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Canon EF 50mm – F1.4 vs F1.8 MK II

by Wee Keng Hor, 2003

Is there any difference between these 2 lenses other than the price and f-stop? This is a common question that pops up frequently on forums everywhere. While the general consensus is that these 2 lenses are almost identically sharp, there are other factors that have not been fully explained or readily available. And there are lots of wordy discussions but hardly any picture to illustrate. Since I happened to have a new f1.4 together with my old f1.8, I decided to do some tests to find out the answers myself. My test is focused on more apparent difference at wide aperture rather than trying to find out split hair difference.

Out of focus highlights

Out of focus highlights produced by the 8 diaphragm blades of the f1.4 look more like a circle while those produced by the 5 diaphragm blades of the f1.8 take the shape of a pentagon. At f5.6, the pentagon shape becomes more apparent and looks unnatural. At f22, point source of light is rendered like a star with he f1.4 produces 8 pointed stars while the f1.8 produces 10 pointed stars. 

  EF 50mm f1.4 EF 50mm f1.8 MK II

Barrel Distortion

Some photo.net members have complained about the f1.4 suffering from barrel distortion. My test result shows that the f1.4 does indeed suffer from slight barrel distortion. The f1.8 may or may not but it is at lest better than f1.4.

f1.4 f1.8

The above pictures were shot at big aperture. It is interesting to note that the 1.4 produced sharper and more vibrant colour than the f1.8. The brick wall also the light fall off at the corners is more severe on the f1.8.


Shape of the flare produced are different. Although I preferred the flare rendered by the 1.8, color becomes washed out and has less contrast. 

  EF 50mm f1.4 EF 50mm f1.8 MK II
Either @ f2
or f2.8

Light fall off

f1.4 vs f1.8

Light fall off is more severe with the f1.8 at big aperture.


For those who do not believe in bokeh, the following results should convince you otherwise:

f1.4 @ f2 Check the out of foucs background behind the cans. The bokeh produced by f1.4 has a very nice blend of grey and pink colours.

f1.8 @f2 Here, the blending of the colours in the out of focus background produced by the f1.8 is more harsh.

Here's another example:

f1.4 produces distinctly better bokeh at f2. At f5.6, the difference becomes less obvious.

f1.4@ f2 f1.4 @ f5.6


f1.8 @ f2 f1.8 @ f5.6

One more example:

Again, the background blur is nicer on the f1.4 at f2.

f1.4@ f2

f1.4 @ f5.6

f1.8 @ f2 f1.8 @ f5.6

Although the bokeh is similar at f5.6, the highlights produced on the f1.8 take the pentagon shape. Here's the enlarged portion of the above pictures at f5.6.

Enlarged portion of the previous images. f1.4 vs f1.8 shooting @ f5.6


  Canon EF 50mm f1.4 Canon EF 50mm F1.8 II
What Canon says Standard lens featuring superb quality and portability. Two high-refraction lens elements and new Gaussian optics eliminate astigmatism and suppress astigmatic difference. Crisp images with little flare are obtained even at the maximum aperture. This is the lightest EF lens of all at a mere 130g. Compact and high-performance, standard lens. Its Gaussian optics provides sharp delineation from near to far focusing distances. The colour balance is excellent for a standard lens.
Angle of View
(horizontal, vertical, diagonal)

40º, 27º, 47º

Lens Construction



No. of Diaphragm Blades



Minimum Aperture


Closet Focusing Distance


Maximum Magnification


AF Actuator

Micro USM

Micro Motor

Filter diameter



Max Diameter X Length

73.8mm X 50.5mm

68.2mm X 41mm




© Wee Keng Hor
All rights reserved.

Readers' Comments

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Keith Neundorfer , June 10, 2003; 02:38 A.M.

Nice comparison. One thing to add: 1.4 has full time manual focus. 1.8 does not.

Kunihiko Kario , June 10, 2003; 03:08 A.M.

Good job, Wee. I have both lenses and have been thinking that number of blades should be pointed out frequently. Canon 50mm f/1.8 used to have 6 blades (FD 50mm f/1.8 s.c. type 1 was the last one). I wish the 1.8 Mark III has 6 blades, if it appears.
Pics of the cans on the chair are good example. The 1.4 has better bokeh. But it's still little "nisen bokeh".

Brad Martin , June 10, 2003; 03:46 A.M.

What I am most struck by, and I think what your review/comparison highlights, is that the 1.4's colour is so much stronger than the 1.8. Both are great but in different ways.

Hubert Figuiere , June 10, 2003; 05:52 A.M.

I always thought 50m f/1.4 had an USM Ring Motor, unlike it is being said here. What is the point ? I don't own the lens, but from what I could look, it should be ring USM (and it is Full-time manually focusable).

csab' józsa , June 10, 2003; 06:16 A.M.

Nice consistent review. One small remark: the f1.8 has 5 blades, and out of focus highlights take the shape of a PENTAGON, not a hexagon as you mention 2 times. Later on you you talk already about pentagon. I'm sure it was just a typo.


Sp ... , June 10, 2003; 07:08 A.M.

