Is the 50 1.2 still relevant in 2019?

slclick

Matched Grip
Dec 17, 2013
2,821
248
I am all EF, not moving to RF anytime soon or maybe ever....on a 5D3, if I am a lover of the 'magical' qualities of the 135, will I be happy with this little bomb even with it's idiosyncrasies?

I shoot mostly abstraction, a little portraiture... I love Canon color and love great shallow depth of field. I do not need the fastest AF, I like better than Sigma accuracy...does that make sense?
 

st jack photography

..a shuttered lens, backwards viewing backwards..
Is it still relevant? I say yes, but barely, and with caveats.

Also, beware of discussing the terms "50mm" and "Canon" together. There are strong opinions on this.

My breakdown is: Canon makes good optics mostly, not Zeiss, but good. The 50 1.8 in all its iterations is trash. The 50 1.4 is also trash. Complete trash. The motor is especially trashy, and it has a cheap plastic feel. Optically? Who cares? The front element moves in and out. It is junk. I have owned all of the 50's and my favorite is the ancient 1987 50 f2.5 macro.

Here is my 50 L story. Mainly with an L lens, I will NOT buy it unless it has 9 curved blades. (Case in point, I dropped my old 100 macro like a hot potato when the new 100 L IS came out because it had 9 curved aperture blades, and I find the difference between the 2 night and day. Bokeh? My word, the new 100 and its curved aperture all the way to f8 is AMAZING! And the glass is designed in a way that the front element does not move, and it still makes that gaussian 3D pop!) When I buy an L, I expect this quality. The 50L mostly lacks this quality. It has 8 blades, with very tiny curvature, and no curvature past f4. It has the Gaussian 3D pop, yes, but the glass is HUGE and the element moves in and out on a wonky weak-feeling motor mount. True Story: I bought my 50L because I had to have the gauzy dreamy f1.2 effect for portraiture. The first week I bought it, it fell a meter onto a heavily carpeted floor. Minor fall. Well, that was enough to break the motor, so I had to send it to Canon and pay $800 to fix it, and I get it back, and it makes a squeak noise when it focuses now. Sometimes manual focus fails, as in the glass doesn't move. It is the only L lens I regret buying, but there are no options when it comes to 50mm and 85mm on Canon, or at least at that time there wasn't. Now we have the 85 f1.4 IS, which is the best 85 they have, comparable to the 100 L IS.

The 50L was a triumph before we demanded good bokeh and attractive starpoints, but we're talking 1987 to 2005 era, and this lens came out in 2006. So it was in design 2 years before that, so this lens is now 14+ years old. In camera bodies, that is ancient. This lens was designed for a 14megapixel CCD full frame sensor (5d Mark 1, 2005)! On my 5DSr, it does not impress me at all, and compared to my ZEISS lens output on a Canon body? Even my cheaper Zeiss shame the 50L. Shame it! It is true that the Canon 50L is a specialty lens with its dreamy effect wide open, and that is a design choice that sets it apart from what the 50 f1.4 does, but for me to accept that to achieve that level of functionality the engineers had to accept some of the nasty cons the 50L has, then I am not sure about that. I have used other wide-aperture lenses that didn't have as many problems (aberrations, fringing, lack of IF, etc, etc).

I know my opinion will get me flamed, but this is my experience with it. My opinion is, if you are going to charge over $1000 for a lens, it better be sharp to corner, have a good motor, good build, 9 curved blades (minimum), internal focus, no moving-front element junk. Sometimes Canon just perplexes me.

To tie all this in more firmly with what you are asking, then YES I think you would like what the lens can do wide open, and I think you would get this lens only because no other 50 compares or can do that effect, but I am warning you that, like me, you may love AND hate it. You love what it can do, but you hate it's cons and design choices and you see what the lens COULD have been (a slightly-smaller version of the new 85L IS). That Sigma lens isn't an option: no dreamy effect, and the AF is wonky. No idea why they call it an art and not a contemporary or sport lens. It is more comparable to the Canon f1.4, just a better build and IF.

