CANON EF 50MM F1.4 USM
An affordable lens at less than a third of the price of Canon’s 50mm f1.2 offering, but is it the best option?
A hangover from the last millennium, this lens was originally launched 25 years ago, and has a very conventional design. it’s typically small and lightweight for an oldschool 50mm prime, with a simple optical path comprising just seven elements. That’s one less element than in the competing Nikon lens on test, which is 15 years newer but still has a similarly traditional design.
The Canon is the only lens in the group to have eight rather than nine diaphragm blades and, as a result, the aperture isn’t quite as well rounded when stopping down a little. Also unique in the group, the ultrasonic autofocus system is driven by a motor with gearwheels rather than being a ring-type variant. it’s fairly slow and clearly audible, but at least the focus ring doesn’t rotate during focusing and enables full-time manual override. This is quite unusual for a motordriven mechanism. Build quality feels more consumer-grade than ‘professional’ and, typical of Canon lenses pitched at this level, there are no weather-seals and the hood is sold as an optional extra.
sharpness at wide apertures is disappointing and vignetting is also quite severe. You need to stop down to f2.8 for decent centre sharpness, and to f4 before corner sharpness picks up. in our tests, sharpness was also hampered by inconsistent autofocus accuracy, which proved a problem with multiple lens samples on a variety of camera bodies. Longitudinal or ‘bokeh’ fringing is quite noticeable at f1.4.
in its favour, this lens is much more affordable than Canon’s top-flight 50mm f1.2 prime but, for performance and value, we prefer the entry-level Canon eF 50mm f1.8 sTM. it pretty much matches the f1.4 lens for image quality and is much better value at just £120/$126.
RightIt’s simple, but mostly effective Build quality is adequate and the lens feels reasonably robust. The physical length extends at shorter focus settings but the filter ring doesn’t rotateBelow Image quality sharpness is lacklustre at f1.4 and bokeh fringing is quite noticeable,as it is in the Nikon lensBottom Defocused lightsshooting wide open, defocused lights take on a non-spherical shapetowards the edges of the frame