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Canon 50mm f/1.8

© 2014 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specifications    Performance   Compared   Recommendations

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Canon 50mm f/1.8

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II (52mm filters, 4.320 oz/122.5g, on sale for $105 after rebate). enlarge. I bought mine at Adorama, Amazon also has it. 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.


September 2014    Canon Reviews   Canon Lenses   All Reviews

NEW: Premium 50mm Lenses Compared 04 September 2014

Canon 50mm Lenses Compared 05 Nov 2013

Sample Images From New York City May and June 2010

Sample Photos from Maui May 2010


Gran Tortuga Resort, Cayman Island.

Gran Tortuga Resort, Cayman Island. Original © 18MP (1.5 MB) JPG. Shot with Canon 1D X at ISO 100, f/9 at 1/400, STANDARD Picture Style with +4 Saturation and 6 sharpening, AUTO A4 WB, LARGE JPG Quality 1.


Fabric, British Museum

Fabric, British Museum. Original 18MP JPG © 5MB. Shot at ISO 100, Canon 1D X, at f/5.6 at a couple of feet at 1/200 hand-held, STANDARD Picture Style with +3 Saturation and 6 sharpening,Auto A4 WB, LARGE JPG Quality 1.


Ryan on our bed.

Ryan on our bed, morning time, 27 July 2012. (Canon 1D X, Auto ISO 1,000, f/2 at 1/125, AUTO A4 white balance, STANDARD Picture Style, 6 sharpening.) bigger.



Spectacular optics (better than most Canon lenses of any price), ultra light weight and ultra low price. 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; I prefer it to the faster 50mm f/1.4 because this f/1.8 lens gives me more accurate autofocus.



Manual focus requires moving a switch, and the focus ring turns as the lens autofocuses. With a plastic mount, this lens won't take much of a beating. In light of its better optical performance than the $2,200 14mm f/2.8 L II, treat it with the respect it deserves and you'll be fine.




Introduction       top

Intro   Specifications    Performance   Compared   Recommendations

Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

This little lens is Canon's biggest secret.

The Canon 50mm f/1.8 II has fantastically good optics, better than Canon's "L" series wide lenses like the 16-35mm f/2.8 L II.

In fact, this $125 plastic lens gives sharper results than the 50mm f/1.4 USM I've used, especially in no light. The f/1.4 is soft at f/1.4, and worse, I rarely get in-focus results with it, while this f/1.8 lens is sharp at f/1.8, and always delivers perfect in-focus results!

The 50mm f/1.8 II weighs less, costs less, and autofocuses more accurately than the 50mm f/1.4 USM.

Try to hate this plastic-mount made-in-Malaysia 50mm f/1.8 II, but when you look at the images, you'll be convinced. The mount is plastic, but the glass is all Canon's finest multicoated glass.

How can this cheap lens be so good? Simple: every time you ask a lens to do more, like to be faster, to be wider, to be longer, to offer instant manual-focus override, or especially if you ask it to zoom, a lens has to get bigger, heavier, more expensive, more distorted and/or less sharp. Lens design is always a compromise among these trade-offs.

When you ask for a non-zoom, fixed focal length normal lens of only moderate speed, it's easy to make the optics fantastic, and at a very, very low cost if you don't mind plastic.

Did I say "only moderate" speed? Even though it's only moderate as fixed lenses go, f/1.8 is still over a stop faster than any Canon EF zoom. This f/1.8 lens lets you shoot at ISO 800, while in the same light you'd need ISO 4,000 with the 24-105mm f/4 L IS to get the same shutter speed! f/1.8 lets in five times more light than an f/4 lens. This 50/1.8 is also less than one-fitth the weight and less than one-tenth the price of the 24-105mm, and has only half the distortion!

This 50mm f/1.8 II uses the same optics as the original 50mm f/1.8 EF of 1987. The 1987 lens used a metal mount and had a focus scale.


Canon 50mm f/1.8

Canon 50/1.8 II. enlarge.