My advice is to buy a 50L used, and only because you have to; appreciate what it can do and try not to get too frustrated. It is like the 5DSr; it is special, and with care, it can give you unique results nothing else can give.
 
Last edited:

cayenne

EOR R
Mar 28, 2012
1,825
73
I've played with a 50L a few times, and I'd like one.

I've not shot with it much for stills, but I used it on some run and gun shoots, in New Orleans in VERY dark bars. On my 5D3 it was able to almost turn night into day. I got some really good footage with it, without having to use external lighting.

I've not heard much how the old 50L compares with the newer 50R 1.2....?

At this point, unless I get a heck of a deal on a quality used 50L EF lens, I'll hold back to see what happens when a 5D equivalent of the R camera comes out and pair that with the 50RF 1.2.....

cayenne
 
Mar 14, 2012
2,241
135
If sharpness across the frame is what you want, then the 24-70 f/2.8L II is better at 50mm than the 50L. If you want the portrait look, then the 50L is better even though the resolution/detail won't be as high. The 50L handles differently than the 35L, 85L and 135L. I found that the 50L tended to miss focus near MFD (or at least required a different AFMA setting than at more conventional distances), why was why I avoided taking photos near the MFD. The focus is faster than the 85L II, but the 50L's accuracy was worse. Better than the 50 f/1.4's (that I borrowed from a friend), but not as good as the other L primes of that generation (at least for me) -- the 50L tended to need a higher contrast target. All that said, it was my most used prime for a while, until I got the 35L II, because I loved it for looser portraits.

And I know you said you will only use it on a 5D3, but the lens behaves MUCH better on the R. It rarely misses AF and nearly any point can be chosen and still get the same great accuracy. Even if you don't intended on getting any RF glass, the R is a better portrait camera than the 5D series for that very reason.
 
Reactions: Larsskv

Larsskv

Enthusiast with Canon related GAS
Jun 12, 2015
748
158
I've not heard much how the old 50L compares with the newer 50R 1.2....?


cayenne
I really do love the pictures I got from my EF 50L. It is true that it isn't the sharpest lens, but it has a very nice depth rendering, making subjects stand out from the background in a very appealing way.

The RF 50L is a better lens in every way, apart from size and weight. It is almost too sharp already at f1.2. Focus is fast and extremely accurate, even for moving subjects in low light. The bokeh is beautiful, and the depth rendering is even better than the EF 50L. In my eyes, the RF50L is already a classic.
 

slclick

Matched Grip
Dec 17, 2013
2,821
248
These comments along with feedback from two friends who own/owned copies have helped me decide to Pass. Thanks everyone.
 
Reactions: YuengLinger

degos

EOS 80D
Mar 20, 2015
157
91
I think you were wise, for your particularly form of photography.

I had a 50 1.2 L for a couple of years but could never bond with it. It should have been branded Soft Focus, I don't do portraits and was continually disappointed with its results. I sold it on to someone who does do portraits and she thought it was the best thing ever.

For abstracts the Sigma Art would be hard to beat, particularly after tuning AF on the dock. It is sharp and clinical.
 
Aug 22, 2010
1,567
264
48
Uk
www.GMCPhotographics.co.uk
Is it still relevant? I say yes, but barely, and with caveats.

Also, beware of discussing the terms "50mm" and "Canon" together. There are strong opinions on this.
I have had similar experiences with the ef 50L 1.2. Just as a caveats here...stating 50L is confusing in the post RF 50L era. There are 2 ef 50L's, the notorious f1.2 and the mythical f1.0. Plus the new Rf 50L f1.2.
The ef 50 f1.0L is a curious beast...it's soft wide open but offers a look not achievable from any other lens. It has autofocus...but it's slow and drive by wire (like the 85 F1.2L). If it breaks...there's a limited supply of parts available...and it's eye wateringly expensive.
The ef 50 f1.2 L is also a curious beast. It's a lot smaller and lighter than the f1.0 version. I've owned 2 copies from new and handled 3-4 other copies from my 2nd photographers. As a side note, I find it amusing that a lot of wedding photographers choose this lens as their single fast prime to augment their three f2.8 zoom lens kits...big mistake in my opinion...you are far better off with the 35L. It's far more versatile and user friendly.
It's a great lens in terms of build, bokeh, contrast and flare. it's AF is semi reasonable...but in low light it just can't focus that well. A 24-70L focusses better in the same light levels...which is over 2 stops slower...so that says something here.
The main issue with the ef 50 f1.2L that no one likes to admit is that it's just a bit soft. It doesn't matter what aperture...it just doesn't perform as well as any other ef L prime....not even close. Sure we can blame the back focus at f2.8...or the field curvature...but at the end of the day...Canon dropped the ball with this lens...it's slightly soft by design. Canon developed it to a low R&D price point and this is the result.
If I was in the market for a 50mm I wouldn't choose the ef 50L...I might even consider the Sigma Art 50...even with it's shoddly AF accuracy. Considering my dogged experience with Sigma over the years....that take a s lot for me to admit. I also wouldn't consider an RF 50 f1.2 L at the moment. It's too expensive and the Eos R is an immature product.

