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50 1.4-can you make use of the sub 2.8 stops?

Dennis Osipiak - Bristol, Ct , Jan 15, 2007; 12:48 p.m.

I've read quite a few posts regarding the inconsistency of the sharpness of the Canon 50 1.4, ranging from sharp to very soft. Most people report the softness at 2.8 or below which creates the question...If someone is buying the 1.4 to use at 2.8 or below to gain the extra light and it isn't sharp then how useful is it? Since I own other lenses which are "L" glass there is a financial limit for the time being as to how many L lenses I can buy. Thats what created the interest in the 50/1.4. Am I rolling the dice for sharpess or is the issue overstated? (at 2.8 or below to get the extra light I need for church interiors etc, or to throw the backgrounds out intentionally). Since opinions vary, I expect to hear a variety but I'm still willing to listen before making a decision. Dennis


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James Goulden , Jan 15, 2007; 01:10 p.m.

It all depends what you're shooting and what you do with your pictures. for me in low light concerts a it's the only lens i can use in certain conditions and get a sharp bright image at 1600 or 3200

i also use the dof abilities of it to totally blur a background out and you can't do that any other way, obviously you loose sharpness of the subject but it's simply a trade off between the two.

to finish: a slightly soft picture is better than no picture at all

Puppy Face , Jan 15, 2007; 01:13 p.m.

I don't know if the issue is overstated, but my experience wasn't that great. I've only owned one copy of the EF 50 1.4 USM and mine was sharp at F8, decent at F5.6 and rather soft at F4 or lower. Wide open, coma was so bad lights looked like comets. Barrel distortion was heavy at 2 meters or nearer. Also, it was sharper at close focus than at infinity. Most folks say their 50 1.4 is sharp at F2.8 but such was not the case for me. I can say my EF 24-105 4L IS USM is head and shoulders above my 50 1.4 at the same F stop and focal length.

I have an EF 50 2.5 CM and it's deadly sharp wide open at any focal length and virually distortion free.

Daniel D , Jan 15, 2007; 01:14 p.m.

Sharpness is not the only thing that makes a picture.

Don't be put off by reports on the web, take the lens and use it. I do use a 50mm 1.8 (not 1.8) and quite frequently below 2.8. While sharpness drops at lower apertures you could hardly call it unusable. Creative use of the very narrow DOF is more challenging than resolution.

William Fong , Jan 15, 2007; 01:14 p.m.

Buy the lens from a reputable dealer so if you have problems you can return it. I rented the 50/1.4 and found the biggest issue with sharpness is the shallow DOF as was previously mentioned. I wonder if some of the other people "complaining" about the softness is just confused with a very shallow DOF created with sub 2.8?

Kier Selinsky , Jan 15, 2007; 01:15 p.m.

I'd recommend that you check the Photozone reviews of the lens. they do very thorough and objective lens testing and i've found it to be very helpful.

understanding the desire to avoid shelling out so much for the extra stops, i'd recommend you take a look at the 50/1.8 mkII. it's $79 i think from B&H, and I've been very happy with mine. It's a plastic body, so it has a little bit of a cheap feel, but the optics are fairly solid. here is a shot i made with the lens - i believe that i shot that at either 2 or 2.8, but i've gotten equally sharp at 1.8. after buying that lens, i couldn't justify the dramatically higher price for the 1.4

Bob Atkins , Jan 15, 2007; 01:25 p.m.

Absolute razor sharpness isn't what makes an image good. Sometimes it can help, sometimes it can actually hurt (people deliberately use soft focus lenses or diffusers).

If you can't make good images with the 50/1.4 at f1.4 it's not necessarily the lens that's at fault.

The 50/1.4 is softer at f1.4 than at f2.8, but I doubt if any copy of it could be described as "very" soft. Even my 50/1.8 at f1.8 is more than usable.

Beau Hooker , Jan 15, 2007; 01:29 p.m.

I have an EF 50 2.5 CM and it's deadly sharp wide open at any focal length and virually distortion free

I gotta second "The Pupster's" advice on that one... The 50 2.5 CM is killer sharp, wide open.

Maybe it's another one of those "got a bad copy" things, but *if* I use a tripod, hold my head just right and sacrifice a goat to the Gods, I can get my 50mm f/1.4 to get "acceptably" sharp at 1.4.

Of course yours and my definition will probably differ as to what "acceptably sharp" is, and as Puppy noted, there are some distortion problems and when used wide open, there's also quite a bit of vignetting on FF cameras with the f/1.4.

However, sometimes ya' just gotta have that speed or you might not get any shot at all. I'm not convinced that Canon's new 50mm L lens is worth the $1300 (approx) difference in price - although it is clearly a bit better. That'll be your call! Good luck!

Giampi . , Jan 15, 2007; 01:32 p.m.

Often time, it's out of focus images that get mistaken for a "bad lens". At the widest apertures such f/1.4 the DOF is indeed very shallow.

But, as stated above, a good image has little to do with razor sharp images(unless such shrpness is part and parcel of the subject matter, in which case it would be foolish to shoot at f/1.4).

My sample was reasonably sharp at its widest aperture.

Kier Selinsky , Jan 15, 2007; 01:43 p.m.

something to consider about f/1.4: according to the DoF calculator, a Canon 20/30D with a 50mm f/1.4 from 10 feet away gives you 0.65 feet (7.8 inches) of sharpness. that's a pretty tight range to hit sharply.

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