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Author Topic: Battle of the 50mm's (1.2L , ZE 1.4, ZE 2.0)  (Read 18573 times)

samueljay

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Battle of the 50mm's (1.2L , ZE 1.4, ZE 2.0)
« on: May 01, 2012, 03:21:18 AM »
Hi All,
I've recently got my 5D Mark III, and got it with the kit lens, and in a months time I really want to pick up a good 50mm prime (I've come from film, and a good 50mm prime was the lens that stuck to my camera body the most), so I've narrowed it down to these three choices. I'm liking the 1.2L, as I was really quite impressed with the build quality of the 24-105 (I thought I'd hate it coming from all metal film lenses), and the fact that it has a bit of a larger aperture, and let's admit, it looks really nice too.

The other two options are both Zeiss, and I'm considering these due to their build quality (closer to what I was used to) and the fact they're manual focus only is a non issue for me, I'm quite used to it from when I shot film, and the 5D III's focusing screen is super bright, and very easy to MF in (even with the f/4 lens)

So basically, I'm just wondering what people who've maybe tried any of these lenses have thought and which you would reccomend :) I'm sure they're all fine lenses and I'll be just as happy with any, but would love to hear some opinions.

Thanks in advance all! :)

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Battle of the 50mm's (1.2L , ZE 1.4, ZE 2.0)
« on: May 01, 2012, 03:21:18 AM »

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Re: Battle of the 50mm's (1.2L , ZE 1.4, ZE 2.0)
« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2012, 08:44:01 AM »
Get the 1.2L. It has a unique look and sometimes it looks like the bokeh is swirling around the subject! It looks great!

Also it has an aspherical element which makes it sharper than the planars at wide apertures. F1.2-2.8 is great on the 1.2L. You also get AF when you want it, after all the 5d3 has fantastic AF.

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Re: Battle of the 50mm's (1.2L , ZE 1.4, ZE 2.0)
« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2012, 10:11:26 AM »
...the fact they're manual focus only is a non issue for me, I'm quite used to it from when I shot film, and the 5D III's focusing screen is super bright, and very easy to MF in (even with the f/4 lens)

I would not be too sure of that.  Unlike film cameras, the focusing screen of modern dSLRs, including the 5DIII, is laser microetched to make it brighter with slow lenses (probably because most consumer/kit lenses are slow).  While you may find it bright enough with your f/4 lens, brightness isn't the only issue - in fact, it's not the main issue at all.  The consequence of that laser microetching for a brighter VF is that the focusing screen does not show the true DoF with fast lenses.  No matter how fast your lens, you're going to be seeing the DoF of f/2.5 at best.  Selecting best focus looking at f/2.5 DoF means when your image is captured at the thinner DoF actually set, what you thought was in focus may turn out to be outside of the DoF. 

As a side bar, you can see this effect on brightness - if you mount a fast lens, say f/1.2, on your camera and stop down as you hold the DoF preview button, you'll notice the VF doesn't start getting dimmer until you hit f/2.5 or so.  The light is getting in - with an f/1.2 lens on my 7D (and presumably on the 5DII), the transmissive LCD (AF points, etc.) is pretty washed out at f/1.2, and gets less washed out as I stop down with the DoF preview button pressed - but the VF gets no dimmer and the DoF doesn't change. 

So, relying on MF with the stock focusing screen and a fast prime is not a good idea, IMO.  Canon makes high-precision focusing screens designed for fast lenses, which lack the microetching (meaning they're even brighter with a fast lens, but dimmer with f/4 and slower lenses).  The problem is that the 5DIII does not have a user-replaceable focusing screen.  There will be (perhaps already are) 3rd party screens for the 5DIII, as there are for the 7D - most makers of such screens offer installation as a service, and warn that it's not easy as a DIY. 

Personally, I use MF with my 85L II pretty frequently on my 5DII, and for that I swap in the Eg-S focusing screen.  There are several reasons why I chose to get the 1D X over the 5DIII, and an interchangeable focusing screen is one of them. 

