Canon 50mm f/1.8
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 (Full-frame, 1.3x and and APS-C coverage, 52mm filters, 6.6 oz./186g, 1.45'/0.45m close focus, about $150 used). enlarge. I'd get it at this link directly to them at eBay (see How to Win at eBay).
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Newer model: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II. Same optics with faster autofocus in a lighter-weight plastic mount.
Spectacular optics (better than most Canon lenses of any price) and tougher build than the newer EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens.
Perfect as a normal lens for full-frame digital and film, and a short tele for 1.6x cameras. Excellent for use in low light.
Slightly slower and much noisier autofocus than the newer EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens that sells for less, brand-new.
Manual focus requires moving a switch.
Sample Image top
This classic Canon 50/1.8 is an ultra-high performance lens.
It was Canon's first 50mm lens for their new EOS system when it was introduced in 1987. The only other 50mm lens available in 1987 for Canon's new autofocus SLR, the EOS 650 and EOS 620, was the exotic 50mm f/1.0 L USM.
Just like the 50mm f/1.0 L USM, this original 50/1.8 sells for more used today than a brand-new -II version. This is because this 50/1.8 has a metal mount, while today's 50/1.8 is plastic. Both these f/1.8 lenses have the same great optics, better than the 50/1.4 USM.
Canon 50/1.8. enlarge.
Canon calls this the CANON LENS EF 50mm f/1.8.
EF means "electronic focus," meaning that there is an autofocus motor in the lens itself.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 internal construction.
6 elements in 5 groups.
Some surfaces multicoated.
Noisy but fast micromotor.
Canon 50mm at f/1.8. (EF diaphragm not visible).
5 straight blades.
Stops down to f/22.
Close Focus top
1.5 feet (0.45m) from the image plane.
Maximum Reproduction Ratio top
Hard Infinity Focus Stop? top
Focus Scale top
The ring turns from near to far in about 85.º
Depth-of-Field Scale top
Yes, but only for f/11 and f/22.
Infra-Red Focus Index top
Filter Thread top
Does not rotate, but does move in and out as focussed.
Canon specifies 67.4mm diameter by 42.5mm long.
6.570 oz. (186.2g), measured.
Canon specifies 6.7 oz. (190g).
(Today's -II version weighs 4.320 oz./122.5g.)
Standard EOS cap rear.
Price, USA top
2013 November: About $130 used.
The Canon 50mm f/1.8 works great. It's among Canon's sharpest lenses.
Its only vice is needing a switch to get back and forth from manual focus.
You have to move the switch on the lens to get Auto or Manual focus.
AF is fast, almost as fast as the newest 50/1.8 II, but the AF motor is as noisy as a kid's toy.
AF is always right-on, especially at f/1.8. With this 50mm f/1.8, all my shots are dead-on in low light.
Manual focus is easy, once you've moved the switch to MF.
Bokeh, the quality of out-of-focus areas as opposed to the degree of defocus, is fair to good. It usually looks great in actual shooting because backgrounds are usually far out of focus because of this lens' fast f/1.8 speed compared to slow f/2.8 zooms
As expected, the Canon 50mm f/1.8 has coma wide-open, which goes away a stop or two down.
If this bothers you, use the Canon 50mm f/2.5 Macro instead.
Use +1.4 in Photoshop's Lens Distortion tool to remove it for critical use at 3 meters (10 feet) and +1.5 at infinity.
Canon 50mm f/1.8.
As covered above, the biggest bad point about the 50mm f/1.8 II is that you have to move a switch if you want manual focus.
Otherwise, this is a straight-ahead lens with no surprises. Grab and go.
Falloff is as expected: some wide-open, and it goes away a stop or two down.
If it bothers you, the 5D Mark II (at least as of firmware 2.0.4) comes complete with the data needed to correct this right out of the box; just go to the first red camera menu, and in the bottom item (Peripheral Illumination Correction), set it to ENABLE.
The 5D Mark III and newer all have lens profiles available for this lens to correct this as well.
I've greatly exaggerated this by presenting it against a gray background, and with correction ON, it would be invisible.
The plastic threads don't rotate as you focus, but they do move in and out.
52mm is a generous size; I can stack at least three standard filters with no vignetting on full-frame.
None, which is better than most Canon wide and zoom lenses.
The Canon 50mm f/1.8 has a plastic barrel, metal mount and glass optics.
Engraved into bottom rear of barrel and filed with white paint.
Printed on rear light baffle as shown above.
This sample is date code UC0505, meaning it was made in Canon's ) Utsunomiya plant in May 1988.
Rear-Gasket (dust seal at mount)
Noises When Shaken
Made in Japan.
The Canon 50mm f/1.8 II is super-sharp, better than most Canon lenses regardless of price.
The 50mm f/1.4 USM and 50mm f/2.5 are about the same. The 50mm f/1.4 is often worse in practice because I rarely get perfect focus with it. If I do get perfect focus with the f/1.4, which always get with the f/1.8 but usually not with the f/1.4, the f/1.4 is a tiny bit sharper at the largest apertures, and the 50/1.8 can be sharper in the corners at some apertures.
Even though Canon's fixed 50mm lenses are about the same, any of them is far better than most of Canon's zooms. Compared to the 24-70mm f/2.8 L or 17-40mm f/4 L (set to 40mm), this classic lens is so sharp it makes each of those zooms look broken by comparison!
On a 5D Mark III
Sharp in the center, but not quite as contrasty as at smaller apertures.
The corners are sharp, but with lower contrast due to coma.
About the same as f/1.8
Better than f/2: more contrasty in the center and most of the haze in the corners from coma is gone.
Just about perfect in the center and corners.
The corners are even sharper than at f/4.
The corners are the sharpest, but honestly ever since f/4 everything was stellar.
With its straight 5-bladed diaphragm, this Canon 50m f/1.8 makes nice ten-pointed sunstars on bright points of light.
The newest EF 50mm f/1.8 II has the same fantastic optics in an even lighter package for less money. The new lens loses the focus and depth-of-field scales and replaces the metal mount with plastic.
The 50mm f/1.4 is more popular because it offers instant manual-focus override, but it's not quite as sharp.
The 50mm f/1.2 L is heavy and expensive, and extremely good. I use my 1.2 or 1.8 depending on how much weight I feel like carrying.
If you want a small, tough lens that's also super-sharp, here you go. This is an extremely high-performance lens. If all you have are zooms, this tiny, fast lens will let you get all the performance out of your 5D Mark III for which you paid.
I own the EF 50mm f/1.8 II but borrowed this classic for review; I'd get the -II version and not worry about breaking it. My plastic lens has held up perfectly for more than four years of use.
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17 July 2014