Thanks for the review, it's actually quite direct and informative, but it unfortunately (for Canon) made me realize that I wouldn't want either of these lenses. And while it's no surprise that my 50mm Summicron (Leica f2.0) is far better (yes, at 3 x the price) it does seem odd that, based on the images shown, my 25 year old Pentax SMC 50mm also out performs them (at least with respect to flare resistance, distortion and bokeh).


James Harvey , June 10, 2003; 09:52 A.M.

>I always thought 50m f/1.4 had an USM Ring Motor, unlike it is being >said here

The 50mm 1.4mm has a micro USM, not a Ring USM. Unlike other lenses equipped with Micro USM however it has a clutch mechanism to allow FTM

nilesh sawale , June 10, 2003; 11:50 A.M.

Good comparison, touching just the areas everyone mostly interested. Now only if someone from Nikon camp could compamare the Nikon duo....

Serge Boucher , June 10, 2003; 12:07 P.M.

Paul : my understanding is that flare is mostly affected by the number of glass elements in the lens and the quality of the coating. Hence, lenses types which requires many elements (zoom, macro...) are typically more flare-prone than simpler designs. Improvements in multi-coating has allowed manufacturers to build zoom lenses without severe flare problems, but they'll never be as good as a prime lens with the same coating... Leica is arguably one of the best in this department, making simple prime lenses which are nearly flare-free.

Oh, and a good lens hood helps a lot. (cheap, too ;)

Mike Kovacs , June 10, 2003; 12:12 P.M.

Some comments from a Nikon user. I used to own the EF 50/1.4 during my brief foray into Canon. It was a great lens with great handling (USM!) and decent build quality for a modern AF lens. I also liked the recessed front element as it really eliminated the need for a lens hood. Sorry I've never used the EF 50/1.8 but it looked really cheap to me not even having a distance scale. I think it also takes an oddball (for Canon) 52mm filter size.

Compared to my AI 50/1.4 Nikkor, I would say the optics are about equal, i.e. razor sharp by f/2.8. I think the EF 50/1.4 had less light falloff at wide apertures and nicer bokeh. The Nikkor has aperture 7 blades for what its worth as does my 105/2.5 with SUPERB bokeh. I can't remember what f/stop I shot at but see the shot below for an example of the Nikkor's (IMO rather harsh) bokeh.

Nikon F3HP & Nikkor AI 50/1.4, Provia 100F

Peter Langfelder , June 10, 2003; 01:31 P.M.

The 50/1.8 also suffers from barrel distortion, at least in its first, metal mount version that I have. The distortion becomes more pronounced as one focuses closer and closer; at infinity there is pretty much none, but below a few meters (say 10 ft) it's clearly visible on straight walls etc.

Milos Bozovic , June 10, 2003; 02:20 P.M.

Very nice comparison, indeed. If someone is planning to test Nikon lenses the same way, why not include some other manufacturers too? Like comparing all the standard lenses for different systems like Leica, Contax, Minolta, Pentax and others...<br><br> I wonder if you used manual focusing, or auto-focused on the same point with both lenses, and if you used same apperture/shutter speed combinations for both of the lenses? Is the difference in colour rendition so obvious? Why is there a different perspective in the flare test pictures?

Fazal Majid , June 10, 2003; 03:32 P.M.

Not all Leica lenses are flare-resistant. The Summicron-M 50mm f/2 is incredibly sharp, contrasty and with great bokeh, but it is also very susceptible to flare.

Canon's 50mm f/1.4 is sharper, has better bokeh and construction than their f/1.8, whereas for Nikon the f/1.4 is better built and has better bokeh but is less sharp than the f/1.8. This simplifies the decision-making process, as there is only price vs. quality to consider, not multiple trade-offs.

Mirek Langer , June 10, 2003; 07:14 P.M.

I would add one more comparision - bokeh on full aperture. I experienced on 50/1.8 unpleasant circles... this suppose to be changed in 50/1.4 design, but I'm not sure. Quite strangely, this bad bokeh is also produced by Zeiss 85/1.4 on full aperture... but stopped down, it's much much better...


Anand N. Vishwamitran , June 10, 2003; 07:22 P.M.

The 50mm f/1.4 has superb bokeh as attested by this excellent review. Here's another example which was shot at atleast as wide as f2.0 -

Image Attachment: dwarf.jpg

Psul aul , June 10, 2003; 10:02 P.M.

Could someone explain what barrel distortion is? I could not see the difference in the photos used to examplify it.

Rick Rohan , June 11, 2003; 01:11 A.M.

To answer Psul aul's question, barrel distortion is when the center of the photograph appears to buldge out. Much as if you took a perfectly straight picture and bended the corners back down a bit while laying it on the side of a barrel.

As for the photos of the brick wall. You will notice this center buldge in it. Follow the brick seams and you will notice how they curve.

You are right when you say that there is little difference. I would say that they both have about the same amount of barrel distortion. In a quick glance, the f1.8 almost looks worse because of the light fall off in the corners.

Overall it was a good lens comparison.

Vishal Goklani , June 11, 2003; 12:02 P.M.