Given that, I'd go with the 50mm f/1.2L, or plan on going through the hassle of installing (or having installed) a 3rd party screen on your 5DIII.
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Re: Battle of the 50mm's (1.2L , ZE 1.4, ZE 2.0)
« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2012, 01:38:14 PM »
Do you shoot video or stills mainly?

I love my 50L, but I used the Zeiss 50 1.4 last weekend and was very, very happy with the results.  It's not so great wide open, but at f/2 it really shines.  All the Zeiss glass seems to have better edge sharpness than their Canon counterparts.  And from what I understand the ZE 50mm f/2 Makro is significantly better and will probably be the one I end up going with.  If you are shooting video I would absolutely go with the Zeiss glass, but if you're doing stills mainly I'd go for the 50L.
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Re: Battle of the 50mm's (1.2L , ZE 1.4, ZE 2.0)
« Reply #4 on: May 02, 2012, 02:54:12 AM »
50L its sick! You will fall in love. One thing Neuro doesn't point out is that when you turn your AF on the lens off and hold your finger down halfway like when you do with auto focus and when you slowly focus it will flicker red when the object you are focussing on is in focus, it is quite accurate too! The little green circle also lights up when in focus. I believe it will use the focus point chosen too. Haven't tested that out thoroughly but i did just do that. I'm not sure the other non-canon lenses will do that or not. If its too dark to discern focus being accurate by looking thru the viewfinder, trust me its amazing. I used the manual focus for pics by the fire and some in almost no light and it worked like a charm.
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Re: Battle of the 50mm's (1.2L , ZE 1.4, ZE 2.0)
« Reply #5 on: May 02, 2012, 03:42:04 AM »
Get the 1.2L. It has a unique look and sometimes it looks like the bokeh is swirling around the subject! It looks great!

Also it has an aspherical element which makes it sharper than the planars at wide apertures. F1.2-2.8 is great on the 1.2L. You also get AF when you want it, after all the 5d3 has fantastic AF.
Thanks for the input RL! :D I'm definitely leaning towards the 50L! It really sounds like an amazing piece of glass :D
I would not be too sure of that.  Unlike film cameras, the focusing screen of modern dSLRs, including the 5DIII, is laser microetched to make it brighter with slow lenses (probably because most consumer/kit lenses are slow).  While you may find it bright enough with your f/4 lens, brightness isn't the only issue - in fact, it's not the main issue at all.  The consequence of that laser microetching for a brighter VF is that the focusing screen does not show the true DoF with fast lenses.  No matter how fast your lens, you're going to be seeing the DoF of f/2.5 at best.  Selecting best focus looking at f/2.5 DoF means when your image is captured at the thinner DoF actually set, what you thought was in focus may turn out to be outside of the DoF. 

....

Personally, I use MF with my 85L II pretty frequently on my 5DII, and for that I swap in the Eg-S focusing screen.  There are several reasons why I chose to get the 1D X over the 5DIII, and an interchangeable focusing screen is one of them. 

Given that, I'd go with the 50mm f/1.2L, or plan on going through the hassle of installing (or having installed) a 3rd party screen on your 5DIII.
Thanks heaps for your massive reply Neuro! Your technical knowledge is profound, and always appreciated. From all accounts though, I've heard that the 5D's focusing screen is better, brighter, easier to use than the 5D II's even with the Eg-S focusing screen, so I'm not really all that worried, I'm sure Canon wouldn't make a focusing screen non-user replaceable if it wasn't at least good enough to focus with their top lenses manually, but it's definitely something I will keep in mind and test out next month when I get my fast prime, and I'll let you know!
Do you shoot video or stills mainly?