Palm, 1/250 at f/7.1, Canon 5D Mark II. Camera-original JPG (7MB).

Realize that depth-of-field is limited: the branches at the lower left are out-of-focus.

This was at ISO 200 with highlight (D+) and shadow optimization on, and shade A4 WB at +3 saturation.



Flowers. 1/80 at f/7.1,hand-held Canon 5D Mark II, ISO 50, Cloudy WB + A5 trim, Standard picture style with +3 saturation. Camera-original JPG (4.7MB).

In the original image, you can see that they're fake. Note how clearly you can see the depth of field with a lens this sharp.


Busa di Beppo

Tilted Wall. 1/250 at f/7.1, Canon 5D Mark II. Camera-original JPG (7MB).

Again, when looking at the original file, realize that the camera is tilted-up, to the top and bottom isn't in focus, so of course it won't be as sharp.

With the Canon 5D Mark II, these would have been even sharper if I had bothered shooting them in CR2 and tweaking later.


Specifications         top

Intro   Specifications    Performance   Compared   Recommendations



Canon calls this the CANON LENS EF 50mm f/1.8 II.

EF means "electronic focus," meaning that there is an autofocus motor in the lens itself.


Optics       top

6 elements in 5 groups.

Some surfaces multicoated.


Diaphragm       top

Canon 50mm f/1.8

Canon 50mm II at f/1.8. (EF diaphragm not visible). enlarge.

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

No. You have to let the AF system dial you in.


Focus Scale       top


The ring turns from near to far in about 80.º


Depth-of-Field Scale       top



Infra-Red Focus Index       top



Filter Thread       top



Does not rotate.


Size       top

2.683" (68.16mm) diameter, measured.

1.591" (40.4mm) extension from flange.

Canon specifies 68.2mm diameter by 41mm long.


Weight       top

4.320 oz. (122.5g).

Canon specifies 4.6 oz. (130g).


Hood       top

None; the front of the lens is sufficiently recessed to cover you most of the time.

Canon's best shot at a hood for this lens is the ES-62 hood, which only fits if you use it with its cockamamie included adapter.

I'd use a rubber hood, like the nice Nikon HR-2, which sells for half the price.


Caps       top

52mm front.

Standard EOS cap rear.


Price, USA        top

2014 September: $125.

2014 July: $105 after mail in rebate.

2014 February: $99 (you have to start checkout to see this price, it's usually $125)

2012 December: $110.

2010 May: $99.95.

2007 March: $80.

Canon 50mm f/1.8

Box, Canon 50mm II.


Performance       top

Intro   Specifications    Performance   Compared   Recommendations

Overall    Focus   Bokeh   Coma   Distortion    Ergonomics    Falloff

Filters   Color Fringes   Mechanics   Sharpness    Sunstars


Overall     performance      top

The Canon 50mm f/1.8 II works great. It's among Canon's sharpest lenses.

Its only vices are its light-duty construction and needing a switch to get into manual focus.


Focus     performance      top

Unlike all other Canon lenses, the manual focus ring turns as the lens is autofocusing, so keep your fingers away from it. If you try to turn it while in the AF mode, you'll be turning against the AF motor.

Ryan and the Remote

Ryan and the remote control, 04 May 2010. bigger.

Shot with Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 50mm f/1.8 II, f/1.8 at 1/40 hand-held, A3 2,500K WB, Standard picture with +2 saturation, shadow tweak turned on, ISO 1,600.


Auto/Manual Switching

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


AF Speed

AF is fast, as Canons always are.

The AF motor is noisy.


AF Accuracy

AF is always right-on, especially at f/1.8.

This means I actually can shoot it at f/1.8 and get sharp results, unlike with the 50mm f/1.4 USM. 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 so far out of focus because of this lens' fast f/1.8 speed compared to slow f/2.8 zooms

Here are crops from extremely enlarged prints of about 36 x 55" (100 x 150cm), or the equivalent of looking at Canon 5D Mark II images at 100% on-screen.