Isn't it true (in general) that wider aperture lenses will have both better Bokeh AND better color saturation....Take for example, the Nikon 85mm 1.4 and 1.8 lenses; the former has both better Bokeh and better color saturation......and the 24mm 2.0 and 2.8; again, the former has much better color saturation (likewise for the 28mm 2.0 and 2.8) ???

Shams Tarek , June 11, 2003; 11:53 P.M.

Wee, this is brilliant; good job. I wish all lens reviews came with samples and comparisons.

Wee or anyone else: Any comparison of chromatic abberation on these two lenses available? That's another measure of lens performance I think a lot of people are interested in.

Elliot :) , June 13, 2003; 07:04 A.M.

This review reads: "At f22, point source of light is rendered like a star with he f1.4 produces 8 pointed stars while the f1.8 produces 10 pointed stars."

Although it seems that the number of points seems like it may be directly related to the number of aperture blades, how come we dont either: A. see 16 points for the f1.4 lens, or B. See 5 points for the f1.8 lens? This would make more sense to me. How come this is not the case?

Brian Kennedy , June 13, 2003; 03:41 P.M.

In response to Elliot's question above - an even number of aperture blades makes for stars with the same number of points as the blades; an odd number makes stars with twice the number of points as the number of blades.

Joplin Motisher , June 13, 2003; 08:13 P.M.

Here is a quasi scientific explanation for the number of star points: A lens will have exactly twice as many star points (diffraction spikes) as the number of diaphragm blades. However, if you have an even number of blades, the two points for each blade are superimposed on each other, so you get one bright star point for each blade. When you have an odd number of blades you see both points for each blade but they are dimmer. You can actually see this effect in the sample image, star spikes formed with the 50mm F1.4 are brighter than the ones from the 50mm F1.8.

Jay Dougherty , June 13, 2003; 09:06 P.M.

Yes, this test bears out my subjective testing. I was displeased with the character and contrast of the images produced by the 1.8, and I was glad to get rid of it. The 1.4 is by far better subjectively, IMO. I just really hated the Canon 50mm 1.8 lens. It felt cheap and was a disappointment optically. Nikon, OTOH, has excellent 1.8 and 1.4 lenses.

Jeffrey Rodgers , June 13, 2003; 10:04 P.M.

I noticed there is quite a difference in weight between the two. Also, since I do manual focus, I was wondering if the f/1.4 is noticably brighter on the viewscreen?

Axel Cordes , June 15, 2003; 07:42 A.M.

Thank you for this helpfull analysis! Seams that the f1.4 is really better then the f1.8. I'm using the f1.8 since a while, and although it is the cheapest in my collection, I think it has the best output. One thing I don't really like the the maual focus - the f1.8 focus is not build to be used manually - it's a plastic something but not a focus! As I use the manual focus for ~90% I wouild like to know if the f1.4 is better. (I had a Leica R8 and some Leica Optics for one week, and I can tell you, my Canon stuff became toys, compared to this...) Cheers Axel

Nick Roberts , June 19, 2003; 02:26 A.M.

This is an excellent comparison. I've often wondered what the real differences were between these lenses: now I know, and can take them into acccount when deciding if to upgrade or not. I currently have the f1.8, which is in all honesty pretty good - it's certainly as sharp as most of the other 50s I own/have owned - Zeiss Planar f1.7 and f1.4 are sharper, but the rest aren't (Nikon, Pentax, Nokton, Yashica etc.) - but I would agree that it's bokeh isn't great. That said, I tend not to use it all that much except for available light work in an emergency (normally I would be using something else in these circumstances).

Julian - , June 19, 2003; 05:10 A.M.

Great job on the comparision. I must agree there is just so many discussion going on regarding the 1.4 and 1.8 lens. I recalled I had to 'search the web' to decide on which lens to get - comparing quality version $. I wish I had this article before .. oh well. In the end I just went for the 1.8. The pictures taken can be viewed at www.pbase.com/julianw123_2 (Note: Some pictures were taken with the 28mm/f2.8 lens). For this trip, I took only 2 lens - the 50/1.8 and 28/2.8. Cheers.

Serge Boucher , June 20, 2003; 03:27 P.M.

Axel : I own the EF50/1.4 and it's manual focusing ring is decent. I have never used the 50/1.8 but I believe it's manual focus ring is similar to those found on the really cheap zooms (like the 28-90/4-5.6) ie you focus by rotating the front element. The 50/1.4 is a lot smoother and more precise than that.

Of course it's nothing compared to the feel of a Leica R-lens helical, but then the Leicas don't have autofocus...

Serge Boucher

Carl Smith , June 20, 2003; 04:50 P.M.

Mike I agree about the comparison between the Canon and Nikon 50mm 1.4s. I own the 50mm 1.4 USM as well as a roughly 30 year old Nikkor version. I also regularly use the new AF Nikkor 50 1.4. The Canon overall I think is a slightly better lens in the bokeh and light falloff categories but I think the sharpness is about the same.

Øyvind Dahle , June 23, 2003; 08:13 P.M.

An article in Photo Technique describes the Leica 50/1.0 Noctilux. Fully open, the contrast sinks but it holds the resolution high.

It should surprice no one that the differences can be seen at wide apertures, but not at smaller.