I love my 50L, but I used the Zeiss 50 1.4 last weekend and was very, very happy with the results.  It's not so great wide open, but at f/2 it really shines.  All the Zeiss glass seems to have better edge sharpness than their Canon counterparts.  And from what I understand the ZE 50mm f/2 Makro is significantly better and will probably be the one I end up going with.  If you are shooting video I would absolutely go with the Zeiss glass, but if you're doing stills mainly I'd go for the 50L.
Hi Axilrod!
Good question! I shoot stills for fun and video for work (I don't reply on shooting for money though, my main role is editor, shooter as second :) ) Thanks for the info, much appreciated! I think yeah, because stills will be the major use for it, I'll be going for the 50L.
50L its sick! You will fall in love. One thing Neuro doesn't point out is that when you turn your AF on the lens off and hold your finger down halfway like when you do with auto focus and when you slowly focus it will flicker red when the object you are focussing on is in focus, it is quite accurate too! The little green circle also lights up when in focus. I believe it will use the focus point chosen too. Haven't tested that out thoroughly but i did just do that. I'm not sure the other non-canon lenses will do that or not. If its too dark to discern focus being accurate by looking thru the viewfinder, trust me its amazing. I used the manual focus for pics by the fire and some in almost no light and it worked like a charm.
Ah very valid point Bosman! Thank you for pointing that out! :D And you're right, it will use the focus point you have selected :) I've tried that on mine too! :) From what I've heard other non canon lenses will as long as as they have an AF confirm chip (tested that with some old Minolta glass). Yeah! You're not wrong, since it's using the AF system to confirm, and the AF system on the Mk III is really quite amazing, I can imagine it'd be amazing! :D

Thanks again everyone! At this stage I'm definitely leaning toward the 50L, and I'll let you know when I get it, but keep the posts coming if anyone else has experience with them, never hurts to hear / learn more! :D
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Re: Battle of the 50mm's (1.2L , ZE 1.4, ZE 2.0)
« Reply #6 on: May 02, 2012, 04:06:31 AM »
I like this link for viewing peoples posted 50L shots.
http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?t=307389
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Re: Battle of the 50mm's (1.2L , ZE 1.4, ZE 2.0)
« Reply #6 on: May 02, 2012, 04:06:31 AM »

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Re: Battle of the 50mm's (1.2L , ZE 1.4, ZE 2.0)
« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2012, 07:01:15 AM »
From all accounts though, I've heard that the 5D's focusing screen is better, brighter, easier to use than the 5D II's even with the Eg-S focusing screen, so I'm not really all that worried, I'm sure Canon wouldn't make a focusing screen non-user replaceable if it wasn't at least good enough to focus with their top lenses manually,

You thought the first reply was 'massive'?  :o  Read on....

'Better, brighter, easier to use' are pretty subjective, and in fact, that's probably the viewpoint of folks enamoured of their new 5DIII.  The 5DIII does have a 100% VF, compared to the ~98% of the 5DII, but that's about the only difference.  The 5DIII focusing screen simply is not going to show you the true DoF with a fast aperture.  You don't have to take my word for it, Chuck Westfall (Canon's technical guru) addressed this specific question (link):

Q: The specifications on Canon’s website tell that 5d3 has a fixed focusing screen, like 7d, while 5d2 has an interchangeable one. How is this fixed screen compared to the standard screen and the Eg-S screen for 5d2? Does this fixed screen on 5d3 show precise focus regarding to depth of field on higher apertures than f:2.8?

CW: The EOS 5D Mark III’s focusing screen has about the same overall brightness and depth-of-field characteristics as the EOS 5D Mark II‘s Eg-A standard focusing screen. This is a brighter screen than the Eg-S with most lenses, but it does not depict depth of field accurately for apertures wider than about f/4. Manual focusing accuracy using the optical viewfinder is about the same, lens for lens, on the 5D Mark III as it is on the 5D Mark II with an Eg-A focusing screen.


So, according to Canon, the 5DIII focusing screen and brightness is equivalent to the 5DII with the stock Eg-A screen.  CW is correct - the stock screen in the 5DII and 5DIII is 'a brighter screen than the Eg-S with most lenses,' because if you look at the EF lens lineup as a whole, lenses faster than f/4 are in the minority.  My personal experience is that the stock screen is fine for MF with f/2.8 lenses as well, but not with f/2 and faster lenses.  When you get your fast prime, try the 'trick' of stopping down from wide open with the DoF preview button held down, and see where the VF starts to get dimmer - you will not notice any change between f/1.2 and f/2.5 or so, and the DoF you'll see will match, i.e. no change.

