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Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM

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177 329599 Sep 4, 2014
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80% of reviewers $1,408.53
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The EF 50mm f/1.2L USM is a peerless new standard lens featuring an ultra-large aperture for a narrow depth of field and soft background blur so loved by photographers everywhere. The EF 50mm f/1.2L USM is suitable for any shooting situation; its lens coating and construction are optimized to minimize the ghosting and flare that frequently occurs when lenses are used with digital cameras. This high-performance, weather-resistant lens delivers all the superb image resolution and contrast you expect in a Canon L Series Lens.


Focal Length & Maximum Aperture: 50mm f/1.2

Lens Construction: 8 elements in 6 groups

Diagonal Angle of View: 46° (with full-frame cameras)

Focus Adjustment: AF with full-time manual

Closest Focusing Distance: 1.48 ft. / 0.45m

Filter Size: 72mm

Max. Diameter x Length, Weight: 3.4 in. x 2.6 in./85.4mm x 65.5mm 19.2 oz./545g (lens only)


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Registered: Nov 3, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 6855
Review Date: Jan 1, 2013 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Just one knock behinds the legendary 50f1.0

Jan 1, 2013
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Peter Kotsa
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Registered: Nov 1, 2007
Location: Australia
Posts: 267
Review Date: Dec 14, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: 1.2, bright viewfinder and fast focus, excellent build.

You get what you pay for, this is a specialised lens for low light situations.
I use it mainly between f1.2 to f2, outstanding bokeh and colours.
Pricey lens but well worth it.

Dec 14, 2012
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Registered: Nov 29, 2012
Location: N/A
Posts: 0
Review Date: Nov 29, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,500.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: It's the lens that spends the most time on my camera. It's sharp. It's a great all around focal length.
It's doesn't focus well in low light sometimes with my mark ii. I look forward to using it with a mark iii down the road.

Even though I've calibrated this lens, I've never seen it sharp at 1.2 or 1.4.
I also love the 35m mm 1.4 and it focuses well and it's consistently sharp even full open.
But the 50mm is a better all around focal length for photographing people (horizontal shots or vertical).
The 35mm 1.4 and 135mm 2.0 make a solid combination for shooting events.. but solo.. my 50mm 1.2 wins for me.

Nov 29, 2012
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Rob Holloway
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Registered: Oct 28, 2012
Location: United States
Posts: 0
Review Date: Oct 28, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,500.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Glorious color, depth of field and bokeh to die for
Takes time to learn how to get the best out of this lens. it's not Point and shoot at f1.2. Focus is not super fast.

This is a specialist lens that takes time to master. It's completely different to the f1.4.

I purchased this lens to shoot our rescue dogs for our website. It's been amazing how many people have commented about the shots. They can't explain why they like the shots but i repeatedly hear that it's like 3D

I started with the 50mm f1.8 which is great for $100. Then moved to the 50mm f1.4 which is great for $350. I had about focussing issues but simply love L primes.

Every time I review a set of shots I am in awe of 3 things. The color, blacks and bokeh. It's surreal. I am not sure I have taken a shot beyond f4.

All that said, there is a learning curve with this lens as the temptation is to immediately shoot at f1.2 - because it's there. You'll be frustrated at first.

If you're looking for lightning fast AF, this lens is again not the one for you. It's not slow, but it's no speed demon.

Every time I clip this lens onto my 5D2 I am as excited as hell. Every time I fire up Lightroom, I just smile.

Oct 28, 2012
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Registered: Oct 26, 2004
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 140
Review Date: Oct 27, 2012 Recommend? | Price paid: Not Indicated

Pros: Clarity, quality, robust
A lack of understanding of this product, but that is not the products fault!

I have posted this before but any Canon service agent will tell that the so called 'back focus' issue is not down to the lens, but the setup of the sensors within the camera. With lenses over f/1.8 you do not really notice this issue suntil you hit the f/1.2 range. The camera sensors are aimed towards the centre of the frame but will need adjusting for lenses with such a tiny depth of field. The principle is the same as the famous 'bouncing bomp' used in WW2. Many cameras are setup for the main lens product range but if you plan to use a low f/ stop on a regular basis, you need to visit a Canon service centre to have the sensors re-aligned. Alternatively you can run a series of tests to acertain where the camera sensors tend to focus and make the adjustments when shooting.