So look for differences where they would make impact: if you like me use smaller apertures on landscape, but snapshots and portraits fully open, test so! Because the use is what matters, not theory.

Test schedule:

Fully open (not at 2.0): Landscape and cityscapes at dusk/night, Bokeh, portraits, typically no-flash snapshots...

Stopped down (2.8-11: groups of people that you might have to enlarge a bit more than you thought of, Your typical landscape...

Well stopped down (16-22): people in sunlight, macro work, still-life, when in need for slower shutters, consider a ND-filter.

Know your lens and use it. Øyvind:D

Charles Dunlap , July 06, 2003; 04:42 A.M.

I have seen several comments here about how good the Nikon 50 f/1.4 is. I owned the most recent version of that lens, and I stopped using it for anything below f/8. The out of focus areas with the Nikon are extremely jarring, with doubled lines for the edges of out of focus features. This sort of bokeh easily ruins any sort of photograph where it appears.

I have also owned the Leica M 50 f/2 Summicron, and I echo the comments of one person above who noted that this lens is overly subject to flare. Its bokeh is much better than that of Nikon, but still not the soft buttery blur that can really make a photograph beautiful. My Leica M 90 f/2.8 Summicron also suffered from strange internal reflections. I returned it to Leica in New Jersey and they told me that it was inherent to the design of the lens. Considering the cost, I always found the Leica lenses to be underperformers.

The best 50mm lenses that I have owned are Zeiss: the Contax SLR 50mm f/1.4 and the Contax G series 45mm f/2. Both are very resistant to flare (much more so than the Leica Summicrons), wonderfully sharp, and had the best bokeh that I've seen in a 50 mm.

The Canon EF 50 f/1.4 appears closest to the Zeiss lenses in performance among 50mm SLR lenses that I have used. I haven't been able to test them side by side, but compared to the washed out photos from the EF 50 f/1.8 (and its flimsy construction) I would say that the Canon EF 50 f/1.4 is the best 50 f/1.4 among modern autofocus SLR lenses (omitting the Contax autofocus entries as too limited and clunky).

Kenneth Darling Soerensen , July 08, 2003; 07:52 A.M.

Nice job testing the bokeh of the two lenses. Regarding all other factors that you tested: How many samples of each lens did you test before concluding to make sure that sample variety had a minimal impact on results?

David Magradze , July 31, 2003; 02:07 A.M.

Thanks for good review.

Here is my two cents worth comment: I own f/1,8 mk2 and worked with f/1,4 Since I believe in “bad bokeh” I would say that f/1,8’s bokeh is terrible, really spoils a good picture. f/1,4’s much better. I’ll scan my photos later and post em here. 2 years ago I bought f/1,8 mk2 and while being satisfied with the quality of my photos it fell apart after slight hit against my car’s door. Slight, I mean slight. Front element fell off and lens became irreparable. Cheapness of it forced me to buy a new one. But, me being not extremely camera concentrated for a second, I hit it again. Although it didn't fall apart, from element started to wobble a bit and photos gone bad. This is cheap lens with good picture quality, but it's terribly fragile, annoyingly sensitive to dust and any physical impact. I feel I'm paying more attention to my lens than to my subject when I use it. Guess what? I'm going to buy f/1,4. Another proof to well know saying: Not so rich to buy cheap things.

Image Attachment: txa2.jpg

David Magradze , July 31, 2003; 02:16 A.M.

Goat in Zoo

50mm F/1,8 @ f/8

Jay Dougherty , September 09, 2003; 04:19 P.M.

I agree fully with Carl. I retract any positive suggestion about the quality of the Nikon 1.4. I sold that lens and went with their very fine 1.8D lens.

Yes, the Canon 1.4 is the best there is, though. Skip the 1.8. It's truly junk.

T Armstrong , September 30, 2003; 09:27 P.M.

I have owned both the 1.4 and the 1.8, and while the 1.4 feels more substantial, and has several advantages (easier manual focus being the main one) it isnt bullet proof compared to the 1.8. Mine gave up the ghost after a month, it seems the style of USM and clutch can easily be stressed, and break as was the case with mine (I still dont know exactly how I did that) I took it back to the shop I purchased it from (Jacobs, Oxford Street London) and they were happy to credit it and I bought the 1.8 instead, figuring that if my destructive tendencies continued at least I wouldnt be out of pocket for as much!

Thankfully the 1.8 stood the test ... until recently that is. I carried it for several months of backpacking across Europe, North Africa and South America, using it for everything bar banging in tent pegs. It wasnt until I got into a studio and had it attached to a camera that it finally received the death blow, and revealed its weak link.

It is very susceptible to sideways knocks, exacerbated when the lens hood along with the adapter etc is fitted. I knocked mine and as most people find the front element dropped off, looking inside its all held together by 4 unsubstantial plastic 'hooks', makes it easy to clip it all back together but as at least one of the hooks will no doubt be snapped it all remains pretty wobbly (have now bought another 1.8 as a result) On the upside ... the old one makes a great Lupe!!!

