Photography 101: Shooting With A “Normal” Focal Length Lens

Expat Journal: Postcards from the Edge

Stephen F. Dennstedt

What the hell does that mean? What is a normal focal length? Simply stated a normal focal length is one that most closely mimics the human eye. For a full-frame digital camera that would be 43.27mm (commonly rounded to 50mm to 55mm). Some would even extend that range to about 40mm to 60mm (others 35mm to 70mm).

On a full-frame camera the accepted norm is 50mm and virtually every camera and lens manufacturer offers an inexpensive ($100) plastic 50mm lens nicknamed the Nifty-fifty (and every photographer should have one in their kit). These are typically wide-aperture f/1.4 or f/1.8 lenses—GREAT for low light shooting.

In case you haven’t figured it out they’re called Nifty-fifties because they’re nifty to have. For you youngsters out there nifty translates to great, awesome or really cool (hipsters: sic, dope or righteous). Back in the day almost every 35mm (equal to…

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