Lens review

Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II

21 January 2015
Arkadiusz Olech

11. Summary

  • excellent image quality in the frame centre (apart from the maximum relative aperture),
  • very good control of chromatic aberration,
  • moderate distortion,
  • imperceptible coma in the corners of the APS-C,
  • slight vignetting on the APS-C,
  • moderate astigmatism,
  • good colour rendition and sensible total transmission,
  • very good price/image quality ratio.


  • not especially solid, plastic barrel and mount,
  • horrible performance of manual focus ring which is devoid of any scale,
  • loud and unreliable autofocus,
  • huge vignetting on full frame,
  • high coma in full frame corners.

The Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II is a very popular lens and no wonder – for a small amount of money you get an image quality in the frame centre as good as that of the system fixed-focal lenses. It is really tempting and makes many flaws of this lens less significant. Still you must remember that, when it comes to the Canon, delicate handling is required. In many cases one or two years of intensive wear and tear are already too long. Low quality plastics used in the casing often don’t withstand longer periods of usage; some slacks and wobbling appear in the lens and, as a result, the optical aberrations increase significantly.

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At the end a few words about the previous version of this review. The review of the Canon 1.8/50 was the very first review I uploaded on the Optyczne.pl, a site still inactive at that time. Many things have changed partially or completely since that time – like our testing methods, the equipment we use and our personal experience. In the previous review based on RAW files from the Canon 20D the results were a bit lower than in the new version. There are at least two reasons behind it. Firstly the quality dispersion between particular specimens of the cheapest and the most plastic models is most certainly a sad fact. Secondly the specificity of the manual focus ring made itself felt. When we take shots of the resolution testing chart it is usually between a dozen or so and several dozens of photos at every aperture, using the autofocus or manual focus. In the case of the Canon 1.8/50 II the manual focus ring is really nothing more than a dummy so manual regulations can more hurt than help. Testing the lens on the 20D we had to rely on the autofocus which is pretty unreliable. Now, having the EOS 5D MkIII at our disposal, we could get the AF microadjustment support. Instead of manual alterations at every aperture we took 5-7 photos with the microadjustment set at -15, -10, -5, 0, +5, +10 and +15 units. Taking a lot of photos in fact guaranteed that at every aperture we got the highest result possible. The possibilities provided by the new body were non-existent almost ten years ago; I don’t doubt they would have improved the performance of the tested lens. That’s all. By the way it was nice to make a circle and return to an instrument with which our website actually started.