In regards to your statements about Canon vs Zeiss glass...Canon produce a far wider range of lenses than Zeiss do. Considering that Canon's lens portfolio includes amazing optics like the 100L macro, 400 f2.8, 600 f4, 400 Do, 8-15L fisheye, 85 f1.2, 135L, 35L, 16-35L, 11-24L, 70-200, 24-70....just to name some of their highlights. Canon offers a colossal range of lenses compared to Zeiss. If fact I think Canon have the largest portfolio of pro lenses in existence.
 
Aug 22, 2010
1,567
264
48
Uk
www.GMCPhotographics.co.uk
I am all EF, not moving to RF anytime soon or maybe ever....on a 5D3, if I am a lover of the 'magical' qualities of the 135, will I be happy with this little bomb even with it's idiosyncrasies?

I shoot mostly abstraction, a little portraiture... I love Canon color and love great shallow depth of field. I do not need the fastest AF, I like better than Sigma accuracy...does that make sense?
I'm a 5DIII user too...and I adore the 135L. It's far more versatile than many give it credit for. The 35L makes a great pairing with either the 135L or the 85L. The framing difference between a 35mm and a 50mm is just a few steps closer and it's a far better lens. I'd pass on the ef 50 1.2 L. It's good but not great.
 
Reactions: slclick

slclick

Matched Grip
Dec 17, 2013
2,821
248
I'm a 5DIII user too...and I adore the 135L. It's far more versatile than many give it credit for. The 35L makes a great pairing with either the 135L or the 85L. The framing difference between a 35mm and a 50mm is just a few steps closer and it's a far better lens. I'd pass on the ef 50 1.2 L. It's good but not great.
I have done a fair amount of travel/photography with a 3 lens kit, 16-35 f/4L (mostly tripod work) 40 pancake and 135L. They are a great pairing those two but I would like a low light wide option and if I wasn't a stickler for lighter weight, being spoiled by the pancake, I'd buy the Sigma Art 40, however it's HUGE. I agree with you GMCP, the 35/135 is a great combo and I know from personal experience I am more of a 35 or 40 person than a 50. I just wondered if the 50 1.2 had that certain something special most of us have come to love from the 135L.

I am searching for something that doesn't exist. Typical, right? Canon quality AF accuracy (accuracy over speed for what I shoot) contrast/color of the 135, compact or semi compact and great in low light. Last year I tried a copy of the 35 f/2 IS and I just didn't come away pleased with the rendering or contrast. It was flat and uninteresting. However I did like the form factor. I could be in the market for the Tamron SP 35 1.4 but have no idea when it will ship. I've owned the Sigma Art 35 in the past and it's crossed off my current list. I'd like to make my decision soon as to have time to get used to new glass before my more interesting travel starts in May. Or I just shoot with what I have, I'm ok with that as well.

(Once again, I don't need anything R or RF in this conversation, thanks.)
 

peterzuehlke

EOS 80D
Oct 1, 2015
106
18
Is it still relevant? I say yes, but barely, and with caveats.

Also, beware of discussing the terms "50mm" and "Canon" together. There are strong opinions on this.

