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?

Digital Photograper - - Reviews -

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

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