The Canon EF 50mm f1.8 II is the manufacturer's cheapest 50mm lens. Canon also makes f1.4 and f1.2 versions, but both cost more money. So does this cheap and cheerful lens provide enough quality to make it a viable alternative?
- Very inexpensive
- Low vignetting
- Extremely cheap build quality
- Has trouble autofocusing in low light
Canon EF 50mm f1.8 II Lens Review
This version of Canon's 50mm lens has been with us since 1990, and it shows no sign of losing popularity. These days it's most likely to be used by those just starting out in photography (because of its extremely attractive sub-$100 price tag) or on crop frame cameras. It will often end up as a small 80mm telephoto lens. For those used to "kit" lenses that come bundled with cameras, any prime lens will give a marked improvement in sharpness and quality. But the 50mm f1.8 has both good and bad qualities.
This is the major drawback of the 50mm f1.8. It might be extremely light, but it comes at a cost. The lens looks and feels extremely "plasticky," and it isn't going to stand up to any hard use. However, if you're careful with it and aren't put off by its feel, then it's still a lens to consider.
The 50mm f1.8 does struggle to focus successfully in low light conditions. Focusing is inconsistent and sometimes downright inaccurate, particularly at large apertures. Most annoyingly, no manual focus override is available to compensate for this problem. The motor is also a little slow, which means this lens isn't ideal for capturing fast moving subjects.
For such a low price, the optics on the 50mm f1.8 are exceptionally good. It's sharp, and it shows low distortion. In comparison to its big brother, the Canon 50mm f1.4 lens, it lacks a certain sharpness in the corners of images. It also has a slight tendency to render out-of-focus backgrounds in a jagged fashion, with bright highlights causing particular problems. But it's much sharper than any of the EF-S kit lenses supplied with most entry and prosumer level DSLR cameras, and its f1.8 aperture lets in four times as much light.
For anyone who's been shooting with a kit zoom lens, a prime fixed lens such as this one will be a huge improvement in image quality. I'd recommend this lens to anyone who wants to take their photography a step further, without spending a lot of money. Just remember that you'll need to stop down a bit to achieve maximum quality and sharpness.