So word of warning, if you use the Canon lens hood, with adaptor etc on the 1.8 the increased leverage on the front element afforded by them when subjected to a sideways impact, especially when extended can be lethal, so I always remove mine (the lens hood) these days, better yet save yourself the expensive cost of the canon item and use a soft rubber screw in version instead.

Catchiest Zero , March 09, 2004; 01:19 P.M.

Excellent review. Based on the pictures, my opinion is that the difference in price between the f/1.4 and f/1.8 is not justifiable for most of us.

As to the durabilty of the f/1.8, it should be pointed out that there are two versions of this lens: 1) the original, all-metal version and; 2) the newer mark II, which is an all-plastic construction.

Optically these two lenses are supposed to be identical, although I only own the metal version which also sports a distance and DOF scale as well as a dedicated proper focusing ring; neither lens has a rotating front element.

Both of the f/1.8 lenses are quite quick in auto-focusing (newer is slightly faster), but both are considerably noisier than the f/1.4 USM lens.

Bram Carlier , March 17, 2004; 07:38 P.M.

Why is the price difference not mentioned? Are we all millionaires or pros over here? I'm 16 and pro nor millionaire so the price decided for me: €75<->€375... €300 is a lot of money to me. I have tested the 1.4 and as soon as I have got too much money it is mine! But for now, I spend money on film for my 1.8 shots. Good compairisation with effective samples!

Vincent J M , March 22, 2004; 10:06 A.M.

Good work here, and very informative. I was the owner of both the 50/1.4 and the 50/1.8-II, but my 50/1.4 produced so much barrel distortion that I didn't like using it. At 5 times the price of the 50/1.8-II it was a deal breaker so I sold it and got the 50/1.8-II. The distortion on my sample is incredibly better than the 50/1.4 I sold, and to my eyes it performs just as well, except for the bokeh, which is something I can live with. If Canon betters the design of the 50/1.4 maybe by using a floating element to reduce distortion, puts in a true USM motor and prices it at reasonable levels, this new model would be an all time killer lens.

Paul Marbs , April 04, 2004; 06:29 P.M.

So exactly what is it that makes some lenses less resistant to flare than others?

George Vida , April 22, 2004; 08:17 P.M.

I bought my 50mm f/1.4 lens along with my EOS-3 since I really wanted a razor sharp prime at 50mm. The lens's colour is very nicely saturated much more than my zooms, but its optical quality makes it a real pain in the a** for me. My 24-70 2.8L gives much sharper results at 50mm when it's stepped down to f5,6. The 50/1,4 is far from it even at f8 or f11. Very disappointing. On the other hand I think it is also very important to think about AF speed and accurancy. The 50/1.4 let me down in this area again. In low light conditions is is simply unable to lock on my target, nevertheless the AF speed is a joke compared to any of my zooms (17-40 f4, 70-200 2.8L IS or the 24-70). I absolutely regret buying this lens.

PROs: light weight, 2 more f stops compared to the 2.8L zoom, better saturation.

CONs: horrible AF, bad overall image quality.

D Colucci , May 28, 2004; 07:22 A.M.



D Colucci , May 28, 2004; 07:24 A.M.

"So exactly what is it that makes some lenses less resistant to flare than others? "

many things

1. Coatings

2. Construction of lens

3. Types of glass used in the lens

4. Structure and design of aperture and barrel 5. Speed of lens

just to name a few....

Goldwyn T , February 15, 2005; 07:11 P.M.

Seems like many of you have experienced barrel distortion with the 1.4 version. I've had this lens for about 2 years now and i can honestly say that it has not affected my photos. I have never noticed the barrel distortion. I even shot a brick wall to make sure, and was happy to see there was no distortion.

As for sharpness, it's really not the sharpest lens... i don't know why, but even around f4-f5 the lens is still a bit soft???

Grzegorz Zak , May 26, 2006; 08:50 A.M.

Great comparison! Thanks!
I have to change my 50 f/1.8 II. This lens is IMHO usable from f/2.8 and I love very shallow DOF... I hope 1.4 version is better ;-)

Petr Zavadsky (CZ) , January 13, 2007; 02:17 A.M.

I second George Vida here - EF 50/1.4 has left a lot to be desired. I will add speculation - I believe AF is about as good as it is good wide open. This lens is NOT sharp wide open, so - AF system has choice - not sharp or less than not sharp..

And yes - I got some extremely nice slides with it, but nowehere near f/1.4

35/2.0 is fine, 85/1.8 is very fine if you don't mind some CA.

Scott Cox , January 13, 2007; 07:03 A.M.

I have a newbie question: both of these lens are autofocus, correct? I have an Elan II. Just checking!


Ruud van Gaal , January 31, 2007; 11:37 A.M.

@Scott; both lenses have AF, yes.

Koos Net , April 28, 2007; 12:57 P.M.

I have bought the 1.8 II on 04/25/2007 (99,00 euro). I find it a very good lens, considering the price. I'm very happy with it. Gr. Koos

Image Attachment: IMG_0142.JPG

Luis Fernandes , June 10, 2007; 09:20 A.M.

