Lens review

Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II

21 January 2015
Arkadiusz Olech

3. Build quality

The following chart shows a comparison between different 1.8/50 lenses. Almost all of the devices presented there consist of 6 elements set in 5 groups and all are able to focus from 0.45 of a meter. The Pentax is physically the lightest but it also is the only instrument in this group not designed to work with full frame cameras. If you forgot for a while about the Pentax the Canon 1.8/50 would actually weigh the least. Of course it stems from using plastics both in the body of the lens and its mount. It is clear that a low price was its constructors’ main goal. Omnipresent plastic parts also discourage many people from buying the Canon so there are customers looking for the first version of that lens which build quality is a lot better even if you buy it on the used market.

In the photo below the tested Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II is positioned between its 1.4/50 brother and the rival Nikkor AF 50 mm f/1.8D.

Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II - Build quality

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The Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II starts with a plastic mount which surrounds a plate with contacts and a ring on which its series number and the info that the lens was made in Malaysia is engraved. Its rear element, 24 mm in diameter, moves along with the whole optical system. It is in the shallowest position with the focus set at infinity and at the minimum focus it hides about 0.5 cm inside the casing.

Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II - Build quality

On the proper barrel of the lens, apart from the focal length marking and info concerning the minimum focusing distance, you can also find a focusing mechanism mode switch.

Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II - Build quality

The minimalist approach of the constructors is especially obvious when you look at the manual focus ring – it is narrow and without even a trace of any scale. Its significant initial play and working range of only 80 degrees don’t make it especially useful either. A precise setting of focus would be almost a miracle because the ring slips into the lens even under its own weight and during normal work it moves slightly sideways. The rings of its rivals are much better – when glancing at the first photo of this chapter you can find out that the Nikkor 1.8/50, a bit more expensive than the Canon, has a much better build quality, a metal mount and a genuine, fully functional manual focus ring.

Long-term wear and tear of the tested lens can be problematic to say the least; anyway service repairs seem unavoidable. There are known cases when, after just several months of usage, the elements got so loose in the plastics barrel that the images suffered of seriously high off-axis aberrations on the edges.

Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II - Build quality

In this category the Canon 1.8/50 hardly impresses us but you have to grant it: because of all those savings the lens tips the scale at featherweight 130 grams.

The front element of the lens is just 33 mm in diameter, slightly recessed in the tube and surrounded by a filter thread which doesn’t rotate and is 52 mm in diameter.

Inside the lens you find 6 elements in 5 groups. There are neither aspherical elements among them nor those made of low-dispersion glass. There is also an aperture with five blades (which makes the Canon lag behind its rivals) which can be closed maximally to f/22.

Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II - Build quality

It’s also worth noticing that we measured precisely the parameters of the tested lens. It’s real focal length is 51.1 mm (with an error level of 0.16 mm) and its real maximum relative aperture amounts to f/1.82.

The standard accessory kit of the lens was reduced to just two caps, as it befits its minimalist design.

Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II - Build quality