24mm vs 50mm - Which one is Best for Your Budget?

If you’re starting out or are very minimalist with your gear, you’ve probably come across the two low-cost (yet fantastic) prime lenses: the 24mm ‘pancake’ lens and the 50mm ‘nifty fifty’ lens. 

Both of these lenses are by Canon and have considerably low aperture, with the 24mm having a maximum aperture of f/2.8 and the 50mm having f/1.8. Both of these lenses retail under $200 dollars, are super lightweight and fantastic for travel. They both also make great photos and videos.

So which one do you buy?

Honestly, that’s a good question. Should you buy the 50mm, the 24mm, or hedge your bets and buy both? What if you can’t afford both? What do you do?

Having both of these lenses, I’ve learned a few good things about them. For starters, the 50mm is great for taking headshots or any shot where you’re focusing on a subject. Because of its high aperture, you can really blur the background. This also makes it great for any cinematic footage. I couldn’t use it to film a talking head (unless I stood 2 metres away), but I used it to film all my b-roll.

I was showing my dad the difference between the lenses and thought it would be great for this vlog. As you can see, the 24mm has a wider field of view, but has a lower exposure. The 50mm brings in more light and blurs the background, but you lose field of view. Neither of these have been edited.

The 24mm, on the other hand, is great for filming talking heads. It’s a little tight if you’re filming on a selfie stick (a la Casey Neistat style), but it’s great for just sitting down and talking. It’s not great for headshots, but it is great for capturing the environment as well as your subject. It’s also pretty good for b-roll.

Now here’s where you come in. I can’t tell you to buy one, because you need to decide what kind of shots you’ll be doing primarily. I bought the 50mm originally, but film a lot of talking heads. I needed the 24mm. If I started with the 24mm, I could maybe have survived shooting b-roll on my 24mm, but I would definitely have missed the cinematic quality and the bokeh of the 50mm.

Both lenses compliment each other. My advice? The 24mm is incredibly versatile, and if you had to buy only one, I think you can get away with just the 24mm.

To be totally fair though, I love my 50mm. It makes me WANT to use my camera. And, while filming a ping pong tournament the other day, I felt I could capture better shots with the 50mm.

If you’re not totally familiar with the 24mm, I made a video about it! You can watch it below.

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Any questions? Reach out to me in the comments! Also, do you prefer the 24mm or the 50mm? Do you have another lens that is better? Let me know in the comments section!