My first comment on this site. I'm a beginner to photography (I had some adventures a few years ago with my EOS 300 - film) and I just bought a Canon EOS 400D (XTi for some of you). I bought it with the kit lens (18/55mm), and now that i'm starting to understand the main characteristics of it, i'm reading reviews to help myself finding more about possible replacement lenses for my camera. Due to my budget, i'm thinking that the 50mm/1.8II would be a good "first" lens, because it's not expensive and the results, as showned in the review, are satisfatory. Maybe choosing the 1.4 would be a great choice for a professional photographer, but that is not my case... yet.

D N , July 05, 2007; 10:40 P.M.

I have been on the fence on this decision for far too long. Today I decided and ordered the f1.4.

greta r , July 12, 2007; 05:41 P.M.

the 1.8 is crap. i thought it was a great lens for the money (image quality i mean). and then today, i was *removing my lenscap* and as i did, the whole front element CAME OFF! yes, you actually do get what you pay for. i'm getting the 1.4 ASAP.

Hubert Figuiere , October 24, 2007; 11:33 P.M.

Now that I have the lens, I can confirm that the 1.4 vs 1.8, the 1.4 wins hands up with the construction and the focusing system. It is probably my most used lens since I acquired it.

Still the 1.8 Mk II remains and excellent deal if you can't really shell out the few extra hundreds.

Benjamin Hocking , November 05, 2007; 05:23 P.M.

Alright the only thing I have not heard on the form, or maybe I missed it, is if the 1.4f is made out of metal or if it is just as cheap as the 1.8f. Anyone know?

Peter Bush , December 06, 2007; 12:45 A.M.

Based on positive reviews I got the 1.8II and have been nothing but happy with it. As my eye has become more experienced, I found the bokeh to be choppy and unnatural in some shots with it, and that, combined with the well known affliction of lens lust, compelled me to get the 1.4. Again, I have been thrilled with the photos I get on my XTi. I have the 17-40 4 and 24-105 4L lenses, the latter is used most, but for indoor available light the 1.4 is a true gem, and for that matter so is the 1.8, perhaps even more so given its price. Canon apparently does suffer with some consistency issues, but it's hard to get a bad picture with any of the Canon lenses I have. Thanks for the great test, and thank you all for the pictures, they are all very enjoyable.

Zak Billmeier , January 09, 2008; 04:22 P.M.

See below:

Zak Billmeier , January 09, 2008; 04:24 P.M.

Anyone who says the 50mm f/1.8 takes bad pictures is going blind. And anyone who complains about it's plastic-y-ness wouldn't complain about the price. Get one, for Pete's sake, it's so damn cheap. If you love it, then think about the f/1.4.

For $75 it takes great pet pictures:

Image Attachment: kitties_010308_0012_sm.jpg

Anders Gelbheit , January 11, 2008; 11:00 P.M.

Very beautiful image of the kitty! Image quality is very nice, including color saturation. At least in absolute terms; in relative terms the 1.4 may be even better.

Tyler Robbins , January 18, 2008; 10:41 P.M.

The 1.4 is nice, I hadn't really ever used a prime on my 20d. Back when I used my FD lenses I always used primes and I am starting to think I need more ef mount primes. Zooming with your feet is fun!

Mark Brigham , January 29, 2008; 09:51 P.M.

Nice review, and nice photo examples. I've been agonizing about which lenses to buy...primes vs zooms; extremely fast primes vs fast primes vs sort of fast primes. I was once a proud owner of a Canon AL-1 (a really nice camera, without the marketing hype of the AE-1), with a stock FD 1.8 lens. I shot 90% of my photos with that lens, and was extremely pleased with its performance, but then I never had any FD L-series lenses to compare. I would say the only thing from keeping me buy the EF 1.8 is the comments about build quality.

Optically, the 1.8 is so close to the 1.4, it's a steal. Mount it to an old film body, and use it in situations where you don't care if it falls into the lake or off a cliff. You'll have some great pictures, and won't cry when it crashes and burns.

But if you take decent care of your stuff, the 1.4 appears to be a lasting investment, and will handle a _little_ abuse more robustly than the 1.8. You'll cry a little when it falls off the Eiffel Tower, but not as much as if you'd bought the 1.2.

Seems like they're roughly equal in performance/price ratio, but the 1.4 is more durable so you'll enjoy it longer.

Andre Stull , March 06, 2008; 03:55 A.M.

The 50 1.4 is great for the price. Just wish it had a ring usm.

Vladimir Funtak , December 24, 2008; 06:30 A.M.


Great photo. Just bought one, looks very good considering the price..

Vladimir Funtak , December 24, 2008; 06:47 A.M.

Example.. 1/800, ISO 200, 1.8, +2/3 ExCo. 300 KB. Canon 40D.

Image Attachment: EF 50mm 11.8 II.jpg

Tony Richards , January 16, 2009; 04:43 A.M.

I have owned both lenses.

The 1.8 is a great all round CHEAP lens.

The 1.4 is considerably more expensive and I now only use it general shooting. I have stopped using it for work purposes because of the lens distortion, especially when doing fine art flat copy work. Shame really as its a neat little lens.

Sheri Johnson , February 28, 2009; 11:01 A.M.

thanks for sharing this comparison and your review, good job!

Daniel Flather , June 27, 2009; 05:08 P.M.

