Sony announces new G Master 50mm f/1.4

Must be getting at least close to the lens the long suffering @ahsanford has spent years wanting from Canon! Although from memory, perhaps still a little bigger and heavier than what @ahsanford really wanted ... and with the wrong lens mount, of course :)
No IS. Sure, there’s IBIS…but he specifically wanted a 50/1.4 IS. From Canon.

The long wait continues…

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Must be getting at least close to the lens the long suffering @ahsanford has spent years wanting from Canon! Although from memory, perhaps still a little bigger and heavier than what @ahsanford really wanted ... and with the wrong lens mount, of course :)

I've considered an 50/1.4, which was always IN THEORY a great lens on EF film cameras in the 90s.

But there's basically two ways to design such a thing:

1. Old school double-Gaussian, which hasn't really advanced much since like 1970. They're small, simple, cheap, but just not that sharp. The EF 50's were pretty soft and low contrast even in the day and are worse yet given both 1) advancing technology, and 2) low-noise, high ISO, fantastic MP count, perfect autofocus all moving the ball so far ahead that the shortcomings of the relatively soft lenses of yesteryear are far more obvious than before. You used to not be able to blame the lens TOO much when film grain and focus were iffy, hand-shake and subject movement adding extra unsharpness as well.

2. New school computer design like the Otus 55/1.4 or Canon 50/1.2. Great image quality even wide open, but huge and expensive: the 50/1.2 is twice the size of the old one.

So, WHICH 50/1.4 would you want? A 50/1.2 down-rated to 50/1.4 is going to be nearly as heavy and expensive. Or, a 50/1.4 that is borrowed from EF, more or less, just as the 50/1.8 isn't that different from the EF 50/1.8's that for 30 years were pretty much the same as the preceding FD 50/1.8's?

The third choice might be something like the 50/1.4 but modernized just enough to add IS (and I'm not sure that's even possible in a double-Gaussian; I don't think I've ever seen one). But again even the 50/1.8 isn't cheap. Would a 50/1.4IS cost $1500? And if it did who'd buy it?

Finally I come to the question of: what is the need? In film days you needed every 2/3 stop you could get. You needed 1600 speed film to shoot 1/30th at f/1.4 in a restaurant with moody lighting. It made the viewfinder substantially brighter too. In such a shot the camera shakes, people move, there's no DOF, and grain made it look like you were louping a bowl of Rice Crispies. But today you can laugh and turn it up to ISO10,000 and shoot at f/4 and shoot 100 frames and be sure that people were still enough in some of those. IS takes care of camera shake too. Arguably if you only had f/4, you'd like the option of f/1.4. But we have the 50/1.8. Meanwhile, do you really need f/1.4 for shallow-DOF shots? I don't think so. Again the pictures are so much better we can present them in 1500x1000 on computer screens, instead of handing around 3x5"s. The lack of other photo flaws lets the shallow DOF have center stage, and the far greater enlargements mean the bokeh is also an order of magnitude plainer. 50/1.8 is quite shallow already in any subject where 50/1.4 would also be shallow. Meanwhile, subjects so far away that they don't pop from the background at f/1.8 aren't going to at f/1.4 most of the time either: just a very very narrow range where f/1.4 gives pop and f/1.8 doesn't. In summary I don't think there's a strong need, even the question of people who want the artistry of shallow DOF.

And if you really just gotta, gotta, gotta have that shallow DOF, the 50/1.2 is right there in the catalog. So now you're not just talking about someone who absolutely needs that shallow DOF of 1.4 where 1.8 is simply not acceptable; you're also limiting sales to those who haven't bought or can't afford the 50/1.2.
 
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I agree that a 50 f/1.8 provides pretty shallow DOF and in many situations f/1.4 may not make much difference. In fact, sometimes it can be counterproductive (unless you actually want only one eye in focus). However, as you note, in some situations, f/1.4 does make a useful difference. Personally, I think you can really see that with 85mm lenses. For example, for head and chest portraits, generally I would not shoot wider than f/2 as I don't think going wider makes much difference to the bokeh and I like the extra DOF for my subject. However, for a looser full body portrait, I think 85 f/1.4 can produce a result which is, to my eye, better than a f/1.8 produces. (I am talking in general terms, of course. The design of the specific lens can make a difference too.)

