Handcrafted Tea Party

SDG_9809 Tea Trunk, is definitely one of my favourite brands to work with. I personally love all of their gourmet tea blends that Snigdha creates, and my latest favourite has to be the Long Island Green Tea.

Launched at the Handcrafted Tea Party at Silverspoon Gourmet today.

Long Island Green Tea Long Island Green Tea - Inside the box

Most of the tea tasting events I have attended usually involves tasting various teas and the food paired with it. What made this one different was the hands on bit where everyone was asked to create their own blend.

How to prepare your own blend. 

The following tea-food pairing was done:

1. Ginger Basil Iced Tea with Grape and Brie Crostini
2. Long Island Iced Tea with Lemon Tart
3. Oriental Bliss (vanilla, lemongrass, coconut in Green and White Tea)
with Tea Sandwich
4. Make your own tea blend with Raspberry and White Chocolate Blondies
Here are some of the pictures from the event:

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And of course my favourite bit was creating our own blend. For this I took equal parts of Green and White tea then added cinnamon, vanilla, star anise, ginger and some dried coconut to it. Wrapped it in a muslin cloth to prepare my first handcrafted tea bag. The blend smells quite delicious, now just need to brew it.

SDG_9963  SDG_9982

For more details about Tea Trunk and Silverspoon Gourmet check their websites.



#PUMALovesVinyl Sounds of 2014

PUMA’s 3rd edition of PUMALovesVinyl took place on Saturday at Bandra Amphitheatre. #PUMALovesVinyl Also it’s been a while since I shot my last gig, Ragasthan 2014, the line up was one I just had to shoot. Unohu, Your Chin, Prateek Kuhad, Skrat and of course Scribe headlining the act, this was pretty much a bunch of indie bands I’ve recently gotten into.   Here’s some pictures from the gig: Unohu: One of the youngest bands on the stage, and they have just released their EP ‘Asunder’ go give it a listen. Unohu Prateek Kuhad: First song I heard of his was Raat Raazi, and sadly the setlist missed this track, but none the less he sang some beautiful songs. Prateek Kuhad and Band Your Chin: been following Raxit for a while now, all the way from Medusa, Sky Rabbit to his solo project Your Chin. Honestly I did feel he should have opened the night. Your Chin Skrat: The boys from Chennai with a back up Bass player, pretty much nailed it. Quite showy on the stage and witty dialogues definitely makes these badass samurais an act you ought to catch live. Skrat Scribe: The first gig I shot almost three and a half years back, had Scribe in the lineup. That was the first time I saw them live and my love for them increased tremendously. Their sets are always power packed, but the only question is why would we label them as the sound of 2014. Scribe Overall It was one hell of a gig, indie scene is growing and how. What comes next is even more exciting! In a few month the new #PUMALovesVinyl will be out and shipped to me and I can’t wait to listen to it at our BYOV nights.

Shooting with a dancer.

This is a real fun shoot I did in 2012 with the very talented and gorgeous Leena Vie. We had discussed for a while about doing a shoot and I wanted to try out some work with long exposures and slow shutter speeds. While out with my friend’s last evening she (Leena) suddenly asked me if I would like to shoot some stuff of her performing at a private event, and I decided to do it. (Yes if it’s interesting am always ready to do a shoot.)

The only problem with shooting next to the DJ was, it was a tiny floor, with not enough space for her to dance let alone to do a shoot with my 35mm (Of course the lovely 35 is my walk around lens of choice.)


On the other hand I have been planning to do a shoot using a projector on a model, and somehow here we had a basement with a projector and no crowd. I asked Leena to check it out, with brought down her laptop, gave the belly dancing music fill up the room and drown the dhikchik beat the house was dancing to.

leena3 leena2

The pleasure of shooting an artist with no around, where you know the artist is performing just for them-self and just your camera is immense. There is no distraction and you both try to create magic interwoven with a love for each others art.

The Harris Shutter Effect

   Robert Harris of Kodak invented “The Harris Shutter” for making color photographs with the different primary color layers exposed in separate time intervals in succession. Now a days the term Harris shutter is also applied to the technique or effect.  While working on my Shoe Love project I decided to use it for the first time :

"In the Journey of Life, many Shoes are worn and torn."
“In the Journey of Life, many Shoes are worn and torn.”