Oct 27, 2012
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Registered: Oct 27, 2012
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 0
Review Date: Oct 27, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Beautiful bokeh, sharp in centre at 1.2
Can miss focus (probably due to user error)

I bought this as a mint condition 2012 model and have used it for several weeks. I have been using it with my 5d Mark iii. I am using it mainly to take photos of my children wide open. The lens is sharp enough in the centre at f1.2. There is a little vignetting at f1.2, which is not a problem when taking portraits. Contrast increases when stopped down a little.

I was concerned when reading about problems with back focusing. I do have some focusing errors, but believe this is down to user error and subject movement rather than a problem with the lens itself. I have not found a problem with back focusing at close distances when using between f1.2 and f2. When I have stopped the lens down to f5.6, the lens is very sharp across the frame. The colours are very attractive.

I was not sure whether to get this or the 35 1.4l but I am now very pleased with my choice. I would thoroughly recommend this lens as a portrait lens or for general use.

There are some excellent portraits on the flickr canon 50 1.2l site by a photographer taking a series of photos of people that work in Soho (whose name I forget) which shows what can be achieved by this lens in the hands of a skilled photographer.

Oct 27, 2012
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Registered: Aug 27, 2010
Location: United States
Posts: 6653
Review Date: Sep 26, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Amazing bokeh, IQ is incredible from soft wide open to sharp smaller apertures. Size is manageable, not too big or heavy. Impressive build quality.
Price? It's been out of my reach for a long time.

Amazing lens! Beautiful bokeh (and I'm not a bokeh fanatic) and smooth tonal transitions up to 2.8. From there it is as sharp as you could hope for from a 50mm.

I've only used it through the CPS program to shoot a wedding and do some prep shots and personal stuff afterward, but I absolutely fell in love with this lens and its images, especially from f/1.2 to 1.8 on a 1Ds2 -- such lovely transitions between tones, but also super sharp at f/4!

I've got to buy this lens, even though I'm usually an f/8 kind of guy, this won me over.

Sep 26, 2012
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Registered: Sep 28, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 2584
Review Date: Aug 5, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,350.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Beautiful Bokeh, Sharp, Great length for most shots, build quality, great walk around lens.
There is a learning curve! All of my OOF shots have been user error.

I love this lens on my 5DMKlll , the new focal system creates a lot more keepers with a lens that can be tricky to nail focus. It took me a while to get to know this lens and to learn how to shoot with it, as 1.2 is a pretty shallow window to shoot with. I am getting a lot more keepers now due to the new camera and more experience with the lens. I find it is a great camera for senior sessions, some wedding work, Bridal and pretty much any portrait session. It is also a great walk around as the weight is not bad and pretty small for an L lens.
If this is your first 1.2 lens , be patient and persistent and you will be rewarded!
Here is a gallery shot entirely with this lens and the 5DMKlll

Aug 5, 2012
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Registered: Jan 4, 2004
Location: Germany
Posts: 37
Review Date: Jun 22, 2012 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 7 

Pros: built

Good lens, but not as good as the 85L or 35L.

Close to my 45 TSE stopped down, barely useful between 1.2 and 2, good behind 2.8 (better contrast and colors than the 50 1.4).

Contrast is good, but the sharpness got no chance against my Zeiss 50 2.0 Makro, this is another world!

So ... I stay with the 45 TSE and the Zeiss. (No need for AF in studio)

I wouldn't hesitate to buy it, if needed for the job (low light and AF, if the 35 or 85 wouldn't fit).
But it is not tempting enough to put it into the shelf as a ' ... try it with this glas ... ' lens.

Jun 22, 2012
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Registered: Sep 13, 2002
Location: Netherlands
Posts: 3806
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

Jun 20, 2012
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Registered: Feb 17, 2009
Location: Netherlands
Posts: 0
Review Date: May 15, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Build quality, bokeh, smoothness, sharpness, fast AF
Price and wide open a little bit soft

Very good lens. Also de AF is accurate, even on 1.2. A lot better bokeh and color than the Canon 50mm 1.4.

A lot of pictures of my site are made with this lens.

