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My Canon 50mm Walk of Shame

Discussion in 'Lens Reviews Forum' started by Dave Yeaman LBIP, Dec 28, 2016.

  1. Dave Yeaman LBIP

    Dave Yeaman LBIP Member Premium Member

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    Canon EF 50mm f1.2L USM

    I am pretty ashamed to admit that I too have done the 50mm walk of shame… yep, a long time ago I was amazed by the sharpness and quality the 50mm 1.8 produced, the nifty fifty as it was known because it was almost throw away cheap. It was light, poorly put together, plasticky and the focus ring felt like it was full of sand - not to mention the auto focus, which was slow and very very noisy. But, for the price, it produced some great looking images. With a maximum aperture of 1.8 it was bloody good in low light too.

    I then had a paid job that required me to do some shots in low light with either no or limited flash use. Professional vanity stopped me from turning up to the gig with a nifty fifty so I went ahead and bought the next one up, the EF 50mm 1.4 USM. Offering two thirds of a stop more light in and having much better build quality and super fast focus from the USM motor - it was good - enough to do the job, producing excellent images, even at very wide apertures.

    But something started to bug me about this lens. It costs quite a lot more than the nifty fifty but I wasn’t convinced that the image quality was that much better, maybe I was paying for the better build quality and handling rather than a marked improvement in sharpness etc. I started hunting around on the internet and found varying opinions when it came to the 50mm 1.4. I wasn’t convinced the focal point was spot on in the lens, a common gripe people mentioned online - coming out of the factory, there were one or two ‘bad ones’ that either needed returning to Canon to get fixed or try to compensate for the problem by using Microfocus Adjustment in camera. I use Focal to do that, so I set it off doing a calibration cycle to their target. It was quite a way out and Focal did a pretty good job of improving the sharpness of the images.

    [​IMG]


    Another problem though. I found myself dumfounded by how much digital noise was in the images - even when the lens wasn’t wide open and shooting at ‘normal’ ISO levels. I was so bugged by this that I ended putting nearly all images shot with the lens though NIK FX Dfine - which helps a lot, it’s an amazing bit of software, but its just another step in post production that you could do without having to do.

    Anyway, I put up with it as I didn’t use it that much. For the majority of the work I do, it’s either the EF 100mm F2.8L IS USM Macro, EF 16-35mm 2.8L II USM Wide or the EF 70-200mm 2.8L II IS USM zoom that’s usually attached to the front of my cameras.

    Then, of course, its the way it always goes, another job came along for a well known car maker and they wanted some corporate shots of staff, sites, cars etc. I was provided with a brief from the advertising agency involved and instantly knew that I’d need, yet again, the next step up in wide aperture lenses to achieve the look they wanted.

    Next thing I knew, I’d bought the EF 50mm f1.2L USM. Good lord it was expensive, but from scouring the internet, reading reviews and looking at sample images, I felt confident it was the right thing to do.

    [​IMG]


    Honestly. This lens. It’s my new love. The quality of the images produced are just incredible. Yes, that good. Absolutely blows the 1.4 in to the water. But then, at four times the price of the 1.4, you’d hope it would do! I had very high expectation of this lens - all of which have been satisfied totally.

    Build wise, it’s true Canon L class. This little thing has obviously got a lot of glass in it - at nearly 600g it’s quite chunky and feels solid, twice the weight of the 1.4 and four times the nifty fifty.

    Focus is instant and precise and the fact that you can open all the way up to f1.2 is truly a game changer - the out of focus bokeh produced, thanks to it’s spherical blades, produces perfectly round out of focus highlights, smooth, creamy, whilst making your subject in focus really pop out of the frame.

    Without going all techno blurb on you though, you need to be aware of how shallow the depth of field becomes and f1.2 though. Standing at around 3 feet from your subject, you’ve probably got no more than 3cm that will be inside the focal plane!

    [​IMG]


    Quite a lot of fringing around the edges wide open, they quickly disappear around f2 though.