    To achieve this effect you need to take three different photographs of a moving subject.  Using a tripod helps big time. The one above was shot with help of one, while the second one was shot handheld in burst mode, and required a slight amount of cropping and alignment. The interval between the shots solely depends on your subject.

Harris Shutter effect of Kolkata Metro

    Once you have the photographs open them up on your favourite photo-editing software, in my case I use Adobe Photoshop CS6. Create a new blank file with the same dimensions as your photographs. Work with the channels tab instead of layers. Select the red channel from the first photograph, select the picture (Ctrl + A) and copy it, next go to to the new file, select the red channel and paste it. Similarly copy the green channel from the second photograph and the blue channel from the third photograph and add them to the green and blue channel of the new file respectively. Then switch to the RGB channel on the new file for the composite shot.

    In the result the non-moving parts of the photograph will look normal while the moving objects will appear in rainbow colors.

The Staves and Fink at Liberty Cinema.

Liberty Cinema opened their doors to live acts for a while now. Somehow I haven’t been able to time it right or have always been stuck to go watch a performance there. Finally last evening thanks to the twitter contest held by Brown Paper Bag I managed to win a couple pass for The Staves and Fink’s performance who have flew in mainly for the NH7 weekender‘s Bangalore edition.

The venue has one of the best acoustics for gigs, and should be a regular venue for such events, the only drawback is the seating, you might not want to sit through most of the performances.

The Staves :  are an acoustic folk rock trio of sisters from Watford, England. They began performing at open-mic nights at their local, the Horns, as The Staveley-Taylors, marking their surnames up on the pub’s blackboard. One night, running late, a friend chalked them up as The Staves. It stuck.

They were the opening act for the night and had a beautiful set of about eight songs, although I feel they should have had a longer set. Most from the crowd heard them for the first time and instantly fell in love with them, and screamt for an encore after their last song.

Left to Right: Emily, Camilla, Jessica
Emily, Camilla, Jessica

The three sisters are Emily Staveley-Taylor (vocals), Jessica Staveley-Taylor (vocals, guitar) and Camilla Staveley-Taylor (vocals, ukulele). They sang most of the songs from their debut album : “Dead & Born & Grown” and is definitely a must listen.

Fink : aka Fin Greenall, is an English singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer and DJ, , and recently featured on the first episode of The Dewarists’ second season. The name Fink has also referred to the recording and touring trio fronted by Greenall himself, completed by Guy Whittaker (bass) and Tim Thornton (drums).


Their performance last night was nothing less than a visual treat in a grand setting. With projection on Liberty’s screen the whole experience of listening to the band was enhanced manifolds. The set just kept on building up gathering momentum with crowd’s applause getting louder at the end of each song. Tim is an amazing artist and a definite asset to the band as he provides supporting vocals and also plays the guitar in many of the songs.

Prime Lenses vs. Zoom Lenses

Lenses are the most important accessories for your DSLRs, and in ideal condition the body is upgraded while most people hold on to their arsenal of lenses. If we were to classify the lenses, two broad categories would be
1. Prime lens
2. Zoom lens

Prime lens is simply a lens that cannot zoom from one focal length to another; in fact, prime lenses are often referred to as a block lens or fixed focal length lenses. A simple yes and no, might not be the best reply, I started shooting with a 50mm f/1.8, and next I moved to a 35mm f/1.8 as my walk around lens, and very recently procured a 24-70 f/2.8. I definitely have a soft spot for a prime, but a fast zoom is another important investment you have to make at one point.

Most people I know prefer a zoom lens over a prime lens, well it does have its advantage of covering vast number of focal lengths without the photographer having to move, and over the years I have really cursed not having a telephoto lens (I would prefer a prime here as well) to capture a number of photographs.

Why would you choose a prime lens? 

Let us compare a 50mm f/1.8 with a 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 as both of them are two of the cheapest lens Nikon has to offer. When I say 18-55 f/3.5-5.6, what it means is the aperture is f/3.5 at 18mm (wide end) and f/5.6 at 55mm (tele end). The only advantage you have over a 50mm is the option of variable focal length, on the other hand if you were to have a 50mm f/1.8, you could have a very shallow Depth of Field, the images will be exceptionally sharp (when compared to the zoom), and you can use the lens in a low light situation without having to crank up the ISO to a very huge number. Oh and not to mention they would focus so much faster.