Anyway, coming back to 50mm lenses, I can understand people being happy with f/1.8 but equally I can see some people wanting the wider aperture to help in low light (so as to limit ISO required for a given shutter time) and/or to allow more blur / shallower DOF. I don't know enough about lens design to comment on what design options there might be, but I note the RF 50 f/1.2L is 950g and 10.8cm long, the Sony 50 f/1.2 GM is 768g and 10.8cm long, and the Sony 50 f/1.4 GM is 516g and 9.6cm long. Further, from what I have seen so far, the IQ of the 1.4 seems to be right up there with the f/1.2 lenses (subject to the fact it only goes to f/1.4 of course). So, as much as I like some of the photos I have seen coming out of those f/1.2 lenses, I have no interest in buying one. However, the 50 f/1.4 GM is much more interesting to me, because of its lighter weight. That reflects the circumstances in which I usually use my camera and my personal preferences, of course, so YMMV.

Looking at the 50mm f/1.8 lenses though (Canon RF or Sony), I am not too interested in them. At one stage I owned by a Sigma 50mm Art and a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM, and I knew someone with the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II. The little f/1.8 lenses just weren't in the same league for IQ. To be fair, with simple backgrounds and particularly stopped down, they were OK. A portrait of someone with trees / foliage in the background? The 50 Art was just so much better in that sitution, and even when the lenses were shot at the same aperture.

However, in Sony land, there is the Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8. That lens is 281g and about 7cm long, and it seems to have a reputation for being sharp although a mixed reputation for bokeh, and it is known for having quite a bit of longitudinal CA. I haven't used one, unfortunately, so I cannot speak from personal experience. From what I have seen online, the 50 f/1.4 GM seems maybe a little better (cleaner, slightly nicer bokeh) but personally I would be more likely to try the 55mm I think. In other words, I would be willing to trade the wider aperture and better IQ for smaller and lighter given I think I probably could be happy with the IQ of the 55mm (although I'm sure I wouldn't like the LoCA when it showed up). That also reflects where a 50mm lens would fit in my kit though (I already have a 35mm f/1.4), and the fact I like the idea of the focal length being slightly longer than 50mm. Obviously, again, YMMV. (In fact, I can see myself picking up a 55mm, or perhaps the Sigma 65mm f/2, at some point. Or I suppose I could switch my 35mm f/1.4 for a 35mm f/1.8 or 35mm f/2, in which case I would be very keen to get the Sony 50 f/1.4 GM. Given I like 35mm as a general purpose walk around prime, having a smaller, lighter, 35mm would not be silly. I just don't think I can bring myself to sell my 35mm f/1.4 GM though, especially since it weighs 524g which isn't too bad.)

Anyway, my primary point is that in many ways the 50mm f/1.4 GM does seem to occupy a middle ground between the 50mm f/1.2 and f/1.8 lenses but with IQ pretty close to the 50 f/1.2 lenses. I can see that middle ground being very attractive to some people (although what proportion of buyers, I can't say).
 
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[…]
Anyway, my primary point is that in many ways the 50mm f/1.4 GM does seem to occupy a middle ground between the 50mm f/1.2 and f/1.8 lenses but with IQ pretty close to the 50 f/1.2 lenses. I can see that middle ground being very attractive to some people (although what proportion of buyers, I can't say).
I rent the 50 1.2 from time to time, because I find it too expensive to outright buy and it’s quite large as well. A 1.4 that keeps much of the sharpness and is size smaller would be interesting to me. But a much sharper 1.8 would be as well.
Something to match the EF-M32mm :)
 
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f/1.4 does make a useful difference. Personally, I think you can really see that with 85mm lenses.
To be clear, I was talking about 50mm 1.4, not any other focal length. If anything my discussion of DOF is more specific to aperture size (50mm divided by 1.4 is 35mm, the diameter of the hole light goes through, technically also called the entrance pupil) than f-stop (which technically speaking, isn't the aperture, but the ratio of focal length to aperture). So for 85mm lenses, my point is that if you have an 85/3.1 and 85/2, then you don't really need an 85/2.4. (These three hypothetical lenses having the same aperture as 50/1.8, 50/1.2, and 50/1.4.)

