This is a normal lens for 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 you see in real life with your own eyes, that is exactly on the picture, if I take a picture with the normal lens. After some surfing on the net, came out that the human visions focal length is 22-24 mm (on full frame camera), but the ‘normal lens’ 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 colours, speed, contrast, sharpness, distorsion, etc) (in ideal case). But an APS-C camera it is not, see below.
The question: Buy or not ?
The answer is different for everybody. If you have a full frame camera, I think it is good buy for this amount of money (compare to the price of the FF camera, this lens price is almost nothing), if you can accept the build quality, or if you don’t have something better, like 50/1,4 or something else.
For APS-C the answer is not the same. One of the main reasons is to buy for me the price and brightness, if price doesn’t matter, I would buy something like (30/1.4 or 50/1.4 or 35/1.4, or 85/1.8). Any other option costs several times more. According to me the focal length for an APS-C camera is not the best. I want either to be wider(24-35mm) or longer (70-100mm)(I would prefer to be wider). Usually this lens recommended for portraits. If you have the bucks for portraits the 85/1,8 much better: better focal length, good quality, super focus, sharper, better bookeh, or the 70-200 f4 L, you can use it for 100 other purpose. 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.
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 the autofocus quality (lack of quality).
I noticed that there are always several pieces used on the net, why ?
My guesses: cheap low quality feel, over praising by many on the net, awkward focal length on Aps-C, change to f1.4 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, 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 colours (little cold).
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 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.
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?
- General purpose lens for a full frame camera.
- 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.
- 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.
- General portraits from a distance, people faces can be not so detailed.
- It can be good at a party or at a bar where the people concentrate their attention elsewhere.
- Playing with depth of field.
- Food photography.
- Product photography.
Gallery below with the nifty fifty: