and 50mm/1.4 Sigma on a Nikon crop body. I shoot wide open all the time. Daylight sucks ๐Ÿ˜‰

    WIth all the comment about 50mm being different on bodies. I think the point trying to be made is that its a cheap priced lens that can put out excellent results. Regardless of body.
    Yes on full frame its 50mm. And on Crop its 75ish-80ish But given that you just have to know its strengths. Mostly being able to shoot low light with large apertures.

    And the lens prices are more like $120 now ๐Ÿ˜‰ Inflation and exchange rate protection has changed the cheapness bar.

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      Indeed, and it is my hope to address the questions of 50mm on crop sensor cameras in the next article ๐Ÿ™‚

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      Yeah I use 30 F1.4 too, but they are not cheap, when I bought it I paid 500 bucks…

  6. Avatar

    Ever freelensed a 50mm? Had a friend teach me how to do that. You get wicked shallow depth of field. Also first tested that with the 50mm f1.2 so yeah was a bit dangerous as well haha.

  7. Avatar

    you are talking about lenses and how 50mm primes are amazing (which they are) but you show a bunch of photos that use other expensive equipment like lighting.

    The only issue I have with my Nikon are hall way shots…sometimes you have to be a good distance away to get everything in the frame and hallways are not the place for that. I just purchased a 35mm for my nikon and I can’t wait to try it out :O

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      Thank you for your input!

      Indeed, there are other gears in play to produce these photos, but the key point to take home is that there is a bang-for-the-buck solution in the dSLR lens department. There are definitely many more BFTB we have yet to explore or discover, and we are certainly excited to have our readers, such as you, to help find & share these tips with the rest of the cosplay photography community.

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      If we say that โ‚ฌ300 is not expensive, you can easily buy couple of manual flashes, stands, etc.

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    I used ONLY the 50mm for around 2 years on my D3100. It bust the quality from this cheap beginner DSLR extreme. After changing my camera to a fullframe (D700) i sold the lens because i start to dislike it. Without the crop the most potraited people looked a little bit fatter in the face. I now save for the 85mm

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    hmm i do start with 50mm but now i am thinking abt 35mm since i lost my NEX. Now i am using Sony A37 with 18-55mm kit len. I found 35mm is easier to used in place like event cause due to crowded ppl. 50mm need some distance while 35mm is easier to get angle i want.

  10. Avatar

    I think you’re missing one important point here.

    If you shoot at random, then pictures may look flat comparing to wideangle lenses, as the more focal length you have, the more is the “visual compression”.

    What has to be taken care of is perspective keys (tonal, aerial, geometric etc โ€” check your favourite perspective’s list ๐Ÿ™‚ that would keep clues of distance inside the frame. On wideangle, such clues will happen more probably, but on 50+ mm it is neccessary to remember this. If you check your images from the post, you see that they work because of this fundamental thing.

  11. Avatar

    I love my 50mm. getting a good focus at 1.8 is pretty hard for me, but when it hits, it pops like mad! my 28-135mm at 3.5 can get a little bit of the same effect, but not nearly as well as the 50mm

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    I actually shoot most of my portrait photography on a 35mm prime, but since I’m using a Nikon DX body its equivalent to a 50mm roughly, I’m going to get a new 50mm f 1.8 G for Katsucon.

  13. Avatar

    I am a beginner too….but I found it is difficulty to use the 50 f1.8 on my crop sensor D7100……….finally i get sigma 18-35 f1.8…….it’s not so expensive as well……

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