Are prime lens sharper than zoom? 

  I think in most case the argument holds true, but not completely. A prime lens is definitely sharper than a cheap zoom lens, but many of the pro level zooms, are pretty much on the same level as a prime. I personally find the 50mm f/1.8 acceptably sharp, but if I compare it with the 35mm, the latter is on a whole different plane. More often than not we hear that “prime lenses are sharper” and somehow expect that to mean that ALL prime lenses are sharp, and that simply isn’t true.


So Prime or Zoom?

  When it comes down to which lens to buy, the fact is that it depends greatly on the lens.  For example, I would recommend that a beginning photographer purchase a 50mm f/1.8 lens, but after using the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens for about a month now, the 50mm lens cannot approach the optical quality of the latter; however, the 24-70 is significantly more expensive.

When it comes to the prime vs. zoom lens debate, the real answer is that it depends on the lens. I just want to bring to your attention the advantage and disadvantage of the two families of lens and also to point out that the simplistic “primes are better” mentality is simply outdated.

What mode to shoot in?

The beauty of the Digital cameras, DSLRs as well as some of the high end point and shoots, is that you can have a lot of modes to work with. Since most of us have been shooting with a PnS, a lot of us have a very little idea of these modes. Most of the people after tinkering with the new modes, give up soon and end up shifting back to the automatic mode. True it’s a lot less hassle, but I would rather have my camera follow my whims and fancy rather than the other way round.

These settings are quite easy to understand, and takes a very little time to get the hang of, if you know what they do. You might get to hear a lot how photographers must always shoot in Manual mode, but that’s not really true, there are times when Aperture/Shutter priority makes more sense.

The two settings you need to understand here are Aperture and Shutter Speed. Aperture is the size of the hole that lets the light in for your photo. The larger the hole, the brighter the exposure. The shutter speed is the length of time given to each exposure. Slower shutter speeds allow more light, resulting in a brighter exposure. By finding the right balance of these two settings, you and/or your camera control whether your photo is overexposed, underexposed, or just right.

With your camera set to Manual mode, you control both settings. If this seems daunting, you can start with the semi-automatic functions, Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority.

Aperture Priority

Let us begin with Aperture Priority. This function allows us to set the aperture in our camera, while the camera controls the shutter speed for us.

The aperture controls depth of field (the range in front and behind the main subject that will be in focus). When we set a wide aperture, we reduce the depth of field (very small region will be in focus) and when we choose a smaller aperture, we will have a greater depth of field (much larger region will be in focus).

Obviously when we change the aperture, we most importantly change the level of light in our exposure. The camera now compensates by adjusting the shutter speed. So when we operate our camera in Aperture Priority mode, we have control over the depth of field, but the camera still makes sure the exposure is correct.

The important thing to keep track of is what the shutter speed is. If it falls to a very slow speed, we need to use a tripod to eliminate camera vibrations.

Shutter Priority

What does Shutter Priority do? Here as we set the shutter speed, the camera balances the exposure by setting the aperture. This is a great system when working with moving subjects. Sometimes we may want to freeze a moving subject with a fast shutter speed, or create a motion effect with a slower shutter speed. All during this the camera compensates for the changes in shutter speed by adjusting the aperture.

Shutter priority is slightly a better option for some beginners. It is much easier to stay aware of when to use your tripod. Also, when your camera manages the aperture, it controls the depth of field, which is not usually as critical as the shutter speed. We may not always get exactly what we want, but we are less likely to end up with very bad pictures.

These two semi-automatic functions appear to offer us the best of both worlds. We get to be a bit creative, and try out our photography skills, while our camera’s high-tech hardware makes sure we don’t overexpose or underexpose the photo. e.g. Quite often I forget to keep track of the metering system when shooting musical gigs, and these two seem to help me keep my mind off one thing less and let me think more in terms of what I should shoot. I also shoot in RAW so I get additional controls when post processing.

 So far, it sounds perfect. So why should you learn to operate your camera in Manual mode? The answer is simple.

Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority both work on the assumption that our camera’s reading of the exposure is always correct. Unfortunately, that is not always true.

Manual Mode

Imagine you are photographing a subject in the sun, but the background is in the shade. This simple situation can be all it takes to confuse the camera. It may meter for the background, brightening the exposure and totally overexposing the subject. (This can also be compensated with setting the metering mode, which I shall touch upon in few weeks.)