When CW says, "Manual focusing accuracy using the optical viewfinder is about the same, lens for lens, on the 5D Mark III as it is on the 5D Mark II with an Eg-A focusing screen," that's his polite, PR-savvy way of saying that MF with a fast prime is not going to be accurate at all on the 5DIII.

Fortunately, Bosman has a great point - AF confirmation will let you use the camera's AF system to correct for the deeper DoF you see in the viewfinder.  Do note that you'll probably want to do an AF microadjustment on the 50L - the AF comfirmation is only as accurate as the AF system, and an accurate AF, especially with a fast prime, almost always requires AFMA.

Please note, I'm not trying to be negative about this, but I do want you to go in with your eyes open, so to speak. 

Another issue to be aware of with the 50L is that is has focus shift, as does the Zeiss 50/1.4.  As they say, 'it's not a bug, it's a feature' - focus shift is an unfortunate trade-off resulting from the design of most fast primes (Canon's 85L uses a 'floating mechanism' to correct for it).  If you're not familiar with it, 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 (and the Zeiss 50/1.4), if you select an aperture narrower than wide open, 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). 

Note that focus shift affects both autofocus and manual focus, and also affects manual focus with AF confirmation - since focusing is done wide open, even if spot on there, the focal plane changes when the lens stops down for the shot and that's what results in the back focus.

There are several workarounds to focus shift.  Shooting wide open is one of them, since there's no focus shift wide open. If you need to stop down a bit (pretty common with an f/1.2 lens), the best workaround is to manually focus with the DoF preview button pressed - and that's not going to help you with the 5DIII's focusing screen.  What you can do if you're shooting stopped down a little bit is use the AF confirmation, then before you take the shot just front-focus a little bit with the MF ring. 

None of these are show-stopping issues - the 50L is a great lens and will produce amazing results, albeit with perhaps a little more work required to get them than with other lenses.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2012, 07:08:06 AM by neuroanatomist »
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Re: Battle of the 50mm's (1.2L , ZE 1.4, ZE 2.0)
« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2012, 07:02:58 AM »
Quote
Thanks heaps for your massive reply Neuro! Your technical knowledge is profound, and always appreciated. From all accounts though, I've heard that the 5D's focusing screen is better, brighter, easier to use than the 5D II's even with the Eg-S focusing screen,

Perhaps you could go back, check your sources and see if they were manually focusing at large apertures (f2 or less)

As Neuro pointed out, there is a trade off. A standard focusing screen is brighter and easier to use with slow glass (slower than f/2.8). For example, the EG-S would be less usable than a standard screen if you were using a long prime with a teleconverter.
With f/2.8 glass, it should be a tie more or less.

With a fast prime, however, you will only get f/2.8 depth of field. Manually focusing at f/1.2 when you have f/2.8 dof in the viewfinder is next to impossible, regardless of how bright the viewfinder is. If you never shoot faster than f/2.8, you will be fine. If you shoot at wider apertures often, the standard focusing screen will be inadequate.

Quote

so I'm not really all that worried, I'm sure Canon wouldn't make a focusing screen non-user replaceable if it wasn't at least good enough to focus with their top lenses manually, but it's definitely something I will keep in mind and test out next month when I get my fast prime, and I'll let you know!

I don't understand why you're so sure. The stock focusing screen is optimized for f/2.8 and slower lenses -- it works very nicely for all their zooms, for example.

They didn't make it impossible to change the focusing screen, and there aren't that many users who want to swap their focusing screens in and out. I have the EG-S with a 5D Mark II, but I never have need to put the standard one back in.



