Canon 50 mm fixed focal length lens on a denim jacket.

Fixed focal length lenses are a must-have as a camera accessory!

In most cases, a digital SLR camera is bought in combination with a lens, which is also known as so-called kid lens. This is usually a zoom lens with a focal length range between 18 and 55 mm. Such a zoom lens is not only already included in the purchase, but it is also very practical due to the flexible choice of different focal lengths. A fixed focal length, on the other hand, does not offer this flexibility and yet there are many reasons why it is an absolute must for hobby photographers.

Reason 1: Fixed focal lengths offer great image quality

As the name suggests, a lens with a fixed focal length is fixed to a specific focal length by design. This means that it is possible to optimise the lens exactly to this focal length. This means that the lens not only provides you with more sharpness, but it also offers a higher image quality.

Reason 2: Fixed focal length lenses are very fast

In addition to the better image quality, the high speed of the lens is another selling point. It has a fixed focal length and the aperture can be opened much wider than with a zoom lens. Depending on the lens the apertures range from f/2 to f/1.2. This enormous speed allows more light to reach the sensor. Therefore, the fixed focal length lens is ideal for taking pictures indoors or at dusk.

Being able to open the aperture further offers an additional advantage over a zoom lens. Using a fixed focal length lens can help shorten exposure time when using the same lighting conditions, the exposure time can be shortened with the fixed focal length lens. This makes it easier to capture movements.

Reason 3: Fixed focal length lenses are also available for smaller budgets

Due to the fixed focal distance fixed focal length lenses are simpler in their construction. This means that in most cases they can be developed and produced more easily and also more cheaply than a zoom lens. You can buy a good fixed focal length lens for as little as CHF 130.00.

It is important to keep in mind that not all fixed focal length lenses are cheap. As with all types of lenses, there is a wide range in terms of both quality and price. There are a lot of fixed focal length lenses available with different apertures, but the ones which are faster tend to be more expensive.

Flower taken with a 50mm fixed focal length lens – here the background blur is very visible.
The image above shows a yellow gerbera taken with a 50 mm fixed focal length lens. The contrast between the very sharp flower and the blurred background is clearly visible.

Reason 4: Fixed focal lengths are often small, light and handy

One disadvantage of having a lot of camera equipment is that it not only takes up a lot of space in your bag, but it is also quite heavy. Due to their simplified design, fixed focal length lenses are often not very big and also weigh only a fraction of a zoom lens. This is the case especially for smaller fixed focal length lenses, such as 24 mm, 35 mm and 50 mm. These fixed focal length lenses will help you save space and weight, which is also noticeable when using the camera itself.

Reason 5: Fixed focal length lens will train the photographic eye

The inflexibility of a fixed focal length lens is on the one hand a great disadvantage; however, it is also a big advantage at the same time. The fixed field of view forces you to move towards or away from the subject in order to focus on it as required. This makes you think more about the motif in advance. In the process of capturing the motif a lot of ideas will usually come to mind. You will discover new and unusual perspectives and pay more attention to the composition of the picture. This results in significantly fewer, but more well-considered, creative and better photos than when taking photos with a zoom lens.

Reason 6: Fixed focal length lens and their background blur

The rule "the larger the aperture, the shallower the depth of field" applies to every lens and not only to fixed focal length lens. Nevertheless, the effect of a blurred background, which is known as a so-called bokeh effect is much stronger with a fixed focal length lens. The reason for this is the small aperture value.

This effect is ideal for making a desired object in the foreground stand out from the background and it is mainly used in portrait photography. However, the effect of the blurred background can also be used to photograph small details in nature.

Portrait taken with a fixed focal length lens.
This portrait was taken with a fixed focal length lens. In the above image you can see the clear background blur.

Using different fixed focal length lenses for different purposes

When using fixed focal lenses, you will need different lenses for different types of images. There are fixed focal length lenses in 10, 24, 35, 50, and they go up to large focal length lenses in 85, 100, 135 and 210. The smaller the focal length lens the larger the image detail will be.

Small fixed focal length lenses, such as 10 mm or 24 mm are suitable for the wide-angle range and allow you to photograph landscapes and architecture. Whereas 35 mm and 50 mm lenses are excellent for portraits of people or animals. Longer focal length lenses of 85 mm, 100 mm and more allow you to focus on a subject from a greater distance. They also work well for macro photography.

When buying a fixed focal length lens, you should not forget that the image detail provided by the lens depends on the size of the sensor. This means that the full image detail is only available with a full-frame camera. If you use a digital SLR camera with an APS-C sensor, you should consider the crop factor. Roughly speaking, a 24 mm fixed focal length lens on a camera with an APS-C sensor is equivalent to a 35 mm lens on a full-frame camera.


Apart from the lack of flexibility a fixed focal length lens offers a considerable number of advantages. The good image quality and the high speed are the main reasons for buying a fixed focal length lens.

Fixed focal length lenses in 24 mm or 50 mm are also available for a small price, so it’s easy to try a fixed focal length lens yourself. In addition, a fixed focal length lens encourages you to think more about your subjects as well as finding great new angles of view. These are the reasons why you should have a fixed focal length lens in your camera bag.



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