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.
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. 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. 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.
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.
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 50/1.8 II. enlarge.
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.
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.
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.
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.
6 elements in 5 groups.
Some surfaces multicoated.
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.
2.683" (68.16mm) diameter, measured.
1.591" (40.4mm) extension from flange.
Canon specifies 68.2mm diameter by 41mm long.
4.320 oz. (122.5g).
Canon specifies 4.6 oz. (130g).
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.
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.
Box, Canon 50mm II.
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.
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.
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.
You have to move the switch on the lens to get Auto or Manual focus.
AF is fast, as Canons always are.
The AF motor is noisy.
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 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 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).
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.
Thus at f/4, everything looks great, even under these difficult conditions.
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 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 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.
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.
None, which is better than most Canon wide and zoom lenses.
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.
Laser-burnt into rear of lens.
Ass-Gasket (dust seal at mount)
Noises When Shaken
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.
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.
With its straight 5-bladed diaphragm, this Canon 50m f/1.8 II makes nice ten-pointed sunstars on bright points of light.
NEW: Premium 50mm Lenses Compared 04 September 2014
Canon 50mm Lenses Compared05 Nov 2013
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.
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05 May 2010