In these examples, a vertically polarized phase lattice was set up at 3 meters (10 feet) on which the lens was focused, and the synthetic reference vegetation seen out of focus in the background was at 15 meters (50 feet).


Coma     performance      top

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

Here's a full image, made at f/4:


Starry Sky, 04 May 2010, 30 seconds at f/4 at ISO 400.


And here are crops from the lower left corner, from prints about 36 x 55" (100 x 150cm), or the equivalent of looking at Canon 5D Mark II images at 100% on-screen.



f/2 crop


f/2.8 crop


f/4 crop

Thus at f/4, everything looks great, even under these difficult conditions.


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 II (about actual size). Look, Ma, no focus scale! enlarge.

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.

The manual focus ring is just a piece of plastic, as Nikon's first AF lenses were in 1986. It turns 80º from infinity to 1.5 feet.

There's no focus scale, but considering that Canon's other 50mm lenses with focus scales are so small that the depth-of-field scales are useless, it's not needed anyway.

Focus scales are a throwback to the 1930s when cameras were focused by guessing or measuring the distance, and then setting it on the scale. This went out of style in by the 1950s, when the scale served as a computer for landscape photographers.

Today, with no real depth-of-field scales on lenses, I won't fault Canon for saving us the $10 it might cost to add this.

I like the plastic mount. It slides on and off my cameras much more smoothly and easily than my metal-mount lenses.


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.

I've greatly exaggerated this by presenting it against a gray background.


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


© 2010 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.


With Canon 5D Mk II Peripheral Illumination Correction enabled.


© 2010 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 at the same time 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 II. enlarge.

The Canon 50mm f/1.8 II is mostly plastic, with glass optics.

It is very precise and high-quality plastic, not garbage. This plastic lets it weigh nothing.

Don't pick up a camera by this lens, always move and hold your camera by its body, not this lens.


Filter Threads



Barrel Exterior



Focus Ring




Probably plastic.








Serial Number

Laser-burnt into rear of lens.


Date Code



Ass-Gasket (dust seal at mount)



Noises When Shaken



Made in



Sharpness     performance      top

The Canon 50mm f/1.8 II is super-sharp, better than most Canon lenses regardless of price.

Air Conditioner 25 March 2012

Air Conditioner Condenser. 5D Mark III, 50/1.8, f/8 at 1/200, ISO 200, default "3" sharpening. © camera-original 22MP/10MB JPG.

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.

Trying to compare the three fixed lenses is futile, because they all do something better at different places in the field at different apertures. The 50/1.4 is a dud for me since it rarely gets correct autofocus.

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 $99 lens is so sharp it makes each of those zooms look broken by comparison!


On a 5D Mark II


Sharp in the center, with a little spherical aberration haze.

The corners are sharp, but with much lower contrast due to coma.



Better than f/1.8.

Sharp in the center, with less haze.

The corners are sharp, but with much lower contrast due to coma.



Much better than f/2.

Super sharp in the center, with no haze.

The corners are sharp, and most of the haze from coma is gone.



Even slightly better in the center, about optimum.

The corners are sharp, with just a little less contrast.



The corners are even sharper than at f/4.



The corners are optimum.


Sunstars     performance      top

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


Compared     top

Intro   Specifications    Performance   Compared   Recommendations


NEW: Premium 50mm Lenses Compared 04 September 2014

Canon 50mm Lenses Compared05 Nov 2013


Recommendations       top

Intro   Specifications    Performance   Compared   Recommendations

If you want a tiny lens that's also super-sharp, here you go. Just be careful not to break the plastic lens mount.

If all you have are zooms, this tiny, fast lens will let you get all the performance out of your 5D Mark II for which you paid, as will the 50mm f/2.5 Macro.

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.


More Information:

Canon, USA.

Canon Camera Museum.


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Thanks for reading!



Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.


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2010 maui

05 May 2010