My breakdown is: Canon makes good optics mostly, not Zeiss, but good. The 50 1.8 in all its iterations is trash. The 50 1.4 is also trash. Complete trash. The motor is especially trashy, and it has a cheap plastic feel. Optically? Who cares? The front element moves in and out. It is junk. I have owned all of the 50's and my favorite is the ancient 1987 50 f2.5 macro.

Here is my 50 L story. Mainly with an L lens, I will NOT buy it unless it has 9 curved blades. (Case in point, I dropped my old 100 macro like a hot potato when the new 100 L IS came out because it had 9 curved aperture blades, and I find the difference between the 2 night and day. Bokeh? My word, the new 100 and its curved aperture all the way to f8 is AMAZING! And the glass is designed in a way that the front element does not move, and it still makes that gaussian 3D pop!) When I buy an L, I expect this quality. The 50L mostly lacks this quality. It has 8 blades, with very tiny curvature, and no curvature past f4. It has the Gaussian 3D pop, yes, but the glass is HUGE and the element moves in and out on a wonky weak-feeling motor mount. True Story: I bought my 50L because I had to have the gauzy dreamy f1.2 effect for portraiture. The first week I bought it, it fell a meter onto a heavily carpeted floor. Minor fall. Well, that was enough to break the motor, so I had to send it to Canon and pay $800 to fix it, and I get it back, and it makes a squeak noise when it focuses now. Sometimes manual focus fails, as in the glass doesn't move. It is the only L lens I regret buying, but there are no options when it comes to 50mm and 85mm on Canon, or at least at that time there wasn't. Now we have the 85 f1.4 IS, which is the best 85 they have, comparable to the 100 L IS.

The 50L was a triumph before we demanded good bokeh and attractive starpoints, but we're talking 1987 to 2005 era, and this lens came out in 2006. So it was in design 2 years before that, so this lens is now 14+ years old. In camera bodies, that is ancient. This lens was designed for a 14megapixel CCD full frame sensor (5d Mark 1, 2005)! On my 5DSr, it does not impress me at all, and compared to my ZEISS lens output on a Canon body? Even my cheaper Zeiss shame the 50L. Shame it! It is true that the Canon 50L is a specialty lens with its dreamy effect wide open, and that is a design choice that sets it apart from what the 50 f1.4 does, but for me to accept that to achieve that level of functionality the engineers had to accept some of the nasty cons the 50L has, then I am not sure about that. I have used other wide-aperture lenses that didn't have as many problems (aberrations, fringing, lack of IF, etc, etc).

A lot of good points. I dropped my 50mm 1.4 from about 2 feet up onto a soft couch and the focus track got bent and needed to be repaired. Lucy me one of the two lenses I have manged to drop since 1969 :) Canon seems to me to be making lenses for people who study resolution charts online sometimes. I got a 85mm Tamron f/1.8 when I got tired of waiting for Canon to get out their 85 IS. And I am so happy with it that I bought the Tamron 45mm. They both have what I would call creamy (as opposed to nervous) bokeh. And they are plenty sharp, easily in league with my 100L. A little slow focussing and f/1.8 only but they accurate and good stabilization. For people I would say consider taking a step back and using one of the excellent 85s like the Sigma or the Tamron.
 

jd7

EOS 7D MK II
Feb 3, 2013
701
80
I have done a fair amount of travel/photography with a 3 lens kit, 16-35 f/4L (mostly tripod work) 40 pancake and 135L. They are a great pairing those two but I would like a low light wide option and if I wasn't a stickler for lighter weight, being spoiled by the pancake, I'd buy the Sigma Art 40, however it's HUGE. I agree with you GMCP, the 35/135 is a great combo and I know from personal experience I am more of a 35 or 40 person than a 50. I just wondered if the 50 1.2 had that certain something special most of us have come to love from the 135L.

I am searching for something that doesn't exist. Typical, right? Canon quality AF accuracy (accuracy over speed for what I shoot) contrast/color of the 135, compact or semi compact and great in low light. Last year I tried a copy of the 35 f/2 IS and I just didn't come away pleased with the rendering or contrast. It was flat and uninteresting. However I did like the form factor. I could be in the market for the Tamron SP 35 1.4 but have no idea when it will ship. I've owned the Sigma Art 35 in the past and it's crossed off my current list. I'd like to make my decision soon as to have time to get used to new glass before my more interesting travel starts in May. Or I just shoot with what I have, I'm ok with that as well.