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Re: Battle of the 50mm's (1.2L , ZE 1.4, ZE 2.0)
« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2012, 09:29:45 AM »

You thought the first reply was 'massive'?  :o  Read on....
Haha! Thanks for your time Neuro, I really appreciate your help, and sorry for my ignorance too! :) That all makes a lot of sense :) I'm going to refer back to your post when I get the lens, and use the techniques if needed, I'm also guessing that using Live View would negate all of these problems? However that's not really an ideal solution.

Also thanks for the info regarding AFMA, it's something that's been in the back of my mind, and I know I'll have to go through the hoops with that one too. There's so much to learn! haha! :D

I'm definitely willing to work to get the results I want, so the 50L doesn't scare me... yet ;) haha!

Perhaps you could go back, check your sources and see if they were manually focusing at large apertures (f2 or less)

As Neuro pointed out, there is a trade off. A standard focusing screen is brighter and easier to use with slow glass (slower than f/2.8). For example, the EG-S would be less usable than a standard screen if you were using a long prime with a teleconverter.
With f/2.8 glass, it should be a tie more or less.

With a fast prime, however, you will only get f/2.8 depth of field. Manually focusing at f/1.2 when you have f/2.8 dof in the viewfinder is next to impossible, regardless of how bright the viewfinder is. If you never shoot faster than f/2.8, you will be fine. If you shoot at wider apertures often, the standard focusing screen will be inadequate.

I don't understand why you're so sure. The stock focusing screen is optimized for f/2.8 and slower lenses -- it works very nicely for all their zooms, for example.

They didn't make it impossible to change the focusing screen, and there aren't that many users who want to swap their focusing screens in and out. I have the EG-S with a 5D Mark II, but I never have need to put the standard one back in.
Good point! Haha pure ignorance likely :p It seems stupid to me though to put out a product that doesn't work well with the products it's meant to out of the box, without some tampering that may / may not be covered by warranty.
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Re: Battle of the 50mm's (1.2L , ZE 1.4, ZE 2.0)
« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2012, 10:37:30 AM »
I'm also guessing that using Live View would negate all of these problems? However that's not really an ideal solution.

Yep, using Live View will eliminate the problem.

Here's the full list of workarounds for focus shift:

  • 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 a high precision focusing screen (3rd party in the case of the 5DIII) 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 5DIII and 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.  I don't think they will do that, though...)
  • 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.
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Re: Battle of the 50mm's (1.2L , ZE 1.4, ZE 2.0)
« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2012, 07:59:43 PM »
Thank you so much Neuro! That post is gold, and I'm sure a lot of people will benefit from it :) I'll let you know how I go when I get my fast prime! :)
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Re: Battle of the 50mm's (1.2L , ZE 1.4, ZE 2.0)
« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2012, 10:58:18 PM »
I tell you what manual focussing this way is pretty user friendly with tack sharp in focus images. I love it! Live view can't be beat for studio portraits because you can see everything just as your lens portrays it. F1.2 eyes in focus....no problem. I don't do many studio type portraits but i would def use live view in controlled settings. or for product shots like wedding rings.
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Re: Battle of the 50mm's (1.2L , ZE 1.4, ZE 2.0)
« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2012, 10:58:18 PM »

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Re: Battle of the 50mm's (1.2L , ZE 1.4, ZE 2.0)
« Reply #13 on: June 14, 2012, 04:15:03 PM »
Hey Guys!
Just wanted to give you all an update, I just ordered the Canon 50L :) I'll let you know when I get it and my initial thoughts! Should be some time next week *fingers crossed*
Thanks again,
Sam!
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Re: Battle of the 50mm's (1.2L , ZE 1.4, ZE 2.0)
« Reply #14 on: June 14, 2012, 05:34:56 PM »
I have the 50L.  I played with AFMA for weeks.  I then turned the AFMA option off in my 5D3's menu and the results have been just freaking awesome, YMMV.

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Re: Battle of the 50mm's (1.2L , ZE 1.4, ZE 2.0)
« Reply #14 on: June 14, 2012, 05:34:56 PM »