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Canon 50mm f/1.8
Original Metal Mount EF

© 2014 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

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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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July 2014    Canon Reviews   Canon Lenses   All Reviews

Newer model: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II. Same optics with faster autofocus in a lighter-weight plastic mount.

Canon 50mm Lenses Compared



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

Palms, RP 17 July 2014

Palm, 17 July 2014. f/8 at 1/80 at ISO 100, Canon 5D Mk III JPG processed in Perfectly Clear. Full Resolution file.


Introduction       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

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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 50mm f/1.8

Canon 50/1.8. enlarge.


Specifications         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More



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.


Optics       top

Canon 50mm f/1.8 internal construction

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 internal construction.

6 elements in 5 groups.

Some surfaces multicoated.


Autofocus        top

Noisy but fast micromotor.


Diaphragm       top

Canon 50mm f/1.8

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.


Size       top

Canon specifies 67.4mm diameter by 42.5mm long.


Weight       top

6.570 oz. (186.2g), measured.

Canon specifies 6.7 oz. (190g).

(Today's -II version weighs 4.320 oz./122.5g.)


Caps       top

52mm front.

Standard EOS cap rear.


Price, USA        top

2014 July: about $150 used, if you know How to Win at eBay.

2013 November: About $130 used.


Performance       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

Overall    Focus   Bokeh   Coma   Distortion    Ergonomics    Falloff

Filters   Color Fringes   Mechanics   Sharpness    Sunstars


Overall     performance      top

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.


Focus     performance      top


Auto/Manual Switching

You have to move the switch on the lens to get Auto or Manual focus.


AF Speed

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 Accuracy

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

Manual focus is easy, once you've moved the switch to MF.


Bokeh     performance      top

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


Coma     performance      top

As expected, the Canon 50mm f/1.8 has coma wide-open, which goes away a stop or two down.


Distortion     performance      top

There is some minor barrel distortion, surprisingly exactly the same as the 50mm f/1.4 USM and 50mm f/1.2 L.

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.


Ergonomics     performance      top

Canon 50mm f/1.8

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 (darkened corners)     performance      top

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.


Canon 50mm f/1.8 falloff on full-frame, no correction.


© 2014 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.



Filters, Use with     performance      top

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.


Lateral Color Fringes     performance      top

None, which is better than most Canon wide and zoom lenses.


Mechanics     performance      top

Canon 50mm f/1.8

Rear, Canon 50mm f/1.8, showing UC0502 date code. enlarge.

The Canon 50mm f/1.8 has a plastic barrel, metal mount and glass optics.


Filter Threads



Barrel Exterior



Focus Ring




Probably plastic.








Serial Number

Engraved into bottom rear of barrel and filed with white paint.


Date Code

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

Some clunking.



Made in Japan.


Sharpness     performance      top

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.


Sunstars     performance      top

With its straight 5-bladed diaphragm, this Canon 50m f/1.8 makes nice ten-pointed sunstars on bright points of light.


Compared         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

See Canon 50mm Lenses Compared.

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.


Recommendations       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

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.


More Information         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

Canon Camera Museum.


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17 July 2014