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Author Topic: Battle of the 50mm's - 1.8, 1.4 and 1.2L  (Read 46640 times)

scottsdaleriots

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Battle of the 50mm's - 1.8, 1.4 and 1.2L
« on: November 23, 2011, 08:19:42 AM »
I know there's probably a thread or two about each of these lenses, but I want someon'e first hand experience. I don't have a FF camera (I'm unpatiently waiting for the 5D mk III) so I know this lens won't be as good on my 7D, but I've heard so many good things about shooting with a 50mm. I just have difficulty deciding on which to get (budget is a factor of course, I'm a student).

People have said that the 50mm 1.8 is good for it's build quality and price. I read from a lot of people is that their 50mm 1.8 lens will break because of it's inferier build quality (compared to the 1.4 and 1.2). That puts me off. I don't want to buy a lens only to have it break or the glass falls out 2-3yrs later.
So I'm trying to decide between the 1.4 and the 1.2L. At the moment, the 1.2L is winning mainly because it's an L lens which means, better build quality, superior optics, I've heard (slightly) better/higer IQ, DOF, bokeh, etc. And that awesome red ring on the end.

I'm a bokeh girl, I freaken LOVE beautiful smooth bokeh and high contrast a\nd saturation. I would love to get the 1.2L but I've read a LOT of reviews/comments from owners talking about the "back focussing" issue. Can someone who owns a 50 1.2L or someone who's tested one please elaborate a bit more about the issue? I've also read that 1/3 shots will be in focus, and that it is difficult for the 1.2L to properly focus in low light/dark surroundings, that the 1.4 outperforms it in that regard.

When I come to buy the lens I'll definitely ask to test and try out the 1.2L and the 1.4 lenses. But then again there are those in the small minority who say they have had minimal or no "back focussing" issues at all and that then absolutely adore the 1.2L lens and highly recommend it. I love live music/concert photography and would probably buy a 50mm lens before getting a 24-70 (I'm still waiting for it to come out with IS!) and believe it (50mm 1.2L) would take great photos. But I really need help deciding and reading hundreds and hundreds of reviews won't really help me, I need other people's input and first hand experience with these lenses.  I can't justify spending almost $AU2000 for an L lens only to return it. Is the back focussing issue more of a 'photographer' error/problem or is it the lens'camera's fault? And can you actually fix the back focussing problem? apologise for rambling, I just really want to understand what this back focussing issue is and why some people don't seem to have a problem with it and a large majority do.

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Battle of the 50mm's - 1.8, 1.4 and 1.2L
« on: November 23, 2011, 08:19:42 AM »

ghosh9691

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Re: Battle of the 50mm's - 1.8, 1.4 and 1.2L
« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2011, 08:36:34 AM »
The 50 f/1.2L is a fabulous lens, but its a beast that needs to be tamed. It takes beautiful photos with excellent color & contrast rendition along with smooth out of focus backgrounds. There is fall-off at the corners on a full frame, but that can be corrected. Yes, focusing can be a tad slow but the output is well worth it. The 50 f/1.4 (which I own and regularly use) is great at a quarter of the price. A bit slower, but focuses much quicker. I love the color and contrast of this lens. As far as back focus is concerned, its fairly easy to correct by pairing it with your camera's microfocus adjustment.

The short answer is that either one of these 3 fifties will serve you well - suggest you rent the 50 f/1.2L and try it out yourself. I settled for the 1.4 and absolutely love it.

briansquibb

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Re: Battle of the 50mm's - 1.8, 1.4 and 1.2L
« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2011, 08:39:25 AM »
The 50 f/1.2L is a fabulous lens, but its a beast that needs to be tamed. It takes beautiful photos with excellent color & contrast rendition along with smooth out of focus backgrounds. There is fall-off at the corners on a full frame, but that can be corrected. Yes, focusing can be a tad slow but the output is well worth it. The 50 f/1.4 (which I own and regularly use) is great at a quarter of the price. A bit slower, but focuses much quicker. I love the color and contrast of this lens. As far as back focus is concerned, its fairly easy to correct by pairing it with your camera's microfocus adjustment.

The short answer is that either one of these 3 fifties will serve you well - suggest you rent the 50 f/1.2L and try it out yourself. I settled for the 1.4 and absolutely love it.

+1 for the 50 f/1.4

7enderbender

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Re: Battle of the 50mm's - 1.8, 1.4 and 1.2L
« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2011, 09:18:39 AM »
Sounds like you are on the right track with your thought process. I always loved my 50mm lenses, so when I was looking to get a new one to fit my 5DII I went through the same exercise. In short: there isn't a "perfect" solution. All available options for the EF system have their advantages and disadvantages. You'll have to find the right balance (for you) between optical qualities (at different apertures...), build quality and price. But then: none of the options is truly "bad".

