Canon 1.4 50mm Canon 50/1.4
The official name: Canon EF 50 mm 1:1.4 USM
Technical datas (Canon 1.4 50mm)
Focal length: 50mm
Compatibility: Canon Full frame
Lens mount: Canon EF
Optical construction: 7 elements in 6 groups
Close focus distance: 0,45 m (17.72″)
Maximum magnification: 0.15 x
Angle of view Full frame: 39.6 degrees
Angle of view Aps-C: 25.4 degrees
Widest Aperture: f/1.4
Weight 290 g ( 10.23 oz.)
Number of aperture blades: 8 non-circular
Dimensions: 73,8-50,5 mm
Filter size: 58 mm non rotating
Filter thread: plastic
Focus motor type: Micromotor USM
Distance scale: yes
Manual focus override: yes
Focus limiter: No limiter
Tripod mount: No
Hood: optional barell shaped Canon ES 71 II
Supplied acessories: lens, front and back lens cup
50% crop of the above picture
Introduction (Canon 1.4 50mm)
The Canon 50/1,4 is a normal lens on a Full Frame camera. What it is the normal lens ? The idea is to see exactly the same perspective what we see with our own eyes or vision. If we stretch ourselves perhaps we can see around 180 degrees, but the center portion of our sight is approximately identical to the view of the 50mm lens on a Full Frame camera (app 40 degrees). What are the common information of this lens ? Small and light, relatively inexpensive, good sharpness from f2 (subjective), very popular, f/1.4 bright aperture, 45cm Minimum focus distance, usm is not a ‘normal’ ring usm, overexposes 1/3 stops compare to other lenses.
For a prime lens understanding focal length is essential in order to not lose significant amount of money on something you don’t need. On a Full frame camera the 50mm is a “normal” lens. On Aps-C the field of view weird or not very useful according to my opinion if portrait is not your main interest. For portraits the lens is very good but for organized portraits not occasional ones, because even in Aps-C you need to be very close for tightly framed portraits.
Without going to deep details of optical quality, this lens makes excellent images. At f/1.4 the lens has a soft dreamy look, see the sample picture, but perfectly usable apart from the paper thin depth of field. From f/2 the lens starts to get sharp, at f/2.8 gets very sharp all the way until diffractions limits sharpness. The brightness of this lens makes it capable to make pictures where most lenses are not capable to give any usable results. Even the out of focus pictures can be good, with manual focusing.
Flare and heavy vignetting is expected for this bright lens especially for Full frame cameras where vignetting is usually more pronounced.
The lens has a nice bokeh or background blur. It is not so dreamy and creamy as with super expensive, super bright telephoto lenses but if you don’t have a bright lens, this lens can make a difference. The lens is quite usable at f/2. At f/1.4 is a little soft see the portrait pic below, but even if there is no other option I even use it at f/1.4. I like the bokeh of this lens, I like when the background is not totally blurred as with long telephoto lenses just partly. The above picture were made at f/1.8 aperture 1/30s Canon 550d ISO 6400. The lens has 8 aperture blades for better highlights but not rounded blades as on many newer lenses.
The lens works as it needed, but the usm is not a “real ring type usm” but a micro motor type usm, perhaps only used in this lens as far as I know. Build quality is much better than the build quality of the “plastic fantastic” but can be better I think. In reality the lens is quite fragile, don’t throw it, because it is not really up to this treatment, as the “L” lenses, which can happily survive such situations.
There are only one switch on the lens switching between manual and autofocus.
The autofocus is quick and quite precise, even in moderately low light. Don’t expect miracles in very dark environment though, but this is more depend on the camera body.
This lens is a starting point to many photographer.
What are the alternatives ?
The Canon 50/1.8 II and the Canon 50/1.2 L, and the Sigma 50/1.4 and there is a new Sigma “Art” version now. The Sigma is reported to be better even the older version, but much bigger and heavier. The new “Art” version is just a recent lens, but this is even better, but much more expensive as well.
Compare to the 50/1.8 II. The 50mm f/1.4 has much better build quality, and especially the much improved autofocus system makes a huge difference, considered the thin depth of field in bigger apertures. But even for the f/1.4 version don’t think in superlatives. It is just a nice lens regarding build quality, but nothing extra, perhaps as you would expect.
I would say the focal length is not ideal on an Aps-C sensor sized camera like the 7d, 60d or 650d, it would be more useful to be longer or wider. Longer for portraits, wider for ‘general’ usage.
What are the strong points of this lens: Optical quality, f1.4 brightness, relatively good autofocus, small size and weight. Seems though not all copies are the same. Some of them are very sharp, some are not so sharp at wider apertures.
What is this lens good for
Perhaps I going to be stoned by many, but I would say this is perhaps the only lens you need for a wedding, if you are not the “pro” photographer. This lens is terrific. Not the sharpest lens I saw but the pictures has a unique atmosphere. On Aps-C the focal length is not the best, perhaps good for a street photographer, or for portraits. I had the 50mm 1.8 version and I sold it, perhaps I wouldn’t sold this lens so easily. Apart from a wedding I wouldn’t use this lens frequently, I need a wide angle and a super telephoto for my interests mostly. If your main interest is portraits or low light this is a terrific lens.
Canon 50/1.4 on 550d f1.4 wide open iso 250 1/60s. The depth of field is extremely narrow and a picture has a dreamy look
No sharpening needed, this lens makes excellent pictures even in contrastless shady environment, Canon 50mm f1.4. f2.8, Iso 4000, Canon 550d, 1/60s
This picture has been made at f2.8 with built-in flash 1/60s iso 400, Canon 550d
Compare to / alternatives
There are huge quantity 50mm lenses can be found on the market. The newest Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art for example better than this Canon, but significantly more expensive as well.
f / 1.4 brightness, good precise and fast autofocus, sharp, makes excellent images, relatively small and light, good foca length on Full frame, good for portraits on Aps-C.
little fragile construction, price little high
Bottom line / recommendation:
It is a very high quality fast (f/1.4) lens. Compare to other Canon lenses even overexpose with 1/3 stop so generally you have 1/3 stops extra here. This lens is all you need for a wedding. I shoot a wedding with this lens and I loved it very much. Photos even at f/1.4 aperture has a special feeling to it. To share a tip or secret if you better like it, when the light level is very low and I want to make pictures for example for a dancing couple, I switch to manual mode. Some learning is needed about the range you need, and if you can experiment with it such thing that where you place the focus, the aperture used and such and after your hit rate will be higher. Even pictures with not perfectly in focus can look very nice. It needs carefully select the ISO and aperture. If you can stop down a little it can help not just in sharpness but also can help the focusing to be easier with more depth of field.