In this situation, semi-automatic settings will not solve the problem. We could reduce the brightness of the exposure by say reducing the size of the aperture, and the camera would simply adjust the shutter speed to compensate, maintaining what it believes to be the correct exposure.

What we need to do is switch the camera to Manual. Then we can adjust both settings and create an image that is slightly darker, bringing the subject into perfect exposure.

When shooting regularly and varied subjects, situations arise all the time that require us to out-think your camera. If one understands how to operate the manual settings, they won’t be left blaming the camera for ‘the one that got away.’

One more setting in our cameras, denoted by P (Programmed Auto) is a quite versatile feature. Overlooked by most of us, and something I have recently tried to learn more about last few months, once I get a better understanding of it, will surely share more about the same.

Why you shouldn’t shoot for free.

If at one point you have decided that photography is more than a hobby and you would like to take it up professionally the first thing you need to do is start charging people. Here’s a few reason why we like to start for free (been there done that) and why we really shouldn’t.

1. If I do free shoots of my friends, family and neighbours it’s a good way to promote business.
Well you are most likely to be invited to a lot of events with a subtle hint of carrying a camera to it. Every now and then my extended family gets crossed if I’m not carrying the camera for an important function. Somehow it’s assumed the most fun I will ever have is when I am looking through the lens.

2. Word of mouth is a great form of advertising.
It really is, most of the gigs I have bagged are because of word of mouth. But if you charge nothing, the words being spoken are usually “Here’s a good photographer who shoots for free.”, so you might want to think twice.

3. I did some high-profile assignments for free, and now I’m published in major magazines with a photo credit.
It’s nice to see your work in the magazine/paper, it really is, and not to mention a photo credit, but then again it doesn’t pay your food bill.

4. I am just starting out, trying to build my portfolio, will worry about money later.
The problem is there are a lot of such people around, and what it does is they undercut a lot of professionals, and askew the market. You need to remember you plan to shift to the other end, and as long as the let me shoot it for free culture remains, it will bite us back.

5. Back in the days doing a free shoot would mean eating the cost of films, prints, processing, but now it’s digital and the free shoot only costs you time.
The new cameras and the camera shutters have a life span of few hundred thousand frames, now divide the number of shots by cost of camera? What about the post processing? The cost of Photoshop. The storage of RAW files and then burning CD’s to provide clients, and the same time you could have spent in doing something for you or making money doing something for others.

6. We have so many hits on our website and we will give you credit.
This is one of the most common offer I get and I sometimes would take up the offer only if I have total creative control over what I want to shoot, plus I would want it to be not the regular kind of stuff they get done all the time. Same holds true for shooting corporate events, they above all can afford photographers.

Does it mean I never shoot for free?

 I have never shot professionally for free. If you are hiring me to shoot, then my priority is to shoot. If you ask me to come for an event and shoot in between, then I shoot in between as and how I wish to. I have even carried my cameras to my friends’ or cousins’ weddings and have taken candid shots of the event at my own discretion, (honestly I think they make a great gift; since you are likely to have your own style that would set them apart from their regular photographer).

Always charge a client, you might charge someone less, but still do as good a job as you are capable of. Always make sure you get something worth the time you have put in. It could be in terms of kind if not cash when it comes to friends, but never shoot for free in the name of exposure.

And while you are deciding how much to charge, ask around, and don’t be a bitch and charge less than that. If you think you are good, charge the market price, and try not to undercut other photographers. If you think you are not good as them and hence should charge less, then go practice and up your game. 


A very common question that I asked when I started shooting with a DSLR was should I shoot in JPEG or RAW. I got to read a lot of view, listing lots of pros and cons of both. Which one is better, well there is no exact answer to that. Here’s my take on the same and hopefully it will help you understand the both formats and let you decide which one is right for you.

We all know about JPEG

JPEG is the most commonly recognized file format for photographs, plain and simple. If uploading, printing or sending someone a copy of my images, JPEG is the way I usually send those photos, and same holds true for most photographers. Also the JPEG format is definitely the most common image compression format used by digital cameras, and technically, a method of “lossy compression” for photographic images. This lossy compression is the main reason behind the debate.

 Essentially when saving in JPEG format, the camera is programmed to compress the pixels into a smaller file size, discarding some of the pixels. Depending on what setting we have selected for recording our camera images, there will be either more or less compression. For example, if we choose the largest JPEG file size we can for shooting, our camera will discard less information than if we choose a smaller setting.

Then when we further process that image on our computer using some sort of image processing software like Photoshop, it is compressed even more each time we save the image.

When I choose the largest JPEG setting on my camera (D7000), the file size is just below 5MB


How does RAW format differ from JPEG?

When we set our camera to RAW in the photo quality menu, we are telling the camera to NOT process the photo in anyway. It preserves all the pixels and  contains the data collected by your camera’s sensor. In itself it’s not an image. It needs to be converted to an image file. In some way this raw file is a Digital Negative and just like film negatives, they need to be processed. The post processing of RAW might be a little tedious, but then it does allow a lot of control over the same.

If we compare the size of these files, a RAW image that I obtain from my camera is close to 20MB.


The Comparison

Now if we were to shoot the same image in RAW (without post processing) and JPEG, the JPEG is likely to be more appealing visually, but the same RAW after post-processing is more likely to look superior.

For example when we start shooting more often than not we let the camera decide the white balance, and more often than not the camera judges it pretty well. Every now and then the camera gets confused and might mess up the white balance. Fixing this in a RAW is far easier than working on a JPEG as the latter already has discarded data to begin with.  RAW images are much easier to manipulate using image editing software such as Photoshop. In Photoshop we can easily adjust many parameters of an image such as white balance, exposure, colour saturation, colour tint, fill light, brightness, contrast and others. Of course, we can also do this with a JPEG image, but it is not so easy, the results aren’t as good, and we still have the problem of gradual degradation of image quality from the JPEG compression algorithm.

The one place where JPEG does beat RAW files is that the latter are proprietary to individual cameras. As the manufacturers churn out a new camera they keep updating these file settings, and as a result there is no standard way of producing these files. Older versions of image processing programs are not always able to read the files of newer cameras. Not to mention if you are using a Canon, your files are different than if you use a Nikon. The RAW extension is even different. Canon is xyz.CR2 and Nikon is xyz.NEF extension. So if you are not planning to put money in updating your editing software, you might still want to stick to the good old JPEG.


What do I prefer?

I think for the first 5-6 month I was quite trigger happy, clicking like there is no tomorrow, and that meant far more pictures than I required and a lot more pictures that I should have deleted, which are still there in my HDD. During that phase I stayed clear of RAW, because it seemed a little too tedious, and would need a lot more data storage.

Since the D7000 has two slots for memory card, and it allows one to save different formats on each, I started shooting in RAW + JPEG (Back up). What this let me indulge in, was to shoot anything and everything in the monochrome setting. This way I would just use the JPEG in Black and White, and in case someone would ask for a coloured version I would edit the RAW.  Working with RAW gave me an insight on how much more creative freedom I got as compared to editing the JPEG. As of last one year or so, I haven’t used a single JPEG file, although I do still shoot with the same RAW+JPEG setting.

On my D7000 the primary slot has a 16GB and the secondary slot has 8GB card, and it allows me to click close to 800 images (RAW+JPEG), which is far more than I would click on a days shoot.


What should you use?

If you are very familiar with image processing software, and you like to edit your own images, RAW is a very valid consideration for you. Even free programs like Picassa or say Darkroom on Ubuntu (since PS for linux is no where in sight) can open and process most RAW files.

If on the other hand, you don’t want to add another step to your workflow, or if you are not yet ready to take the next step in learning (or buying) some good software, you will want to stick with JPEG.

Which camera should I buy?

There are months when people ask me this question more than if I am free to shoot an event for them. It has to be one of the most complex questions to answer. Here are some of the questions you should ask yourself.

1. What is your budget?
2. What cameras do your friends use?
3. What do you plan to use it for?

1. What is your budget?

This more likely will be the most important factor deciding which camera should you buy. Nikon and Canon (and a whole bunch of other companies) have a huge range of product that is aimed at different price bracket.
In my case I saved over 2 years and my initial plan was to buy a D90 along with a 85mm f/1.8. The D90 was for around 40k around then, and Nikon released the D7000 about then, priced at close to 80k. I decided to opt for the latter and a 50mm f/1.8 instead. I had the following reasoning: D90 is already a 2 year old technology, since I have the money why not opt for a newer technology and the one at the highest end of crop sensor camera.

