Beginning Photography Tips – The Canon Nifty Two Fifty

Beginning Photography Tips – The Canon Nifty Two Fifty

Since my ‘dive’ head first into the DSLR world on Thanksgiving 2009, I have gone from shooting from the Green Zone to the “M” or manual mode, to falling in love with Canon’s “AV” mode. Simple, easy, and fun. And if you followed some of my tips for beginning photography, there is something that I always have to stress when taking your camera out on a shoot – especially a shoot that pays. Which, in just 1 1/2 years time, I was able to book: shooting headshots, portraits, and family portraits with the great outdoors as my studio.

Here is the ‘something’ I always have to stress: “The 6Ps”… Prior-Proper-Planning-Prevents-Poor Performance

I tend to just make a habit of knowing my: ISO, Shooting Mode, Aperture, Shutter Speed and I’m going to add another one to the list: Know your lens!

Not only does the 6Ps work for preparing for a single picture, it works for a whole photoshoot. I always take two cameras along (I have to borrow my sister’s camera) – just in case. Plus, its a great way to switch cameras with two separate prime lenses on each for a portrait session.

For a recap on Beginning Photography, read it here:

Beginning Photography: The Canon T1i
Beginning Photography: How to be a better Photographer Part 1 of 2
Beginning Photography: How to be a better Photographer Par 2 of 2

Okay, so, now you need to ‘know your lens’.

The Kit lenses I got with the T1i (and since the T1i’s release two other version have been released, the T2i and T3i) were two lenses I never use.

The Canon 18-55mm

And the…

Canon 55-250mm aka “The Nifty 250”

Why don’t I ever use these lenses, a $600 value, and I bought the T1i kit for around $750, is because I LOVE “PRIME” lenses!

What’s a prime lens?

A prime lens is a single focal length lens. Where the Canon has a range of 18mm-55mm focal length and the Nifty Two Fifty has a focal length of 55-250mm, a Prime lens, for example, is only, 35mm, or 50mm, or 85mm! And that’s what I shoot, 35, 50, and 85.

So, this weekend, I dusted off The Nifty Two Fifty and figured, heck, if I shoot a 50mm prime lens at a party, and although it might be a little ‘long’ (which means I have to give myself space between the subject and camera, I might as well lose 5mm and still get the shots I want with the 55mm-250mm focal length lens.

The only thing I’d really give up is a wider aperture as the Nifty 250 has an f stop of 4.5-5.6. My Prime lenses generally have a larger maximum aperture (smaller f number) which allows me to shoot at lower light plus giving me a shallow depth of field. (like my Canon 50mm f1.4 prime lens)

But that’s not what I was all about this past Sunday. I wanted range, I wanted to zoom! I wanted to see what it was like to use a telephoto lens as I haven’t really used one in 20+ years! Actually, I had a zoom lens back in the late 80s on my Canon SLR film camera. This is my first telephoto lens.

Okay, how’d it work? Well, it worked well – considering I changed the ISO in lower light situations to help, but it didn’t help a whole lot when you’re shooting little kids running around inside a house.

Here are some test shots for the day.

ISO 400
Focal Length 250mm
Aperture f/11
Shutter 1/640
White Balance Daylight
Exposure Program Manual


This next one of Jacob on the scooter was a tough one as I had to focus and the speed of the camera actually got a pretty decent shot as Jacob rode towards me.

ISO 400
Focal Length 250mm
Aperture f/5.6
Shutter 1/1600
White Balance Shade
Exposure Program Manual


ISO 400
Focal Length 116mm
Aperture f/5
Shutter 1/200
White Balance Daylight
Exposure Program AV


Not bad, and quite a surprise that I haven’t taken this lens out to shoot. I don’t have any photos on file with this lens and I’ve had it since Thanksgiving 2009. This is the first time out, and I have to say, I am impressed enough to stay away from similar focal length lenses and am now looking at a wider angle , zoom, telephoto lens.

But the real reason I dusted off The Nifty Two-Fifty was because I am in a market of a telephoto lens with a wide range of focal lengths. The one I am looking at is this:

a Canon 18-200mm zoom-telephoto lens.

This would be the Disneyland, walk around, sporting event, going to birthday parties lens. No need to worry about needing a wide angle, or worrying about catching a shot across the room, yard, or street. The problem is, it’s $599.95. Whew.

I am also tempted on an “L” lens, higher quality glass by Canon – but I think my ‘needs’ are simple, and not extravagant right now – as far as lenses are concerned.

That being said, I got a great deal on the T1i kit. Seriously! I was talking to a friend of mine at the party and he had the T2i – with one kit lens: The 18-55mm! And he paid a little more than I did! I have always been happy with the T1i, that I have been looking around for a great deal on a T1i body as a backup so I don’t have to borrow my sister’s lens anymore when i’m out on a paying photoshoot!

Oh, if you want headshots, I charge $100 an hour, 2 wardrobe changes, and 2 color corrected photos: ‘my picks’.

Let me know!

Related topics:
Beginning Photography – New Walk Around Lens
Beginning Photography – Sticking with my Nifty Fifty
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About Glenn Magas