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Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM - First Impressions
A nice little package arrived for me today in the form of a new lens; the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM. Big Grin
I've previously owned the very popular and cheap EF 50mm f/1.8 II, but recently gave it to my mum to encourage her to expand her horizons. I bought the 50mm f/1.4 USM to replace the hole it left in my kit.

[Image: IMG_0191.jpg]
1. Here's what the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM looks like. It's bigger and heavier than its sibling, the EF 50mm f/1.8 II, but still a nice compact lens.

There's no denying the superb image quality (when stopped down a bit and focused correctly) and value for money that comes with the el-cheapo 50mm f/1.8 II, so many people including myself have questioned if the much more expensive f/1.4 USM lens is actually worth the extra expense.
And for me, the simple answer appears to be "Definately".

[Image: IMG_0180_B.jpg]
2. What's not to like about this lens? (50mm, f/2.2, 100 ISO, 1/100th sec)

Since I have a couple of other fast primes with great IQ, the numerous shortcomings of the 50mm 1.8 lens have lead me to reach for something wider or longer to use instead of the 50mm when the situation calls for a fast prime. The lens ended up gathering dust instead of getting used simply because I didn't feel like I could depend on it. It doesn't matter how cheap or "good value" a lens is, if it doesn't get used then its a waste of money.
So while I was very happy to get an extra 2/3 stop of light from the new lens (f/1.4 vs f/1.8), the main reason for the upgrade was to get a lens I could rely on and use the same way I use my 135mm f/2L (ie shoot it wide open and just know the focus will be fast and accurate, every time). Admittedly the EF 50mm f/1.4 falls a bit short of the EF 135mm f/2L in this regard, but it walks rings around the 50mm f/1.8 (and Sigma 28mm f/1.8 EX as well FWIW).

Quite apart from any optical differences between the two lenses, the 1.4 is a total joy to use when compared to the 1.8. Its solidly build and the autofocus is silent, fast and accurate (compared to noisy, slow, and inaccurate). There is also full-time manual focus which the 1.8 doesn't have.

And when it comes to optics, well its a given that both lenses are superb when stopped down. I suspect that I didn't have a great copy of my 1.8 lens and that I do have a good copy of this 1.4 lens, but whatever the case, this lens is great when shooting wide open. Even when shooting at f/1.4 it is perfectly usable and sharper than my old lens was at f/1.8 (which was basically unusable). At 1.8 it is fantastic, and at 2.2 and beyond it is sublime. The bokeh is also beautiful (although unlike many others, I didn't mind the bokeh of the 1.8). The colours and contrast also have a magic about them. Apparently the 1.4 has a touch of barrel distortion and is a bit softer in the corners than the 1.8... but I haven't noticed anything so far.

[Image: 52_IMG_0158.jpg]
3. Lovely bokeh and sharp wide-open (50mm, f/1.8, 100 ISO, 1/80th sec)

If you already own a 50mm f/1.8 II and you're perfectly happy with it then I can't think of any reason to "upgrade" to this lens. But if, like me, you find the f/1.8 II frustrating to use... then this lens is a breath of fresh air. While not perfect, so far I'm very happy with it in every respect. Its the nicest non-L lens I've used.
And as soon as you start comparing it to other lenses (not the 50mm f/1.8 II) then you'll soon realise it isn't that expensive either.

And finally I tried the old "reversed-mount macro" trick which works so well with 50mm lenses. I don't have a reverse-mount adapter, so I simply manually stopped-down the lens and removed it while holding down the "DOF preview" button and then reversed it and held it in place with my hand.

[Image: IMG_0106.jpg]
4. This lens is by no means a macro lens, but when you use the "reverse-mount" trick you can use it as one. (50mm, f/8, 400 ISO, 1/160th sec).
Adrian Broughton
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"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." - Einstein.
You da man, even make a wasp's ass look good!
Thoughtful, detailed and helpful as usual mate; good job.
All my stuff is here:
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My band TRASHVILLE, in which I'm lead guitarist:
Quote:I bought the 50mm f/1.4 USM to replace the hole it left in my kit.
You replaced the hole with a bigger hole!

Looks like a great lens! Big Grin and nice pics to go with it.
Awesome writeup Kombi... glad you like your new toy.

Now can you get one for me too! Oh, and make sure it has a "Nikon" on it too. Big Grin
Great information Smile Thanks for taking the time.
Its a lovely lens for image quality, even at f1.4 the images sharpen up very nicely. My only problem lies in the FTM which can easily kill your AF which is what happened to mine (and quite a few others from doing some digging on the net) so just be wary of manual focus in auto focus mode.

Funnily enough I dropped my 50mm 1.8 the other night and it broke in half, after trying to pull apart my 1.4 for ages breaking the 1.8 showed me how they fit together inside. My 1.4 was stolen though so I can't try and fix it now.

I received my 5d the other day and when I was in the shop I had a play with a few primes to get a feel for what I wanted. The new 85mm 1.2 has the same viewing angle as the 50mm on the 1.6 multiplier bodies but its AF is astonishingly quick and the image quality from the few snaps I took was very impressive so thats high on my list of places to start.
Thanks Kombi - I am really keen to buy that lens next. Your review was very helpful.

Jamie - that 85 1.2 is a dream lens.
Canon stuff.
mmm, that does look good.... *sigh* just another thing on the list!
Canon 350D with Speedlight 580EX flash
EFS 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 II, EF 90-300mm f/4.5-5.6 USM, EF 50mm f/1.8
Good write-up. I don't use my 50mm 1.8 Mk1 too often so a 1.4 may not get much use either. Maybe it's something I should pull out and use more often.
Sit, stay, ok, hold it! Awww, no drooling! :O
My flickr images
Thanks for the tip about Full-Time Manual focus Jamie. I know this is the only micromotor USM lens that Canon make that has FTM; perhaps this reliability problem is the reason why?

In my original post I omitted posting samples of this lens completely wide-open (f/1.4) and also stopped down a lot. Here are just such shots now - complete with 100% crops to keep the pixel-peepers happy. Big Grin

[Image: 100PcCrop.jpg]
5. If this is as soft as this lens gets then colour me happy Big Grin The inset is a 100% crop. (50mm, f/1.4, 400 ISO, 1/1000th sec)

[Image: IMG_0319.jpg]
6. While down at the docks tonight waiting for some fish and chips, I snapped this shot of the May Queen in front of one of the Museum buildings. (50mm f/11, 100 ISO, 13sec))

[Image: IMG_0319_100pcCrop.jpg]
7. A 100% crop from the top edge of the above shot. As you'd expect, the whole image is knife sharp at f/11. (50mm f/11, 100 ISO, 13sec).)
Adrian Broughton
My Website:
My Blog:
You can also visit me on Facebook!
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." - Einstein.
Looking better and better Adrian.
Canon stuff.
Wow, that lens rocks. I've got the 1.8, but now you're making me drool. I really would like the 1.4 for the faster focus as well. I always get my fingers caught when the lens if focusing.
Canon 20D: 17-85 IS, 50/1.8
Fuji S5000: DCR-250, DCR-720
Great stuff kombi!

Nice images aswell. To bad its the wrong logo.. Tongue

Thanx for sharing.

/Paul L.
Strives to make photos instead of taking them...
Hey Kombi,

What camera did you use for the wasp shot and the night shots?


Pete D
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm
not sure about the former.

Albert Einstein
HAha Paul TongueTongue

Luckily we usually don't see the logo on the gear used when looking at wonderful photographs!
Unless of course, it's the picture of the gear itself Smile

Paul.R.Lindqvist Wrote:Great stuff kombi!

Nice images aswell. To bad its the wrong logo.. Tongue

Thanx for sharing.

/Paul L.
haha.. well you could always photoshop the logo Paul Tongue

Pete, all shots were taken on a 30D. The first shot with an EF 135mm f/2L and the others with the EF 50mm f/1.4.
Adrian Broughton
My Website:
My Blog:
You can also visit me on Facebook!
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." - Einstein.
I want one now!
Excellent write up Kombi. I second everything written. It's my favorite lens, though a tad long with the 1.6x 10D sensor. I'd like to get the 35mm f/1.4L but that's way beyond my price range.

Oh, I do recommend getting the lens hood.
Everybody got to elevate from the norm!

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