I considered these: EF 50 1.4, 50L, Sigma 50 1.4, Zeiss manual focus

I was very familiar with the EF50 1.4 since it is optically exactly the same as my old FD versions of it, so I knew what to expect. The build quality compared to my old ones is significantly worse and there are lots of stories out there that the AF tends to break. The 50L is of course much nicer built but given the price is not perfect either. Plus its optical qualities are only better in some areas but seem to be ever so slightly worse in others (however insignificant that may be in real life).

Sigma had too many stories with respect to quality control (though Canon seems to have issues there also, especially with the 50 1.4 it seems). As much as I prefer manual focus, with a modern DSLR and without decent focusing screens in this day and age it's not really an option for everyday use (though given some recent experiences with concert photography I may revisit this thought). Also: the label reads "Zeiss" but they are not really. Still very good, but not quite what you'd expect given the legacy. Decent price point though for what it is and very nice build quality.

I settled for the 50 1.4. It does what it's supposed to do. I bought it with the hood and leave it on at all times to protect the protruding front element and it's connection to the AF drive. In the meantime I'm saving up and waiting for an updated and improved version of the 50 1.4 or the 50L.

My advice to you would be to get a cheap 50 1.8 and try out if you like using a 50 at all. On your 7D it is more like an 85mm which is also interesting in its own way. If you' re not going "full frame" any time soon you could also get a decent 35mm prime and see how that goes.

Good luck

« Last Edit: November 23, 2011, 09:24:30 AM by 7enderbender »
5DII - 50L - 135L - 200 2.8L - 24-105 - 580EXII - 430EXII - FD 500/8 - AE1-p - bag full of FD lenses

Bluesmachine

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Re: Battle of the 50mm's - 1.8, 1.4 and 1.2L
« Reply #4 on: November 23, 2011, 09:43:09 AM »
I own the Sigma 50 1.4 and am using it on the 30D & 60D. That thing almost NEVER comes off the camera. I absolutely love the thing, and it's worth every penny. No issues at all with it, and I've even launched it across the room attached to the 60D with no damage at all (thank god!).

I also have the canon 50 1.8 which is a phenomenal lens for the price. I've taken some really nice photos with that, and I may be imagining it but the contrast seems nicer on it too (to my eye).

I've not used a 1.2 but I know a lad who has a 5Dmkii and it never leaves the body. Those photos he takes with it are very very nice. I had a long nerdy chat about these lenses with him and he pretty much mirrored everything you read about the quality and price. At the end of the day, if you have the money, and won't miss it, go or it. Personally I'd have to be very rich to spend £1200 on a 50mm lens when you can spend £380 on a sigma that's exceptionally good.

neuroanatomist

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Re: Battle of the 50mm's - 1.8, 1.4 and 1.2L
« Reply #5 on: November 23, 2011, 11:27:27 AM »
I'm a bokeh girl, I freaken LOVE beautiful smooth bokeh and high contrast a\nd saturation.

Then the 50mm f/1.2L is made just for you.  ;)  At apertures narrower than f/2, the 50/1.4 is sharper, and narrower than ~f/4, the lowly 50mm f/1.8 is sharper still.  That's because Canon's designers gave the 50L intentionally under corrected spherical aberration - that means a small sacrifice in sharpness was traded specifically for that smooth, creamy bokeh the lens is known for.

I would love to get the 1.2L but I've read a LOT of reviews/comments from owners talking about the "back focussing" issue.

It's not a back-focusing issue, per se.  Technically, the problem is focus shift.  I'll paste my previous comments from another thread:

The 50mm f/1.2L is something of a special case.  That lens suffers from a particularly bad focus shift (many lenses have some focus shift, especially, fast primes, but usually not enough to notice).  Focus shift is when the focal plane of the lens changes when you change the aperture of the lens.  All lenses focus with the aperture wide open, then stop down the aperture to your chosen setting as the shot is taken.  In the case of the 50mm f/1.2L, if you select an aperture narrower than f/1.2, down to about f/4, focus shift means that the lens will actually focus on a point that's behind your chosen focal plane.  At f/4 or a little narrower, the DoF is deep enough to mask the effect, because by then your chosen focal plane is within the DoF.  At very close subject distances, the DoF is shallower, and the effect of focus shift is exaggerated (you may need f/5.6 or even f/8 to get a deep enough DoF to mask the shift).

