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Lens review

Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM

15 December 2009
Szymon Starczewski

11. Summary

Pros:
  • good frame centre sharpness (apart from the maximum aperture),
  • very good frame edge picture quality on APS-C,
  • good frame edge picture quality on full frame,
  • well corrected astigmatism,
  • low chromatic aberration,
  • lack of distinct geometric deformations at frame edges,
  • fast, silent and accurate autofocus,
  • solid and compact barrel,
  • good build quality.

Cons:

  • by f/1.4 the image is distinctly „soft”,
  • very high coma,
  • susceptibility to flares,
  • visible distortion on full frame,
  • very high vignetting on full frame.

The Canon EF 1.4/50 USM is undoubtedly a well-done lens. The picture quality in the frame centre and at the edges is very good at apertures above f/2.0 – you can count it among the biggest assets of this device, apart from the solid workmanship. You should notice, though, that there were several slip-ups during the test. The lens, while working against bright light, catches light artifacts easily and its performance by f/1.4 is far from good with the visible coma, perceptible vignetting (being actually huge on full frame) and distinctly “soft” image.

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What do we get, then, for 270 $ more, as such is the price difference between 1.4/50 and 1.8/50? Firstly the fastness. Theoretically there’s not much difference between 1.4 and 1.8 apertures but we must point out that it means as much as 65% photons more! You must remember that on stopping down the 1.4/50 lens to the maximum aperture of the 1.8/50 lens most of faults, mentioned earlier, disappear. The build quality and the USM motor are additional bonuses.

If we take the photography seriously and demand of a lens that it is reliable in every situation, it’s better to invest your money in the 1.4/50 model. An amateur photographer who watches every penny can easily save 270 $ buying the 1.8/50 model, which, considering its quality/price ratio, is one of the best offers on the market. The problem is that you must treat it with kid gloves afterwards.

A short personal digression at the very end. So far, I’ve been using a Canon kit lens to take photos of lenses and binoculars presented by our forum. Typically, I had to take 30-40 shots to choose 3-4 of them, the most publishable ones. Here’s the fact that might make you aware how superior and comfortable the work with the Canon 1.4/50 is: during the latest session I decided to use it to take several shots of some lenses; I took about 30 pics but this time almost all of them were suitable for publication….


Sample shots:

Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM - Summary Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM - Summary Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM - Summary
Camera: Canon 20D
Parameters: 50 mm, f/1.4, exp. 1/250 sec., ISO 400
File: JPG, 3504x2336 pix, 2.4 MB
Camera: Canon 20D
Parameters: 50 mm, f/1.4, exp. 1/1600 sec., ISO 100
File: JPG, 3504x2336 pix, 1.8 MB
Camera: Canon 20D
Parameters: 50 mm, f/4.0, exp. 1/320 sec., ISO 100
File: JPG, 3504x2336 pix, 2.0 MB
Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM - Summary Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM - Summary Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM - Summary
Camera: Canon 20D
Parameters: 50 mm, f/1.4, exp. 1/160 sec., ISO 100
File: JPG, 3504x2336 pix, 2.3 MB
Camera: Canon 20D
Parameters: 50 mm, f/4.0, exp. 1/200 sec., ISO 100
File: JPG, 3504x2336 pix, 1.8 MB
Camera: Canon 20D
Parameters: 50 mm, f/1.4, exp. 1/400 sec., ISO 100
File: JPG, 3504x2336 pix, 2.2 MB
Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM - Summary Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM - Summary Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM - Summary
Camera: Canon 20D
Parameters: 50 mm, f/2.8, exp. 1/3200 sec., ISO 100
File: JPG, 3504x2336 pix, 2.3 MB
Camera: Canon 20D
Parameters: 50 mm, f/2.0, exp. 1/6400 sec., ISO 100
File: JPG, 3504x2336 pix, 2.3 MB
Camera: Canon 20D
Parameters: 50 mm, f/7.1, exp. 1/1000 sec., ISO 200
File: JPG, 3504x2336 pix, 2.6 MB
Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM - Summary Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM - Summary Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM - Summary
Camera: Canon 20D
Parameters: 50 mm, f/5.6, exp. 1/1600 sec., ISO 100
File: JPG, 3504x2336 pix, 3.0 MB
Camera: Canon 20D
Parameters: 50 mm, f/8.0, exp. 1/400 sec., ISO 100
File: JPG, 3504x2336 pix, 3.2 MB
Camera: Canon 20D
Parameters: 50 mm, f/5.0, exp. 1/1250 sec., ISO 100
File: JPG, 3504x2336 pix, 2.7 MB
Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM - Summary
Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM - Summary
Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM - Summary
Camera:Canon 1Ds Mark III
Parameters: 50 mm, f/5.6, exp. 1/200 sec., ISO 100
File: JPEG, 5616 x 3744 pix, 6.69 MB
Camera:Canon 1Ds Mark III
Parameters: 50 mm, f/8.0, exp. 1/160 sec., ISO 200
File: JPEG, 5616 x 3744 pix, 8.89 MB
Camera: Canon 1Ds Mark III
Parameters: 50 mm, f/8.0, exp. 1/160 sec., ISO 400
File: JPEG, 5616 x 3744 pix, 7.69 MB
Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM - Summary
Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM - Summary
Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM - Summary
Camera:Canon 5D Mark II
Parameters: 50 mm, f/8.0, exp. 1/200 sec., ISO 100
File: JPEG, 5616 x 3744 pix,
7.22 MB
Camera:Canon 5D Mark II
Parameters: 50 mm, f/8.0, exp. 1/200 sec., ISO 100
File: JPEG, 5616 x 3744 pix,
6.45 MB
Camera: Canon 5D Mark II
Parameters: 50 mm, f/4.0, exp. 1/800 sec., ISO 800
File: JPEG, 5616 x 3744 pix,
6.08 MB



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