May 15, 2012
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Mich Verbelen
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Registered: Apr 19, 2012
Location: Belgium
Posts: 0
Review Date: Apr 19, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated


Hi EF 50 1.2 L users,

I am a photography teacher, in a school for adults, and yesterday a strange effect occured on a lens of one of my students, an efect for which I can't find a reasonable explanation. The 50mm lens was used in studio, on a 90% white subject and produced varying white balances or color shades on shots taken immediatly after each other.
I tried different shutterspeeds, apertures, white balances, thinking there was something wrong with the camera sensor.
Then I tried different bodies, being 2 7D', a 450D and a 1DS, and always the problem occured. A heavy color shade, going from green to blue, more intense when working on full aperture, but still visible on f:8 and f:11
Has anybody seen this effect before, and more important: Has anybody got an idea of the reason of this bizarre phenomenon?

Apr 19, 2012
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Registered: Dec 1, 2005
Location: Spain
Posts: 41
Review Date: Apr 17, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Color, contrast, sharpness (once a bit stopped down), bokeh, AF.
A bit too soft wide open. Not cheap...

Before buying this lens I had tried some other 50s: a Canon 1.4 (pretty good lens for the price), a Leica f2/Summicron (very nice color and contrast rendering, but I wanted something faster) and an old (Contax) Carl Zeiss 1.4 (very nice as well, but lacking AF was not so nice, as it happened with the Leica). I must confess that I was kept away the 50L because of its bad reputation. There was so much bashing about this lens (too soft, erratic AF...) that it always seemed too expensive to me. At last, I found a used one in mint condition, so I bought it. Now I am very happy! I've found that I feel more and more comfortable every time with this focal length, understanding why it is called "natural" or "normal", and I'm using it most of the time. In my opinion, it gives to the pictures that magic, distinctive "L" touch which makes people say "wow" when they see them.

Apr 17, 2012
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Registered: Jan 16, 2006
Location: N/A
Posts: 260
Review Date: Apr 11, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: sharp, nice bokeh
design flaws cause it to fall apart, could focus faster

mixed feelings on this lens. here's the problem: the sun shade is attached to the front of the lens, to a little plastic part that recedes into the outside of the barrel. i can't explain it exactly but basically if you have this guy in a belt pouch and you pull it out by the sun shade, which is pretty common if you're working a wedding and operating quickly, you will eventually break something inside the front of the lens barrel and the hood will become loose and the red L ring will separate from the lens. i don't know how this problem will progress if you don't take care of it sooner or later. ultimately i suspect that the shade and lens will come apart without twisting. if you do take care of it it's a $400 repair. pretty lame for a 40 cent part.

anyway, otherwise a nice lens optically. i read a ton about it being not so sharp, not so accurate, etc. i thought my copy was tack sharp. not as awesome as the 135, but good nonetheless.

Apr 11, 2012
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Registered: Jun 25, 2003
Location: United States
Posts: 9785
Review Date: Mar 10, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,250.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: F1.2, killer bokeh and excellent build quality
A little heavy and bulky • AF isn't as good as most USM zooms

On full frame cameras, e.g., EOS 5D II or EOS 1V, the 46 degree coverage of the 50mm lens is equivalent to the sweet spot of the human eye. Hence, "normal lens," refers to the venerable 50mm prime lens. The natural perspective of this optic makes it easy to pre-visualize images.

One of the main reasons to own a 50mm lens is for available light photography. At F1.2, 1.4 or 1.8 you can use a hand holdable shutter speed to take pictures unobtrusively in low light. The fast aperture also makes for bright viewfinders, a useful feature if you shoot in dark conditions. Fast optics tend to have smooth bokeh (background blur). The soft whirl of an out of focus background makes your subject pop. Finally, a compelling reason to use a 50mm lens is size. Even fast 50mm primes are so small and light you'll hardly notice it in your bag.

Introduced January 2007, the EF 50 1.2L USM is an impressive feat of engineering: ultra fast aperture of F1.2, ring-type USM, beefy construction and weather resistant seals. It replaces the legendary EF 50 1.0L USM (available used at astronomical prices).