So, what can you do?  Here are some options:

  • Stop down to f/4 or narrower.  But, I'm going to assume that shooting at f/8 is not the ideal solution...
  • Shoot at f/1.2.  There's no shift if you don't stop down.
  • Use Live View.  Granted, that's not a good option with typical 50/1.2 subjects.
  • Manual focus with the DoF Preview button pressed.  You'd almost certainly need the Eg-S focusing screen instead of the stock screen.
  • More complex AFMA.  You could perform an AFMA at f/2, and you'd get different results than wide open - that adjustment would compensate for the focus shift at f/2, but not be applicable at f/1.6 or f/2.8, for example.  So, you'd need to have a list of AFMA values, and change the setting to match the aperture you want to shoot at.  Might work if you can pick an aperture for a shoot and stay there.  (Side note here: the 1D X can store two AFMA settings for a zoom lens, one for the wide end and one for the long end; in theory, Canon could allow multiple, aperture-dependent AFMA settings for the 50L, which would certainly help with this issue.)
  • Intentionally front focus.  Use an AF point over a feature that's a little bit in front of what you really want to focus on.
  • Tweak on the fly.  The 50L has full-time manual focus, so you can use AF get you close, then turn the MF ring slightly to bring the focal plane forward a little.  You'd likely want to be using back-button AF for that, and it would take a fair bit of practice to get it working reliably.

The 50L can deliver amazing shots, but due to the focus shift issue it takes some work and practice to get the most from the lens.
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ghosh9691

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Re: Battle of the 50mm's - 1.8, 1.4 and 1.2L
« Reply #6 on: November 23, 2011, 12:35:08 PM »
@neuroanatomist: Thank you for all the knowledge that you share on these forums! I have learnt a lot from just reading your insightful posts. People like you, that are willing to share their knowledge, make this such a pleasant hobby! Once again, thank you very much!

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Re: Battle of the 50mm's - 1.8, 1.4 and 1.2L
« Reply #6 on: November 23, 2011, 12:35:08 PM »

TheAshleyJones

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Re: Battle of the 50mm's - 1.8, 1.4 and 1.2L
« Reply #7 on: November 23, 2011, 12:42:53 PM »
I have owned the 1.8, 1.4 and currently the 1.2L
I also have the 35L, 85LII and 135L as well as a few other lenses less relevant to this discussion.

I shoot on a 5DII but also use a 60D from time to time.

I loved the 1.8, so bought the 1.4 which I loved even more.  The 1.4 I had was super sharp at F1.4 and I would recommend it in a heartbeat.  I tried lots of 50 1.2Ls before I actually bought one.  The main thing I had to do with the 1.2L was to stop testing and start shooting.  I would say that it is my least favourite out of the 35, 50 and 85 and I only use it when I can't get far enough away with the 85II which is far and away my favourite lens.

If you fo go full frame, the 85 1.8 is a superb lens and I found it perfect when I first went to FF; I only upgraded to the 85 II because I got a great price on it (mind you I would buy another one if I lost my current one because I have grown to love it so much). 

If I was shopping on a budget I would say get the 50 F/1.4.  I don't really feel I *need* the F1.2 and the F1.4 served me brilliantly.
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branden

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Re: Battle of the 50mm's - 1.8, 1.4 and 1.2L
« Reply #8 on: November 23, 2011, 12:47:45 PM »
I had the same 50mm dilemma ... but to keep the story short, I've ended up with the Zeiss 2/50 Makro-planar, and haven't looked back. Great for everything (landscapes, portraits, architecture, detail, products, etc) except events.

jcns

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Re: Battle of the 50mm's - 1.8, 1.4 and 1.2L
« Reply #9 on: November 23, 2011, 01:15:48 PM »
I borrowed a 50mm 1.8 from a friend and I loved it.  EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE THIS LENS even if it's for a crop sensor camera.  It's not expensive and it's one of the best bang for the buck lens out there.
My girlfriend eventually surprised me one x-mas with a 50mm 1.4.  I LOVE THIS LENS.  It's about 3.5-4 times more expensive(I think).  For indoor, no flash, night time shooting it's fantastic.  Although on a crop sensor, it's the equivalent of 80mm so it has its set of challenges.
If budget is tight, get the 1.8.  Buy a used one and if you don't like it, you can sell it for the same price.
I eventually bought a 35mm L 1.4 for indoor night time shooting.  FANTASTIC!!! On a crop sensor it's a little over 50mm.

dougkerr

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Re: Battle of the 50mm's - 1.8, 1.4 and 1.2L
« Reply #10 on: November 23, 2011, 02:16:32 PM »
Hi, n,

The 50mm f/1.2L is something of a special case.  That lens suffers from a particularly bad focus shift (many lenses have some focus shift, especially, fast primes, but usually not enough to notice).  Focus shift is when the focal plane of the lens changes when you change the aperture of the lens.
As I'm sure you know, this is often largely a result of uncorrected spherical aberration.

