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Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM

Review Date: Jun 20, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: sharp, well built, good color and contrast

I like shooting with the 50mm focal length, I use it for all kinds of photography like street shooting, available light, people, landscape etc... This love for 50mm started with the purchase of the Canon 50/1.4 lens some 10 years ago.

Although the 50/1.4 is a very fine lens, I always had the latent desire to own an even more professional 50mm. When the AF of my 50/1.4 broke, this seemed a good moment to think about that desire again. After reading a lot about the 50/1.2 I decided to buy it.

Not an optimal start
When I took my first shots with this lens, I quickly discovered that focus was off. After some testing I found that a micro adjustment of -12 was required to get accurate focus. Hmmmm, this troubled my first impressions of course: I had expected to receive a L-lens with according quality. Would there be something else out of order? This made me testing this lens even more thouroughly :-)

Sumary: Well, after some more testing and specially ‘real live’ shooting I know this lens is excellent. AF is spot on now (after the -12 MA correction).

The positives
Usable sharp wide open. You can shoot wide open with this lens and with some sharpening the results are quite good.
Very sharp stopped down. I think this lens is not as sharp as my EF 135 F2, but it is (very) close.
Very good color and contrast.
Well built.

The negatives
Of course some negative remarks can be made. But for me these are not severe because either they can easily be corrected in postprocessing or don’t bother me that much.
CA when shooting wide open. Can easily be corrected in post-processing (Lightroom 4.1 is very good).
Heavier than the 50/1.4 (twice as heavy as a matter of fact). But this extra weight is not disturbing.
Vignetting when shooting large apertures. Well, I feel part of this is the character of such a lens and it can easily be corrected also. At f/2 vignetting is almost gone.

Focus shift
I have to admit that when the 50/1.2 first came out, I was distressed by reports of focus shift. Apparantly focus shift shows up when shooting with apertures from f/1.8 to f/4 or so at shorter distances.
Reading about this I found that opinions were split if this was a real problem or not. But it seemed that newer copies of this lens had fewer problems.

Yes, it has some focus shift. But on my copy, I think this will only show between f/1.6 and f/4 and only at distances smaller than 4 feet (1.2 meters).

Why? I discovered that at short distances, but above 4 feet/1.2 meters, the DOF expands backwards and not forwards. But the subject stays in focus and that may be the reason that some people don't notice the focus shift. From f/4 the DOF also extends forwards and everything starts behaving 'normal'.

At distances smaller than 3 feet/1 meter I can see that focus shifts backwards and the subject will go out of focus (the closer the distance the faster). But all in all, focus shift isn’t a problem for me.

For my use, this is an excellent lens. It has great sharpness, color and contrast. Build quality is superb. There are some drawbacks but for me these are not that important and/or can easily be corrected.

Why didn’t I just buy a new 50/1.4?
Well, apart from the desire owning a ‘serious’ 50mm as described before, I also wanted to improve on:
wide open shooting
build quality: although the 50/1.4 lasted me for 10 years, I also read reports about broken AF after shorter periods (like 18 months)
even better image quality: well, I knew that this would only be marginal (if at all), because the 50/1.4 is already very good in this regard

Canon EF 24mm f/2.8

Review Date: Mar 30, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $329.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: sharp (even wide open)

Very nice lens to handle: compact and little weight. It's also very sharp, even wide open at f/2.8. Lens ratings (i.e. photodo) confirm this.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Review Date: Mar 30, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $500.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: sharp, compact

I bought this lens for available light photography. With a maximum aperture of f/1.4 it shines of course, giving me acceptable shutter speeds in low light.

Now that I have it, I also like it very much for street/scene shooting. It is compact and makes the camera/lens combination very handable. I spend a day in Antwerpen (Belgium) with only this lens and loved it.

According to some tests the 50/1.4 is optically as good or even better than the (now discontinued) 50/1.0.

You don't have to stop this lens very much down to become very sharp pictures, I've read a test which outcomes were:

f/1.4: 53 lp/mm
f/2.0: 69 lp/mm
f/2.8: 80 lp/mm
f/4.0 up to f/11: around 90 lp/mm
f/16: 80 lp/mm

So, I'd say stopping down to f/2.8 will give you already great results.

It may be a little soft at f/1.4, but I don't care about that much because I photograph mostly people at this aperture (low light) and they appreciate it when their faces aren't tack sharp, revealing every little 'fault'...

Summary: I love this lens.