Canon needs to replace this lens with a 50/1.4 with real USM and inner focus, and better glass.

Isaac Richter , July 16, 2009; 02:39 P.M.

There's no doubt to the audiace that this article/report is a great job and a gift to all photography users. Also thre's no agrument about the end results and conclusion.

However, to my view any photo that comes out from a camera is a raw data only, that would have to pass through photoshop SW application prior being released to any outter eye, I would prefer to stick to the F1.8 cheapest lense and tweak the final result by using the above mentioned SW tool.

The difference in cost can be used to get another beneficial lenses. Isaac

joe pee , July 26, 2009; 10:12 A.M.

i bought the mark I 50 1.8, found an older eos film camera on flea bay that was broke with the lens attached, about 80$, also a canon ef 70-210 3.5, which have been going for super cheap (about 110 shipped), the mark I 50 is amazing for the money.

Bo Sockers , August 12, 2009; 11:36 P.M.

I just bought a new Canon 450 D and I am on the fence with these two lenses. My main concern (which I didn't see a lot about in this discussion or comparison) was about low-light, indoor, portraits.

To those of you who have both - do you notice a big difference. Obviously 75 bucks sounds better than 300-400 but, if the 50mm 1.4 is that much better, I would like to get it and have it last.

Please let me know what you think...Thanks

Rob Luscombe , August 13, 2009; 05:42 A.M.

What can you afford?! I have bought a EOS1d mkII this year and a 28-135 IS zoom so the cash was a bit short to get my first choice the f1.4, so I have bought a f1.8 mkII and so far so good, excellent results and it does what I need so far. It annoys me that Canon think they can get away with charging three times as much for the f1.4 when as I understand matters it is based on the 'old technology' and hence inferior USM motor as opposed to a 'proper' ring USM. Maybe its me being cynical or maybe I should just keep saving for the f1.2!! I know that comments have been made that the f1.8 colour rendering isn't supposed to be so good but from what I have seen so far it looks really good plus being a smaller diameter filter element I can use my old Cokin A series filters which haven't been used since my T90!! Whatever you get enjoy it as I don't think there is a wrong answer, just governed by personal circumstances and preferences.

best wishes observe@robluscombe.com

Tony Lloyd , January 06, 2010; 03:49 P.M.

Just wanted to say that I recently bought a Canon 5d and a 1.8 50mm from ebay. When I unpacked it, the camera gave me quite a shock, as I really had expected something a bit less plastic, but the 50mm 1.8 just made me laugh! I thought, surely this can't be right. Front element wobble, a feel like a 1960's Hong Kong toy. I mated the two components together, and wow, why have I not gone properly digital before? The lens still brings a smile to my face. I have a CZ 50mm 1.4, structurally the CZ is on another plane, but picture production wise, I'm not so sure. I just need to get use to the lack of permanence of this gear and concentrate on the end product, the picture. Although, I can't help thinking that we might be missing something that is fundamentally satisfying to us, if the tools we use are not aesthetically pleasing...now where is my Rolleiflex

Danny Collins , January 11, 2010; 10:45 P.M.

Thank you for this test comparison. I know that the Mark I has a much better build quality than the Mark II. What about the picture quality of the two? Has anyone compared the two versions of the 1.8?

Igor Novakovic , January 24, 2010; 12:32 P.M.

Just posted a new review / unboxing vid of this lens.


mark hansford , August 09, 2010; 12:20 P.M.

I love the bokeh on the 1.4 and as other people were saying the colour is just superb for how little it costs.

Check out this amazing example of the bokeh

Venkat Iyer , September 04, 2010; 07:06 P.M.

I have never used the 1.4, but the 1.8 bokeh on human faces, rather i should say Out of Focus, human faces look absolutely horrible.  I wish I could locate the photo, which obviously would speak a thousand words.  Faces look straight out of "The Ring" or "Juon".

Having said that, i use it the most.  I hardly ever use the kit lens or the other zoom.


Venkat P.


If I manage to locate the photo, I'll come back here and post it.

Ramesh chand Sharma , October 02, 2010; 06:52 A.M.

I use some cameras, including EOS 400D with normally a gear of tele zoom and wide angles, for nature and heritage photography. I have hardly used the kit lens. I am going to shortly have EOS 7 D and had been wondering whether I could explore doing with canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM or canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II. In a state of confusion, your comparison seeks to dispel some and offer a few oblique insights. Thanks! R.C. Sharma

Roland Gooday , March 05, 2011; 05:11 P.M.

I've had the 50mm f1.8 for quite some time, and have managed to get some nice shots with it.  I've started to move over to L series lenses (once you use one, it's a bit difficult to avoid this).  However, reading around a bit, it doesn't seem like the f1.2 is really very good value.  So I'm giving the f1.4 a try.  In the mean-time here's a shot from my f1.8 - IMHO you'd be insane not to own this lens if you own a canon camera.


Rob Oresteen , April 07, 2011; 01:34 A.M.

For whatever it's worth, I have the 1.8. Not bad in most cases. But when compared to a Zeiss 50, it's not even close. I would imagine the 1.4 to have a similar gap in "performance".

