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Canon 50mm f/1.2 L
Full Frame USM (2006-)

© 2015 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specs   Performance    Compared   Recommendations

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Canon 50mm f/1.2

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L (full-frame and APS-C coverage, 72mm filters, 20.9 oz./592g, 1.5'/0.45m close-focus, about $1,620). bigger. I'd get mine at Amazon or at Adorama. My biggest source of support is when you use any of these links, especially this link directly to it at Adorama or directly to it at Amazon, when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It helps me keep adding to this free website when you get yours through those links — but I receive nothing for my efforts if you buy elsewhere. Thanks for your support! Ken.


February 2015   Canon Reviews   Canon Lenses   All Reviews

Premium 50mm Lenses Compared 04 September 2014

Canon 50mm Lenses Compared 05 Nov 2013


see also Canon EF 50mm f/1.0 L USM (1989-2000)


Sample Image Files         top

Palm, 17 January 2015.

Sharp enough? Palm, 17 January 2015. (Canon 7D Mk II, Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L, f/5.6 at 1/320, Perfectly Clear V2.) full-size. If it's this sharp on APS-C at 20 MP, it's this sharp on full-frame at 52 MP.


Introduction    top

Intro   Specs   Performance    Compared   Recommendations

This Canon 50mm f/1.2L is the sharpest 50mm lens I've ever used at apertures faster than f/1.4.

Just grab the ring at any time for instant manual focus override.

It's just about the same as its larger, older brother, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.0 L, with this f/1.2 lens having a little more overall contrast and sharper in the corners wide open.

If you need sharpness at wide apertures you can't get with the smaller and much less expensive 50mm f/1.4 USM, this 50 1.2 delivers. Once you're shooting at normal apertures like f/4, this 1.2 lens is the same as the 50/1.8 II, either of which are a little bit sharper than the 1.4 USM.


Canon 50mm f/1.2

Canon 50mm f/1.2L on a black Canon Rebel XTi.

Note how the prism of the tiny XTi has been designed to accommodate even these crazy professional lenses without obstruction.


Good News:

1.) Best super-speed 50mm lens I've ever used, with no veiling haze like conventional fast 50mm lenses wide open.

2.) Smaller, less expensive and faster autofocus than the huge 50mm f/1.0 L and much faster autofocus than the 85mm f/1.2L II.

3.) Great, modern ergonomics.


Bad News:

1.) Expensive.

2.) The $125 50/1.8 II is just as sharp if you're not shooting at large apertures.


Specifications    top

Intro   Specs   Performance    Compared   Recommendations



Canon calls this the Canon Lens EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM.

   EF: Electronic Focus. All modern Canon lenses focus with a motor in the lens.

   L: Expensive as L. No exact technical meaning other than this being Canon's lingo for lenses with extra durability and weather sealing. L lenses work on all cameras including film and full-frame digital. Canon puts a red band around the front of L lenses.

   USM: Ultra-Sonic Motor: The focus motor operates silently.


Focal Length


On an APS-C camera it gives an angle of view similar to what an 81mm lens would give on a 35mm film camera. See also Crop Factor.

Used on a 1.3x camera it gives an angle of view similar to what a 63mm lens would give on a 35mm film camera.



8 elements, 6 groups, including one glass molded (GMo) aspherical element.

The lens has a floating design with which the lens adjusts itself to optimize correction as it's focused.



Canon 50mm f/1.2 L front

Canon 50mm f/1.2 at f/1.2 (EF diaphragm not visible). bigger.

8 blade rounded, stopping down to f/16.

Looking in the lens, it's quite round to about f/2.8 and octagonal from about f/4. Out-of-focus points of light are almost always round at every aperture.


Filter Size


Plastic threads.


Close Focus

1.5' (0.45m) from the image plane (the back of the camera), marked.


Maximum Reproduction Ratio

1:6.7 (0.15x), specified.


Infrared Focus Index




3.384" diameter x 2.581" extension from flange (85.96 x 65.56mm), measured.



20.867 oz. (591.6g), new sample measured in November 2013.

20.894 oz. (592.3g), new sample measured in March 2007.



Canon ES-78 Hood

Canon ES-78 Hood.

ES-78 plastic bayonet, reversible. Included.



LP1214 pouch, included.



24 August, 2006.


Available since

November 2006.



$1,620, November 2013. ($1,259 after rebates).

$1,600, March 2007.



Canon 50mm f/1.2 MTF

Canon 50mm f/1.2 MTF.

Canon rates it as decent; but not as good as the insanely good 85mm f/1.2L II. My tests confirm this; this 50mm gets softer in the corners wide open (full frame) and the 85mm f/1.2L II doesn't.


Performance   top

Intro   Specs   Performance    Compared   Recommendations

Autofocus   Bokeh   Color   Color Fringes   Construction  

Distortion   Ergonomics   Falloff   Film   Filters   Flare   Flash

Macro   Program Mode   Serial Number   Sharpness   Sunstars   IS



It's very good at f/1.2 and of course fantastic from f/2.8 and smaller.


Focusing   back to Performance or back to Introduction.


What Moves

The front and rear groups move inside the barrel. The barrel itself and filter threads don't move.


Focus Distance Scale




AF speed is fast. It focuses as fast as my eyes. This is much faster than the 85mm f/1.2L II. and faster than the 50mm f/1.0 L.


Sound and Noise

Manual Focus: Plastic on plastic.

Autofocus: About the same.


Ease of Manual Focusing

Excellent: just grab the ring at any time.

For best results, get a special focus screen optimized for fast lenses. You can't see focus as well with the standard focus screens, which are designed for f/2.8 and slower lenses.


Autofocus Accuracy and Consistency

Sharp results at f/1.2 demand perfect focus accuracy. Depth of field is so thin at f/1.2 that any subject, other than a flat test chart, will mostly be out of focus.

If your camera has it, you may need to adjust AF Fine Tuning for perfect results at f/1.2.

If your camera lacks AF Fine Tuning, it's not likely that any given sample of lens will give perfect results on your camera at f/1.2. No worries, if shot with an older camera, learn how or where to focus for perfect results with your lens.

My 5D Mark III gives consistently great results at f/1.2.

On my original 5D in 2007, I got some frames that were way out of focus, even though the AF system assured me I was AOK. Watch for this if you're shooting this on an older camera.

For perfect results every time at every aperture, focus with Live View, but you probably won't need it.


Manual Focus

Manual focus is typical. It takes 130° to turn from infinity to 1.5 feet/0.45 meters (the 50/1.0 L takes 280° to get to 2 feet/0.6 meters).


Focus Breathing

Breathing is a motion picture term which refers to what happens as you pull (change) focus from near to far.

The image from the Canon 50mm f/1.2L gets bigger as focused closer.


Bokeh   back to Performance or back to Introduction.

Bokeh is fair. Isolation is excellent at f/1.2, but isolation is a different issue than bokeh.

Bokeh, the quality of defocused blur circles, is mediocre. The blurs circles get lighter along their circumferii at f/1.2.

The bokeh of the 50mm f/1.0 is actually very, very similar.

The 85mm f/1.2L II is much smoother.

Canon 50mm f/1.2

Full image at f/1.2 and ten feet (3m), 1.6x Canon XTi.

Note how the blur circles look like little rolled condoms, not flat circles. Normal, neutral bokeh would yield ordinary circles, and the elusive perfect bokeh (I've never seen it) would render these circles as Gaussian distributions.


Lateral Color Fringes (LCA)

back to Performance or back to Introduction.

There aren't any lateral color fringes, so long as you're in perfect focus. If you're not in perfect focus, spherochromatism will give other color fringes — but that's a different aberration.

Canon 50mm f/1.2

Full-frame image at f/2.8

Canon 50mm f/1.2

Unsharpened crop from above image from 12 MP 5D at 100%.

This lens is approved by the PPLFPA, Professional Patio and Lawn Furniture Photographers' Association, with a grade of "A."

Canon 50mm f/1.2

At f/1.2, full-frame 5D.

If you're not in perfect focus, you'll see some secondary axial chromatic aberration (magenta) if you're focused in front of your subject. My autofocus system focused a tiny bit too close, and this is what I get using AF at f/1.2:

Canon 50mm f/1.2

Unsharpened crop from above at 100%, autofocus, my 5D.

Canon 50mm f/1.2

Same thing at f/1.2, except in proper focus.

To get this in focus I pointed my AF sensor at the bushes a few feet behind the gazebo. My 5D has a consistent focus offset, which is different from the shots where the AF system missed entirely.


Continued on page 2 > >


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March 2007