    The point of this lens though is, apart from the L quality build, is the image quality, it’s just stunningly beautiful. Colours are accurate, it gives good contrast and it’s sharper than, not only any 50mm I’ve had before, but ANY lens I’ve had.

    [​IMG]

    It’ll take a while to pay for itself I’m sure, but knowing its in my kit bag for when I need it is comforting.

    Until then, I'll be doing what the cat does best. Chilling.
     
    DonS and Minor Problem like this.
  2. Violaman

    Violaman Always on Premium Member

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    Very comprehensive report; and super model!!
     
    Dave Yeaman LBIP likes this.
  3. JAH-WAR

    JAH-WAR Always on Premium Member

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    Very interesting indeed. I've always fancied one of these or the 85mm f/1.2L.
     
    Dave Yeaman LBIP likes this.
  4. steve b

    steve b Always on Premium Member

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    An interesting report. I hardly ever used my 1.8, so I sold it, it was too plastic and I wanted lenses that looked the part, even if I couldn't walk the walk. Earlier this year I bought a 6D, the best deal had a 1.4 thrown in for an extra fifty quid, I intended to sell the lens on unopened. Curiosity got the better of me, and I opened it. Unlike you, I was massively impressed with the lens, it was so sharp and perfect for natural light portrait shots in my unusual shaped 'studio', when used with my 6D. I feel it doesn't perform so well with my 7D.
     
    Dave Yeaman LBIP likes this.
  5. tenchy

    tenchy Rain maker Administrator

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    Interesting review. I've never felt the need for the must have nifty fifty, or its bigger brothers.
    Some nice looking shots in this though to be fair!
     
    Dave Yeaman LBIP likes this.
  6. Mike Singh

    Mike Singh Always on

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    I love my nifty 50!
     
    Dave Yeaman LBIP likes this.
  7. steve b

    steve b Always on Premium Member

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    Recent reviews in Practical Photography magazine, put the Sigma Art 50mm way ahead, it's a monster though. Having said that, I'm always wary of mag reviews, cynic that I am. :)
     
    Dave Yeaman LBIP likes this.
  8. Dave Yeaman LBIP

    Dave Yeaman LBIP Member Premium Member

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    I reckon I did have a 'bad' 1.4 then. Didn't matter what I did, I just couldn't get it sharp.
     
  9. steve b

    steve b Always on Premium Member

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    I think I described it, at the time, as brutally sharp, I had to soften studio shots of my two four year old grandchildren, as every little detail of their skin was picked up. A maker like Canon really shouldn't be putting lenses out there with different standards of accuracy. As you're a pro, I'm sure the cost of the 1.2 will pay for itself in the longer term. :)
     
  10. Dave Yeaman LBIP

    Dave Yeaman LBIP Member Premium Member

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    Totally agree with that comment about Canon build quality / repeatability. As for paying for itself, I'll let you know... might be a while heh.
     
    steve b likes this.
  11. slipper

    slipper Always on Premium Member

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    Interesting review and some nice shots.
     
    Dave Yeaman LBIP likes this.
  12. steve b

    steve b Always on Premium Member

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    I didn't mention the shots - excellent stuff at 1.2 and 1.4. Inspiring, well at 1.4 anyway, not many on here will have 1.2 capabilities though.
     
    Dave Yeaman LBIP likes this.
  13. Adham

    Adham New Member

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    you are spot on about the 50mm range that Canon supply. I also have a soft spot for both the 1.8 and the 1.2 they are both on the extreme sides of the spectrum price wise but they both hold their weight.. Canon could do with updating the 50mm 1.4 it's a nice lens but it has been in production since 1993
     
    Dave Yeaman LBIP likes this.
  14. Buck_68

    Buck_68 Active Member

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    I've got the plastic fifty and TBH couldn't get on with it but I do like your shots above. Even with the very short depth of field it produces some lovely shots (abley assisted by you of course!)
     
    Dave Yeaman LBIP likes this.

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