In some situations I find the 1.8 on par with my 85 1.8. Overall, though, the 85 1.8 is close to superb and a bargain for being sub $400.00. I would have no problem photographing heads of states, rock stars, and the local senior all day long with the 85. It's just that good.

That said, if the EOS users really want to get hung up on gorgeous images, then forget the debate between the 1.8 vs. the 1.4. We fiddle as Rome burns...both lenses are more similar than different.

Consider a $50.00 C/Y to EOS adapter and get a 50 1.4 Planar Zeiss/Contax lens for about $350.00 to $450.00. If you shoot portraits or methodical landscapes, or just walking around town, this lens will take your images to that magic area that only Zeiss can deliver...it's just not the qualities of boketh, but it's the 3D rendering it provides when shot open, like all Zeiss glass, imho.

Of course you have to learn to focus at around 2.8 and then "click up" to the desired aperture (easily learned in about 5 seconds) and manually focus, but sometimes I feel that is an advantage over AF issues..

frank hubert , June 01, 2011; 01:12 P.M.

I have owned the 50mm 1.8 Mk 1 and 2. Both are identical except for the Mk 1 has a metal mount. They are optically good lenses for the cheap price. The biggest issue that I had was they were extremely noisy. An issue that made me decide to get rid of both lenses. I then purchased the 50 mm 1.4 and have been using it since. Silent accurate auto focusing, full time manual focusing is a must for me as well. I found the 50 mm 1.8 lenses pretty much useless as far as manual focusing is concerned. I have used the sigma 50mm 1.4 and found to be a very good lens (although very heavy) but I keep using my canon 50mm 1.4. I love this little lens. It works great with my 50D and 5D. 

Clare Waterfall , September 01, 2011; 05:47 A.M.

Thanks for this, I am purchasing my first prime lens and had been recommended a 50mm.  Your review and subsequent comments has helped me chose the 1.4 thanks you wonderful peeps!

Roland Gooday , September 01, 2011; 07:00 P.M.

Well, I've had some time now to play with the f1.4 lens.  I love it, it does everthing you'd want a 50mm prime to do really.  One observation is that the images are slightly more distorted than those taken on the f1.8 judging by the lightroom lens correction applied, but otherwise no complaints.  Examples from my somewhat limited portfolio would be: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rgooday/5947726382/





Quite like the idea of a zeiss lens though...


john butchart , February 21, 2012; 05:47 A.M.

Hello, my 50mm f/1.8 II broke in half but I was able to repair it about two years ago, and ever since I haven't enjoyed using it because the AF doesn't work. I've always been impressed by the quality of the images it creates, but really want something for low light with AF. Something that no one has discussed here: has anyone used either the 1.4 or 1.8 with a 2x lens to make a 100mm 2.8 or 3.5? If so, how has the quality been? I've considered the 1.4 so I could have a 100mm f2.8 for portraits, but don't know if the quality will be worth it. Any insights would be appreciated! 

Chad Juliano , March 28, 2012; 12:16 P.M.

I have the Canon 50mm f1.4 USM lens. I agree that the AF drive is very fragile and mine broke after I used it on about 10 occasions.  

I took it apart and I can see the problem. There is a small plastic gear in the AF drive assembly that contacts the outer focusing ring. If the lens gets knocked too hard this gear can easily crack as it did in my case because you have the full force of the focus ring on a tiny plastic gear.

The frustrating part is that I need to buy a whole new $95 AF drive assembly when all I need is a little gear. This assembly includes the ultrasonic motor which I assume makes up most of this cost.

Canon should consider all the people who are buying this expensive assembly to fix their fragile lens and give them the option to purchase the clutch separately from the motor.

This is definitely a weak point in their design. If they would just replace this plastic gear with a metal gear I would bet that most of these complaints about their lens would go away. I would try to buy a gear from a 3rd party if I could but it is riveted to the assembly and can't be removed.

Chad Juliano , March 28, 2012; 12:57 P.M.

One more thing... Don't be afraid to fix your lens if it breaks because it is not that tough. Compared to fixing a DSLR camera it is a piece of cake. 

Here are some tips I have learned from servicing my Canon camera equipment:

1. Make sure you have the right size screw drivers. The screws are small and easy to strip so you want to make sure that you have a tight fit. Push down hard when unscrewing if you need to so you can avoid stripping the screw. A Canon service tech would typically use a new screw for reassembly. Since you don't have this luxury be careful!

2. Keep track of what screws go where and group them into separate labeled containers if you need to. The screws you will encounter are very small, have slightly different sizes and threadings, and look very similar. It is easy to forget what goes where.

3. Avoid forcing a screw when re-assembling. There are usually separate threadings for metal and plastic so make sure you have the right one. When screwing back in turn the screw counter-clockwise a bit first to find the threading before you apply clockwise pressure.

4.  My T2i got covered in smashed banana which caused the flash and some buttons to stick. I removed and cleaned all the buttons and I saved myself hundreds of dollars. I would not suggest that you attempt to disassemble a DSLR camera unless you have a service manual. These cameras have over 1500 parts and there is a special order in which you should disassemble them but don't let Canon scare you into thinking you can't do it.




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