Of course that was what I was talking about, no rule you gotta talk about the same thing :-D
 
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I rent the 50 1.2 from time to time, because I find it too expensive to outright buy and it’s quite large as well. A 1.4 that keeps much of the sharpness and is size smaller would be interesting to me. But a much sharper 1.8 would be as well.
Something to match the EF-M32mm :)
Right but my point is, is that a 1.4 that kept much of the sharpness would be nearly the same size and cost. Look at the Otus 55/1.4: same school of modern computer design as the Canon 50/1.2, and it's huge and complicated and would be expensive even if it was a Sigma.

And likewise a much sharper 1.8 would ALSO be big and huge and expensive.

And let me add one more point: the Canon 50/1.2 has so much mechanical vignetting (darkening in the corners), and starting so close to the center, you could argue it's really an f/1.4 lens anyway, but just brighter in the center.

Really, after giving it yet more thought, the Canon pair is probably the best you can do: maybe they should have made the old-school lens an f/1.4 instead of f/1.8 but then it wouldn't be the tiny lens it is, and would still be unsharp (even more unsharp than the 1.8). And for the reasons I gave above, f/1.4 just doesn't buy you much of anything you actually need. I think most people want it just as they've been habituated into having one in the lineup for 50 years and have a hard time getting used to no longer having it. In the same way I think trinity zooms are now really the f/4 zooms with today's ultra-high, low-noise ISO, IS, really high MP counts, lack of necessity for f/2.8 to enable AF, lack of necessity for big aperture to make viewfinder bright, etc. etc. They only make the f/2.8 zooms to sell to people who haven't gotten the message.
 
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Right but my point is, is that a 1.4 that kept much of the sharpness would be nearly the same size and cost. Look at the Otus 55/1.4: same school of modern computer design as the Canon 50/1.2, and it's huge and complicated and would be expensive even if it was a Sigma.

And likewise a much sharper 1.8 would ALSO be big and huge and expensive.[...]
As @jd7 points out, the Sony 50mm f/1.4 is about half the weight of the RF50L. That is a significant difference in weight and presumably size.
I don't expect it to be half the price, the MSRP of the RF50L is €2700 nowadays. I wouldn't mind it being €1350 :)
 
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As @jd7 points out, the Sony 50mm f/1.4 is about half the weight of the RF50L. That is a significant difference in weight and presumably size.
I don't expect it to be half the price, the MSRP of the RF50L is €2700 nowadays. I wouldn't mind it being €1350 :)
I'm not in Europe, but according to Sony Europe, the "estimated retail price" will be 1700 euros. Given it is only just released, presumably it won't be too long before you can get it for a bit less than that (although 1350 euros may be a little bit optimistic :) ).

 
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To be clear, I was talking about 50mm 1.4, not any other focal length. If anything my discussion of DOF is more specific to aperture size (50mm divided by 1.4 is 35mm, the diameter of the hole light goes through, technically also called the entrance pupil) than f-stop (which technically speaking, isn't the aperture, but the ratio of focal length to aperture). So for 85mm lenses, my point is that if you have an 85/3.1 and 85/2, then you don't really need an 85/2.4. (These three hypothetical lenses having the same aperture as 50/1.8, 50/1.2, and 50/1.4.)

Of course that was what I was talking about, no rule you gotta talk about the same thing :-D
Fair enough about the significance of aperture rather than relative aperture. In the end though, all lenses are a bundle of compromises and it comes down to finding a lenses which has the best set of compromises for your purposes. I think there is still a place for a 50mm f/1.4, ie some people will like the set of compromises involved in that type of lens more than the set of compromises involved in a 50mm f/1.2 or 50mm f/1.8. If I was a particular fan of 50mm, I think I would be one of those people :) I can certainly see people preferring 50mm f/1.2 or 50mm f/1.8 though.
 
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Sigma has just released a 50/1.4.

Canon 50/1.4 - 290 grams
Sony 50/1.4 G master - 516 grams
Sigma 50/1.4 DG DN Sony mount - 660 grams
Canon RF 50/1.2 - 950 grams
 
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