(Once again, I don't need anything R or RF in this conversation, thanks.)
Just curious - what made you get rid of your Sigma 35 Art? I'm a big fan of mine.
 

slclick

Matched Grip
Dec 17, 2013
2,821
248
Just curious - what made you get rid of your Sigma 35 Art? I'm a big fan of mine.
I was an early adopter. I couldn't AFMA it to save my life. Poor AF accuracy and speed. When it did nail it, it was gorgeous. But when you own Canon L lenses that never have that issue, how could you keep that in your bag?
 

slclick

Matched Grip
Dec 17, 2013
2,821
248
Just curious - what made you get rid of your Sigma 35 Art? I'm a big fan of mine.
Mr. Abbott just shared with me that he has heard the Tammy 35 SP 1.4 being released this summer will be their best lens EVER. Unfortunately I need to bite on another before that.
 

jd7

EOS 7D MK II
Feb 3, 2013
701
80
I've never owned the EF 50/1.2L so I cannot comment on what it's like to use, but I like the photos it can take, even if it isn't the sharpest lens. What I don't get though, is the comments I see above criticising the Sigma 50 Art, eg the comment that the Sigma 50 Art is more like a Canon EF 50/1.4 with better build quality. The 50 Art renders a little differently from the EF 50/1.2L, and at it's best I would give the edge in bokeh to the Canon, but that edge comes at the expense of sharpness and I think the 50 Art bokeh is still right up there (for a 50mm).

I particularly don't understand comments criticising the 50 Art's bokeh but praising lenses like the RF 50/1.2L and the EF 85/1.4L IS. The 50 Art is quite similar to those recent Canon lenses, in my opinion. They are sharp but that sharpness is accompanied by a slightly different bokeh than less sharp lenses such as the EF 50/1.2L.
 

jd7

EOS 7D MK II
Feb 3, 2013
701
80
I was an early adopter. I couldn't AFMA it to save my life. Poor AF accuracy and speed. When it did nail it, it was gorgeous. But when you own Canon L lenses that never have that issue, how could you keep that in your bag?
Fair enough. Sorry to hear you had problems with the AF. My copy has been pretty good - I'd say as good as the Canon EF 35/2 IS I had previously. I haven't had a 35L or 35L II to compare those though.
 

slclick

Matched Grip
Dec 17, 2013
2,821
248
I've never owned the EF 50/1.2L so I cannot comment on what it's like to use, but I like the photos it can take, even if it isn't the sharpest lens. What I don't get though, is the comments I see above criticising the Sigma 50 Art, eg the comment that the Sigma 50 Art is more like a Canon EF 50/1.4 with better build quality. The 50 Art renders a little differently from the EF 50/1.2L, and at it's best I would give the edge in bokeh to the Canon, but that edge comes at the expense of sharpness and I think the 50 Art bokeh is still right up there (for a 50mm).

I particularly don't understand comments criticising the 50 Art's bokeh but praising lenses like the RF 50/1.2L and the EF 85/1.4L IS. The 50 Art is quite similar to those recent Canon lenses, in my opinion. They are sharp lenses but that sharpness is accompanied by a slightly different bokeh than less sharp lenses such as the EF 50/1.2L.
I never owned the 50 siggy and can only comment on the 35 which imho was released far too soon. Also there was no dock at that time.
 

Viggo

EOS 5D SR
Dec 13, 2010
3,879
433
I’ve owned multiple EF 50 L, the f1.4 and f1.8 and the stm. The Sigma 35 and 50, and Zeiss 50 f2, and collectively they are not anywhere near what I looked for in a 50mm. The 50mm option for Canon EF has always been abysmal ... the Zeiss 50 f2 is a fantastic lens, but without AF it wasn’t useable enough for me, and slightly slow ...

They have now solved that and that is why I’m no longer in the EF camp...
 
Last edited: