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Which is the best 50mm?

Rebecca Dichter , Oct 22, 2010; 01:14 a.m.


So I am looking to add a lens to my collection that I can do indoor portraits with and I am strongly considering the 50mm's at the 24-70mm isn't in my budget right now.
However, there seem to be 3 50mm lenses: a 1.2, 1.4, and 1.8. What difference does the small change in aperture make, and which one might best fit my needs?



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Bueh B. , Oct 22, 2010; 01:28 a.m.

However, there seem to be 3 50mm lenses: a 1.2, 1.4, and 1.8.

Don't forget the discontinued f/1.0 and the f/2.5 macro. And Sigma and Zeiss make highly-regarded 50mm primes, too. The apertures are different, but so are build quality, features, handling, weight and obviously cost.

If you cannot afford the zoom, I guess the 1.2L is out of your price range, too. Funds permitting, this would be my first choice, and the Canon and Sigma f/1.4 lenses second. If I hadn't already the Canon I would probably prefer the newer Sigma. The f/1.8 version is also very decent, but lacks full-time manual (FTM) which I want -- so the macro and the manual focus Zeiss are not for me, either.

Kari Vierimaa , Oct 22, 2010; 02:06 a.m.

50/1.8 is optically decent but same can't be said about the build quality and focus motor, it's downright horrible. It's very cheap, of course, and small and light.
Canon and Sigma 50/1.4 are both good. Canon is older design, average size, takes 58mm filter, very sharp at f2.5, extremely sharp at f4-5.6 even in corners.
Sigma is large and heavy and optimized towards f1.4-2, but lacks in the corner sharpness at middle apertures. (If you shoot with aps-c (crop) sensor camera it's not a problem really.)

If you mostly shoot at large apertures I'd strongly consider Sigma.

Randy Ramkissoon , Oct 22, 2010; 02:20 a.m.

Hi Rebecca

In my case I went with the Contax Planar 50mm F1.7 because I was able to get a new one and at the time I was looking for a durable option because I kept on hearing issues with the Cnon 50mm F1.8 and F1.4 focus motors failing.

I have had 1.5 year to compare it against my brother Canon 50mm F1.4. The main benefit of the Canon F1.4 lens is it is very accurate at getting a fast sharp focus. If you are shooting people in motion then this is a benefit the F1.4 will have over the F1.8. IMO looking at all Canon 50mm lens you will notice that the quality of photo above F4 is the same. There are some slight bokeh differences but at F2.8 you will see the same quality you see in the Canon EF 24-70.

If you use manual focus to make adjustments on a regular bases then as Bueh mentioned the best option is the F1.4. Keep in mind also that what ever Canon lens you go for you should include getting the lens hood. It is my understanding that the lens hood is good for protecting the lens front from getting bumped. Specifically it is the lens getting bumped which may cause premature failure of the focus motor.

Hopefully this info is helpful.

Mark Anthony Kathurima , Oct 22, 2010; 02:57 a.m.

Rebecca, also do a search on this forum. There have been many many posts on this topic and some very useful information to be gleaned. I think you need to answer the question "How much are you willing to spend?"

Wayne Woodruff , Oct 22, 2010; 06:09 a.m.

I have the Canon f1.4 and am very pleased with it. I know several people with the Canon f1.8 is not horrible as Kari suggests! It feel cheap, but it takes great photos and for $100, it's a great value. You should check out reviews; there are many sites online.

Brett W. , Oct 22, 2010; 06:50 a.m.

I agree, the Canon 50mm 1.8 aka "nifty fifty" is very good - less than $100!

Mark Anthony Kathurima , Oct 22, 2010; 09:15 a.m.

The 50 f/1.8 is my standard portrait lens on my 5D2.

John Tran , Oct 22, 2010; 10:00 a.m.

the 24-70mm isn't in my budget right now.

Suppose you already have the 24-70 for free. Would you still need to get a 50mm? If the 24-70 can replace the need of 50mm, then the 50mm 1.8 must be good enough and there is no need for the 1.4 or 1.2

Stephen Penland , Oct 22, 2010; 10:04 a.m.

Mark summed it up well: how much are you willing to spend? I'm very much wanting a 50mm prime as well, and I've concluded that Zeiss has the best one for my needs (and wishes) in the f/2 makro-planar ZE. There's no single 50mm lens that seems to make everyone, or even most people, happy, and there is a great deal of controversy regarding those offered by Canon and Sigma: some people swear by them, others swear at them.

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