2. What cameras do your friends use?

This gives you two options, first you can try their cameras for a hands on experience. Second since most of them will either have a Nikon or a Canon you can borrow lenses when you end up buying your camera.

3. What do you plan to use it for?

If you want to use it for daily use like a lot of people I know do, why not look at a high end point and shoot? They are less cumbersome, and you don’t have to worry about changing the lens for different purposes. They weigh far less and easier to keep clean. If you plan to take photography as a hobby then you might look at an entry level DSLR. If you see yourself pursuing it little more seriously then maybe opt for a higher end DSLR camera.
Next what kind of lenses would you require, it would vary from kind of photography you are interested in, portraits, landscape, macro sports etc. The glass is one of the more important investments you will be making.

Few more things you should keep in mind:

1. Megapixels isn’t everything.
2. Optical zoom is far better than Digital zoom.
3. Keep in mind the extras (Memory cards, tripods/monopods, lenses)
4. Read reviews once you have shortlisted a few.

Nikon v/s Canon 

Honestly it’s a stupid debate. Firstly there are more companies out there so you might want to check them out as well. As for me I think Nikon makes better lenses, the photographs are more saturated, but on the downside is more expensive when you compare with canon.

Why you must have a 35mm lens.

A year and a half back, just before I was supposed to go to Delhi to shoot an engagement, I decided to pick up a new lens. My choices were between the 85mm and a 35mm, and as it happens with the Indian rituals, it’s better to shoot these events from up close rather than a distance. So I opted to pick up the Nikon 35mm f/1.8 AFS lens.

Here’s why you should pick this one up to start with instead of a 50mm like I did. 

1. Since most of us use a APS-C sensor camera, a 35mm is very close to the 50mm on a Full Frame camera. It makes more sense to have this one than the 50mm as the latter is equivalent to 75mm (a short tele) on our cropped sensor cameras..

2. Nikon’s 35mm f/1.8 AFS is super fast at focussing, and with the D7000 it is like the two were meant to be together.

3. The Silent Wave Motor results in a Quiet Autofocus, and if you decide to shoot a video with the AF on, it doesn’t add the noise that one gets when using the 50mm f/1.8 AF.

4. The images are very sharp and even works pretty well at f/1.8, although if you like to have pretty bokehs, this might not be the best of the lot. (Usually longer the focal length, more beautiful the bokehs)

5. The 35mm does have a shallow DOF for close ups, but when at a slight distance most of the subject will be in focus so we don’t need to step down to a smaller aperture.

6. Not to mention this Nikon lens is quite light and a prime lens!

7. If you compare it with the 50mm 1.8 AFS, this one is slightly cheaper, also AFS is faster than the AF. Not to forget since Nikon has stopped adding motors to the body of the entry level DSLR, to have the Auto Focus function you will need to pick up an AFS lens.

From the time I have picked it up this has been my walk around lens, I have shots concerts and weddings with this one. This lens feels more natural to shoot with than the 50mm and I pretty much swear by this one.

Though you should keep in mind the pictures have some Barrel Distortion, but then it’s nothing Photoshop can’t fix.

Why I picked up my nifty fifty.

I have the Nikon 50mm f/1.8. It was the first lens I bought along with my D7000 (I opted for body only cause I didn’t liked the kit lens it comes with). I had my reasons to pick up a prime instead of a zoom lens.

1. Small and light, the camera I picked up is quite sturdy and definitely on the heavier side in the family of cropped sensor cameras, so to start with I wanted a lens that was light itself.

2. To keep me on my toes. I know zoom lens has a lot of freedom, you can change the frame by just zooming the lens in or out, but I think it makes you lazy. On the other hand for a prime lens, if you want to change the frame you must move. I personally feel this made me put in more effort in order to frame better shots.

3. Shallow DOF. This has to be the most beautiful aspect of this lens, blurring the background with beautiful bokehs and focusing only on the subject.

4. Fast Aperture – f/1.8 compared to the stock lens with f/3.5 at wide end. Even though I would preferably shoot at f/2.2 it is still faster than the zoom lens. This also means the lens is brilliant for low light photography.

5. It is so freaking cheap!

If you have the money you could opt for the 50mm f/1.4, but the f/1.8 itself is nothing short of a magic lens.
If you have an APS-C, the effective focal length is slightly longer (75mm on the D7000)