Canon 50mm f/1.2
March 2007 More Canon reviews
This Canon 50mm f/1.2L lens (about $1,600) is the sharpest 50mm lens I've ever used at very wide apertures, but I've not used any other aspherical 50mm lens. It easily outperforms the conventional Zeiss 50mm f/1.4.
This 50mm f/1.2L is the smaller brother of the Canon 85mm f/1.2L II.
This is a special purpose lens for people who need to shoot at large apertures. It's special purpose because it's big, heavy and expensive and doesn't do anything more than any other 50mm lens unless you're using it at wide apertures of f/2.8 and faster. If you're not going there, you're better off with a zoom for convenience or the Canon 50mm Macro for sharpness.
If you are going there, and you people know who you are, it has great optics. Not as great as the bigger 85mm f/1.2L II, but the best fast 50mm I've used.
My only reservation is that I couldn't get consistent autofocus. It had an annoyingly high percentage of misses, meaning one shot out of about 10 or 20 would be out of focus, even though the AF system told me it had locked on. Be sure yours works well for you if you use AF.
For the very best performance with manual focus, and some people get the best results with these lenses focusing manually. Canon makes special focus screens optimized for fast lenses.
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.
1.) Best super-speed 50mm lens I've ever used, if I can get it in focus. No veiling haze like conventional fast 50mm lenses wide open.
2.) Much faster autofocus than the huge 85mm f/1.2L II.
3.) Great, modern ergonomics.
1.) I can get frames that are out of focus, even though my AF system thinks it's in focus.
2.) Expensive: about $1,600 as of March 2007.
Name: 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: 50mm. 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. On a 1.6x camera it gives an angle of view similar to what an 81mm lens would give on a 35mm film camera. See also Crop Factor.
Maximum Aperture: f/1.2.
Optics: 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.
Diaphragm: 8 blade rounded, stopping down to f/16. Looking in the lens, it's 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: 72mm.
Close Focus: 1.5' (0.45m) from the image plane (the back of the camera), marked.
Maximum Reproduction Ratio: 1:6.7, specified.
Infrared Focus Index? Yes.
Size: 3.384" diameter x 2.581" extension from flange (85.96 x 65.56mm), measured.
Weight: 20.894oz. (592.3g), measured, naked.
Hood: ES-78 plastic bayonet, reversible. Included.
Case: LP1214 pouch, included.
Announced: 24 August, 2006.
Available since: November 2006.
It's very good at f/1.2 and of course fantastic from f/2.8 and smaller.
My biggest reservation was the AF systems of my 5D and XTi would sometimes say they were in focus, but the resulting images were sometimes way off.
The front and rear groups move inside the barrel. The barrel itself and filter thread 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.
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.
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.
Offset: Mine tended to focus a little bit in front of the intended subject. I hear that Canon will adjust, one time for free under warranty, your camera to your lens, but I've never tried it. For optimum results at f/1.2 I had to focus on something just a hair closer than my subject.
If I need to be more clear, this means most people, including myself, will get soft results at the same apertures for which you are paying $1,600. Be careful and be sure the lens you buy works well enough for you on your own camera body(ies)!
Consistency: Problem: I would get some frames out of focus, even though the AF system though it was in perfect focus. This isn't the AF system being confused with a blank or repeating subject; these were focus mistakes and I don't think they were my mistakes. The 85mm f/1.2L II was fine.
Breathing is a motion picture term which refers to what happens as you pull (change) focus from near to far. I list this for people putting these lenses on their Canon XL-1s for shooting video.The Canon 50mm f/1.2L changes magnification slightly when focused.
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 85mm f/1.2L II is much better.
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.
There aren't any color fringes, so long as you're in perfect focus.
Full-frame image at f/2.8
Unsharpened crop from above image from my 5D at 100%.
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:
Unsharpened crop from above at 100%, autofocus, my 5D.
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.