Build Like A Friggen Brick

For a normal lens, it's on the heavy side, 590g, but still petite and light compared to pro zooms. It feels solid and reassuring in the hand. Build quality is first rate but sports more plastics than L series telephotos. The black speckled finish is handsome and stealthy compared to the attention grabbing off-white of Canon's super telephotos.

This lens has the same degree of sealing as the EF24-70 2.8L USM and EF 24-105 4L IS USM: gaskets on the lens mount, under switches, and behind the focus ring. To complete weather sealing, Canon requires the use of a filter.

Like other L optics, Canon includes a hood (twist-on), storage bag and manual in a dozen languages.


A ring-type USM (Ultrasonic Motor) achieves focus by driving the front lens group. AF is reasonably fast and surefooted on my EOS 3, 5D II and 7D bodies. For example, it's faster and more reliable than my EF 50 1.4 USM but not as fast or reliable as my EF 24-105 4L IS USM. I suspect the razor thin depth of field (DOF) makes AF more challenging compared to slower aperture optics. Accurate focus with narrow DOF requires precise and thoughtful placement of AF sensors on subjects. For best results you need to control AF and not let the camera select AF points for you.

Sweeping landscapes and well lit situations rarely present AF problems. However, shooting at close focus (e.g., 1 meter) in low light is sometimes problematic for 5D outer AF points. Thus, it is best to use the center AF point for these situations. Fortunately the 5D center point is very reliable and accurate. My 50D and 7D were less troublesome in this respect as they have all cross-type AF sensors. Oddly the outter points of my 5D Mark II, with a similar AF array to the 5D, is a little better than the 5D in low light (tweaked algorithms?). I suspect older cameras with single axis outer AF sensors (10D, 20D, 30D & Rebels) will also be iffy under similar conditions. High end AF systems with all cross sensors work best with this lens.

The front element does not rotate and the barrel does not expand or contract during focusing. However, the front element group does move slightly within the barrel during AF. Of course, being an USM lens, it is silent during AF.

It has FTM (Full Time Manual Focus), allowing you to manually focus without switching out of AF mode. The focus ring is large, smooth turning and covered with ribbed rubber. It's not as silky as a manual Nikkor but above average for an AF lens. If you prefocus manually, the distance window in meters and feet is extremely useful. It also sports a DOF scale although spacing is too tight for critical use. Although not a macro lens, it focuses close enough for head shots and small details (.45m/1.5 ft).

There has been some concern on internet forums with back-focusing problems at 1 meter or less between F2 and 4. Some folks claim back-focusing is inherent to the design (no floating element). I was not able to duplicate these problems and close focus with the center AF point of my 5D was generally accurate, albeit a little less surefooted than my EF 17-40 4L USM and 24-105 4L IS USM. Nevertheless, I have reasonably accurate focus below a meter while stopped down or wide open. Perhaps all my cameras are defective and causing the lens to focus correctly.


Focus operation requires a small movement of the front element group within the barrel. The air space between element group and barrel is a potential point of entry for dust and water. Hence Canon requires a 72mm filter to complete weather sealing. The 72mm filter size makes for expensive filters, and is at odds with the 77mm size used for many L optics. Judging from the small diameter of the front element, Canon could have designed this lens with a smaller filter size (58mm?). I assume the extra space around the front element allows for use of a deeper hood and thicker filters.

The manual recommends removing the hood while using a polarizing filter. If you have long fingers it's not difficult to rotate the filter with hood intact.

Optical Quality

I can't say this is the sharpest 50mm prime I have used. That honor goes to the EF 50 2.5 CM. However the EF 50 1.2L USM is damn fine. It is sharp and contrasty from wide open all the way to F16 (smallest aperture). And, yes, it whips my old EF 50 1.4 USM and EF 50 1.8 senseless in terms of sharpness, contrast and bokeh at any aperture larger than F5.6. F1.4 on my EF 50 1.4 USM was terrible--utterly useless. The EF 50 1.2L USM is very good wide open but contrast and sharpness improve a notch at F1.4 and 1.8.

The contrast and snap of this lens is apparent even through the viewfinder. Compared to a zoom the optical design is simple, with 6 groups and 8 elements, although it sports an aspherical element.

Flare is well controlled and, unlike most zooms, I've had no flare problems with sunsets or bright lights in the frame.

