Canon 50/1,8 II the famous nifty fifty


Canon 50/1,8 II the famous nifty fifty

Canon 50/1,8 II the famous nifty fifty

Update: The new 50m f/1.8 stm version is much better, definitely recommend over the earlier version

Introduction – Canon 50/1,8 II the famous nifty fifty

This is a normal lens for a Full frame camera. What normal lens is ? The idea for me is to  see exactly what I see with my own eyes, in that case framing is easy: what I see in real life with your own eyes, that is expected to be exactly on the picture, if I take a picture with the normal lens.

After some surfing on the net, came out that the human vision focal length is 22-24 mm (on Full frame camera), but the normal lens’s focal length is 50mm. How this two come together ? Human vision is wide, if you stretch yourself, but usually we use a center portion of our vision equal to approximately 50mm focal length (on Full frame camera, app 31 mm on Aps-c camera).

My aim for this lens was to be an all time used workhorse lens – (good colors, speed, contrast, sharpness, distortion, small size, little weight) (in ideal case). But an APS-C camera it is not really good for that, see below.

The question:  Buy or not ?

The answer is different for everybody. If you have a Full frame camera, I think it is a very good buy for this amount of money (compare to the price of the Full Frame camera, this lens price is almost nothing), if (BIG IF) you can accept the low build quality, not very precise and noisy af, awkward manual focus ring position.

The biggest drawback is the af, which can misses in many cases and it is hard to detect immediately, especially at shallow depth of field shots. For amateurs ok, but for wedding of paid job I don’t recommend. It is not nice if you realize after the event that many shots are not properly focused.

For fun amateur usage no problem if you have several misfocused shots. On the good side the lens is small, very light, has little distortion and CA.

In bright sunlight the flare can be a problem.

On Aps-C sensored cameras

For APS-C cameras the answer is not the same. One of the main reasons is to buy for me is the price and brightness, and compact size and little weight. If price doesn’t matter, I would buy something like (35mm f/1.4 L or 50mm f/1.4 or 30mm f/1.4, or 85mm/1.8).  Any other option costs several times more.

For my intended purpose (one bright prime lens for anything) the ideal would be a 22mm f/1.4 (35mm equivalent in Full frame) on crop sensor cameras.
These would be more useful for landscapes as well, as for general photography. Unfortunately these lenses cost a fortune, because the same lens is an ultrawide angle for Full frame cameras. An interesting option would be the Samyang 16mm f/2. Other problem with these wider lenses is the distortion which is very small at the case of the 50mm, more pronounced for wider lenses.

According to me the 50mm focal length for an APS-C camera is not the best.  I want either to be wider(18-35mm) or longer (70-100mm)(I would prefer to be wider). Usually this lens recommended for portraits on crop camera. If you have the bucks for portraits the 85/1,8 or the 100mm f/2 is much better: better focal length, good quality, super autofocus, sharper, better bokeh, or the 70-200 f4 L, which you can use for 100 other purposes.

For portraits, according to me 50mm focal length is too little, you should put the camera in the face of the people (sometimes works well, between friends, photographing babies, in a pub, etc). 

There is one possibility though: a funny combination with Kenko 1.4dgx converter (the converter more expensive than the lens itself) the focal length going to be 70mm, so we have a fully functional 70/2.5 lens that is perfect for portraits (The Canon converter cannot attach to this lens because of the protruding element, without a conversion tube). 

I would prefer this lens to be wider, not longer, but if your main interest to use it for portraits and have a converter it is good for portraits, focal length is just perfect, bright viewfinder, good picture quality, longer working distance. I am going to put some picture to evaluate.

For not so tight portraits or on a wedding for group shots the 50mm can work fine on a crop camera as well.

I like the brightness of this lens, and prefer to use it as a ‘workhorse’ lens, but on Aps-c for me it is not. Field of view too narrow(for me), picture quality not so good as I expected (doesn’t mean it is bad), for example Canon 200 L colours are much better, the 50mm lens resolution lower than expected (on 30D at least). It is good for playing with depth of field, close distance portraits, low light situations.

Built quality:

I thought before bought it, that this lens built quality not disturbing for me, but this is not the case, this lens makes folks angry with the cheap low quality. Most annoying is the autofocus quality (lack of quality). If you have used older Nikon manual focus lenses made from metal, this lens feels like toy. The front element does not rotate, but little bit moving in and out. The close focus distance is 45 cm, which is not bad, but some lenses has closer minimal focus distance.

Doesn’t mean falling apart from itself, but it needs some care not hit or drop the lens, which can be dangerous for this lens. But I can live with this, and many people manage to keep this lens in usable condition for years.

The glass of the lens are really glasses, not plastic, some of them is quite strong, somebody try to destroy on youtube with a hammer, and seems it is quite strong, just manage to scratch the coating of the front element.

What is really annoying when you start to autofocus with the lens, you have a feeling that the whole thing is very cheap, and can easily fall apart inside. (Not falling apart if you properly use it, but don’t expect miracles if you heavily use it for years.) The manual focus ring is at the end of the lens, which is not the best place. It is usable but not comfortable, your fingers easily can be part of the picture.

I noticed that there are always several pieces used on the net, why ?

My guesses: awkward focal length on Aps-C as a general purpose lens, cheap low quality feel, over praising by many on the net, change to f/1.4 version.

My suggestion: Before buy try out some time if you like the focal length, the feel, can you accept built quality, etc.

What are the strong points, which I like in this lens ?

This lens can make very nice pictures occasionally. Low light pictures with special feel,  good quality portraits from close distances, low distortion and chromatic aberration, even colors (little cold).

If you don’t have such bright or brighter lenses, this is quite interesting. f/1.8 is much brigther than f/2.8 for example, which gives many extra opportunities.

The lens has very little distortion and it is very light.

Weak points:

Not the best focal length, flare (bright sunlight, strong lights in dark room), disturbingly cheap feeling and unreliable autofocus inside (biggest weakness if you want quality equipment won’t like this), low built quality, everybody talks about the five blade iris (highlights have pentagonal shape)  – for me it is not a huge importance

Sweet spot of the lens:

Usually there is an aperture where the lens are the most sharp, for this lens it is f5.6 (like many other primes), at f4 also quite good. Wide open contrast is reduced, sharpness is not the best, the sharpness starts to get better from f2.5. So if you want the best possible quality you can use the lens at f5.6.

My impressions:

I thought before I bought it, that it is sharper. I  have a 30D, perhaps on newer bodies much better. Built quality and focus is disturbingly cheap.

(Assume average user uses Aps-C dslr, if somebody uses FF it is a different story)

1. It is not the best for landscapes. The field of view is too narrow, horizontally 4,5m wide from 10 meters. I don’t like the perspective (or field of view) on crop sensor dsrl, perhaps the original full frame coverage is the one it is intended to use for. Outside in the nature if there are enough place can work.

2. My opinion it is not the best for portraits. On crop sensor according to my taste need to make the pictures from 1,5-2 m from the model (in order to see the details and emotions of the people), with the noise the mirror makes, it is disturbing for most people.

3. At 1,8 aperture it is sharp. According to my judgement the ‘sharp zone’ starts at F4, at least my copy.

4. it is sharper than the ‘kit’ lens canon 18-55 is. It is more contrasty, but not sharper, the kit lens resolution visibly better.

5. If you want only one, or two lenses, this is not the logical choice. (At least for me.)

6. One more annoying quality: autofocus often misses. The situation even worse in low light where usually I use the lens, ‘forever hunting business’ starts. If there is moderate light indoors, can be usable.

I expected more from the lens optically according to the reviews I’ve read (on EOS 30D, perhaps newer bodies better).

So what is it good for?
  1. General purpose lens for a full frame camera.
  2. Pictures like these below, in low light in different light situations, the pictures have a special atmosphere. I cannot hesitate to use it at f1,8 even if it is not the sharpest setting.
  3. Close portraits when we can put the camera in the modell’s face from 1 or 2 meters, the pictures can be very good but sometimes disturbing for the people whom we make a pictures of. If there is enough light I prefer to make portraits at f4 if I don’t want special depth of field effect.
  4. General portraits from a distance, people faces can be not so detailed.
  5. It can be good at a party or at a bar where the people concentrate their attention elsewhere.
  6. Playing with depth of field.
  7. Food photography.
  8. Product photography.

I end up selling it, together with the Canon 18-55 is and bought a Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 instead. As I see now it is a nice lens (for portraits and special shots with low dof) but not for somebody who just started photography, but somebody who is more interested in special shots, bokeh, portraits and such. I don’t like the idea to always changing lenses either. I had a tele, a wide angle and the 50mm. I end up two camera bodies one with a wide angle, other with a tele, no lens changing all the time.

I prefer the 50mm f/1.4 over the nifty fifty but I understand many people cannot afford it. The f/1.4 is just right: very good af, little better build, little brighter, little better colors.

Marketing is interesting Canon makes this 1.8 II and the f/1.4. This is cheap, but not good, the other is way overpriced (it is the opinion of many). If it would be one lens with a price between the two, doesn’t need to buy twice, or doesn’t pay so much. Nikon has one (two, but this is true for both), much more cheaply than the Canon 1.4, but little more expensively than the f/1.8.

On the other hand if you happy with the Canon f/1.8 II version, you can buy in the cheapest possible way.


For these low price hard to find another bright lens. The f/1.4 version is cost double even used. Most older cheaper manual focus lenses are not as good. The good ones are usually more expensive, even used.


Buy it if you carefully checked it and like it. It is not a bad lens, but not a must have either. For serious usage I recommend the f/1.4 version. (Not because optical but mechanical quality). It is highly depend on your preferred types of photography if you like this lens or not.

Gallery below with the nifty fifty:

Must scroll down the whole page after clicking.


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 Posted by at 8:22 pm