In fact, the Canon AF system has specific provisions (sometimes rather primitive) to (somewhat) compensate for this.

Best regards,

Doug

dougkerr

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Re: Battle of the 50mm's - 1.8, 1.4 and 1.2L
« Reply #11 on: November 23, 2011, 02:20:13 PM »
Hi, s,

I have one comment about the EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM. The manual focus arrangement on it is dreadful.

It is the only Canon EF lens with non-ring USM that has full-time manual focusing. The unique mechanism used to do that is full of "play", so manual focus is very difficult to do.

Other than that, it is a nice bottle.

Best regards,

Doug

daveheinzel

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Re: Battle of the 50mm's - 1.8, 1.4 and 1.2L
« Reply #12 on: November 23, 2011, 03:25:55 PM »
You owe it to yourself to just buy a 50mm 1.8. It's cheap, yes, and it feels cheap. It feels horribly cheap like some plastic toy that doesn't deserve to be on your camera. The manual focusing ring is horrible. The auto-focus motor is slow. You'll have instant buyers' remorse as soon as you feel its low build quality. BUT... that said, it produces some fantastic photos. I used mine reluctantly at first, but when I'd go back and edit a session, I'd find that 80% of the keepers were from that lens. It won me over in the best kind of way - with surprisingly beautiful images.

I was using mine on a video when it got hit and destroyed by a frisbee disc (those hard ones). It was sad, but it was $100. Life moves on. I used it for years before that, so my investment was a good one.

I have not owned or used the other 2 Canon 50mm lenses. I own the Zeiss 50mm 1.4 ZE, and I love it. I mainly use it for video though.

Here's an album I took years ago with my 50mm 1.8 right after I got it: http://www.daveheinzel.com/photos/?year=2007&gallery=81&pic=1386

Bottom line - buy the 50mm 1.8 and shoot with that for a long time before upgrading. Don't think of it as wasting $100 that you could have put towards a better lens. I never did.
« Last Edit: November 23, 2011, 03:30:45 PM by daveheinzel »

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Re: Battle of the 50mm's - 1.8, 1.4 and 1.2L
« Reply #12 on: November 23, 2011, 03:25:55 PM »

Edwin Herdman

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Re: Battle of the 50mm's - 1.8, 1.4 and 1.2L
« Reply #13 on: November 23, 2011, 04:48:37 PM »
From a bit of reading here and there, I gathered that the Zeiss 50mm f/2 (lenses?) is (are?) better than the f1.4 variant.

The 50mm f/1.4 would be perfect,
if it were sharper at f/1.4, especially in the corners;
if it had IS (heh);
if it had a nicer shape to out of focus areas when stopped down;
and if it had a better focus ring.  The 50mm offers the worst focus ring on any of my lenses, barring kit zooms - though I have been somewhat spoiled by good to amazing focus rings since I got additional lenses.  Works well enough to focus in magnified Live View, though.
I had "if it didn't slightly overexpose" in that list, but I realized that if my copy indeed does, it doesn't bother me.  That's something The Digital Picture's author noticed on his copy.  At roughly 1/3 a stop, it would be fairly easy to handle in post, however.

If you can stop the 50mm f/1.4 down a bit, though, it performs wonderfully.  It's as sharp as anything I have at f/8.

If I had the 50mm f/1.2 I would use manual focus as much as possible.  I am mainly worried about the CAs - some of the Photozone shots just don't work where the f/1.4 would have been a contender.
« Last Edit: November 23, 2011, 04:50:56 PM by Edwin Herdman »

Jettatore

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Re: Battle of the 50mm's - 1.8, 1.4 and 1.2L
« Reply #14 on: November 23, 2011, 05:18:13 PM »
I have a 24-70 f/2.8 L

I've used the 50mm f/1.4 and liked it, but is there really that much of a reason in getting one, instead of using the few hundred it costs towards a f/1.2 purchase instead?  I figure the only thing it offers me is the 2 stop advantage, and I hear (but have never seen it) that the f/1.2 is even faster and preforms better at these larger stops.  I just figure, wait, save and if it's needed at all get the Lspensive one.??

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Re: Battle of the 50mm's - 1.8, 1.4 and 1.2L
« Reply #14 on: November 23, 2011, 05:18:13 PM »