Prime Suspect – my plastic fantastic

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Nifty Fifty

It’s cheap, plastic and it wheezes. But it’s by far my favorite lens. My precious is the Canon 50mm f/1.8 II lens.

Eschewing such luxury developments as USM focusing or full-time manual (and don’t even think about image stabilization), this $70 lens – known variously as the ‘nifty fifty’. ‘thrifty fifty’ or ‘plastic fantastic’ – produces amazing results.

It’s in no way a pro-grade ‘L’ lens, but Canon have been working on this classic for decades – 50mm is seen as the standard focal length for 35mm film cameras – and it does one thing very well.

Bought on the strength of the recommendations (Amazon reviewers in their hundreds sing its praises, and even the picky crowd over at Fred Miranda can’t say enough good things about it), I was anxious to see how it compared to the competent but not amazing 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 consumer zoom that I’d transferred from my old film SLR to my new Canon Rebel XT.

The nifty fifty felt like a toy, with its plastic mount and worrying lack of heft. But when I looked at the first shots I took, I was amazed.

They were murderously sharp with faithful color rendition and an overall feel so much better than you’ve a right to expect for $70. If this was what it meant to use primes, I was hooked.

It’s small and unobtrusive, while also fast enough for low-light shots of my constantly moving 2-year old daughter. And the necessity of zooming with your feet makes me think harder about framing and composition.

With the 1.6 crop factor, it’s a reasonably long 85mm, so it works well as a walkaround lens outdoors. But its real strength is in portraiture, where its sharpness and creamy bokeh production really shine.

The autofocus is slow and grinding, and you wouldn’t want to shake it too hard, but when it finally breaks (or if I lose down the back of the couch), I’ll run out and by another one instantly.

(Originally published in JPG Magazine, August 2007)

Posted by David in
Blog closed for business

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The personal blog here at is now suspended indefinitely.

I just had too many websites and not enough time, especially as my photography is taking up the bulk of the limited free time I get.

That said, the site will remain up with the blog archived, and also as a place to find all the articles I’ve written over the years. That section will still be updated as and when there’s something new to put up there.

But it’s not all bad news, there are still two main places to keep up with my doings:

Tech blog on the Moore Consulting site

Photoblog at Clearing the Vision



PS: Or there’s always the Flickr fun:

Posted by David in
Moore Consulting

Teaching User Experience at Highlands University

As the new academic year begins, I’m happy to say I’m now an Adjunct Instructor in the Media Arts department at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas.

I’ll be teaching a course on Designing for User Experience to upper-level undergraduates and to postgrads, covering the basics of user experience, usability and user-centered design.

It’s a nice to be back teaching (in Dublin, I devised a delivered a series of one-day training workshops as part of the iQ Content Boot Camp series), and the students are a good group.

I’ll be posting PDF versions of my presentations when I get the chance, for those who are interested, and while they might not mean much without my explanations, you’re all more than welcome to follow along.