The Amazing Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 Lens: by Ian Kydd’Miller

What is all this hype about the ‘’nifty 50’’ and does it hold water? The image quality is said to be astounding and focus sharper than sharp, is it true? The answer to both these questions can be seen in the images below that this cheap little lens produced.

Ian Kydd'Miller - Man Image f/1.8

This image was shot at f/1.8 using Aperture Priority

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 has been around in one shape or form for many years and is a simple lens to manufacture with a winning optical formula.

This is not a lens review but just pointing out a few simple facts before taking the lens out for a whole day and shooting my travel pictures with it. I will not be pixel peeping but assessing the lenses usefulness on a day to day, working, basis.

  • First off, on a cropped camera this lens becomes an 80+ mm due to the crop factor. For example: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 = 1D Mk4  65mm f/1.8   (1.3 conversion factor)
  • The lens is quite cheaply built and feels almost fragile, but I have had one for 10 years and it has never let me down, touch wood!
  • The lens is not as well built as the more expensive “L” lenses, but its performance at f/1.8 is good and at f/5.6 is excellent.
  • The bokeh is not super silky but is bearable.

Day to day use

To make this a more realistic test of the lenses’ usefulness rather than just an optical bench test, I decided to use the lens for a full day on my Canon 1D Mk4 on a series of subjects and then look at the IQ and ease of use. Given that you are basically stuck with a fixed lens of between 65mm and 80mm (f/1.8) it does present some problems if you fancy taking landscapes but is great for street portrait and photojournalist type shots. You have to re-jig your thinking a little and use your legs to get the shots.

The true test of a lens is how it performs when you use it, it’s a subjective feeling rather than objective analysis, and can it do the job. I rarely pixel peep my images, I feel it serves little purpose. Some of the shots I have sold the most copies of have been are from lenses that others have described as being unsharp or useless. Yes some lenses do not produce particularly sharp images but sometimes I think we value sharpness more highly than content.

This f/1.8 lens lets you shoot at ISO 400, while in the same light you’d need ISO 2000 with the 24-105mm f/4 L IS to get the same shutter speed! The f/1.8 lets in five times more light than an f/4 lens. This 50 f/1.8 is also less than one-fifth the weight and less than one-tenth the price of the 24-105mm, and has only half the distortion!

Ian Kydd'Miller Building f/1.8 to f/5.6

The left image was shot at f/1.8 and the right at f/5.6 using Aperture Priority

It’s a super little lens and I can see why people love it, including myself.

The truth be known the lens is sharp at f/1.8 and definately useable, by f/5.6 it is super sharp giving good images. The bokeh at f/1.8 is in my opinion very good for a $90 lens, not quite as creamy as its more expensive cousins but at a fifth of the price who really cares.

Note: All the pictures here are straight from the camera with no post processing.

Ian Kydd'MillerIan loves taking pictures and has been doing so for 30+ years both as an amatuer and semi pro.. He uses Canon and Nikon digital cameras and lenses. He has returned to Cambodia where he works as a Freelance Photo Journalist.

Company: FusionAsia
Phone: +85511385911
Twitter: @fusion08

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  1. I think the 50mm 1.8 or 1.4 across most brands is a must for anybody as the prices on these are all comparable and amazing quality! I used the Canon 1.8 when I first started shooting and eventually grew up to the 1.4 for even better low light performance. Now I am shooting Nikon and I’ve made a point to make sure the 50mm made its way into my new kit.

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