Like all large aperture primes there is some light fall-off when used wide open. Stop down a little and it's gone or reduced considerably. I rarely noticed light fall-off even at F1.2 save white wall tests. However, DPP 3.6 and Aperture are very good at auto correcting light fall-off if it bothers you.

If you shoot with a APS-C body, e.g., Rebel, 40D or 50D, light fall-off is a moot point as 40% of the image circle is cropped out.


A lot of people will buy this lens mainly for the creamy smooth bokeh. The use of an 8-blade diaphragm maintains a circular shaped aperture even when stopped down. Of course, the melting of background shapes and hues is strongest at F1.2, but is still prominent and pleasant stopped down to F2.8 or even F4 if your subject is close and well separated from the background. At F1.2 the images take on a quasi painterly quality due to reduced contrast, a slight glowing quality and the ultra smooth bokeh.

DOF is so shallow at F1.2 focus must be absolutely perfect. Even being off a few millimeters renders the image useless. It took me weeks to get used to precisely picking the point of AF. I had to disable auto AF point selection for most subjects except those at infinity focus.

Normal Perspective

Like wide angle lenses, objects nearer in the frame, i.e., within a couple feet, appear slightly exaggerated in size. For example, full or upper body images look natural. But step closer for a head and shoulders portrait and the nearest facial feature--e.g., nose or chin--may appear unflatteringly broad and flat. The above mentioned is why the 50mm optic is generally not regarded as a portrait lens on full frame cameras. Instead it shows off your subject best when you step back a little and show it within the context of its surroundings. Such is both the strength and weakness of the 50mm lens.


This is the big daddy-o of normal primes. It's exceedingly well made, sharp at all apertures, contrasty and exhibits ultra smooth 'n creamy bokeh. I love the normal perspective, AF, sharpness and feel of this lens. It balances perfectly on my EOS 3, 5D II and 7D.

I bought the EF 50 1.2L USM during Spring 2008 and rarely remove it from my 5D. It's the ultimate walkaround for full frame cameras and I love the ready for any light potential of the F1.2 aperture. I didn't like it nearly as much on my 50D and 7D. On a crop camera the view is too tight for walkaround. However, I'm sure most wedding and portrait shooters will find the EF 50 1.2L USM a great portrait lens for crop cameras.

This is not a lens for everybody. It is for the shooter whom places extreme value on fast aperture, smooth bokeh and durability. Most photographers can be served well by the far less expensive EF 50 2.5 CM, 50 1.8 or 50 1.4 USM.

Highly recommended for hardcore available light hounds, bokeh lovers and the well-heeled. Not recommended for zoom lovers and those with a feeble credit card limit.

Mar 10, 2012
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Doug Vann
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Registered: Dec 18, 2004
Location: Canada
Posts: 50
Review Date: Feb 25, 2012 Recommend? | Price paid: $1,400.00

Pros: Fast, quality build, sharp images

Just adding to the previous review I did. After using this lens for about 3 weeks and closely examining shots on my laptop from various camera settings .... I can report the following...
The lens was built in October of 2011 and I bought it new in London Canada. I use a Canon 5D2. The lens did not require any micro focus adjustment by the camera and seems to be dead on. Every shot is sharp and in focus. Shooting at f1.2 is producing excellent useable shots even close up. I actually had the lens for 2 weeks before I even tried my Canon 580EXII flash with it. It is that good in low light. Not sure what to say to those who have reported focus issues. Maybe there was an issue and Canon has resolved it with newer production run models. All I can say is that I am getting perfect results with every single shot. I have used it indoors with and without flash. Also outdoors in below freezing temps and the results are consistant every time. I also own the Canon 70-200f2.8LISII and Canon 24-105 L and the 50 can stand with these 2 lenses no problem. The build quality of this lens is tops. I know this lens is mainly a portrait lens but I have done many outdoor shots shooting a considerable distance and the images are as good as with any other L lens. I also like the view using a full frame camera. I think with a full frame it would be a better indoor lens then on a crop camera. If you are thinking of getting this lens NEW - go for it. Can't speak for older model used ones.

Feb 25, 2012
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Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM

Buy from B&H Photo
Reviews Views Date of last review
177 329599 Sep 4, 2014
Recommended By Average Price
80% of reviewers $1,408.53
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